Day Seventeen: San Antonio to Houston

We were warned to get out of San Antonio early. (Not in a malicious shoot-out-at-noon way, but in a you’ll-be-stuck-in-traffic way. Apparently I-10 on this route becomes a parking lot on most days.) But we couldn’t scoot out of San Antonio without visiting my mom’s favorite TV preacher, Pastor Hagee.

IMG_1308

Cornerstone church was ultra-huge, but the music was good and so was the sermon. And the people were friendly. And the baby got to play with toys instead of hotel ice buckets and toiletries. It was a win for everyone.

Due to our early departure, the three-hour trip was fairly uneventful. In fact, we arrived too early to check into our hotel. So we went here to feed the police horses some carrots. They know when you’re coming and flock toward the treats. It’s adorable.

IMG_1309

IMG_1310

Did I mention it was 99 degrees? It was 99 degrees. We drove by the water wall, but didn’t get out. Because it was 99 degrees.

IMG_1312

Then we found a bakery, Uncommon Bond. The chocolate chip cookies, oh, the chocolate chip cookies. They’re 3.50 per cookie, but they’re worth it. Seriously. (Take it from a connoisseur.)

IMG_1314

IMG_1315

The bakery was in Montrose, a strip full of quirky stores and antique shops.

Next we went to our hotel, a Sheraton Suites near the Galleria. For the uninformed, the Galleria is the country’s fourth largest mall. To beat the heat, we swam for a bit and then grabbed supper here.

IMG_1316

Good Dog Houston makes upscale hotdogs. They’re good, so good that I forgot to get a picture.

For dessert, we headed here. They make ribbon ice, sort of a creamy shaved ice milk. They also have sno-cones with all-natural syrups. My daughter, who is allergic to all food dyes, was able to have a sno-cone for the first time ever. It was a grand day.

IMG_1317

IMG_1319

IMG_1318

After, we drove around Memorial park, a giant green space in the middle of the city. There were people out walking. They must not have gotten the memo that it was too hot for that sort of thing. Houston seems like a lovely city, especially when viewed from the safety of our air-conditioned van.

Advertisements

Days Fifteen and Sixteen: San Antonio

Before heading to San Antonio, we needed to finish Carlsbad Caverns. We arrived bright and early to head into the darkness seven stories below ground.

IMG_1267

We explored one mile of the cave, called The Big Room.

IMG_1273

That left 30 miles of cave we didn’t explore.

IMG_1272

It was a cool and moist 56 degrees below ground, something we would remember fondly as we headed into the heart of Texas hill country, San Antonio. As we made our way southeast, we spent a long time on a highway in the heart of oil-boom country. All we saw were oil trucks, pipelines, and crews and crews of men, trucks, and equipment working on them. It was oddly fascinating. Then we hopped on I-10 and the fascination came to a halt. Let me just say that there is very little for a very long way and then all of a sudden you’re in San Antonio, which is huge.

Last night, exhausted from our long day, we grabbed a bite at The Big Bib, a BBQ joint. (If you don’t eat BBQ while you’re in Texas, they don’t let you leave, I think.) The Big Bib is one of those Mom and Pop-type places that makes you smile when you walk in, probably because it smells so good and you know you’re going to get good food, which we did. In fact, the food was pretty spectacular.

IMG_1274

IMG_1275

See that sweet potato casserole? Nom, nom, nom. Delicious! PS. All this food isn’t for me. I shared it with both my kids. Just felt I needed to put that out there before people start mailing me anonymous memberships to Overeaters Anonymous.

The next morning we went to the Riverwalk. We parked at the far end of the walk. (At The Pearl, an outdoor marketplace. It was also free to park.) We then hailed a river taxi, the best way to see everything. (You pay $15 and can hop on or off anywhere all day.)

IMG_1282

IMG_1286

And my husband got to add some new birds (a yellow crowned night heron) to his bird list.

IMG_1296

(We also saw some neo-tropic cormorants and black bellied whistling ducks.)

If you’ve never been to San Antonio, let me explain that the Riverwalk is fifteen miles of scenic downtown, comprised of shops, restaurants, and this place.

IMG_1293

Despite the fact that the Alamo battle took place in 1836, you still get a sort of sad, reverential feeling when you step inside. Or maybe it’s because you’re waiting in nearly hundred degree weather in a line that looks like this.

IMG_1294

It’s worth the trip, if only to see this flag which riled my fighting spirit.

Come and Take it

You want this cookie?? You’d better come and try to take it!! But I digress…

The river walk is beautiful, even if you never leave the boat. (Considering the high temperatures and crowds of people, you might be better off never leaving the boat. Bring water. And don’t go on the weekend that 85,000 Seventh Day Adventists are there for their annual conference like we did. Oops. At least we had the pork products all to ourselves.)

We left the river walk and headed back toward our hotel for supper. We stopped off at a ginormous shopping mall called La Cantera and ate at a place called Whiskey Cake.

Normally I don’t condone eating at chain restaurants on vacation, preferring instead to eat locally. But this is a regional chain that cooks from scratch using locally sourced ingredients. I would give it a mixed review.

IMG_1304

My BBQ pork Bahn Mi was meh. But their eponymous whisky cake was fabulous.

IMG_1305

After such a long, hot day, nothing sounded better than a dip in the pool. Nothing except fresh, warm cookies hand delivered to my door, that is. Thankfully Tiff’s Treats offers such a service.

IMG_1306

They come packaged like an engagement ring. Coincidence? I think not.

IMG_1307

Our biggest surprise about San Antonio was the size. It’s huge, and tonight we learned that Houston–tomorrow’s destination–is four times bigger. Fingers crossed that means four times the cookie bakeries.

Day Three: Oklahoma City to Albuquerque

Two things happened in Oklahoma City:

  1. We didn’t eat doughnuts.
  2. We met up with Route 66

But before we were on our way, we visited our alma mater’s sister school in Bethany, which was coincidentally across the street from our hotel. Hi, SNU!

IMG_0872

It was a long drive to the Texas border, but at least the landscape was more interesting than some other places we’ve been. (I’m looking at you, Arkansas.) The rest stop in Texas was huge and beautiful with views like this:

IMG_0873

Unfortunately it also appeared to have the world’s supply of cockroaches and this:

IMG_0874

(In case you can’t read it, there are rattlesnakes. At the rest area. Right next to the playground.)

An hour later, we paused on historic Route 66 in Amarillo for refreshment.

IMG_0875

Cowboy Gelato had awesome gelato with homemade waffle cones. (Homemade waffle cones are one of the hallmarks of a good ice cream place, in my opinion.)

IMG_0876

If you go, I would think twice about ordering anything other than gelato. On the day we went, they seemed to be short-staffed and our takeout chicken salad ended up taking almost a half an hour, putting a time crunch on our already tight schedule.

On the way out of Amarillo, we stopped here, the iconic Cadillac Ranch.

IMG_0880

It’s a bit underwhelming unless you get out of the car and hike up close. This guy looked better.

IMG_0878

West out of Amarillo was flattened cow country. There were cows and windmills and not much else, but it was pretty. Moving into New Mexico, the terrain was more lush than I expected, but that soon gave way to scrub and sagebrush. (But still interesting and pretty.) The terrain began to get rockier, and the rocks bigger, until we realized we were in the Rockies. Since we arrived in Albuquerque on a Sunday, many things were closed. We ended up eating at the Frontier, an iconic Albuquerque establishment with cafeteria-style New Mexican cuisine, also famous for their cinnamon rolls.

IMG_0881

IMG_0882

There’s no doubting we’re officially in the west now. We headed downtown to Oldtown Albuquerque, the picturesque portion of historic Albuquerque.

IMG_0885

IMG_0883

Not only were people out walking their dogs, having picnics, and cruising with their restored classic cars, but the Tango club was dancing in the gazebo.

IMG_0890

I wonder what the first rule of Tango Club is? They’re probably not allowed to tell me.