san antonio

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I hadn’t touched my Howard W. Peak Greenway System project in ages. In fact, I wasn’t entirely sure where I’d left off. I remembered starting out at Lady Bird Johnson Park and going north toward McAllister Park (and I think I made it all that way). I also started from the Oakwell Farms Trailhead and went some direction (probably north towards Lady Bird Johnson Park) but didn’t get very far. And that was it.

So since I wasn’t sure how much of the area I’d actually covered, I figured that my best bet was to start at the far end (since that would be a new-to-me park) and go north, seeing if I could make it all the way to Lady Bird Johnson Park.

So I drove to John James Park (named for a surveyor who helped set up a bunch of local towns including Castroville) and didn’t see a sign like this:

The Greenway sign outside of Walker Ranch Historic Landmark Park. The coloration is imperfect because I took this picture at 10:00 at night.

Or like this:

The park rules for the Greenway system. Since there wasn’t one at John James, this is from Lady Bird Johnson. As I say below, it was hot today (and I had done a lot of walking), so I wasn’t about to drag myself down Nacogdoches Road looking for the above Greenway sign during the daytime.

So I walked around the park and also down the street until I crossed the creek (which looked like this):

Do you see a sidewalk in this picture? I don’t see a sidewalk in this picture.

Finally I decided that maybe the greenway ended on the other side of the bridge that carries Rittiman Road over the creek (and also over Holbrook Road)*, but there was no crosswalk in sight and it was over 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) so I wasn’t going to go wandering around out there in the sun any longer than I had to. I also had a very strange conversation with the lady at Via Metropolitan Transit where I explained that I wanted to know how to get to the downtown lineup from the AT&T Center (I’m going to the Maluma concert on Saturday) and after leaving me on hold for nearly nine minutes she came back and told me where the downtown lineup is. Crap. I should probably do a post on taking the downtown Via lineup, shouldn’t I? Well, it’s 11:30 and I have to be up in 9 hours so I’m not going to write it tonight.

After exploring the park a bit more, I decided to drive along Grantham Road looking for greenway signs or, more importantly, parking lots. When I didn’t find anywhere to park, I decided to head up to the Oakwell Farms trailhead and walk down to John James and hopefully find the trailhead from that direction. I got there and found that they were doing sewer work and the parking lot was closed.

So I went back all the way to Lady Bird Johnson Park and decided to head all the way down to John James. When I got to Robert L.B. Tobin Park, just past 410, though, I found that not only was the parking lot closed, but the greenway itself was closed, too.

So after briefly flirting with the idea of seeing if I could get close enough to the Pokemon Go gym to take it over (the Pokemon in there had been there for over three days and I’m sure their trainers would have liked them back), I turned around and headed back to my car. I stopped off at both Hardbergers and did some shopping at the Walmart on Blanco and when all the dust settled, I had visited five parks (I count both ends of the blocked-off part of the greenway as half a park each) and done more than seven miles of walking today.

*The satellite photos on Google Maps seem to show just that happening. I still don’t know how to get *down* there, though.

And my life’s not very wild at all unless you count taking the subway in foreign cities. I guess that could get kind of wild, but so far it’s just been transportation.

However, while my life isn’t wild, I’ve been close to some whose lives are very wild. This guy, for example:

He looks pretty wild to me!

I saw this fella on April 20 at Walker Ranch Park. I took two pictures, this one and one zoomed farther out, and then I began to worry a little because he was just sitting on the ground. I asked him (really, literally, in actual human speech) why he was sitting on the ground, and he flew off. That was a huge relief to me.

And he’s not alone. In addition to my nearly daily encounters with deer in the parks around here, I’ve recently seen an armadillo at Walker Ranch Park, a rabbit and what I’m pretty sure is a red-tailed hawk at Hardberger Park, and just today what I’m also pretty sure is a crested caracara in Shavano Park (that’s a nearby suburb).

I have pictures of most of them, except the caracara, because I was driving when I saw him. That’s also why I’m not entirely sure that’s what I saw. Whatever it was, it was hanging around with a bunch of vultures that were eating something that looked like a dead squirrel, and caracaras do eat carrion, so that seems like a good indication to me. My first impression was that it looked kind of like a Pokémon, too, and the caracara does kinda/sorta look like a Staraptor, in a way.

I was really thrilled to see the rabbit, too, because I grew up in a neighborhood that had rabbits every-damn-where and I haven’t seen a single rabbit in my entire time in Texas. The last time I saw a rabbit was during a visit to my old apartment complex in Chicago in what would have been 2008/2010 at the latest.

I’m not entirely sure why I’m seeing more wildlife lately. Maybe there’s some construction or other development that’s flushing them out (if so, why am I mostly seeing them in parks?) Maybe they’ve been there all along and I’m just noticing it more?

But, perhaps, the most important question of all, is my old eBird account still active?

I’ve been to the zoo a couple of times recently. On March 23, Alex and I had made tentative plans to go together then his allergies acted up badly and he went back to bed. I’d had my heart set on going to the zoo, so I went by myself and did the Pokemon Go Community Day while I was there.

I got a couple of pictures of the elephant enclosure. I’ve posted about the controversy about the elephant enclosure before (links to follow later, maybe), but they didn’t turn out very well. I guess that’s an excuse to go back to the zoo. I can always use an excuse to to back to the zoo.

Elephant enclosure, San Antonio Zoo, 2019
Actually this picture turned out halfway decent. I may have to bring a tall friend to get the view from above that fence in the foreground next time, but this will give you some kind of idea of the scale. And Lucky has two roommates now. I don’t know if they like each other, but they tolerate each other, which may be all one can hope for.

In August, I think it was, I joined the zoo for the first time in years and since Alex is now an adult, he got his own membership. This past Saturday was Bring a Friend Free day at the zoo, so Alex and I each brought a friend. Alex’s friend had to leave early, but Alex, my friend, and I ended up spending four hours at the zoo. Our zoo isn’t that big. I didn’t know it was possible to spend four hours there.

Speaking of Pokemon Go, one of my friends has me playing the game that I refer to as Jurassic Park Go. The name is actually Jurassic World Alive, but that’s a real mouthful. I have thoughts about JWA and it may require a whole post just for that. I know that any game that involves chance (like a random number generator) the odds favor the “house,” but JWA seems like such a blatant cash grab that I’m far less likely to spend actual money on the game than I am with Pokemon Go (I limit myself to an average of $1 a month for Pokemon Go).

As I’ve mentioned before, the site that’s now Brackenridge Park used to be the headquarters for the Alamo Cement Company. The limestone was quarried on-site and when the “carpetbagger” George Washington Brackenridge donated land to the city and the widow of the founder of the Pearl Beer company, Emma Koehler, followed suit by donating some adjoining land, the city ended up with a decent number of old quarries to do something with.

Japanese Tea Garden, 2018
An overview of some of the Japanese Tea Garden, looking toward the pavilion/pagoda thing.

The city parks commissioner at the time, Ray Lambert, decided to turn this particular quarry, which was right behind the cement company, into a lily pond. The lily pond project got bigger and bigger until it became a full garden with ponds and the city invited Kimi Eizo Jingu, a Japanese-American artist, to move into one of the buildings with his family, where they ran a restaurant. The Jingu family was disinvited to live there in 1942, while we were at war with Japan (and, indeed. had confined a large number of Japanese-Americans in internment camps).

At this point, they changed the name of the garden to the Chinese Sunken Garden, and moved a Chinese family, the Wus, into the house. The Wus lived in that house for around 20 years.

Eventually the city got over World War II. They changed the name back to the Japanese Tea Garden in 1984.

I moved to San Antonio in 1993 and the garden had fallen into disrepair by then. Thomas and I hiked out there on a whim when we were in Brackenridge Park to visit the zoo. Someone else was with us. It was a long time ago and I cannot remember if it was our friend Frank or my parents. Maybe it was one of Thomas’s parents. Well, my dad says it wasn’t them, so that leaves Frank or Thomas’s folks.

Anyway, when we got out there we were underwhelmed. I don’t even remember if there was water in the ponds, it was so bad.

Then, in 2007, they began a major renovation project. They rededicated the gardens in 2008 and it’s well worth the stop now. There are koi ponds and walking paths, and a really lovely artificial waterfall. There are also signs warning visitors not to release fish into the ponds and Alex and I joked about putting kraken and such into it.

The building that the Jingu family lived in is now a restaurant (and I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never eaten there — the one time I tried, it was January and they had some kind of weird abbreviated winter hours).

The Japanese Tea Garden is not what you’d call handicap-accessible. The paths are narrow and there are steps everywhere. One can sit in the covered pagoda area and see pretty much everything. My understanding is that the Jingu House is handicap-accessible.

Gratuitous Amazon Link time. This actually looks like something I might want to buy. Since the Japanese Tea Garden is so tied up in San Antonio’s history, I looked for San Antonio history books and found San Antonio: Our Story of 150 Years in the Alamo City, by the Staff of the San Antonio Express-News.

I considered revisiting Orsinger Park the day I visited MacArthur but then I realized that I really didn’t need to because I still go there fairly often, largely to play Pokémon Go these days.

But Orsinger has always been one of the parks we visited fairly frequently when Alex was young because it’s the only park we’ve found so far that had a sandbox. Orsinger was the sandbox park, Walker Ranch was the airplane park (because it is in the landing pattern for the airport), and Cibolo Nature Center (have I written on that one yet?) was the dinosaur park (because it has a cast of the dinosaur footprints found near Boerne Lake).

Orsinger is one of the parks of the Bexar County Park system. The land was donated to the county by Genevieve and Ward Orsinger in 1980. Genevieve was a dancer and a teacher (the Genevieve and Ward Orsinger Foundation website doesn’t say what she taught, but since her degree was in physical education, my guess is that she probably was what is colloquially known as a “gym teacher”). Ward owned a car dealership.

Orsinger is a nice little park with a playground and a pavilion with an attached kitchen and a surprising amount of walking trails. The first time Thomas, Alex, and I left the playground area for the walking trails we kept expecting to come to the end of trails but we didn’t. I mean, of course we eventually did, because we’re not still walking around out there, or we didn’t die of dehydration or anything, but there were still a lot of trails.

And I just realized that I don’t have any pictures of Orsinger. I figured that I’d gone on a photographic trip there at some point, but I guess I was mistaken. So I’ll be taking a trip out there and editing this post later, I guess.

Orsinger Park Path 2018
Finally. A picture. This is just a little bit of the walking path at Orsinger Park.

I almost forgot my gratuitous Amazon link. This time the highest-ranked book I can find is Dirt Cheap Photo Guide to Grand Teton National Park by Jeff Clow.

So I’ve decided that rather than futzing around with a map (and my spellchecker liked “futzing.” Who knew?) I’d just copy the list from the city website. And messing with the list makes me think that maybe futzing with a map would be easier. Dear God.

Ultimately, once I remove all of the formatting and the extraneous stuff like addresses and photos, I’ll maybe bold the ones I’ve been to and change the colors of the ones I’ve written up? Or maybe pretend I’m using a highlighter and turn the ones I’ve been to blue and the ones I’ve written up green or purple? Or maybe use pink and orange, so that it looks less like links. I think I like that.

So ultimately,

Friedrich Wilderness Park

Will turn into

Friedrich Wilderness Park

once I’ve visited it and

Friedrich Wilderness Park

once I’ve written it up?

Should I pick a different shade of orange?

Friedrich Wilderness Park

Yeah. I like that darker orange better.

Now, once I’ve cleaned up the list what should I do with it? For reasons I don’t understand, school playgrounds are on the list now — this makes me a bit nervous since, well, school property. I think I’ll remove them from the list as I go.

Should I put them on my “about” page? Add a new “about”-type page for this list? Make it a blog post with a special tag?

I think that probably the new “about”-type page would be best so that *I* can find the list pretty easily. I don’t want to lose it and then have to recreate it again.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go remove photos from the “L”s.

P.S. It just hit me. Once I’ve finished this list and all of them are orange, I’ll have to go back through the official city list because I’m pretty sure that they’ll’ve added new parks in the however-long it takes me to go through the whole list.

This is what’s known as job security. Or would be, if I were making any money from this yet.

On April 14, 2018, San Antonio held its second annual March for Science. The 2017 march wasn’t as well attended as I would have liked and the 2018 march had, from what I could tell, even fewer people. I haven’t yet been able to find any official numbers of attendees for this year, though.

2018 March for Science attendees

Some of the marchers. You can probably see what I mean about the sparse attendance.

We started out at Thomas Jefferson High School, the third-oldest high school in the city (the first two were evidently the Main Avenue High School (which is where CAST Tech High School is today) and Brackenridge High School (which is on Eagleland in between St. Mary’s and the San Antonio River)). A large number of famous San Antonians attended Jefferson High School including the Castro brothers — Joaquin (a US Senator) and Julian (the former mayor and who was Obama’s HUD secretary) and two Nobel laureates — Robert Floyd Curl, Jr (namesake of Floyd Curl Drive in the Medical Center area? Perhaps) and William E. Moerner.

Jefferson High School has a lovely building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Thomas Jefferson High School San Antonio, Texas, 2018

Jefferson High School. I actually like this one pretty well.

The Motorsport team from San Antonio College was there showing off the car that they were entering in the Shell Eco-Marathon in East Petaluma, California.*

The opening remarks were given by Ron Nirenberg, the current mayor, and then we marched down to Woodlawn Lake Park, sort of buzzed the park a bit, and then back to the high school. The march didn’t get much attention in the media, so only a couple of people came out to watch us (we also were watched by, and waved at, some roofers who were working on one of the houses in our path). I listened to the speech by the faculty sponsor for the Motorsport team, took some pictures of the building, and then hung around until I started to see people leave.

It was a very enjoyable march. It’s nice to get out with people who share the kinds of interests that I have. I just wish that there had been more promotion of the actual march, so that more people would have turned out for it and maybe we would’ve gotten more spectators.

*They won first place in a design award and fourth in the actual race.

Well, ultimately, Corpus Christi got off easy. Houston, Port Arthur, and Beaumont, on the other hand, not so much. A lot of charities are collecting stuff for refugees and my pharmacy has filled a bunch of emergency prescriptions for patients who left their medications behind (in a lot of cases, the scripts were ready in the now-flooded area of Texas but hadn’t been picked up yet). We have a “floater” pharmacist on many Thursdays and every Friday and our floater today was amazed at how many emergency prescriptions we’d filled.

Today’s panic was about gasoline supplies. Apparently the trucks with the gasoline for San Antonio are delayed by the flooding. We’ve been assured that there is gas available, it just will take about a week to get here. So now everyone needs gas right now and so the stores that had gas are sold out. Personally, I have about a month’s supply in my tank right now (I don’t drive much — in fact, I mostly end up needing new tires because the rubber degrades from lack of use), and if it takes much longer than a week, I can always take the bus to work on days when I start or end early enough (it’ll add about an hour to my commute time total on a daily basis, but it’ll save gasoline).

I’ve got Alex working on finding old clothes of his that we can donate to the cause. One of my coworkers was collecting clothing and things, but we couldn’t find the clothing in time. I hope that he’ll find it tomorrow and I can take it out on Saturday. Maybe I’ll ask my coworker where to drop them off in her name. . . .

I’m pretty sure I’ve posted about my project where I’m paying myself to study foreign languages. My goal is to get good enough at one of them (I’m really pulling for that to be Chinese) that I can go right to graduate school in the language once I’ve paid myself the thousands of dollars that I would need to pay the tuition and fees. By then I’ll probably be a retiree, but it’s something to shoot for. For reference, so far, including interest (which will go up tomorrow), I’ve paid myself $289.57 in 289 days. So we’re looking at just a titch over $1 per day. The, oh, $16,000 or so it’ll take me to pay for an MA in Chinese will take me about 43 years. I may have to step it up a bit.

Of course, by the time I can afford the degree I may not actually need the degree, except as a piece of paper to prove that I really do know how to do what I’ll probably have been able to do for 20-some years by then. Or maybe even longer if, you know, I step it up a bit.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got Chinese to study.

Author’s note: I started working on this post late on August 25 and while working on it, it became August 26. As a result, read all of the “tonight”s as “last night”s, all of the “tomorrow”s as “today”s and so forth.

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Hurricane Harvey made landfall not that long ago down in Corpus Christi. I’m really fond of Corpus and it looks like Alex and I may be visiting there again to see what it looks like after the storm sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Until then, though, here I sit in San Antonio, looking at the Weather.com map of my city and noticing that my neighborhood is pretty much surrounded by rain.

They’re expecting some flooding for San Antonio and at some point the electricity is going to go out. I got home from work a bit late, as we spent some time covering electronics with plastic bags and things, just in case the roof caves in or something. Then I got to work using electricity while I have it. Alex and I cooked some turkey bacon, I did a load of laundry (and probably will do another one while I settle down for bed), I’m running the dishwasher, and I’m charging pretty much everything that needs to be charged (I’m almost done charging my phone-charging batteries and am about to start on the bluetooth speaker that we bought for the Nebraska trip).

I’m probably going to do a lot of reading tomorrow (particularly if the electricity goes out), since the wind will probably stop me from really going anywhere. I may take a hike down to the creek, which is usually dry, to watch the water flow past (which will make a dent in the 6,700 steps I need to make to get caught up with my goal). And maybe I’ll start to make a dent in my next National Geographic post and, maybe even work on the post that will be the preface to our California trip, which will explain how Thomas and I ended up going to California for the very first time, in the mid-1990s.

Or maybe I’ll just stay in bed all day. That’s a possibility, as well.

I finally made it to exactly one Fiesta event this year, the Fiesta de los Reyes at Market Square. The “Reyes” of the title is, specifically, the Rey Feo (literally “ugly king,” but some of our Reyes Feos have been quite attractive in my opinion). From what I can gather, the man who becomes Rey Feo is the one who raises the most money towards a scholarship program.

The Fiesta de los Reyes came across as a pretty standard street festival. Fortunately, I love street festivals. There were several stages set up (one under Interstate 35, one on San Saba Street, and at least two down Produce Row).

Okay, you’re going to need some kind of a map. I may have zoomed in on this a bit much, but here it is:

1908 San Antonio Map of the Market Square area

Map of San Antonio from 1909 (and thus in the public domain) showing where Interstate 35, San Saba Street, and Produce Row are (also Houston and Santa Rosa Streets and Milam Park, for reference).

Interstate 35, of course, wasn’t there yet in 1909, because the Interstate System wasn’t even authorized by Congress until 1956. The US Numbered Highway system (things like US Route 1, US Route 6, US Route 30, etc.) wasn’t even in place yet in 1909.

Probably St. Anthony, Market Square, San Antonio 2017

I’m pretty sure that this is St. Anthony. I’ve been to Market Square a couple of times in the past, but never noticed that little alcove up there before.

The bands that were playing when we were there in the early afternoon were a Mexican group called Dynastia Moreno (unfortunately, I’m not that familiar with Mexican musical styles to be able to identify their style of music. They sounded good, though), a Christian gospel/blues band called, well, Rev. Blues (they’re Texans, but blues bands always make me homesick for Chicago), a cover band of what looked like teenagers that was playing “Enter Sandman” as we walked past, and some other band at the Santa Rosa and Produce Row end of Market Square on a stage on the steps of the old Museo Alameda, which is now the Centro de Artes of Texas A&M – San Antonio. Unfortunately, it was too crowded for me to be able to read the signs giving the names of those groups. I figured I’d be able to look them up later, and I’m having no luck at all with that yet.

The Museo Alameda was an experiment on the part of the people at the Smithsonian. The Museo Alameda was a museum for Latin American art that was a full affiliate of the Smithsonian. It didn’t really catch on, unfortunately, and only five years after it opened, the Museo Alameda closed its doors. San Antonio still has a Smithsonian affiliate, though. Since 2014, the Witte Museum has been a Smithsonian affiliate.

That reminds me, the new upgrades to the Witte are done and Alex and I visited it and took even more pictures. I have to post that soon.

An overhead view of the crowds at Fiesta de los Reyes, 2017

See what I mean about the crowds?

And, as I said before, Market Square was packed with people. It was a lovely day in the mid- to high 70s, so Alex and I had more energy than we do during the summer months, but it was even a little crowded for me, and I generally love the hustle and bustle of public festivals. So we walked once around and got a little of the fiesta spirit, took some pictures, and then went home. The “walk once around,” by the way?  Took an hour and a half.