I sat around all day, working on my reading and writing blog posts (this is my fourth post for today, and will go live on November 5), but not getting any exercise, or any reading on The Eye of the World.
I was so close to having The Eye of the World finished and I figured that a trip from my house to the Pearl and then walking downtown from the Pearl and then reversing the trip should be enough time to finish The Eye of the World and, just maybe, get started on The Great Hunt. And it was, too. Yay!
I was a little nervous a couple of times during my walk, but I mostly enjoyed the walk. I saw a couple of Christmas trees while I was out and about, but mostly it felt like a nice, autumnal evening.
I enjoy taking night photographs in the city because the play of light and shadow is so interesting. During the daytime around here, everything’s so bright. We get an occasional darkly overcast day, which makes photography interesting, but mostly it’s just . . . sunny.
Unfortunately, even after all of that walking, I’m still 2,000 steps short and it’s 10:45 at night. Let’s see if I can knock some of that out before bedtime (which is about an hour away).
I think this is my 6th post for today. Maybe it’s my 5th. I was, like, well, I can always look at the place where I paste all of my posts for the month for NaNoWriMo counting purposes, then I realized that I don’t copy that part of the post over because I feel that would artificially inflate my word count. I’m not even that sure if my Gratuitous Amazon Links should count.
Agh. Never mind. Longhorn Cavern.
First, a warning. Since I had Mila with me, I couldn’t go in to buy a ticket for the tour, so I haven’t taken the tour yet. I do intend to sometime. Whenever I have the time and energy to go all the way to Burnet again.
I wouldn’t’ve been able to take her on the cavern tour anyhow (I just double-checked that with the tour website), so I definitely didn’t take the tour.
There are three things that make the park interesting. The first is kind of standard if you’ve been around here very long — the hiking trails. It was pretty warm, and while I’m getting Mila used to strangers, she was a little tense with strangers, since she was so far from home (I’ll bet that Burnet smells different from San Antonio to a dog). I’m hoping that she’ll get better about that, since I want to be able to use her as a travel buddy. As a result, we didn’t get to see all of the trails. We did the trail near the cavern entrance, and the Backbone Ridge Nature Trail. The Backbone Ridge Nature Trail connects the second interesting point:
There are a number of Civilian Conservation Corps (“CCC”) structures in the park. I believe that I’ve gone through this before, but given the nonlinear nature of this blog, I’ll do it here. The CCC was one of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, and it may have been the one that was most popular with the general population. The men who worked for the CCC were housed in camps and given food, work uniforms, medical care, and an income that works out to less than $3 per hour in today’s money, quite a lot of which were sent to the men’s families.
The CCC was employed in building flood-prevention structures, reforestry, and also in building structure to improve public lands, including parklands. There are three CCC structures at Longhorn Cavern State Park. One, the administration center, is next to the visitor center at the park. This building has a deck that is reachable without going into the building, so Mila and I went up there. There is a cabin, and an observation tower. The cabin is used for storage and the observation tower had this metal spiral staircase that I didn’t like the looks of, so we didn’t go up there.
And, of course, the third thing is the cavern itself. Mila and I walked down to the entrance of the cavern, which has stairs and arches and things that I think are also by the CCC.
The cavern was formed by water filtering through cracks in the ground during what’s known as the “Llano Uplift,” which I don’t really understand and will have to research. I eavesdropped on one of the tour guides and he said that there are relatively few caverns formed this way, and even fewer (I think he said four?) are open to the public.
Now for the Gratuitous Amazon Link. I really need to catch up on my nonfiction reading, to give this section a little more variety. Alas, this is another kidlit book. The Secrets of Solace is the middle book in a trilogy by Jaleigh Johnson set on the planet of Solace. Interestingly it looks like the three books of the trilogy are independent stories. The first two certainly are.
So, like I said in my previous post, I wanted to go downtown to do some research on the Alamo next. Since they had the Impeachment Eve march the day I was planning to go on my research trip, I decided to do both and make a day of it.
2019, they found three new bodies at the Alamo. Let me explain my use of the
word “new.” I don’t mean “new” like “they were just killed,” I mean “new” like
“additional to all of the other bodies that we know are there.” You see, between
the Alamo’s years as a mission and the aftermath of the battle, there are a lot
of bodies in/near/around the Alamo. A group of commenters on a blog I follow
were discussing the discovery, and I started down the Alamo research rabbit
The founding site of Mission San Antonio de Valero is generally described as being “near the springs of San Pedro Creek.” One thing led to another and I found that they believe that the location was near where San Franceso di Paola church is today.
On the blog, we also talked about the fact that the church at the Alamo today is the second location of the church on that site. We completely ignored the second location of the mission, which I have yet to find. Ooh! Maybe another research trip this week? So, on Impeachment Eve, I took the bus downtown and checked out those sites.
When I first arrived downtown, my first stop was unrelated to the Alamo at all (well, it was kind of obliquely related, in that it has a connection to James Bowie). One of the bigger figures in the area a generation or so before the Texan Revolution was Fernando Veramendi. He was a businessman and a shopkeeper and built a large house which came to be known as the Veramendi Palace. Fernando’s son, Juan Martín, was mayor of Bexar (the name San Antonio had before it became San Antonio) and then vice governor of Coahuila and Texas, the name of the Mexican state that San Antonio used to be part of. Juan Martín was also James Bowie’s father-in-law. James was married to Juan Martín’s daughter Ursula.
The Veramendi Palace stood on Soledad Street and gradually fell into disrepair. When they widened the street in 1909, they razed the building. The historical marker for the Veramendi Palace was placed inside a building which was later built on the site and housed the department store Solo Serve. The marker is still on the list of official historical markers, but they are in the process of razing the Solo Serve building, so I am now on a quest to find that historical marker.
As a result, my first stop on that trip was to visit the location of the Veramendi Palace and see if I could find the marker. I visited the hotel that is now on the site, hoping that maybe the marker is now in there, but had no luck. I asked the ladies at the front desk about it, and neither had ever seen a historical marker anywhere near there. There’s a passage down to the River Walk from Soledad Street next door, though, and they suggested I check there. It wasn’t there, either. So I pressed on and continued my search for the original location of The Alamo.
I hiked northwest
to San Francesco and nosed around in their parking lot. The discovery of the
site came because there was a spot in the parking lot that didn’t seem to stay
paved. When they pulled up the asphalt, they found a spring. Then, while
looking in that area, they found wrought iron that looks to be from the 18th
century (when the Alamo was founded) and later pottery, rosary beads, and other
items. They’re looking for one specific type of pottery called “puebla
polychrome” which would need to be found there to confirm San Francesco as the
I looked around in the parking lot for the site of the spring with no luck. It hadn’t rained in a long time, though, and since the city is pulling so much water from the Edwards Aquifer these days, it’s hard to find the smaller springs unless it has rained recently. Maybe I’ll hike out there after a rain sometime.
I also walked along the street that separates the property from San Pedro Creek, but didn’t see any markers or anything. There were cars in the parking lot, so I walked up to the church, so see if anyone was in there who had answers, but the door was locked. I’m not sure if the cars were people working on the construction of the new linear park there by San Pedro Creek or if they were having some kind of private meeting in the church or the hall next door, or if people use the parking lot as a kind of park-and-ride and were taking the bus somewhere else from there. I suspect that some day when I have nothing better to do, I’ll head out there and figure that out.
I walked from
there to the Alamo and walked around the inside of the building to see if maybe
I could buttonhole an archaeologist. I found one man standing on a ladder
working on something, but didn’t want to interrupt whatever he was doing. So I
just walked around inside the church for a while and then toured the grounds.
I visited the new
museum at the Alamo and found that maybe there were no actual cottonwoods on
the property (“alamo” is Spanish for “cottonwood”). The name Alamo may have
come from a branch of the Mexican military that was stationed there, the Second
Flying Company of San Carlos de Parras, known commonly as the Alamos de Parras,
because the soldiers originated from the town of San Jose y Santiago del Alamo.
I realized at this
point that it was nearly 5 and I was near where a friend works. She takes the
bus to and from work and her dad picks her up at her bus stop and drives her
home, so I knew she wouldn’t have time to socialize, so I just texted her to
say “hey” and went on my way to the Impeachment Eve events.
I’m thinking about
blogging about the Impeachment Eve events, even if their time has sort of
passed. Maybe I’ll do the B-52s concert instead. I don’t know. All I know is
that I’ve done my five minutes of work on my blog for today and so I can go to
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:
Or like this:
So I walked around the park and also down the street until I crossed the creek (which looked like this):
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:
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.
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.
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.
Okay, so you turn off of Grissom Road into the little parking lot at Cathedral Rock and see a little play area and a little picnic pavilion.
You walk a little farther and find this:
And then a little farther on you find this:
And you realize that there’s quite a lot of park to explore here. I focused on the corner of the map for the picture above because Cathedral Rock Park is also a trailhead for the Leon Creek Greenway and the Greenway takes up most of the map.
I took a lot of pictures here and don’t know how many I’ll use. I think there are actually more paths at Cathedral Rock than are pictured on that map, because I was following the map on Pokémon Go rather than using that map and almost all of the paths that they had on the game were there in the park (the only exception I can think of is I think it might be that loop there in the upper-left-hand corner looks like it comes straight back from the lower-left part and rejoins the main path in kind of a reverse D-shape rather than that lasso kind of shape it has on this map).
Most of the paths have the San Antonio trail levels assigned to them, where Level 1 and 2 are usable by people in wheelchairs and Level 3 is usable by really incredibly fit people in wheelchairs and Level 4 is probably not usable by people in wheelchairs. Some of the signs showing which level applies to which paths were in pretty bad shape when I was there and could use some replacement signs.
Finally, why Cathedral Rock? Beats me. The park itself is mostly level with the occasional scattered bits of limestone. Once you get to the greenway, though, you find this:
Which is way more impressive than it looks in the photo. Maybe if the deer had stood there while I took my picture rather than freaking out and running away it’d look less uninspiring.
Now I guess it’s time for a gratuitous Amazon link. I looked at books about limestone, since the rocks of what I assume is Cathedral Rock are limestone, but, eh. So I went back to the same link as I used before and dug up Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Washington: Section Hiking from the Columbia River to Manning Park by Tami Asars. I’m not planning on going on the Pacific Crest Trail anytime soon, but the picture on the front sure is pretty and it has 4.9 stars (out of 5) so why not?
On my master list of parks, I say that not all of the parks in the San Antonio area are actually owned and operated by the City of San Antonio. This is one of those other parks, which is owned and operated by Bexar County. And it’s quite a bit larger than I expected it to be. The entrance to the park is on the access road for Loop 410 so I figured I could cover it in 15 minutes. I stayed for almost 45. I was also there late in the day, so many of my pictures are slightly overexposed.
McArthur Park has several picnic pavilions and a bit of walking path, but the main feature of the park seems to be playgrounds. The park has three of those playscapes where all of the equipment is connected into one big sort of piece of park furniture and there are additional pieces of playground equipment including swings and a small monkey bar thing that looks like a flying saucer. I found that last one particularly interesting, but couldn’t take pictures of it because there were someone’s kids on it and taking pictures of other people’s children is considered to be kind of creepy. Maybe I’ll return someday and get a picture of that.
Have you played the “You are Jeff Bezos” game? The point of the game is to demonstrate just exactly how much $156 billion is. You wake up as Jeff Bezos and you decide that maybe if you spend all of his money you can get back to your own life. I’m not 100% about the things that the game designers think are priorities. For example one of the options is to revive Mythbusters. I’ve seen like two episodes of Mythbusters and have heard of a bunch more and I’m just not a fan. I’ve just never believed that the five-second rule really means that it takes five seconds for germs to attach to an item dropped on the floor. It’s more a winking “if you fix it fast enough it never happened” thing, I think. So watching two guys drop things on the floor and measure the germs on it just doesn’t seem like gripping television to me.
What I would like to spend a bunch of Jeff Bezos’s $156 billion on is fixing up parks. And McArthur had a bit of stuff that I’d like to fix. For example there are several pieces of concrete art that need a bunch of TLC. The paint is peeling (or has peeled) off and in several cases there are actual chunks of concrete missing. I really do wonder how much it would cost to paint and repair those poor things, if Bexar County would take a donation for that purpose, and if I could write it off of my income taxes.
Now I need an Amazon link. Does Amazon have some kind of “pick a random book” feature? I guess I’ll try to come up with my own. So, searching for “Parks” and sorting by customer reviews, the first result is Urban Trails: San Francisco: Coastal Bluffs/ The Presidio/ Hilltop Parks & Stairways by Alexandra Kenin. I guess that’ll hold me for this post, particularly since seeing the San Francisco area is years away at this point unless this blog thing really takes off or I win the lottery.
Wow. It’s been an exciting few months and as anyone who has read more than, like, two of my posts will know, I’m a terrible procrastinator and the longer you procrastinate the worse it gets. So I’m pulling up a post I started in late July and finishing it up. I may have a sequel tonight (or whenever I get back to posting here).
Remember how sad I was when Tom Petty died? I may have told this story already, but the year I was in eighth grade, we had to write up the lyrics to our favorite songs for the poetry unit in EnglishLanguage Arts. My two favorite songs that year were Tom Petty’s Refugee (from his (Amazon link ahead) Damn the Torpedoes album) and Rock Lobster by the B-52s (from their (another Amazon link) self-titled debut album (I don’t know why it says “import,” but it is (as I write this) only $9 and it’s the only CD of that album I can find on Amazon)). Good luck figuring out the lyrics to those songs on your own (I’m still a little shaky on the bridge of Refugee, to be completely honest). So instead I picked a song that I liked well enough but, more importantly, that I could understand.
But that began my love of The B-52s. I’d never had a chance to see them live, though. When I realized that they were going on tour this summer, I looked it up and the only Texas show I could find at that point was them co-headlining with Culture Club in Grand Prairie. I’ve always liked Culture Club well enough, but not had a burning desire to see them live. But I figured that I’d get three bands (The B-52s, Culture Club, and Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins as opener) for the price of one this way.
TL;DR version of the review: The shows were awesome. All of the bands gave great shows. The acoustics in the theater, however, sucked.
I (a) don’t have multiple hundreds of dollars to spend on concert tickets at this juncture (though maybe this part of my travel writing will someday be lucrative enough that I will) and (b) didn’t know about the concert until relatively late. As a result, the only tickets I could get were fairly high up in the theater. I don’t know if we were as high in the theater as we were for Weird Al Yankovic (we were almost up against the wall at the back for that one), but we heard Al just fine. If it weren’t for the way I could feel the bass in my chest, I might as well have been watching this concert on television.
After I bought the tickets for the show in Grand Prairie I discovered that the B-52s do have a stop at the Tobin Center in San Antonio. That show is October 24, 2018 :looks at date on post: and I was so upset by the acoustics in Grand Prairie that it pretty much guaranteed that I’d want to see them at the Tobin Center. That’s the sequel I was talking about. Alex has no interest in seeing the B-52s again, so I’m going all by myself to see them in, well, about 14.5 hours from right now.
Grand Prairie is in between Dallas and Fort Worth and so the day after the concert, Alex and I drove into Dallas to visit Dealey Plaza (where JFK was assassinated). I’d been to Dealey Plaza once before, in, I want to say 2005, but Thomas has those pictures, so I took pictures and we got the conspiracy theory version of events from a street vendor. I’ll hopefully be able to put together a post on that visit soon.