There is something really special about visiting kids in your family. I think its because in a short amount of time they can grow and change so much. For this reason, I was most excited about visiting San Antonio. I was there to visit my cousin Pher, his wife Emily, and their wonderful kids – Alice & Matthew. I had last seen the kids at our wedding July 2016. I couldn’t believe that in just over a year how much they have grown. Pher & Emily went from being stationed in Hawaii to San Antonio. For many people I think that would be a tough transition, but they made it seamless. I was excited to check out their house, the area, and just spend time being with them.
Where We Stayed
Emily & Pher have an HOA clause, which wouldn’t allow us to park our trailer. We ended up camping half the time at a nearby regional park, Castroville, and I stayed a few nights in their guest bedroom. The Castroville park was nice. It seems like many people live there extendedly. We were parked in an overflow lot. Basically we were camping in a parking lot, with full hookups. The park itself was nice, with lots of trails, playgrounds and activities to do. If we return to the area with our trailer, we would stay again.
What We Did
Before heading to San Antonio from Austin, we took a few detours. Our first stop was the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park located just an hour west of Austin. The national historical park is divided into two sections: Johnson City – where his family first settled is preserved, his boyhood home, a family cabin, etc. and the LBJ Ranch – which is quite larger and more impressive. The ranch was once referred to as the “The Texas White House”. LBJ’s childhood was truly different than Kennedy. He grew up in the frontier, hearing stories of true Frontier life from his Grandparents. His parents taught him values, compassion and civic responsibility. While he went from being a teacher, to a congressman to eventually the President – he still continued to run his working ranch (still in operation today). I can see why he loved this place so much – with wild flowers, a river and lots of space. During his presidency the ranch had some upgrades: the airstrip was extended and widened for the increased air traffic of a sitting President, a place for his secret service agents to live was added and room to accommodate the many visitors was expanded. We stayed here for a few hours, and even Sparky got to enjoy the ranch a bit (but he still doesn’t trust cows).
After the LBJ Ranch we headed to Fredericksburg. Aaron & Melissa had recommended we stop by to enjoy the town. The town is primarily of German settlers, so there are tons of German restaurants, Biergärtens and cute shops. Surrounding the area are many wineries as well, making this truly a getaway town. Sadly for us, when we arrived it started pouring rain with no end in sight. We had no desire to walk around with a wet dog and with the Biergaärtens closed due to rain, had minimal options for food with a dog. We drove the main street and decided to move on to San Antonio. We can see the appeal, and if we return to Austin or San Antonio can see us doing a weekend in this wine region.
In San Antonio, we did do a little sightseeing in addition to spending time with family and lots of eating. Our first sightseeing stop in San Antonio was the San Antonio Missions. This chain of missions was established along the San Antonio River in the 1700s. They were created by Spain in an attempt to extend its dominion northward and to spread the Catholic faith to the Coahuiltecans living here. The Spanish Franciscans directed the missions. The Franciscans took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience; they pledged to protect the Coahuiltecans. The missions functioned as religious centers and training grounds for Spanish citizenship. Here, Native Americans were taught obedience to the Crown along with vocational skills. The five missions include: San Antonio de Valero (known as the Alamo) built in 1718, Concepción built in 1731, San José built in 1720, San Juan built in 1731, and Espada built in 1690. Today, the Alamo is managed by the Daughters of the Republic and has an entrance fee. We checked it out, but because we had Sparky we couldn’t go in. In fact, they told me I wasn’t even allowed to have Sparky on the sidewalk. The other four missions were dog friendly, and quite beautiful. We ended up walking between San Juan and Espada along the river. All of them are stunning and unique. After the missions became obsolete in 1824, the lands were redistributed among the inhabitants, and the churches were transferred to the secular clergy. It wasn’t until 1920 when the city recognized the significance and worked to preserve them, thus why the four missions are in very different conditions. Also, a few of them are still used today as a church, offering services throughout the week. Overall, we spent a half-day here, and enjoyed the missions and the walk along the river.
The next day we went to downtown San Antonio to actually see the Alamo and the famous River Walk. We didn’t go inside the Alamo because we had Sparky, but after exploring the missions the previous day and learning all about the Missions/Alamo history we felt okay with that. We walked downtown and ended up hitting a biergärten for lunch. The slogan was “Prost Y’all” which I thought was funny. Turns out, Texas German food is not quite as good as it sounds, but the beer was great. After lunch we walked along the River Walk. We were enjoying our walk when the weather took a turn for the worse, so we decided to turn around. Sparky had a different idea. He jumped into the river. Yes… he jumped a few feet down into the river without realizing how deep it was. The people around us gasped, as Steve had to kneel down on the bank and perform a reach-in rescue for Sparky, who at this point was wide-eyed and panicked. As Steve pulled Sparky from the river, the people around us all sighed in relief while I felt mortified that my dog was dumb enough to jump in. Plus, we got to “enjoy” that smell the rest of the week.
Steve left Sparky and I to return to the bay area for a few days for a wedding, so I enjoyed family time all weekend. Alice & Matthew love to play! We played Candyland and Chutes & Ladders a lot. Lego building was also quite popular. I felt a little old when the VR was brought out and I felt unsure of how to use it, and of course the kids had no problem using this technology. They even know how to SnapChat! I joined because I felt like the kids are out cooling me! Alice & Matthew even put on the best fashion show ever. Pher also took us to the park where he showed me his drone, and thanks to him, Steve now wants one. We also ate a lot of great food. Pher introduced me to “Puffy Tacos”, a Texas tradition. It was basically deep fried tacos… so I was into it. We ate BBQ at B-Daddy’s, which was AMAZING. I had a big baked potato loaded with pulled park, sour cream, butter, and cheese – weighing a total of a pound! OMG. I couldn’t get close to finishing it, but it’s on my list to return, and oddly I now crave baked potatoes more. As much as I enjoyed kid time, I also really enjoyed adult time, and Emily and I took advantage of late night conversations. Emily is someone that I may go months without talking to via text, but when we see each other in person everything just falls back in place. Which makes it a great, effortless, fun, and meaningful friendship. Plus she is married to my cousin, so you know she is cool.
Sparky had Lizzie, their 13-year-old pit bull to play with. Lizzie is deaf, but still full of spunk. Sparky was of course was protective of his food, and often wanted to eat Lizzie’s food. A new thing for us was in the morning Sparky would leave his crate to explore the house, Lizzie decided to go into his crate and check it out (she never did the crate thing). Turns out, Sparky doesn’t like sharing his crate and was barking excessively at her to get out, but she wasn’t facing him and since she can’t hear him didn’t seem bothered. By the end of the weekend Sparky chilled out. In fact, we did walks together and he did fine. I think after we left he really missed her (and she missed him!).
I can’t believe a week flew by in an instant. I probably won’t see the kids until next summer when they visit, but nothing replaces seeing them in their own home. I loved San Antonio and look forward to visiting again soon. On my next visit I would like to do a weekend trip to Padre Island. Thank you Pher, Emily, Alice, Matthew & Lizzie for letting us crash at your house for a week. We love you & can’t wait to see you soon!
Amistad National Recreation Area, Texas