Monday, August 24, 2009

August 20-23: My trip to San Antonio, Texas

NOTE: Click on any picture to enlarge it.Under a statue of Toribio Losoya: Andrew, Michael, Caitlin, JD, Bryan, and Carrie
In front of the statue of
Toribio Losoya: Andrew, Michael, Caitlin, JD, Bryan, and Carrie.

Last Thursday, I flew to San Antonio to visit my ex-daughter-in-law Carrie and her family—husband Richard Rosales, and their five kids: Bryan and Caitlin (my son Sean’s son and daughter), Andrew (Richard’s son by a previous marriage), and JD and Michael, Carrie and Richard’s kids together. I’d planned to stay at a motel originally, but Carrie insisted I stay with them. How cool is that?!

Carrie and all five kids met me inside the airport. I had seen recent pictures of Bryan and Caitlin, so I knew they’d grown, and boy! had they. I was amazed at how tall they were. Bryan is taller than I am now, and Caitlin almost so. Andrew, too, was a lot taller than the last time I’d seen him. As for Carrie, she looked "incredibly thin and young" to be the mother of five (quoting here from a script she supplied me, but she needn't have bothered--I would have noticed that by myself).

JD and Mikey were hesitant to get too close to me even after they watched their mama hug me. I thought that would do the trick, but it would take longer to win them over, and JD never quite took to me like Mikey did.

I’d checked on San Antonio’s forecast before I left Albuquerque and learned that the high temperature for Thursday was supposed to be 103 degrees with a lot of humidity. So I was prepared for the heat. Then on the short trip from the airport to their house, Carrie told me the bad news: the air conditioning in the house wasn’t working. She had a call in to get it repaired but hadn’t actually talked to someone yet, so she wasn’t sure when it would be fixed. If need be, she said, we would go to a mall and hang out to get out of the heat.

Actually, I didn’t find it too hot, sitting on the couch with a fan going and drinking ice water. But Carrie was up and down, fetching and doing and picking up and checking the thermostat, which reached 90 degrees—the highest it could go—so she Andrew and Caitlinfelt the heat more than I did. At one point, she got someone on the phone—not the person she actually needed to speak to, though—and explained that the house was unbearably hot for her young children and an “elderly family member” who was visiting. I threatened to spank her at that point, but I was willing to bear the label if it meant getting the air conditioning fixed sooner.

In mid afternoon, Carrie took Bryan, Caitlin, Andrew, and me to a bowling alley, Caitlin and Bryanwhere the kids played a couple of games. I refrained, out of concern for their safety. My grown children remember the time I went bowling with them when they were young: During one of my turns, I launched the ball backwards instead of forward, nearly hitting them.

After bowling, we returned to the house, which was still hot. Happily, the little kids have a kiddy pool in the backyard, so we went outside and sat with our feet in Me, Caitlin, and JD in the hammockthe pool, which worked well to cool us off. I enjoyed watching the kids play and observing how well the older kids took care of and played with the little ones.
Carrie made chicken-salad sandwiches for supper—which didn’t require turning on any heat to prepare—and we ate them outside where it was slightly cooler. Here's a photo of Caitlin, JD, and me in the hammock.

Then, when Richard got home, he made a few phone calls and got quick action on getting the air conditioner fixed. Within an hour, a repairman arrived and fixed the problem. It would take several hours for the house to entirely cool down, so we went to bed while it was still plenty warm. But Carrie had put a big fan in Caitlin’s room, where I would sleep, and there’s also an overhead fan in the room, so after I took a cool shower, I pointed the big fan directly on me and fell asleep quickly. At about 4:00 in the morning, the cold air woke me up briefly. I pulled the covers over me and fell back to sleep.

Bryan and Andrew checking out JD's groceriesOn Friday, we—Carrie, the kids, and I—went downtown to visit the Children’s Museum , eat at the Buckhorn Café, walk along the River Walk, and visit the Alamo.

The Children’s Museum was fun for me as well as the kids. It’s not as big as Explora in Albuquerque, but it has some really neat stuff for kids to do. The biggest hit was the kids-sized grocery Caitlin checking out Mikey's groceriesstore, which had little shopping carts and shelves stocked with “food” items and the produce section full of plastic vegetables. Mikey and JD whisked around the aisles filling their carts—helped by the older kids—and then the older ones checked them out at the check-out counters complete with bar-code readers.
Shopping in the Kid's Grocery Store
The kids also got to “drive” a front-end loader and sit in the cockpit of a small replica of a passenger plane. Caitlin stopped to take a quick shower at an exhibit that teaches kids how to conserve water.Caitlin taking a shower while conserving water

After all that play, we were hungry, so we went across the street to the Buckhorn Saloon and Café, housed in the Texas Ranger Museum. The kids loved the stuffed animal displays, some of them fake, most of them real. While we ate—Carrie and the kids had fried catfish, and I had barbecued chicken—we listened to old-timey melodies playing on a cool player piano. One of the songs I recognized: “Waltz Around Texas (With You in My Arms).”
Eating at the Buckhorn Saloon
Oldtimer, JD, and Caitlin
JD and Caitlin next to a stuffed lion
Bryan with a fantastic deer with moose antlers in the background

After lunch, we took a stroll on the River Walk. It’s as pleasant as I had been led to expect: boats of tourists cruised up and down the canal, and restaurants and bars lined the walkways on both sides of the waterway. Refrigerated On the River Walkair wafting from these establishments—and “greeters” standing outside them—tried to lure us in for a meal or a margarita, but our bellies were full, so we walked on to take in the sights. When we reached the end of the walk, we turned back and then headed toward Caitlin on the River Walkthe Alamo.
Bryan and Carrie on the River Walk

I have been wanting to visit the Alamo ever since I lived in Xalapa, Veracruz, México, from August 2007 to August 2008 as a participant in the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program. While there, I twice visited the hacienda of General Santa Anna—the Mexican general whose army defeated the “Texians” at the famous battle of the Alamo—outside of Xalapa (spelled Jalapa by the Spanish). El Lencero is the name of his hacienda, which he bought in 1842. Santa Anna, who also served as Mexico’s president many times, was actually born in Xalapa.
Caitlin, JD, Andrew, Bryan pushing Mikey, and Carrie at the entrance to the Alamo
The sign outside the entrance to the Alamo asks men to remove their hats and everyone to talk quietly as they enter what is considered a shrine. The architecture of the building—the rounded ceilings, doorways, and windows and the limestone construction—brought back memories of the Spanish fort-turned-prison, San Juan de Ulua in the port of Veracruz, that had so impressed me when I toured it.

The AlamoWe made a quick tour of the Alamo’s main building, but we couldn’t stay long with little kids. Besides, taking photos wasn't permitted inside, so that cut down on our time there as well. I was content to see the Alamo, knowing I could find out more about it online later. Also, I know I can come back again and spend more time there. I’ve made a mental note to take a boat tour along the River Walk next time as well. I’m sure the kids would love it, too.

On the way home, JD and Mikey fell asleep in their car seats, so we nixed the plan to stop at an ice cream shop, but we did pick up ice cream sundaes to go. All in all, it was an enjoyable day.

On Saturday, I slept until 11:00 in the morning! Caitlin and I had stayed up late the night before, playing a game she likes to play—she was the doctor’s receptionist and I was the patient required to present all kinds of paperwork in order to make an appointment. Then we read our respective books: she, Inkheart, and I, a mindless detective novel about thefts in an art museum. I woke to the smell of bacon and coffee and found Carrie playing short-order cook for her brood and Richard, who has weekends off. I had what he had: a grilled ciabatta sandwich with egg, bacon, cheese, and Cholula hot sauce. Num!

That afternoon, the three oldest kids and I went to Six Flags—their choice—while Carrie, Richard, and the two littlest kids went back to the Children’s Museum and the Buckhorn Saloon and Café, which Carrie later reported was a LOT busier on Saturday than the previous day had been.

Do you see Bryan and Andrew on the Boomerang?It was hot at Six Flags as Caitlin and I—both chickens—waited half an hour or so for Bryan and Andrew to ride the Boomerang, described on the website this way: “At nearly 20 stories high, the Boomerang super-coaster sends riders through multiple loops and a corkscrew — and then does it all again, backwards.” Six Flags is great, but it clearly needs a lot more shade.

Next, all four of us rode the Log Roll (or whatever it’s called), which is like a small roller coaster only the cars look like hollowed-out logs that climb higher and higher heights and then zoom down and splash into the water below. That was my cup of tea—just enough excitement but not too much, and a cooling splash now and then.

The boys wanted to go on another scary ride, so Caitlin and I followed them as far as the merry-go-round, which we planned to ride. A few minutes later, the boys returned deflated; the ride they’d wanted to take was closed for the day. So Andrew prevailed on Bryan to ride the merry-go-round—O ignominy! How will they live it down now that I’ve made this fact public?

By this time, we were very hot—time to find our way to the Six Flags Water Park. Caitlin and I spent most of our time in the Wave Pool while the boys went on a couple of the wilder water rides. But before leaving, we all got into the Lazy River with inner tubes and went around several times. It was heaven: cool and relaxing even though it was pretty packed with people. Sorry, I failed to get any photo of the kids and me in our swimsuits... :-)

I thought I’d be exhausted when we left Six Flags, but I still had some energy left, so after supper, Bryan, Caitlin, Andrew, and I went to the movie, “District 9,” nothing I would have gone to see if it weren’t the kids’ choice, but I ended up enjoying it a lot. Talk about action flick! It was almost non-stop shooting, with lots of blood, guts, and gore, but it had humor, too, and insight into the nature and treatment of “the other” that redeemed it for me.

Photo taken just before I left San AntonioSunday morning: Carrie woke me at 9:00 so that I could get myself ready and packed to be at the airport at 11:00. Some coffee, some cereal, some last goodbyes, a last photo, and then Carrie drove me to the airport for the trip home.

I had a great time seeing a lot of places and doing a lot of fun things, but the best part was spending time with Bryan and Caitlin, Andrew, JD, Mikey, and Carrie and Richard.

And that's what I did on my summer vacation!

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