With Texarcana behind us and out on the open road in the rain, our spirits are high…because….we are heading towards our goal…San Antonio.
As always, we took the back roads. Texas is vast and beautiful. Farmland, big cities, horse ranches, cattle ranches, one horse and two horse towns….awesome.
We took Highway 59, taking our time, enjoying the small towns. The first one was Linden. This is said by some historians to be the birthplace of Scott Joplin, the famous ragtime composer and pianist. He combined classical music techniques with African rhythms and melodies. One of his most known songs is “the Entertainer”. Joplin died in 1917 from syphillis. As a note, Texarcana also claims to be the birthplace of Joplin….a mystery isn’t it?
Next little town was Coffeeville…..now…just by the name alone I want to live there. Its’ actually a literal ghost town. It was a resupply site for the wagons going west. It had a population of 50 townsfolk. When the railroad was built, unfortunately it by-passed Coffeeville, and the 50 townsfolk eventually moved on. It is pretty eerie driving through a ghost town.
The next little town is Gilmer, with a population of 5100. It is built on the Old Cherokee Trace, a trail used by the Cherokee to travel. Sam Houston traveled this trail when he lived with the Cherokee, and on his way to the Alamo. What I didn’t know is that this town has a couple of famous people to its name. Don Henley of the Eagles was born here, as was Johnny Mathis. And another perhaps lesser known figure: Rob McClelland. He was the surgeon that worked on JFK the day he was asassinated.
I don’t recall every place we stopped for lunch or a breakfast but I do remember going through this town. Truth be told, I didn’t know the history I am going to share with you at the time, but I sure wish I had. This town is called Gladewater. Johnny Cash wrote, “I walk the line” here. He was on tour with Carl Perkins and in their dressing room, he wrote this song in under 20 minutes. Bet you are humming that tune now, aren’t you?
Now, here is something so cool, that I am bummed out that I didn’t know it at the time, or I would have gone to see it. Gladewater is the first place that Elvis Presley placed a paid gig…what? Yep, in 1954 at the Mint Club. A DJ named Tom Perryman booked him and they became close friends. Elvis offered Tom the job of being his Manager…Tom turned it down because he had a family and, as a DJ, he was making $130.00 a week and Elvis couldn’t afford to pay that. Elvis played at the Mint many times and always stayed at the Res-More Motel…owned by the Brookings…in room #104. Many fans go visit the motel to this day and pay tribute to Elvis outside of room #104. I would have went to see that for sure.
This next little share of info I remember very well. Texas is hot….its damn hot. Even riding in the breeze its sweltering and this day was no exception. We needed to book a room for the night so we pulled off into a parking to check the map for the nearest town, and find a hotel. I decided that I was too hot to stay in the sun and so when I found a nice tree and some shade I plunked right down and began to look at my map. All of a sudden my riding buddy is yelling at me to get up….and I mean yelling. I asked why and before I could say anything else, he grabs the map and starts swatting my back and legs with it. Now I am confused, mad, and about ready to say something to him when he yells ….”ants…..you are covered in ants”. Yes,… oh yes, I was and now I was feeling the bites. Fire ants are not friendly when you plunk your butt on their home…they are ticked. So, very quickly off came my boots and socks…yes I was still being swatted with the map. This must have been quite the comedic display to those driving by on the highway. Eventually the ants went marching one by one back to rebuild their home, and I put my socks and boots back on, found a hotel in Tyler, Texas and we hit the road again…..one of us scratching all the way…( as a note I am laughing so hard as I write this just reliving this frantic moment).
We checked into a La Quinta hotel. This was a nice hotel with breakfast included…sweeeet. As we were heading to our room, there was an elderly couple ahead of us. She was struggling with their luggage while trying to help her husband in a wheelchair. My partner went to her and offered to help. So he pushed her husband and she managed the luggage. As we chatted, we learned that this gentleman was a war veteran and he shared a few of his memories with us. We thanked him for his service and made sure they were safe in their room. You know, it sure makes your heart warm when you can help someone out. Dinner eaten and calamine lotion applied…we planned the next days trip to San Antonio. ( In case you are wondering…ant bites itch like crazy and even though I was only sitting on the ant hill for a couple of seconds, my entire back, most of my legs and a little of my arms were covered in tiny red bite marks…lesson learned).
I typically don’t write about breakfast. As long as there is coffee and a croissant or muffin and some fruit, I am good. The hotel offered a continental breakfast buffet so we decided to have some grub before heading out. There was a waffle maker there, and that on its own isn’t too exciting. But this waffle maker was a little different. My partner decided he wanted waffles and so grabbed the batter, poured it into the maker and let it cook. When he opened the lid, he yelled…”look…its in the shape of Texas”. So over I went and sure enough, the waffle emerged in the shape of the State of Texas. Because this gave him so much joy, that literally had the whole restaurant laughing…and making waffles for themselves…. I am sure he made another one. It is important to remember this little anecdote because an expectation had been set, and disappointment of future waffle makers was sure to follow.
Heading to San Antonio, we went through many small towns with names like Buffalo, Jewett, Franklin and Rockdale. We finally reached the outskirts of Austin. While we didn’t go through Austin it is worth sharing some facts about.
Austin is called the “Live Music Capital of the World”. It is the home of the Austin City Limits, the longest running live music show, originally featuring only country music, but now open to all genres. Austin is the birthplace of many famous people: Lance Armstrong, Sandra Bullock, Walter Cronkite, Janis Joplin, Matthew McConoughey, Willie Nelson, Robert Plant, Dan Rather, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Renee Zellweger. Also many notable movies were filmed there: Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Secondhand Lions and my fav, True Grit.
It was while taking a little break outside of Austin that we looked for a room in San Antonio. For some reason everything seemed to be booked…but then…eureka….we found a room. It was at a motel described as close to the river walk, with a pool, clean and it included breakfast ( wonder if the waffles will be shaped appropriately here?). We book for two nights and set out again. And finally we are arrive….at our Shangrala!
Hell no! This was a two storey sad state of affairs motel. The overpass for the interstate highway nearly went right over the motel…scratch having a view. The place was clean but in a” handy man special” state. The pool had water….but it was green and I think it was creating an ecosystem of its own. We don’t care. This is an adventure…caution is once again thrown to the wind. We enter the room…I keep my boots on re: carpet is questionable…grab a beer each and go sit outside our room. Now this neighborhood didn’t feel great so, we were a little concerned about the safety of the bike. As we discuss this a rather big guy comes over. He says hello and we start chatting. He mentions that the car beside the bike is his. Its a Mercedes and seems to be in good shape so we feel he is respectful of vehicles and therefore the bike is ok. Then he tells us to come see the driver side door….its all bashed in…and he calmly tells us that he did the bashing with a bat over something about his daughters’ boyfriend. At this point I befriend him by offering him a beer…he thankfully accepts. This guy says that his wife is the Manager of this motel and she is the one that checked us in. He assures us he isn’t going out and that he will make sure the bike is safe…alrighty then…problem solved? At one point this guy puts his hand in his pocket and out falls a large bag of drugs….looked like cocaine….but I am choosing to believe it was flour for the Texas shaped waffles in the morning…not likely.. We say nothing he picks it up and we chat. He lets us know that we need to cab to the River Walk and it will take about 20 minutes. No problem. At this point, something out of a movie happened. The motel had two sections almost forming a T shape. Out of nowhere, down what appears to be a lane way comes a white cargo van. It stops. A door to a room on the second floor opens… the side door of the van opens…and out run 7 or 8 people and they quickly dash into the room and the door closes. The van takes off. These folks appeared to be sneaking into the country by human traffickers. Well… we were speechless. And we knew better than to acknowledge what we had seen or to ask…..so…. we all had another beer.
Now it was time to cab down to the River Walk. I do not even have words for how amazing this is. I have never seen so many shops, and bars and restaurants on both sides of a river, with outdoor patios and flowers ….well you just have to see it sometime for yourself.
The River Walk is 13 miles long, right through the downtown. It is surrounded by parks and hotels, museums and is alot to take in. We did a little walk around grabbed dinner and went back to the no tell motel. Phew…bike was safe.
The next morning was July 4th, a big holiday in the USA. We have breakfast, ( don’t mention waffles please), and our “guy” comes into the lobby and invites us to a family barbeque. I think its a genuine offer, but I don’t feel these are the folks I am looking to party with. We decline, jump in a cab and back to the downtown. We walked around and eventually had lunch in a little pub. I got my belly button pierced..
Ok…I will share the belly piercing story. I had wanted to get it done and I had said that it would be cool to do it in a place that would be a memory for me…so….I chose San Antonio. I was nervous and hoping both to get it done and for everything to be closed for the 4th of July and I could say at least I tried. Well out of the blue we end up in front of a tatoo shop and in we go. The owner is at the counter…I try to sound cool as I nervously say I want a belly piercing….he says sure…and picks up his hand gun that is laying on the counter and puts it in the cupboard behind him. Now, this may not read like anything exciting, but I have never ever in Canada seen a hand gun out in a business….I must say it does set the tone and I am certain sales are made quickly without any negotiating. Belly got pierced….and away we go…to the Alamo
The story of the Alamo is sad, and there is one particular room in the mission that makes your soul feel pain and sorrow. But in general, it was noisy, touristy and very small. The history is quite detailed so I will give only a brief idea: ending on March 6, 1836 after a 13 day battle between the Texans and Mexicans for possession of the Alamo Mission. James Bowie (remember I told you where the Bowie knife came from in a previous blog), Davey Crockett and many others died that day. There are statues to honor the defenders and many other war memorials on the grounds. The room that sticks with me is the powder keg room. Depleted of any more ammunition, the women and children ran to hide in this room with several Texan soldiers. When the Mexicans opened the door they simply kept firing their guns killing everyone, who were defenseless, inside. What is eerie is standing in that room, seeing all of the bullet holes in the walls and realizing they spent days hiding in there, listening to the horrors of death on the other side of the wall. It is a memorable room.
After the Alamo it was time to go and really party on the River Walk. The place was packed with people…but…when you went into a bar to get a drink…there was hardly anyone in the place. Odd? Nope…not when you arrive in town at the same time as the International Alcoholics Anonymus 75th Annual Convention. Oh Yeah. You could get a drink anywhere….but the coffee shops had line ups. So…we went bar hopping.
A great place was a British Pub, complete with fish and chips and a bulldog statue out front.
Another great place was an Irish Pub..where we met a AA convention goer that bought us a round, himself only drinking water and sending money with my partner to go get the round, so people wouldn’t think he was drinking. A real nice guy. Also there we met a…I think dental surgeon from Canada. He had a place in Phoenix, Arizona and he wanted to give us a key and told us even if he wasn’t home to use his house and sports car and …..we didn’t take him up on his offer…instead we shared a few drinks and a few songs and parted ways. Actually that reminds me of something I forgot in Nashville. We met a veterinarian and his wife from Corpus Christie. They offered for us to go stay at their home on the water but we only planned on going as South as San Antonio. I remember he was a veterinarian for large animals and was telling me about surgery on a giraffe. How the heck did I forget to tell you that….well now you know.
We didn’t walk to the park to see the fireworks but watched them from the River Walk. Then it was time to head back to Shangrala Motel….and pray the cockroaches were as sleepy as we were.
Tomorrow some more of Texas….and then…well…there is a whole lot of horse country from here on in for this cowgirl…and a couple of adventures and a meet with a genuine cowboy….I would stayed tuned if I was you!
Live Your Life……Jan