Thursday, 20 March 2014

All Quiet on the Western Front

We have been whiling away our time here in San Antonio, taking in festivals, history, the park system and yet another fantastic DDD meal.
There is always something to see or some festival going on here in or around San Antonio.  The Tejano Music Festival was taking place around Market Square last week and it is a celebration of Texans of Mexican decent.  With Spanish music from 100 bands and food booths selling anything on a tortilla or taco for four days.
Even though we don’t understand Spanish, the music had very good beat you could dance to, so we give it a 8 out 10, Dick… (American Bandstand reference for you young ones)
There were a half dozen stages set up in different areas with bands playing non-stop.
We spent more time downtown touring The Spanish Governor's House, the first building put up by a Spanish Captain sent to settle the area long before the Mexicans and Americans started fighting over the area.  The Governor never did come here to stay, they picked the name to give it some importance.
Like most of the historic buildings here, there is a colourful past that included different stores and bars being owners here.  The Alamo was hardware store for a long time and had fallen into disrepair before almost being knocked down to make way for a hotel.  Unthinkable now, so tied to American history and pride, not to mention the 3 million visitors a year bringing money to area businesses.
We have also rode the final leg of the bike trail along the San Antonio river down to Mission Espada.
Living quarters of the clergy here.
espada cropped
The dogs love to be taken a couple of miles down the road to a very nice dog park.
There are water fountains short enough for Abby to drink out of.
This is part of a larger park complex with baseball diamonds, football fields and children’s play area.  There is a walking trail around an old quarry and an neat work-out area with 10 stations to work different muscle groups.
Walking trail with quarry in the background.
We have fit in another DDD restaurant here, the Magnolia Pancake Haus.  I had the corned beef hash featured on the show that Guy could not find words to describe.  The beef brisket is marinated for TWO WEEKS!!! before being baked and then rested for a day before being fried up and served with two eggs of your choice on top, add two of the fluffiest, lightest and tastiest pancakes on the side and you have breakfast nirvana!  The  undertones and new flavours come at you with each bite, leaving you moaning for more when you find yourself licking the plate because it is all gone and you haven’t deciphered all that has gone on in your mouth. 
Heavenly Hash ain’t no ice cream, this is it!
Detra had an egg dish that was excellent also but, I don’t remember what it was called because of the information overload going on in my mouth.
We have met some people here through a new website called RVillage -(“Our Village” ) which helps RV’ers connect with each other.  It is only in beta right now but it looks like a great idea to get together and stay in touch with people along the way.  In a week of being online it has 2800 members already and is steadily climbing.  Just another tool to make life easier for RV’ers down the road.
We are here until the end of the month and then it’s a short couple hours down the road to Corpus Christi.
‘til next time cowpoke,

Monday, 10 March 2014

San Antonio - A place for Canadians?

Funny thing happened on the way to Corpus Christi, we ended up in San Antonio.  We were talking about things to do in Corpus Christi vs. San Antonio and the fact that March break over runs Corpus Christi with college kids and general rowdiness.  We had planned a month in one and two weeks in the other so really just the timing has changed. 

We pulled into The Admiralty RV Resort on Friday Feb. 28 to spend the month.  This park is in the city so the sites are a little tighter than we like, but that's the price you pay for the convenience of being close to everything. It is an older park, but it is well kept with nice washrooms ,pool, and fitness center. 

We spent our first Saturday downtown at the "Riverwalk" which is a vibrant and fun place to visit on a nice warm, sunny day.  It is a sunken river in the middle of the city with shops and restaurants lining both sides.  We enjoyed this area very much and will return through-out the month, I'm sure.

You can ride around the canal on boats when you get tired of walking.

A rose among the thorns.

We sat in an open window for lunch and to watch the Mardis Gras floats on the river go by.

Had to try Alamo Beer a mile from The Alamo.


One of the Mardis Gras floats on the river.  Yes we caught some beads, even without flashing.

When we pulled into The Admiralty we noticed another trailer from Ontario straight across the road from us, eventually I asked where they are from;

Me- 'So where in Ontario are you from"?
Them- "Oshawa"
Me- "No way!, I'm from Oshawa too"
Them- "Ritson area"
Me- "No Way!, I'm from Ritson area too!"
Them- "You weren't the house that burned down were you?"
Me- "Yeah, we were!"

Turns out we have lived less than a mile apart in Oshawa and now we meet in Texas.

San Antonio has a new bike path that follows the San Antonio River and connects the old Missions The Alamo, Mission Concepcion, Mission San Jose, Mission San Juan and Mission Espada.
It is 8 miles long and is a very nice ride.  Detra and I rode between San Jose and San Juan on a nice sunny day.  Riding a total of 10 km which is a good ride for Detra, considering her heart attack and by-pass last April.  When we signed the guest registry at the visitor center the guest above was from Whitby, ON. and at the next mission we met people from St. Catherines, ON.

Two days later we did the run from Mission Concepcion to The Alamo in downtown San Antonio.  It was a round trip of about 14km.

Mission San Jose

Original well

These missions are still being used for services.

Water flow is managed all along the trail.

Closer to downtown.

The bike path along the San Antonio.  Just finished last fall, $70 million spent on this and it is a huge plus for residents and visitors alike.  Grass is greener normally, but there has been a long drought in this area.
Mission San Juan

The anniversary of The Alamo takes place Feb. 23 to March 6 and there are re-enactors portraying the people who died in battle back in 1836.  200 against 4000 is never going to go well, but they held on waiting for help for 13 days before being overrun.
Memorials at The Alamo

Huge oak inside The Alamo

Mexican soldier
Unfortunately it was raining on Saturday and the re-enactment of the battle was cancelled which was very disappointing, but we did talk to and listen to tales told by the various people in costume which was informative and fun. 
One more restaurant to check off the DDD list Dough Pizzeria Napoletana.  It is a pizza place that makes their own dough, soda and cheese among many other things it serves.  The food is done in true Italian style and was delicious including a fantastic rice pudding and coming from me, a guy who doesn't like rice pudding, that is high praise.
The wood burning oven our dinner was cooked in.
We are enjoying our time here in San Antonio very much.  This city has a lot to offer with plenty of attractions and parks to keep you busy not to mention all the amenities a large city has to offer like the malls, shops and restaurants.  We hope to fit it all in with the time we have left.
Winter Texan,

Monday, 3 March 2014

Bikes, Biloxi, and Plan BBQ...err...Plan B

02/24/14 - 03/2/14

The weather turned and so did our fortunes as we headed west towards Texas.

 We decided on our first leg to travel to a town called Carabelle, a small fishing village along the gulf coast of Florida.  We wanted a relaxing, scenic drive staying off the interstate for a while and it was just that, arriving at Sunset Isle RV and Yacht club in the afternoon.  Dinner was at Hog Wild, one of two restaurants open on Monday at this time of year, this is a summer time area and not a lot of snowbirds visit.  This park was originally going to be small vacation homes with brick paved roads community pool and spa.  When the economy died so did the dream, and the owner turned it into a RV park until things turn around.  Jimmy (the manager) is a very friendly and accommodating fellow, helped us to our site and checked back after we set-up to make sure all was well.

It was a good spot for the night setting us up for a drive along Hwy. 98 which follows the shore with beautiful views of the water.  We were traveling along our merry way enjoying the sunny morning drive when I saw a car flashing high-beams behind us.  This is never a good sign with 40 feet of trailer plus bicycles hanging off the back end of that.  When we pulled over he told us a bike was dragging along behind us.  Oh No!  Detra's new bike was hanging broken, worn and scratched.  I had checked every thing minutes before we left and all was well.  The driveway on the way out was steep and I think the bikes must have hit as we left.  They are held on the rack with three heavy rubber straps each but I guess the pressure of dragging down the slope was enough to pop them off.  It was at least 40 mins. of driving before we had someone come up behind us, Both tires blown out, the rear wheel bent and scratched all over, not to mention it banged into my very nice road bicycle and marred the carbon fibre and other bits and pieces.  We didn't hear a thing all that time it was dragging and it's shame, but new wheels and some tweaking I'll have it working again, if not quite as pretty as it once was.

Fulltiming Lesson #2:  Set everything up with bouncing and banging down the road in mind and allow for all angles coming and going. 

 I had bought a Thule rack for four bikes thinking it was perfect for us but with the amount of miles we are putting in you need them separated so they don't destroy each other moving down the road.  Just like us when we were kids on family road trips.  A new rack is in our future that doesn't hang out back the trailer.

For Sale- nice Thule bike rack- hardly useful, oh um no, I mean hardly used.

Biloxi, MS was the next stop on the Wandering Whelan Wagon Westward Way Tour. (T-shirts and trademark pending).  We blew right through Alabama as it is less than 70 miles across  the southern part of the state on Hwy. 10.  We will have to return to fill in the state on our "been there done that" sticky map since our made up rules say we need to have spent time and/or have done something significant and memorable in the state to qualify.

Martin Lake Resort was the choice for our stop here and we should have thought a little more before choosing.  This was convenient to Biloxi and the highway, but is not an overly appealing place to spend time.  Detra was ready to go before I had unhooked the truck.  I think the weather added to overall gloom of the place as it was cold, grey and wet. 

Biloxi reminds me of an old boxer, beat-up, a little duller than it once was,  makes you sad when you finally meet and is not what you had hoped it would be.  It's not Biloxi's fault that it was knocked hard to mat by Katrina and is struggling to get back on it's feet.  The tax base has disappeared with all the homes and businesses that once made this a place to have fun at the casino's and other area attractions.  The casino's are back in full force as they have a ready cash supply and are big business.  Before the storm all gambling was done on barges tied to piers beside hotels , they ended up on land and on top of buildings with the storm surge.  Katrina changed the rules and now gambling can take place on land in Biloxi and the casino owners and a few other businesses have managed to rebuild.  For the most part there is a lot empty land between casino's down by the waterfront, just about everything else is gone.  Enough with this depressing stuff.

Downtown Ocean Springs, just across the re-built bay bridge from Biloxi, was not hit as hard, people's homes where hit here and working businesses that were sparred have helped with the comeback.  Nice little shops and restaurants line the small streets making for a nice place to spend the afternoon.

The highlight of our time here was The Shed BBQ and Blues Joint.  This is our second Diner's, Drive-in's and Dives restaurant on our travels this year. 

Made tracks straight to the front door
Takes a minute to figure out where the front door is.
There it is! Let's Eat!
You grab the menu at the door and sit down to make your choice.  Empty now but by the time we left all the tables were full.

Walk up to the bar and place your order.
When your food is ready, the server calls your name and you wave them over.
 We decided on The Original Shed Sampler, a platter with the seven different meats on the menu along with three sides.  To say this was delicious would be a gross understatement, this was the best BBQ I've had.  The seven meats where pulled pork, BBQ sausage, back ribs, side ribs, chicken, beef brisket and ...ummmm...sorry, we ate it so fast we don't know what the other meat was.  The sides where also great although the fries could be better, they were the only thing you could get at any other restaurant.

Click for "SMELL-O-VISION"

This is a pivotal point in our journeys.  We planned on travelling to beautiful places in nature, historically significant sites and some exciting tourist traps.  We were going to find ourselves and the meaning of life and how to live it.  The joy of a carefree life without the shackles of modern society free to explore, experience and enjoy North America!  That seems so long ago (actually it was Jan. 14th 2014). 

It has all changed now, Diner's, Drive-in's and Dives has ruined a perfectly good plan.  Maybe as we drive between these restaurants, as the new plan states, a landmark might get in the way and we can stop and take a quick look, but only if we can make it in time for the dinner special at the next DDD restaurant down the road.  Grand Canyon or Great Ribs, Yosemite National Park or Mile High Desserts ...I DON'T KNOW ANYMORE!.  The plan was all so clear before, now... now it's all mixed up like Jambalaya.  (mmmmmmm... Jambalaya, drool, drool)

We ended up driving right past New Orleans, which was originally going to be a stop, but seeing as the weather was bad and Mardi Gras had overrun the  area, filling the campgrounds, we drove on to San Antonio, TX.  Corpus Christi was where we were headed, but that changed in route. 

That's a story for another day, 
I'm Hungry.