After an eventful and enjoyable few days in Austin we headed south to San Antonio. It was a quiet two and a half-hour ride down I-35 to the Hidden Valley RV Park about ten miles south of San Antonio. We exited the highway at an exit with two truck stops. We knew we were only about a mile off the highway so we thought we would be listening to the highway consistently for a few days. About three quarters of a mile down the road we turned into the property and then had to travel another half-mile down a wide dirt road until we reached the campground office. After checking in we traveled another 1000 feet or so down a hill to a nice circular area with very wide and long sites that were extremely easy to get in and out of and the highway noise was non-existent.
While checking in the owner had mentioned that we might want to head into town to catch the light show at the San Fernando Cathedral that happened on the weekends and Tuesday nights. We knew we would not be in the area come the weekend so after setting up and resting for a bit we headed to downtown San Antonio. The city is a welcoming place and is designed for people to access the downtown area by providing plenty of parking. Some of the lots are even free at night.
We quickly found a parking lot and as the first show did not start until 9:30 we decided to check out the Old Mexican Market. Being February most of the stores closed at dusk, but the Le Margheritas and Oyster Bar Restaurant was open and we decided to take advantage. We sat outside and Eileen ordered a child-size enchilada and I went for the empanadas. Eileen also had a margarita, and even though I am not the most interesting man in the world, I ordered a Dos Equis. The waiter brought a heater over next to our table and lit it. He had no way of knowing that this was like a spring evening to us. The food was excellent and the drinks hit the spot. Of course, I had to grab a couple of churros from a street vendor on the way out.
The Old Mexican Market
We made our way over to the Cathedral about eight-thirty and there was a small crowd which grew much larger as it got closer to nine-thirty. As showtime rolled around all of the exterior lights illuminating the Cathedral were extinguished and the show began. The façade of the cathedral was used as the backdrop for a vibrant and colorful computer-generated light show that depicted the history of Texas and its indigenous people as well as the history and development of San Antonio. Between the images and the music, it was a very moving and provocative show. The entire show lasted about twenty-five minutes.
Images of the Light Show at San Fernando Cathedral
Apparently, the artist is commissioned to provide the San Antonio show for ten years and then a new show will be commissioned in another Texas city. The San Antonio show still has another six or seven years on its run.
The next day we decided to check out the Riverwalk that runs all through the city. I had been to San Antonio previously and had been on the Riverwalk but this was Eileen’s first time. We started the walk right across from the Alamo. I remarked on Facebook later posting a picture of the Alamo that they had a wall and it had not helped them. Smartass.
We walked for quite a while on the river and enjoyed the art and the vegetation. Making our way back we were forced up to the streets for some distance because they were doing some repairs on a set of stairs that prevented us from crossing over to the other side. We found our way back and enjoyed the rest of our walk.
The next day we had planned to check out some of the missions along the mission trail especially the San Jose Mission. Eileen was not feeling well and we had walked more than we thought the day before so we decided to relax and just enjoy some quiet time at the campground.
Part of the danger when you set out on an extended trip like this is that you feel some pressure to squeeze every little experience out of each location because of all of the effort and expense you have made getting there. It is true that you may never be in that place again, but sometimes you just have to slow down and appreciate the experiences you have had and realize that you cannot see or do everything.
The next morning, we set out on the two-day journey to reach the Big Bend National Park area. I realized that there was no way that we could make the trip in a day. We like to limit our time on the road to no more than five hours a day. I decided that the reasonable half-way spot would be Fort Stockton, Texas. Fort Stockton was still on I-10 and just before we had to turn south off 10 for the long ride to Big Bend.
We soon found ourselves experiencing the somewhat unforgiving environment of West Texas although we were not ready for just how isolated many spots were. Normally we get about twelve miles to the gallon when pulling the fifth wheel. That is actually not that bad. Many motorhomes average around seven mpg. As soon as we were well out of San Antonio and on to the hills and the head winds of West Texas I watched as the mpg quickly sank to 7.8 mpg. I have taken to carrying three five-gallon containers of fuel with us because the truck only has a 24-gallon fuel tank. I have not had to use them yet. After we filled up at a truck stop along the way I watched as the fuel was sucked up more quickly than normal.
About an hour outside Fort Stockton I was beginning to get concerned about fuel. We had not seen a truck stop for quite a while and the next one was past our target. A rest area presented itself and I decided that using the extra fuel was the smart move. I am not sure whether we would have made Fort Stockton without the reserves, but I was not willing to find out.
We pulled into the Fort Stockton RV Park for a well-deserved night’s rest. It was clear as we watched the steady stream of traffic into the park that it was a popular stop off for those who needed a break. They had a restaurant and I decided to order some catfish. When I went over to place my order the place was packed. Easy-in, easy-out sites and a restaurant offering up comfort food to the road-weary; now that is a good business plan. We settled in for the night and anticipated our trip south to Big Bend. This would be our first trip to a place this remote and we were anxious to see what that experience held for us.