San Antonio!

I scanned the hotel breakfast spread in Fort Stockton, TX and knew I was getting close to familiar territory.  There, amongst the breakfast burrito fixins on the “Continental Breakfast” spread was a Louisiana staple- Community Coffee!  Oh, how it’s the little things in life that can bring a smile to your face 😊

I would’ve liked to have been able to enjoy a leisurely, cultural ride east via US-90, but my hips and shoulders were quite clear in the signals they were sending me that I needed to get to San Antonio without dilly-dallying.  It was time to have a few low-mileage days and to enjoy the company of some friends in my old stomping grounds.

Not long into the ride, I started to encounter huge kaleidoscopes of Monarch butterflies.  I had flashbacks to the one and only time I had ridden through a Monarch migration, also in Texas, several years ago, and knew that I would, unfortunately, take out hundreds of the beautiful creatures during my trek east.  According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, Monarch butterflies funnel through the Lone Star state, both in the fall and the spring, during their annual migration, between their principal breeding grounds in the north, and their overwintering area in Mexico.  Sadly, my route to San Antonio took me directly through their 300-mile wide, winter escape path to Mexico, that typically occurs in the last few days of September (which is when this portion of my trip occurred). 

I felt so bad being one of the reasons why, every year, fewer Monarch butterflies make it to their overwintering home in Mexico. It’s mindboggling how these delicate insects can make the 3,000-mile flyaway twice a year. Every inch of my bike, and the portions of me not protected by my windshield, were covered in butterfly remains.
Longtime Army friends, Daria and Scott, were kind enough to host me at their home in San Antonio, which served as a home base for a few days. Military friendships seem to transcend time and space 😊 This picture was taken on my last day with them, when me and the bike were cleaned up!

Though I had been to the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park several times while stationed in Texas, Daria obliged my desire to visit them again and to get stamps in my National Parks passport.  Our first stop was to Mission Concepción, where we learned some interesting facts during the 23-minute movie about the people who built, and lived in, the missions, titled Gente de Razón.  Did you know that the first Texas cowboys were Mission Indian men, called vaqueros, or that this part of Texas wasn’t all grasslands until around the Civil War era?  If you haven’t seen the film yet, definitely do so next time you’re in the area, it’s a great history lesson of the people (Native Coahuiltecans and Spanish), land, buildings, and communities that continue to stem from these origins.  It’s no wonder the missions were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015- one of only 24 sites in the United States, and the only one in Texas.

Dedicated in 1775, Mission Concepcion is the oldest, unrestored stone church in America. “In its heyday, colorful geometric patterns covered its surface, but the patterns have long since faded or been worn away.” -NPS website
Over time, Franciscans converted the majority of Native Americans in the area to Christianity. Many of the congregation that gather for Sunday mass in the still active churches of the missions, can trace their lineage to its original residents of the 1700s. Spanish missions were not technically churches, but rather communities with the church as the focus.
Now over 300 years old and known as the “Queen of the Missions”, San José is the largest of the missions and was almost fully restored to its original design in the 1930s by the WPA (Works Projects Administration). -NPS website
Until preservation work in 1988 revealed a second eye, this fresco on the San José convento ceiling was known as the “Eye of God” and is a possible depiction of God as a mestizo (mixed race Mexican Native and Spaniard). -NPS website
The missions are part of the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail, a Spanish colonial “royal road”- the primary overland route for the Spanish colonization of what is today Texas and northwestern Louisiana. It is a collection, and connection, of indigenous trails and trade routes named after Caddo Indians referred to by the Spaniards as Tejas, a Caddo term for “friend” or “ally.” -NPS website

With our morning of touring a couple of the missions complete, Daria and I met my good friend and Army “battle buddy,” Kayla, at Down on Grayson for a scrumptious lunch and a little sightseeing at the historic Pearl.  My remaining days in San Antonio would be filled with catching up with friends over delicious meals, and revisiting a few iconic city sites.   

Enjoying a beautiful, sunny San Antonio day with Kayla and Daria at the historic Pearl.
The next day, Chief, Double D, and Bender met me at Big Aloha’s Ali’I Cove Restaurant in Universal City. It was so great catching up over Hawaiian food, just like old times! I was enjoying visiting with them so much that I forgot to get a group picture! Fortunately, Chief was still lurking in the parking lot (ostensibly to make sure I got out safely 😉 ), so I was able to snap a selfie with him before we hit the road.
Scott and I visited the historic El Marcado, or Market Square, in downtown San Antonio while Daria got caught up at home. This cultural area has such a fun, festive cultural vibe! And as a bonus, I found a fabulous Mexican tin art Christmas tree!
One of my favorite hiking buddies, and good friend, Tanya, met me at La Panadería Bakery Café for breakfast on my last day in the city named after Saint Anthony. It’s hilarious that we posed in front of my bike, but we completely blocked my beautiful new Harley from the pic!
I’m a sucker for a good eggs benedict, so I opted for the Ranchero Eggs Benedictine at La Panadería Bakery Café. The house-made ranchero salsa chipotle hollandaise sauce tasted like decadence personified!

My time in San Antonio was much too short, but the clock was ticking towards my deadline to be back in North Carolina.  I was limited to just a few days in town in order to squeeze in sufficient time to spend with my family in Louisiana on the journey home, so I sincerely apologize to all the friends I was unable to connect with during my short stay.  I’ll be back though!

Time to continue east…

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