Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Day 11: Home Is Where the Family Is

Today's Distance: 236 miles
Total Distance: 3836 miles
Today's Destinations: The Alamo; Aunt Cindi's

We let ourselves sleep in this morning because we've been driving long hours the past couple days and got pretty tired.  I bit the bullet and started buying those bottled Frappucino drinks because you can find them in gas stations and that gives me a good enough jolt of caffeine to keep me going.  But anyway, we knew we only had about a four-hour drive, so we didn't even get out of the hotel until close to 10 this morning.

The streets here are Crockett and Bonham, in case you can't read it

We had a short drive to the Alamo.  If you've never been there, it may surprise you to find that the Alamo is tucked right in the middle of downtown San Antonio, with modern commercial buildings all around it.  You'd have no idea you were even getting close to a historic site except that the streets and many of the businesses bear names like Crockett, Bowie, etc.

Then there it is, this crumbly old wall that once was the only thing separating about 200 volunteer freedom fighters from 6500 professional Mexican troops. It reminded me a little of Rome, where you can see 2000+ year old buildings and ruins just sitting around like it's no big deal.

Admission to the Alamo is free.  There are donation boxes everywhere, and you can buy a commemorative photo from them (we didn't), and you can buy stuff at the gift shop (we did).  We paid $7 to park for two hours and I paid $12 for souvenirs (a Christmas ornament and a postcard), and that was it.  So it's a pretty cheap way to experience a famous piece of history if you're in the area.

Instead of paying for a photo we tried to take our own.  Again, we failed.

There are rules, though, which you can read as you enter.  Certain buildings don't allow photography, you must remove your hat inside the shrine, and there is a dress code which includes no "offensive" clothing.  They don't get super-specific about what constitutes offense.  Considering that the Confederate flag still flies at the South Carolina capitol after 9 people were murdered by a white supremist, I imagine it's yoga pants.

Anyway.  I learned a lot about the history of the Alamo, which, as a history teacher, was very helpful to me.  Also, the courtyard inside the wall is beautiful - just beautifully landscaped so that you actually kind of forget that you're in the middle of a busy metropolitan area.  The street noise is muffled, the trees provide shade and some relief from the heat (not from the humidity though), and there's a sense of peace throughout.

It is a little freaky - sobering, I guess - to think about people giving their lives for the ground you're standing on, about them dying right under your feet, even if it is almost 200 years ago.  I've never been to a battlefield before, although we would like to go to Gettysburg later on in this trip.  More than anything, it makes me sad.  Sad that this was the cost of freedom - that it still is.  Sad that even today, we can't seem to solve problems peacefully a lot of the time.  Sad that the nation-state which fought so hard for freedom from oppression later fought just as hard for the freedom to oppress others.

the iconic Shrine, which has been partially restored (most of the roof has been rebuilt)

On that note - one black man fought in the battle of the Alamo.  His name was John.  He is listed on the wall of the defenders, the Heroes of the Alamo - equal to those he fought beside, yet not equal.  He has no last name, and unlike the others, no place of origin is listed for him - nothing but "a black freedman" as his description.  He fought alongside everyone else, yet he had neither family nor state to call his own.  That, too, makes me sad.

All in all, the Alamo is a neat place.  If you get a chance, go in the gift shop and check out the model of the Battle of the Alamo.  It was the one thing Justin remembered seeing in his childhood, and I wish they'd allowed photography in there because I wanted to take a picture of grown-up Justin looking down at all the little figures.  The forts I made as a kid with Lincoln logs suddenly seemed way less awesome, looking at that.

It's like this, but like twice as big and with plants and tiny soldiers and horses all over it!  There's even pieces of cottonballs to depict smoke!

So like I said, it was a four-hour drive after that to Justin's aunt's house, a beautiful ranch in the country not far from College Station.  When I say "beautiful," I mean "Justin and I want a house exactly like this someday."  Between the time Justin was last here, and now, they've completely renovated it, and it seriously belongs in Better Homes & Gardens or on HGTV or something.  Everything looks up-to-date and high-end but it also has a warmth and coziness that makes one feel immediately at home.

Our original plan was to go to Dallas tomorrow for a day trip, but we may end up just staying here as we're having a hard time coordinating with our friends.  We don't mind that at all.

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