Viva Fiesta! in San Antonio (April 18 – May 9, 2017)

We spent our first five nights in San Antonio at the Travelers World RV Park, a few miles south of downtown. We had stayed at Travelers World once before, on New Years’ Eve 2015. Upon our arrival at the park, we learned that our trip to San Antonio coincided with Fiesta which runs from April 20-30. Fiesta is one of the largest annual festivals in the United States and celebrates the cultural diversity and heritage of San Antonio. It is also a major fund-raiser for over 100 non-profit organizations.

On April 20th, our first sightseeing adventure was a visit to Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum in Alamo Heights, a San Antonio neighborhood. Admission was free but was by appointment only. Barney Smith, who will be 96 years old in May, has been transforming ordinary toilet seats into works of art for the past 46 years. He has turned his four car garage into a museum with wall-to-wall toilet seat art. Barney spent over an hour showing us around, proudly pointing out his favorite pieces and sharing colorful stories about many of them. He explained that each toilet seat takes about 20 hours to complete. Visitors are encourage to sign the toilet seats that are meaningful to them. Phil signed the Escapees and Organ Donor toilet seats. Barney has carefully cataloged each of his 1,298 toilet seats, as well as recording which seats each visitor signed. Barney showed us videos from his appearances on The Early Show, The View and Montell Williams. He also displays numerous magazine articles about his museum. In addition to the many toilet seats, Barney has collected other assorted items. For example, all the boots Barney wore out during 10 years of motorcycle riding are hanging from the ceiling. As we were leaving, Barney asked us to encourage others to come visit his museum but not to wait too long to do so. This was clearly one of the most interesting museum experiences either of us could remember.

Phil & Jan with Escapees sign on which Phil entered our names
Barney watching Phil sign Organ Donor seat

After saying goodbye to Barney Smith, we headed downtown and had dinner at Casa Rio on the Riverwalk. We finished dinner just in time to catch the official opening of Fiesta 2017 at Hemisfair, just a few blocks away. We enjoyed watching the participants parading around in their fancy outfits. The plaza in the park was packed with wall-to-wall stands, each raising money for their nonprofit organization, mostly by selling commemorative pins. We managed to get a few pins for free at some local vendor booths and Jan got several strands of beads.

On April 21st, Jan had her long-awaited doctor appointment. Although we had hoped that this would be the final appointment, we were not terribly surprised when he said he wanted to do another test. Unfortunately, that test couldn’t be scheduled until May 1st so we were faced with sticking around Texas a little longer. We had planned to be in Elkhart, IN on May 6th for Phil’s niece’s wedding but the delay caused us to decide to fly to the wedding, rather than drive.

On April 22nd, we briefly attended the Piñatas in the Barrio festivities in a West San Antonio neighborhood. On the main street of this neighborhood, we saw the world’s largest Virgin Mary mosaic.  The mosaic, which stands four stories, is at The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. Later, we drove downtown and had dinner at Pat O’Brien’s.


Worlds largest Virgin Mary mosaic, at The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center

After an unsuccessful attempt to extend our stay at Traveler’s World, we moved to Braunig Lake RV Resort, which was only about 8 miles away, and booked our site through May 9th. We’ve stayed at Braunig Lake RV Resort twice before and, although it’s hardly a resort, the price is right and it seems like a safe place to leave our rig while we fly to the wedding.

We were not very active during our stay at Braunig Lake RV Resort, mostly due to temperatures that got into the low 90s most days. However, we did have one bit of excitement, albeit not an enjoyable one. One evening after we’d been parked for several days, we went for a stroll around the campground. We returned to find that the front legs on the rig had failed to remain extended and the front of our home had dropped about two feet, leaving the rear legs in the air. This problem with our hydraulic system was a repeat of the experience we’d had in Texarkana, TX in late December but we hadn’t had any problems since then. Ironically, since we had decided not to drive to Elkhart, IN for the wedding, Phil had just cancelled our May 1st service appointment at the DRV factory in Howe, IN a couple of days earlier. Fortunately, unlike the Texarkana experience, no one was in the rig this time when the legs lowered. Unfortunately, when the rig lowered, it came down on top of our water softener and we now have a sizable dent in our undercarriage which is noticeable from the side of the rig. We tried to schedule a service appointment at a DRV dealer in San Antonio but they were booked four weeks out. So, we scheduled service at a DRV dealer in Billings, MT on June 7th and hoped we have no more problems over the coming month. In the meantime, we will make sure not to store anything under the rig that might get crushed if the legs lower again.

On the evening of April 29th, we rode out a night of extremely strong winds that rocked our rig quite a bit. We later heard that 15 people had died that night in tornados that hit east Texas. The good news was that the storm brought us significantly cooler temperatures the following day, with a high of only 76. We took advantage of the cooler weather by visiting The Pearl, formerly the largest brewery south of the Mason-Dixon Line that has now been converted into an upscale neighborhood of apartments, retail stores and restaurants. The main plant has been converted into the Hotel Emma where some of the original factory equipment has been kept in place in the lobby.

After walking around The Pearl, we strolled a couple of miles along the Riverwalk until we reached the Alamo where we each made wishes in the Wishing Well. Although we had intended to walk back to The Pearl, we opted instead to have an appetizer and drinks at Rita’s on the River and then sprung for a taxi to take us back to our car.

On May 1st, Jan returned to visit the specialist for another test. Fortunately, the test went well and Jan got a clean bill of health so we can resume our travels once we return from the wedding.

As we prepared to leave our rig while we attended the wedding, we became increasingly concerned that the front legs might lower while we were away. In fact, we awoke on May 3rd and discovered that the front legs had dropped about a foot overnight. We decided to hitch the rig to the truck during our absence. While this was not ideal for the truck, it beat running the risk that we would find our rig face down upon our return from the wedding.

On May 4th, our flight left San Antonio at 2 pm and landed at Chicago O’Hare at about 5:30 pm. After picking up our rental car, we had planned to stop for Chicago-style pizza at Gino’s East. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the restaurant, we discovered that the location had shut down. So, instead, we drove through downtown Chicago traffic and on to the Indiana tollway. Most of the Indiana tollway was under construction so the traffic moved slowly and the travel plazas were closed. Fortunately, we had bought a bag of Garrett’s popcorn at O’Hare and that became our dinner. With the time zone change, we arrived at our hotel in Elkhart at a little after 11 pm.

On Friday, May 5th, we visited Phil’s mother at her nursing home in the morning and found her to be very alert and interactive. We attended the wedding rehearsal at 6 pm and stuck around for dinner. Saturday, May 6th was the day of the wedding. We arrived at Mother’s nursing home at about 11 am and found her to be in a deep sleep. We had a difficult time rousing her for lunch. At 12:30 pm, the driver from Senior Mobility arrived to drive Mother to the church. The church has a lift that we used to get Mother’s wheelchair up to the sanctuary level. We arrived at 1 pm for wedding pictures and the wedding began at 2 pm. Emily was a beautiful bride and the ceremony and reception were very nice.

Mother slept through most of the ceremony but managed to come more alive for the receiving line and the reception. At about 4:30 pm, we called the Senior Mobility driver to have him drive Mother back to her nursing home. Unfortunately, the lift wouldn’t work so we had to gather a group of strong men to carry her wheelchair down the flight of stairs. After getting Mother back home, we returned to the church for dinner and helped clean up.

On Sunday, May 7th, we visited Mother again and then met Barb, Dan and Dan’s mother for lunch at Cracker Barrel. After lunch, we drove back to Chicago for our flight at 8 pm. We arrived in Illinois early enough to drive around our old neighborhood in Schaumburg and check out our old house. Our flight arrived in San Antonio at about 11 pm and, after getting our luggage and car and driving back to the campground, it was after midnight before we got home. We discovered that the front legs on our rig had indeed lowered during our absence so we had been wise to leave the rig hitched to the truck. We also discovered that the Chicago Cubs vs. New York Yankees game was on ESPN and was in the 14th inning. Rather than going to sleep as we should have, we stayed awake until 1:15 am when the Cubs lost in the 18th inning.

Prior to our trip to Indiana, we had decided it would be a good idea to see the dentist before we left town for the next six months. We had scheduled appointments at 10 and 11 am. Unfortunately, our dentist is in Fredericksburg, which from Elmendorf, TX took about 1h 45m each way. We awoke around 6 am and left at about 8 am. We were exhausted by the time we returned home and went to bed early that night.

On May 9th, we arose early and were on the road heading north by 10:15 am. Although we were still tired from the long weekend, we were anxious to be on the road again after having been in Texas for over four months.