We finally left the Las Vegas area and spent the next six days driving. We were headed to the San Antonio area, where my brother lives, for our holiday home base. Leaving Las Vegas was bittersweet. Lake Mead National Recreational Area and Red Rock Canyon were beautiful and the weather was perfect our entire stay. We also got to hang out with friends, including some great climbing buddies that came down from Portland for a few days. It was almost like we never left home. Minus all the rain and clouds and gloominess. We will definitely be back in the Las Vegas area for climbing every year.
Driving down to Texas was mostly uneventful. With our fridge never staying cold enough for food and our shower leaking enough to be unusable our lifestyle on the road has been pretty glamorous thus far. So naturally on our way to San Antonio we stayed at the finest truck stops to be found off of Interstate 10. Michael dislikes the truck stops immensely. He hates the noise from all the diesel engines and would prefer a rest area. I have come to love the truck stops and feel the safest there. Those rumbling engines are like ocean waves crashing gently along the shoreline. A sweet lullaby lulling you to sleep. And with all those big trucks and lights around it’s like having the defense of a castle protecting you.
At a rest stop there might be a few trucks and maybe a couple of cars but there is less light and often times a dark and sinister feel in the air.
One night of our journey we stayed at neither truck stop nor rest stop. Instead, we stayed at a host location from the website boondockerswelcome. Basically you pay 20 dollars a year and there are hosts all over the U.S. who will let RVers spend the night on their property for free. Some have water and electric hook-ups available too. Usually these hosts have RVs of their own that they travel in or are planning to do so in the future. We were lucky enough to find a host in Texas that was friendly and a great storyteller. He also had wetlands on his property that were lovely and full of all kinds of birds and ducks. It was different staying on a stranger’s property but it was a nice change of pace and I guess it’s time to start viewing other RVers not as strangers but as part of a community we have joined.
Driving the Texas Way
I’ve been to Texas one other time, about two years ago in the spring, to visit my brother and his family. I loved it instantly because it was different from anywhere I’d ever been. I loved seeing the wildlife, the lizards, the snakes and the turtles. I loved the heat, the humidity brought instant nostalgia, reminding me of Illinois summers. I loved the cacti and remember going outside just to look at one up close. The people all seemed very friendly, more so than most places I’ve been. (This could also be because my sister in law is one of the friendliest people you’ve ever met and can make friends with anyone including a random person in a grocery store while discussing constipation medicine with them.)
There was one thing about Texas I didn’t like. The driving seemed extremely aggressive and downright scary sometimes. I had people swerving in front of me in San Antonio to make left turns and there was constant tailgating. One of my last days in Texas my rental car got a flat. I called the rental place and they said they would send out someone with a spare tire and then I could take it in to get it replaced. The nearest place to do this would be San Antonio. My brother lives out in the country and we had just been to San Antonio a few times that week so I wasn’t going back till I went to the airport. So on the day me and my other brother flew home we headed out with my spare tire on my tiny rental car. As soon as we hit the highway I realized this was a grave mistake. I had my hazards on and stayed in the right lane but semis were constantly on my a$% and one even blared his horn at me several times while he loomed over us. I’m not sure what he expected me to do. I wasn’t going to pull over and stop every time a vehicle came behind me or I’d never get to the airport. And there were two lanes going our way. Eventually he would be able to pass me in the fast lane. I can’t think of a reason he needed to be such a d$%k.
Needless to say I warned Michael profusely about the drivers in Texas. Over and over. But actually it hasn’t been as bad as I remembered. The tailgating still happens a lot. The speed limits are 70-80 on the highways and even 70 on country roads so people are usually going fast but that’s alright. And I discovered that drivers will pull over to the side of the road to let you pass while they just keep driving along the shoulder. Maybe that’s what that truck driver expected me to do before.
The Holidays in San Antonio
Christmas to me is snow. It’s lazy white flakes falling down from the sky, landing in your hair, on your eyelashes and hands while you reach out to catch them. It’s listening to Bing Crosby the whole month of December and making sugar cookies with lots of bright colored frosting. It’s going out and finding a real Christmas tree so your whole house smells like pine. It’s driving around and looking at Christmas lights.
Since we left Illinois for Portland snow has been out of the question for the most part. And coming down to south central Texas wasn’t likely to change that. But we decided to just enjoy the warm weather and get in the Christmas spirit by checking out some Christmas lights. I apologize for the photos in advance. We clearly need to invest in a good camera instead of using our phones all the time. We went to the giant Christmas tree by the Alamo first and then walked across the street to get to the River Walk. The River Walk in San Antonio is decorated with lights for the holiday season and is definitely worth checking out. It’s beautiful and there were kids caroling in the boats on the river as we walked along.
After the River Walk we went to the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. They decorate most of their trees with Christmas lights and it was a nice little drive and walk around the campus. More about their Christmas lighting can be found here.
Then we headed out to the town of Windcrest which isn’t very far from San Antonio. Every year this town has competitions for the best Christmas lights. There is a best of theme winner and then several other categories you can place in like handcrafted or creative lighting. They even have categories for the best block and the best business. There were so many Christmas lights to look at in Windcrest eventually we had to narrow it down to the houses we for sure wanted to see. They hand out maps with all the competition winners so it’s easy to find the best of the best. According to our map this was the 57th year the town has been doing this. If you’re ever in the San Antonio area for Christmas it’s another great place for holiday lights and you can find information about it here.
We also went to Six Flags Fiesta Texas the Saturday before Christmas and they have holiday lights up too. The park was very pretty after dark though we didn’t get any pictures. Michael also went on his first roller coaster in twenty or so years. He was sure he would faint or vomit from motion sickness. This made the ride an enjoyable experience for the both of us. Luckily, he was screaming most of the ride so I knew he was alive and conscious. After the ride we left and he will heal eventually.
Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and has a safe and Happy New Year.