Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Land of the longhorn cow

San Antonio, TX – In the olden days, Texas was pretty well all open range, with sweeping prairies and endless trails, populated with coyotes and rabbits, cacti and wild grasses.  Not so much in modern day San Antonio, as we discovered today.

Sleet was predicted for San Antonio, so we didn’t venture out this morning onto slippery roads in unfamiliar territory. By noon it looked safe enough, so after lunch we decided to visit a couple of museums. With a predicted high of 40F and a stiff wind, indoor activity seemed appropriate.

We checked locations on Google Maps first, and then plugged in the address in the GPS.  In a perfect world, you can count on the GPS to take you where you need to go.  However, in San Antonio, LOTS of roads are under repair!  The positioning satellite doesn’t recognize those orange cones and detour signs, so when you ignore its instruction because the road is closed, the program doggedly tries to guide you back at every intersection for blocks after.

This provided us a tour of downtown San Antonio neighbourhoods which we otherwise would not have seen.  It also gave us opportunities to study maps of the area to figure out alternative routes. We enjoyed several more minutes of travel time to reach our destination.  And we built our character by having opportunities to learn patience.  So it was all very beneficial.

Our first stop was at the Institute of Texan Cultures, a large museum that was built as part of the HemisFair in 1968. Artifacts, photos and stories from more than 20 ethnic groups that settled in Texas from its earliest days are on display.  A section on archeology explains how American Indians lived before Europeans migrated here.  We followed the adaptation of immigrant groups to a Texan lifestyle, as well as milestones in civil rights and demonstrations of pioneer activities like spinning, weaving and quilting.

The trip from south of the downtown to north of it, for our second museum stop, went fairly well, so no character-building this time.  The South Texas Heritage Center is part of the Witte Museum, and its purpose is to highlight ranching, farming, the oil and gas industry, horse culture and life close to the Mexican border.  In the lobby of the center is the figure of a Mexican rancher, standing next to his wooden cart.  The figure has a blank face, and an overhead projector shines animated facial expressions onto it while it speaks to people as they pass by.  It looks very realistic!

With voices, pictures and artifacts, visitors can learn about life out on the range, differences between Mexican vaqueros and their Texan cowboy counterparts, various types of cattle brands, basketry and clothing, the importance of water and how it was collected, and the changes brought about by the invention of cars and the need for oil.  It gave us a full picture of this “wild and vivid land”, South Texas.

More battles with the GPS ensued after this visit, as we dodged orange cones and closed streets to reach our chosen restaurant for dinner.  It was easier to handle the thruway twists and turns back to the KOA after enjoying a good meal.  Especially as no part of the route home was under repair!

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