Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Welcome to the first installment of another special MCC miniseries, representing the original travelogue from our 2005 drive from Indianapolis to San Antonio, Texas, and back again in far too short a time…
Before making any plans for 2005 we’d asked my son if there was any particular place he’d like to visit within a reasonable driving distance. His first qualifying suggestion off the top of his head was The Alamo. That fleeting thought became the centerpiece of our 2005 vacation planning. To this day he doesn’t remember the suggestion, why he would’ve chosen it, or most of this week in his life in general. But his wish was granted, even if “wish” was too strong a word.
One odd find: as I was digging through boxes to compile our 2003 vacation keepsakes a couple months ago, I came across an ad on the back of our souvenir Smithsonian Museum program that, in the grand scheme, could be interpreted as foreshadowing of this trip. Who knew.
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It was only 3 p.m. by the time we finished the San Antonio Zoo and the impromptu stroll around the Japanese Tea Gardens. We figured that left us enough time to check out San Antonio’s most famous attraction, the one and only Alamo. Downtown San Antonio is less than ten minutes down the road from the zoo, but finding a parking space — affordable or otherwise — took more than twice as long. After lapping the area a few times, we settled on the garage at River Center Mall two blocks southeast. We then spent another ten minutes trying to walk out of the garage as we tried and failed to make sense of their elevator system, which had floors labeled 1-3, but also floors labeled A and B, neither of which was actually the ground level. We even wound up lapping ourselves at least once until we gave up on the elevator and took the stairs instead, under my tired son’s feeble protests. Once we found the ground level, labeled ‘S’ on the nearby signs — an option the elevator panel hadn’t even offered — we made our way to the automobile exit, inching around the wall on what little sidewalk there was around the entrance.
Down the road was an Alamo Visitor Center, a store not quite as ubiquitous as the dozens of Niagara Falls Visitor Centers we bypassed last year. My son picked up a souvenir Alamo mini-statue for his tiny monument collection, then we trekked on to the Alamo itself.
We spent far too much time perusing its enormous gift shop, housed in the largest preserved building on the site. We patiently made our way into the actual Alamo shrine, which housed all the best artifacts, the ones proudly describable with the phrase “THE ACTUAL”. For history buffs and dedicated tourists, it’s a smorgasbord of tactile sampling and vicarious you-are-there immersion.
For a ten-year-old under duress, after all the long walks in the dry Texas summertime, it’s as good a place as any to have what I can only vaguely describe as a total meltdown. Without going into details, we were about five minutes out of the shrine when Anne and I declared that sightseeing was over for the day. We stopped dead in our tracks, marched right back to the car, and returned to the hotel for a round of water and naptime.
When 7 p.m. rolled around, we left the hotel a bit more refreshed but much more stern as we made a beeline for another fast-food joint we’d seen in abundance down south but don’t have in Indiana: Whataburger. The selection is much more limited than Jack in the Box, but it was cheap and fresh. We liked that an employee would occasionally make the rounds around the lobby with a serving box full of condiments just in case any customers needed additional ketchup, salt, or napkins brought right to their table. My son loved — indeed, was floored by the rather brilliant idea — that they serve their chicken nuggets with a side of white gravy. We were less thrilled with their decision to keep their A/C set around forty-five degrees. I didn’t miss sweating, but we hadn’t come to Texas to catch our death of cold. We left without dessert out of self-preservation. By unanimous adult fiat and without input from the boy, we stopped next at a Baskin-Robbin’s behind the Whataburger and overdosed on sugar.
We retreated to the hotel, but — due to the events at the Alamo — dropped the hotel pool from the night’s itinerary. Early bedtime for all.
DAY FOUR: Tuesday, July 26th.
After a fresh new start with the same free hotel breakfast we’d had the day before, except this time they had plenty of sausage on hand, we went right back to downtown San Antonio and found a parking space right across the street from the Buckhorn Museum. Seven bucks for one day might be expensive, or it might be dirt cheap compared to other lots nearby. For the peace of mind to be had from not wasting time on another no-thrill parking lot hunt, it was priceless to us. We then headed straight for the Alamo to pick up exactly where we left off.
Nice thing about the Alamo at 9 a.m. is that it’s 100% less crowded than in the afternoon.
We walked through the rest of the grounds, enjoying their small but mighty collection of assorted Texas cacti, examining their collection of authentic Alamo weaponry and doodads. The only real attitude problem this time occurred when one of their evil bottled-water dispensers ate my dollar. I nearly had a meltdown of my own.
To be continued!
[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]