Monday, August 11, 2008

My Summer Vacation Report Part 2: July 23-27

This was a big week. We took our long-planned-for trip to San Antonio dragging my mom along for fun. I really do think she had fun... I'm pretty sure. Now since we are saving money, or rather, just not spending it, we only had three days and two nights there. We loaded up the minivan with all the kids, grandma, one giant suitcase, and lots of snacks, games and DVDs. We thought if we left early in the morning, we would have plenty of time on our first day for sight seeing. While this might have been true, it also meant that the kids started to get cranky much sooner, and we couldn't check into our hotel until the afternoon. We drove around the city on a very dreary, grey, wet day trying to make up our minds about what to do. Oh, did I mention that we went right when Hurricane Dolly was on top of Texas? We ended up going to a swanky shopping center that looked very pretty from the highway. They had lots of stores that I would never shop at, like an expensive granola store called Whole Earth. Now, when I say granola I am describing a type of person, not a food. They sold $100 sandals, which came in leather or the vegan version (synthetic). We spent most of the time using their bathroom. They did have an awesome baby carrier called the Ergo, which I tried on and salivated over. It's $92... I thought that was ridiculous, surely it would be cheaper on Ebay. (Much to my dismay when I got back home, I found out that $105 is what it costs online. $92 would be a used one on Ebay.) Ah well, something to wish for.

We ventured back out when the rain let up, and we drove south to check out the missions. They are all free, free, free, and there was hardly any other tourists. We visited Mission Concepcion and Mission San Jose (or San Juan - I mix them up). We would have seen them all, but they closed at five. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip, and it was all so beautiful. There is a real sense of history and God in those parks. The churches still hold mass and the bells still ring. They all date back to the late 1700s. Child #2 was obsessed with the fans that were in most parts of the un-air conditioned missions and the bells. Oh, how he loved the bells. How do you explain to a preschooler that he cannot go up to the tower and ring the bell himself? Such misery. Child #1 thought it was all pretty neat, and listened to most everything I told him. He was a little impatient, but mostly really good. Child #3 was just along for the ride in the stroller. She did feel that we were taking too long once it got close to closing time. She made her displeasure known quite loudly. And yes, if you look behind that old cook stove(?) that is a Coke machine peaking out of one of the old cloisters doorways - don't you know that those monks loved their caffeine.

The kids did not go to sleep easily that night. They probably weren't used to all sleeping in one room. I really don't want to remember it. That night, I got to sleep next to Child #1, who took the longest to fall asleep and then proceeded to spin around and around. I was woken up from being kicked in the head and in the ribs at different times of the night. It was similar to when I was pregnant with him.

Day 2 was all about Six Flags Fiesta. I had some free tickets and some BOGOs, so for three adults, two kids and a baby, it was $80. I thought that was pretty good for a theme park. On the downside, it was hot and crowded. Seriously, why isn't there more shade and benches at that park. I wanted to pass out by 1pm, but I soldiered on (for the children's sake). They had oodles of fun. Child #1 is cautious, and really enjoys mellow rides, like trains and little airplanes that go up and down. Child #2 is not cautious. He will go on most anything and is usually limited only by his height. He sat in the front of the log flume with my husband and was totally unfazed by the drop. His favorites are things that spin around and around, like tea cups and the carousel. Child #3 mostly rode in the stroller. We actually made the mistake of trying out the attached water park in the afternoon. This should definitely not be done on the same day as the main park. First of all, they put the kiddie pool and play area at the top of a big hill! So now you know why I came so close to passing out. After pushing the double stroller up about five stories worth of ramps, I was done, but the kids all wanted to get wet, including the baby. It is a mother's nightmare - large open area, teeming with people, plenty of places to lose kids. We only stayed an hour or two and by then, we were all running out of enthusiasm and energy. I am proud that we spent only $5 in the park. We let Child #1 play a $5 guaranteed to win fishing game, and he got to pick out a nice sized teddy bear emblazoned with the Six Flags logo. Totally worth it. We ended the day on a wonderful ride that my sons called the Tornado, not sure if that was the real name. It was a lovely breezy ride that swings you around in circles. We rode it a few times in a row because thankfully, no one else had discovered this gem. I do love to swing! All in all, it was a big theme park, but I have been spoiled by Orlando. It just does not compare to the quality of Islands of Adventure or Magic Kingdom. And there were bees everywhere! They were by every trash can and they would come investigate your stroller if there was any food uncovered. Every time I tried to sit down, they showed up. I saw one poor girl burst into tears after getting stung and Child #2 also got a nasty welt on his foot. I am glad it didn't bother him as much. I was grateful that no one in our family had a bee allergy. Seriously, can't they afford pest control - there was red ant problem too. That is just one of the things that differentiates the great Florida theme parks.

Thankfully, everyone went right to sleep at the hotel that night, and I got to enjoy cable! Psych and Monk are such a treat to someone that only gets three channels with her bunny ears at home.

We headed out the next day and made the all important trip to the Alamo. It seemed like a requirement for people that have never been to San Antonio. Although the Alamo is free, downtown parking is not. We found a parking lot nearby that charged $1 for the first hour, but then the price jumped to $6. So that was the challenge. We do so love a challenge. We synchronized our watches and jumped out of the van. Bear leash for Child #2 and umbrella stroller for Child #3. Child #1 holding grandma's hand. Let's go! We did a whirlwind tour, and even had time for souvenirs. And boy do they have souvenirs. Lots of plastic, made in China, doo dads stamped with the Alamo. We settled for two crushed pennies, a clicky camera key chain that you can look into and see photos of the Alamo (aside from the crushed pennies, the best deal by far at $1.75) and a lovely poster that shows the Alamo when it's not totally swarmed with tourists. Did I mention how crowded it was? There was not enough room to move. It is fortunate we had a time limit because I don't think I would have wanted to stay longer. I really enjoyed the missions a lot more, they seemed more authentic and less touristy (also less crowded). We got back to the car and out of the parking garage with six minutes to spare. We drove north and after a few indecisive stops ended up at Wonder World in San Marcos. I was drawn to it because it reminded me of Rock City in TN. I have fond memories of my mom taking us to Rock City and Ruby Falls. It was a splurge, even with a coupon it was $70 for all of us. It was lots of fun though. We went through a cave. Child #1 went via Snugli. She enjoyed it a lot more than her first cave experience at Mammoth Cave. Child #2 had the bear leash, but I still kept a firm hand on him. I have lots of fears and caves bring out the worst of them. The stairs are steep and the hand rails inadequate, but thankfully, nobody slipped. So why do we explore caves? We all love it. It is something so amazing to see God's handiwork in forming the layers of the earth. Plus, natural air conditioning. Then we all went up to the tower, where you can see the hill country to the west and the flatter plains to the east. There is a fault line that runs under that seperates the areas. It is a whole lesson in geology. Next we drove through the "Mystery Mountain" to feed deer. Thanks mom for buying us all deer food! We all got to hand feed them and still have time to take lots of photos. I especially enjoyed sneaking a feel on the antlers of the young bucks. Velvety. Then it was time to go and we finally got home. It was the longest, most action packed three days that I have seen in a few years. I swear I am still trying to catch up from it.


Andi said...

I wish I had known you were coming up this way! San Marcos is like 25 minutes from us. It would have been fun to catch up.

Also, Ergo=the awesome. We got well over a year of daily use out of it with Bailey and are just starting to use it with Cullen...somewhat justifying the extreme expense. You should see if there's a local API or NINO group in your area. They often have carrier libraries where you can borrow them for a bit.

Anonymous said...

"We went through a cave. Child #1 went via Snugli." How did you ever fit the 6 yr. old in a Snugli? ha ha, just picking on your editing. Loved reading about your adventures, sounds like a summer's worth. I'm sure Grandma really DID have fun. Fun is bigger in Texas.