San Antonio, Texas. Worth seeing, but not worth going to see.

I’ve been to San Antonio a few times this year, so far. Once for business, once for the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) convention. Not that I’m a music educator. I happen to have a kid that is an all state musician. While Austin may be where we keep our hippies and musicians, San Antonio is where we keep the fun touristy stuff such as the Alamo and the Riverwalk.

My company is funny when it comes to deciding who to send where. For most of the US, if a guy lives in the same state as a customer, it makes sense to send him there. This is why when things happen in Texas, my name winds up coming out of the hat. But Texas is a big state.

Matter of fact, it’s huge.

So I had a gig in San Antonio, which appeared to be an easy task. Bad thing is on the best days, or at least on paper, it’s a five hour drive – about the point of pain where you decide to drive as opposed to flying. I sized up the situation, and since I’d be within a stones throw of the airport perhaps flying was the way to go. What’s funny is I needed a car anyway. Even though my Hotel would be nearly within sight of my customer, as with many cities in Texas, you simply can’t get there from here by walking.

I took Southwest Airlines, which is turning out to be one of my favorites these days. And if you are bouncing between Texas cities, it’s simply the way to go. It really wasn’t a fun or even interesting trip. Sometimes, you go to work in a kind of industrial area, go back to the hotel, eat at a chain restaurants because you’re too tired and lazy to try anywhere else. I wasn’t even drinking. So no relief was to  be had.

About the only funny thing that happened is I got “mini-vanned” by Avis.

Every so often they do this to me, announcing the outrage with an “Enjoy your upgrade!” leaflet on the dash.

Usually, I walk a few miles to the car before discovering that they did that to me. Here, it happened at the premium counter. My car wasn’t ready. So I walked up, gave them my license, and he handed me the keys to a Dodge Mini-Van.

“A Mini-Van? You’re shitting me, right? I rented a Focus.”

“All I got, take it or leave it” was his reply. At least he was professional, and didn’t put “F-U” in front of that. Not feeling like a battle, I sucked it up and drove off with a long face. Wasn’t worth leaning on the counter and repeating their motto as a command – “You need to try harder.” I think I need to start renting from Hertz this year. It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten anything but a gubmint motors (GM or Dodge) car from Avis. They really are miserable things to drive and this one was no exception. Why can’t they build a car that can stay in a gear?

Enough griping. The second trip was for the music convention. This time we drove the mighty Lexus. A kind of wacky ride in stop and go traffic, but very nice on the highway. Or at least it was until Austin. My mind was elsewhere, so I missed the bypass. Then, it took entirely too long to register that I was headed for disaster, as in my foggy state I stared at the stupid traffic marquee not grasping what it was saying. What it said was I was in  for it. So instead of five hours, it was more like six or seven as the GPS lead us astray into jams at every turn.
We finally arrived that the Riverwalk Fairview – The cheapest place I could find that I would tolerate within walking distance to the Henry Gonzales convention center where the festivities were.

The river walk is basically a system of canals, drainage ditches actually, that run through the downtown area. The River Walk actually has a cool story behind it. There was a devastating flood in 1921, so they decided to re-engineer the drainage system. Instead of the “coolies” or drainage ditches you see in many southern cities, here they made it a canal of sorts and festooned the thing with hotels and restaurants.

On a nice day, as we had that weekend, it’s pleasant to stroll along the water. They have goofy flatbottom boats that you can ride back and forth. You may even be able to get lunch. For dinner? not so much. It’s crowded as hell on weekend nights. The week we were there wasn’t especially special. Just a Friday and Saturday night. Putting it bluntly, you’ll wait for hours for a seat, in order to eat overpriced, mediocre fare.

I was definitely off my wits. My head told me to hit one of the flagship hotels, maybe the Marriott, to eat dinner. Normally this isn’t the thing to do. I had already been scalped pretty hard for two glasses of wine at the Hyatt Bar waiting for the kid to free up. We had a miserable walk all over, winding up at a crappy mall Chilis. And still waited an hour or so.

So plan carefully. As tough as it may be to endure that, it’s nothing a reservation wouldn’t have fixed. Ruth’s Chris is basically at the convention center. Definitely find a place that takes reservations.

The only thing I found interesting on the way to the river was the oldest Synagogue in the area. Cool old building. Turns out now it’s a dance club.

Cool old Synagogue, now a dance club.

The other big thing in San Antonio is, of course, the Alamo. This is where Davey Crocket and Jim Bowie and their group met a sticky end at the hands of General Antonio López de Santa Anna’s troops. It’s a cool chunk of Texas history. Neat to see if you’re there anyhow.

Which is sort of the tag line for San Antonio – Worth seeing. Not worth going to see.