Thank the Riverwalk for that. Created a story below the city streets, the 2 1/2 miles of winding walkways that follow the controlled flow of the Paseo Del Rio river host beautiful hotels and popular restaurants. The Riverwalk pulls in close to $800 million a year for the local economy. While not connected to the Riverwalk, the Alamodome, which hosted the recent Southwest Regional finals, is just a short walk away. The weather is generally sunny and warm. The Fiesta-like atmosphere is never-ending as the two revelers we saw walking the area in their hotel room robes testified.
Spanish explorers once used the Paseo Del Rio waterway to supply water to the Mission San Antonio de Valero, better known as The Alamo. Today the famed site sits amidst the hustle and bustle of a city that hosts more annual conventions and gatherings than Santa Ana had troops during the 13-day siege at what is now the most popular tourist site in Texas and a state shrine.
What remains of the Alamo still inspires and puzzles visitors. An ancient tree dominates a courtyard on the revered grounds. The tree is so old that a park ranger told us no one really has any idea of its age. Tentacle-like branches spread, twist, turn and grow much as the legend of the heroic defenders has over many generations. Movies, such as John Wayne’s The Alamo, did little to tell the full and truthful story. The site was certainly worth a thorough exploration and provides valuable truths.
Much of the real mission no longer exists. Where Mexican troops once scaled crumbling walls to slaughter the Texian defenders, a Ripley’s Believe It or Not, a wax museum and a Guinness Book of World Records shop are today’s sentinels. A few blocks further away, where Santa Ana’s troops once bivouacked, the KU team hotel now rises into the sky. In the distance behind the famed site, the Crockett Hotel sign beams.
A shop that featured highly detailed toy soldiers from all eras of war proudly displayed a toy Iraqi soldier surrendering his toy tank to the Americans in a Gulf War depiction. Next door, stores displayed t-shirts with Davy Crockett quotes and George Bush t-shirts asking whether we missed him yet. My answer remains NO!
A large gazebo nearby hosted 12 members of the VCU pep band playing a raucous 30-minute jazz set that delighted everyone during the morning of Friday’s games. The spirit of the team that was about to shock everyone over the weekend was evident in the young band members enjoying every second of their impromptu jam.
We ran often near The Institute of Texan Cultures on the grounds of the HemisFair Park. Flags representing the people who helped settle the vast expanse of Texas snapped in the wind. Flags from the United States, Mexico, The Czech Republic, China, Belgium, Denmark, England, France, Ireland, Greece, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Norway, The Netherlands, Poland, Scotland, Switzerland, Sweden and Spain along with flags of Hesse, Mecklenburg and Saxony (lands that make up modern-day Germany) and the Lone Star Flag of the Republic of Texas are all displayed. The flag of Spain represented the same one Christopher Columbus flew in 1492. The French flag was all white. Enjoy all the American Fries, anti-French jokes a flag of surrender represents.
We did not ride to the top of the Tower of the Americas. On the evening we toured the grounds, the attraction was overflowing with prom couples in all their finery. Bike rental stations dotted the downtown area where cyclists had the right to the entire lane. Instead we chose to take a bicycle rickshaw ride on an investigative journey to study the prospects of that becoming a part-time job for me somewhere once retirement comes. The fact the rider estimated he burned 5,000 calories on a busy day certainly appealed to me. Our rider was a nursing student helping pay for school by pedaling guests Fridays through Sundays.
There really was only one problem. The Alamodome is getting old. Since the NBA Spurs left for a fancy new home in north San Antonio, the dome has no permanent resident. The lack of a mid-field court setup no longer permits a Final Four. Compared to new stadiums in Indianapolis, Houston and eventually Texas Stadium, the environment does not excite. The scoreboard in use over the weekend was woefully antiquated compared to the HD screens of modern stadiums. Without a full-time resident, there really is no incentive to burden tax payers with needed improvements for an occasional weekend of basketball.
Now, due to the Jayhawks’ shocking demise, the madness of March is over. My daughter Kelly, who watches Rocket while we are gone, tweeted after Sunday’s game to her KU-fan friends.
“Sorry, diehards, but I’m so glad to be off house-sitting duty. A loss is always a win for somebody and in this case, that’s me!”
Basketball’s loss is a photographic win for spring football’s kickoff, baseball, softball and rowing this weekend. For Laura, the loss is the win of being on hand for enrollment tonight for her swimmers, divers and rowers. As always, the jobs may change, but the work never ends.