Mo & Terry Smedley
Heartland USA by Rail
After our morning arrival into San Antonio, we checked into our hotel, took a few minutes to get our land legs back, then headed out to explore the town. Our hotel was a block or two from the train station, and just a few blocks from the Alamo and River Walk areas.
Our first stop was The Alamo. The site itself is not physically imposing, but it clearly carries something approaching religious significance to Texans. The displays were an odd combination of tacky gift shop souvenirs and interesting historical memorabilia. I think my recollection of Davy Crockett was muddled a bit by Fess Parker's portrayal in Disney movies - I had forgotten his role in defending The Alamo.
We next walked downtown to the River Walk area. When we stopped in San Antonio on our 2000 American Orient Express train tour, we really enjoyed our brief water tour of this area. We had been intending to come back here for some time. We explored the paved river walkway from one end to the other, sampled the eateries and shops that line both banks of the river, and enjoyed an outdoor music & dance production at an amphitheatre built into the river bank. Evening was beautiful along the river, with the soft lights reflecting off the waters and temperatures finally dropping to something we considered bearable. It was HOT here during the day. We dived into air conditioned shops wherever we found them just to cool off. I remember being impressed during our 2000 visit with the construction of a new high-rise bank building that had preserved the original historical character of the area by incorporating the beautiful facade of the original building right into the new. I was delighted to recognize this building while exploring the River Walk, and I got a couple of pictures showing how well the old was incorporated with the new.
On our way into San Antonio on the Sunset Limited, we learned that the Spurs had won the NBA Championship. The town was electrified with the news. We got out of San Antonio just in time - crowds of a couple hundred thousand were expected along the River Walk on Saturday as the team was scheduled to parade through the area on the barges usually reserved for tours. We were not disappointed to miss those crowds! We did see plenty of evidence of a celebration already beginning - confetti on the ground, and more rowdy than usual crowds at the sports bars in town.
The Texas Eagle train from San Antonio to Fort Worth displayed far more punctual timekeeping than what we experienced on the Coast Starlight or Sunset Limited. Our arrival into Fort Worth was only about 30 minutes behind schedule. We did, however, encounter another one of the risks associated with train travel - bizarrely unsatisfactory customer service in the diner. Our waiter was a mixture of hostility, forgetfulness, inattention, and just plan incapacity. It is absolutely bizarre that this kind of behavior would be tolerated from an employee. The problem was confined to this one employee - others in the diner were friendly, and even pitched in to provide us service when our designated waiter seemed unable.
Fort Worth was hot - stinking hot. I made a brief foray from the train station, but quickly retreated to its air conditioned comfort while we waited for the departure of the Heartland Flyer for our trip to Oklahoma City. The Flyer exhibited prompt timekeeping, and we arrived a few minutes ahead of schedule. Sadly, this train is scheduled to be eliminated this fall due to federal and state budget cuts. On the day we rode it, all three coaches on the train were completely sold out - in fact there was standing room only. Go figure.
We'll be spending time on Sunday with nephew Jason McGuire, currently stationed at Tinker AFB in Oklahoma City. On Monday, we'll do some exploration of the city on our own by foot.