San Antonio Trip

by Timothy Lane5/13/19

Attending the 1994 World SF Convention in Winnipeg (Conadian), I voted on the 1997 site, the choices being St. Louis and San Antonio.  I had recently read about the Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, Texas, not too far from San Antonio, so I voted for it.  It also won.  We made about a 2-week trip of it.  I no longer have the details and will make no effort to describe the convention itself (in a hotel on the Riverwalk), other than mentioning that we had dinner with a college friend then living in Laredo (his sister lived in San Antonio, which made it convenient).
As it happens, Elizabeth liked to drive and did almost all of it, which gave me a lot of time for reading.  On various long trips this year and the next few years, I read a lot of Dumas on the way — The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After, and the 3 volumes of Ten Years After (The Vicomte de Bragelonne, Louise de la Valliere, and The Man in the Iron Mask).  I had the Oxford Press editions with abundant end notes, and reading those as I encountered them slowed me down considerably.  I only read one book on that trip, but I did better in later ones by reading them only after finishing each page.
I also had to bring a pager in case they needed my input at work.  Fortunately, they never did.
On our first day, we visited the Shiloh battlefield, which included the visitor’s center and a lecture by a staff historian on why he didn’t think the Confederates could have broken Grant’s final line if Beauregard had attacked at the end of the day.  We then took the full battlefield tour.  Back then we could get around a lot.
We overnighted in Jackson, Tennesse and had a long day ahead of us, going all the way to the DFW metroplex.  We had stayed at a hotel in Casey Jones Village and visited his house and museum that morning.  After all, though born in Missouri, he grew up in Cayce, Kentucky, whence his later nickname.  He was especially famous for “making it on the advertised”, and his final trip came when he was suddenly asked to take a very late train.  He was almost on time when disaster came — but thanks to his heroic behavior when he knew what was going to happen, he was the only one killed.
On the way, we took a tour of the Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock.  These can be very interesting, both for interesting historical tidbits the guides sometimes provide, and for the art displayed in various places (back when art was meant to be beautiful and inspiring).  On other occasions, we’ve toured them in Baton Rouge (later that trip), Harrisburg, Trenton, and (on our own) Charleston.  Oddly enough, we never visited the Kentucky, Indiana, or Tennessee capitols despite all the available time we had for it — just like we never visited the Perryville or Fort Donelson battlefields.
The next day we had a busy day, mostly touring art museums.  I’ve discussed this before.  We started with a museum of religious art in northern Dallas, then crept downtown (traffic was exceptionally bad on the way) to visit the Dallas World Aquarium.  We later toured an adjacent pair of Fort Worth art museums, one of which seems to have been the Amon Carter Museum, which specializes in Western art.  There was another we wanted to visit in downtown Fort Worth, but time was lacking.
Elizabeth at that time subscribed to Texas Monthly, and a recent issue had listed the top barbecue places in Texas.  We went to lunch at one of them in Fort Worth that day, and would have dinner at another in Seguin (between San Antonio and Houston) later.
The next day we toured the Fort Worth Zoo before departing for San Antonio.  We did a little touring when we arrived there, but I don’t recall the details.  The next morning we visited the Alamo, which I had previously seen as a child, before attending LoneStarCon.  San Antonio was one place we could have used another day.
After the convention ended we went over to Fredericksburg to visit the Nimitz Museum.  Mostly it was about the war, of course, though they had a model of the carrier Nimitz.  Among the exhibits were one on the Navajo code talkers and another on the sole survivor of Waldron’s Torpedo 8.  He was picked up and bustled off to Pearl Harbor, giving Nimitz his first full report of the battle.  (Not surprisingly, he had a full view of the sinking of 3 Japanese carriers.)  We made it to Houston to prepare for another full day of touring.
That full day started with getting tickets for that night’s game at the Houston Astrodome (I’m a long-standing Astros fan, and it’s the only time I ever saw the stadium).  Then we visited the San Jacinto monument.  This included the slide show on the campaign narrated by Charlton Heston and a visit to the top (by elevator).  After that we went to the Johnson Space Center.  That night we saw the game, which Houston unfortunately lost.  (You can’t have everything).
The next day was a very long day of travel, including going over a famous bridge in Port Arthur.  (It wasn’t like I remembered from my childhood.  Maybe they have more than one noted bridge, or maybe my memory from 40 years earlier was a bit off.)  Then we made our way across the Louisiana swamps (the Atchafalaya) to Baton Rouge to take a tour of the state capitol.  They had a lot of steps (one for each parish), which back then we could handle.  They also had an exhibit of the flags of every country ruling it, including a Confederate flag (and also the short-lived Republic of West Florida).  After that we drove all the way to Vicksburg (I said it was a long drive) by way of Jackson (Mississippi, not Tennessee).
The next day we toured the Vicksburg battlefield.  Unsuually, it has 2 visitors’ centers, the regular one and another for the gunboat Cairo, which had been sunk by a Confederate torpedo.  We toured the ship itself and also visited the center, which included things like the food available for the ship’s officers (including, I noticed, Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, something no doubt unavailable to the rest of the crew).  Then there was another long drive, all the way to Huntsville.  It was late when we got there, and finding a motel to stay at wasn’t easy.  (I think that was the day I referred to Elizabeth as “mile-eater Garrott” for the speed of her driving.  Good thing, too.)
I had toured Huntsville over a decade earlier, on the way back from a a Worldcon in Atlanta, but I noticed that what was available this time was different.  It would no doubt be worth seeing again if we were able to do so.  Later we toured a cave being excavated for historical artifacts from ancient residents before stopping off with cousins of Elizabeth on Signal Mountain.  (We drove the W Road up, with me looking down the cliffs.  It was a good reminder of my moderate acrophobia.)
The following day, we visited a family whose husband was an active FOSFAX contributor, then went to the Tennessee Aquarium, making use of passes that Elizabeth’s cousins had (they were members).  This included a lot of local exhibits.  We had lunch with my sister and a friend of hers (up from Atlanta) at a Greek restaurant in southern Chattanooga.  (I think we shared platters of spanakopita and tiropita.  I don’t recall ever having such standard Greek treats while we were there, but I do like them now.)
After that, we toured the Chickamauga battlefield.  They had a very good visitor’s center, including a vast collection of rifles (including the Spencer repeating rifle).  We also witnessed a demonstration of shooting a standard rifle (Springfield or Enfield, I suppose) of the war.  We visited every stop on the battlefield, but didn’t get to any of the Battle of Chattanooga sites.  This did give us time to drive all the way home that evening.
It was a nice trip, allowing us to indulge many of our interests more than once.  We also enjoyed attending LoneStarCon and visiting with my college friend.

Timothy Lane writes from Louisville, Kentucky and publishes the FOSFAX fanzine.
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4 Responses to San Antonio Trip

  1. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    That sounds like it was a very interesting trip. I love driving and stopping at the many places of interest in this country.

    I see you stopped at the two most sacred sites of the Texas Revolution. Very wise. I have been to both at least a couple of times. For a Texan, visiting the Alamo must be similar to visiting the Vatican for a Catholic. Maybe even Jerusalem.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Occasionally we discover places to visit while on the journey. For example, on a trip to the Baltimore Worldcon in 1998 (Bucconeer), we came across the Army Quartermaster Museum near Petersburg (among their many items was a set of unit patches, including the 39th Engineer Battalion — my father’s final command) and the Cyrus McCormick farm north of Lexington (where we toured the Jackson house). A friend of ours is a distant relative of old Cyrus (not close enough to get rich, alas), so we visited it as well. They had some of the history of reaping, and the place had an actual grist mill.

  2. Steve Lancaster says:

    Sounds like a great trip. I have been to shiloh once, Vicksberg twice, Ghettysberg twice, Fredricksberg and of course, Pea Ridge and Pararie Grove more times then I can count. One of the joys of mixed ancestry is that I can claim both sides in the war, although more grandparents, uncles and cousins were Southern.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I read that Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove are among the top battlefields to visit, and regret that we never got to them (and also Wilson’s Creek). Elizabeth and I used to go to the JABAS reunions in Clinton, Mississippi, and considered going back to Vicksburg someday. We did visit Grand Gulf once. We also visited the sites of Brice’s Crossroads and (barely) Tupelo, and did part of the Corinth area tour.

      I also have mixed (i.e., North and South) ancestry from the war. Elizabeth mostly seems to have Southern ancestry, including Colonel Shepard (who led Archer’s Tennessee brigade briefly after Gettysburg and wrote the official report on the battle, which I showed Elizabeth once) and Brigadier General Isham W. Garrott (who fought in the Vicksburg campaign).

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