18 May

Saturday 13th May (arriving after Midnight on 14t)  (Visiting the Lone Star State)

Having got roughly 7 hours sleep after the epic journey of the day before, today would finally see me heading west along the southern border of the United States. While the so-called “Sunset Limited” went all the way to Los Angeles, I had opted to interrupt my journey halfway through the state of Texas, in the city of San Antonio. I soon discovered that this would not be as easy as I had imagined.

First of all, as the opening sentence said, my arrival in Texas would be in the middle of the night. Nothing particularly unusual about that you would think, however you need to know one important detail when it comes to Amtrak trains - they enforce a strict “no noise” policy between 10pm and 7am and would you believe that this extends to any announcements of upcoming stops! Thats right, if you are due to arrive at your destination between 10pm and 7am, you will have to pay attention to when the train stops moving. This is the only way you will know when your train has reached its destination.

For me, it took a full 20 minutes after the train had stopped to realise that I had arrived in San Antonio. Fortunately, the train I was on was not due to move from its spot until it had been joined by its sister train, the Texas Eagle and this was not due for another hour or so. This would be the service I would be scheduled to leave the city with two days later. So, I quickly gathered my belongings and made my way off the train and into the Amtrak Baggage claim office to find that my bag was the last remaining one to be collected with all other passengers already having disembarked and left the station.

I now had to find a place to wait until the early morning hours, when I could make my way to my hotel to see if they had a room for me for the single night I had booked from 15th to 16th May.

My first plan was to stay at the station and then make my way to the hotel in the morning when it got light. The first part worked only until 6.30am when I was politely ejected from the station building. The reason for this is because the building was only open when and while there were Amtrak or train services to or from the city. There are no trains to the city between 7am in the morning and 10pm in the evening. So, daylight had not yet broken when I had to hike with my heavy bag, my back pack and my travel bag. I had scoped out the route prior to my departure, so I knew where to go. However, knowing where to go is one thing, it is quite another to actually get there on foot (there were no taxis at the station by the time I set off). 

16 city blocks later and I had reached my destination, the Holdiay Inn Express on the San Antonio Riverwalk. This hotel is housed in a listed building of natural beauty and this was immediately apparent when I set eyes on it. The sun was coming up and I saw the hotel in all its glory in the morning light and I was blown away by its architectural splendour. 

The hotel staff were very understanding and allowed me to hunker down in a corner in the main lobby while my room was prepared for me. It allowed my to engage in one of my favourite pst times … people-watching. I was less focussed on where the people came from - it was largely Americans and Mexicans, though I did actually meet a couple from the Netherlands and a girl backpacker from Austria - than I was at their age. It is somehow comforting to know that even with 50 years behind me, I still count as “young” compared to the majority of the visitors here. The Austrian was the youngest person I met, she had to be in her early twenties. The oldest was nearing her 100th birthday and came from just south of the border from San Diego, the town of Tijuana and had decided to visit San Antonio with her children, her grand-children and her great grand-children. I was sooooo impressed by that, I could only wonder if I would be capable of such a feat in another 10 years, let alone another 50 (I doubt that I will live that long, but you never know, right).

Then just after 1:30pm my room was ready and I wasted no time in moving in and getting freshened up before heading out. I had not scheduled any events for this day, just in case I needed to catch up on some sleep after the long 15 hour train journey. As it happens, I was not that tired in spite of the hours spent at the train station and the 16 block hike, so I wanted to go and explore what the city had to offer to know where to go the next day.

As this was Texas, I was determined to buy myself an authentic cowboy hat and it did not take long before I had located my first quarry of the day. I found it in a shop that was closing down and everything was discounted. That explains why I picked up a hat that usually costs 60 Dollars for just 20 bucks. In no time at all, I had reached  the city centre and its river network. It was simply spectactular, but this was just a reckie. The next day would give me plenty of opportunity to scope out all that the city had to offer. So after another quick stop off at 7-Eleven, I made it back to the hotel for an early night, once I had typed up the latest account of this blog.

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