Octagonal Bank of New Zealand banker's desk carved from Australian red cedar, Dunedin, circa 1883.

Octagonal Bank of New Zealand banker's desk carved from Australian red cedar, Dunedin, circa 1883.
Octagonal Bank of New Zealand banker's desk carved from Australian red cedar, Dunedin, circa 1883.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

We arrived home Tuesday and completed a 10 km Tribute to Freedom walk this morning - Saturday, October 14, 2023

Here's a current blog to say we safely made it home on Tuesday, October 10, with no major breakdowns in our three months on the road. Our vacation ended on Sunday, October 8, after a walking weekend in Palo Duro Canyon State Park with the West Texas Trail Walkers. Their walks are mostly hard hikes. I generally do the shorter, gentler walks and hikes. We spent Sunday night in Canyon, Texas, to recuperate, instead of heading out after the last hike.

It's nice not to rush home on a long, ten- or twelve-hour day. We like to stop at a picnic or rest area and give the cats a respite from the rolling 5th wheel. We eat our lunch and take a break. The cats get fed, have time to use the cat box, and get lovies. Sometimes, they get special crunchy treats for being good traveling cats.

On Monday morning, October 9, we left Canyon at 7:00 a.m. for our 225-mile, seven-hour drive to the Bar J Hitchin' Post RV park in Sweetwater, Texas. Bob had a business phone call scheduled for the afternoon and we wanted to be set up on our RV site by that time. 

At Bar J Hitchin' Post RV Park in Sweetwater, Texas, we were in an RV park with generously sized sites. It is adjacent to I-20, separated only by an access road and a Freddy's Steakburger fast food restaurant. There is a constant hum from traffic and semi-trucks on the interstate. It doesn't bother me because when I take my hearing aids out at night, I can't hear any highway noise.

Across the road from the RV park is a Love's Truck Stop. There is a brand new Love's RV park there. I didn't see it, but Bob thought it looked nice because it was new, but it didn't have any trees. 

Here are photos of Bar J Hitchin' Post RV Park.

Our site for one night at Bar J Hitchin' Post
RV Park is just off I-20 in Sweetwater, Texas.

Our view out the back window was the park office and the Love's Truck Stop neon sign. We had a pretty sunset to the west. We couldn't see it from our site, so it's good that I went out to take photos!

Bar J Hitchin' Post RV Park, Sweetwater, TX.

Sunset at Bar J Hitchin' Post RV Park,
Sweetwater, TX.

On Tuesday, October 10, we once again left at 7:00 a.m. for our 270-mile ride back to San Antonio. The advantages of leaving early were a gorgeous sunrise and very light traffic. Here are photos of the sunrise. [Please forgive the reflection in the car windshield and any bug streaks.] 

Sunrise south of Sweetwater, TX.
Sunrise south of Sweetwater, TX.
Sunrise south of Sweetwater, TX.
Sunrise south of Sweetwater, TX.

Today, we drove through one of the largest concentrations of wind turbines in the United States. Based on data from WindExchange, Texas is the leading state in number of wind turbines with the highest installed capacity measured in megawatts. Installed capacity is the amount of electricity a wind turbine can generate. The more wind turbines a state has, the higher its installed capacity will be. Texas's installed capacity was 6,775MW in August 2022. The second highest was Oklahoma at 2,329MW. (from a report on January 13, 2023, by saveonenergy.com website).

We made it back to our home park at 1:00 p.m. Wednesday, October 11, picked up our heap of mail and spent the rest of the day unpacking almost everything out of the RV and returning it back to our home. Our phones recorded three miles of schlepping our belongings across the interior RV park street. 

AND THEN, Bob spent a few hours steam cleaning all the dirt out of our carpets. What a guy! Thank you, Titanium Man. We put fans and heaters in our RV to get the carpets dry. [NOTE: No matter how much we tried to get the carpets dry, with San Antonio's humidity, they were still damp Wednesday night. We put both our fans on high where the carpets were the wettest. We also turned on the heat in the 5th wheel. By morning, the carpets were drier.] 

Meanwhile, I did 12 loads of laundry and unpacked all the stuff we brought back into the house. We put the clean throw rugs, bedding, and towels back into the RV in the evening. From 10 p.m. to midnight, I cleaned the RV kitchen and the bathroom, including mopping.

Thursday morning, October 12, we put the slides in and drove the 5th wheel to the storage lot. We had to shoehorn our 5th wheel into a narrow spot between two other trailers. Bob did an excellent job!

Bob went back to work with his clients at 10 a.m. and spent the day out of the house. I had my doctor's appointment to schedule carpal tunnel surgery and sign the consent forms. (I had put off having the surgery for the duration of our Northwest trip.) I will have surgery Monday morning, November 6. It is an outpatient surgery with sedation and I should be there for approximately three to four hours. I will not be able to drive for 3-7 days. Then I shopped at Costco to replenish food in the house.

Friday, October 13, included more chores and shopping at Walmart. I also got my Jeep washed. It was filthy after sitting for three months under the huge oak tree. I had a cover on it, but dirt got under it anyway.

Today, Saturday, October 14, is AVA: America's Walking Club's "Tribute to Freedom Walk" which included the annular eclipse. Normally, our South Texas clubs start their walks early in the morning for the cooler temperatures. Today's walk started at 10:00 a.m. so we would be walking during the eclipse. Believe it or not, it was cloudy and a cold wind was blowing this morning at 10:00 a.m. I'm glad I wore a sweater! 

The heavy cloud cover begged the question, "Will we be able to see the eclipse?" This is a brand new walk for our area so, eclipse or not, we will be seeing new sights.

The walk started at New Life Christian Church Center just outside Lackland Air Force Base off U.S. 90 in San Antonio, Texas. Our first point of interest was the Galilee Prayer Garden. We wandered around through the different sections of the church's outdoor exhibits including a pond, a replica of the Western Wall in Israel, Biblical quotes throughout the garden, and the San Antonio 9/11 Memorial Garden with its Eternal Flame.

Memorial Park at New Life Christian Church Center,
San Antonio, TX.

The Pond in the Prayer Garden.

Information on the Western Wall (replica
pictured in the photo below).

Western Wall replica. 

What is the difference between the Western Wall and the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem? According to www.TouristIsrael.com, the Western Wall, also known as "The Wailing Wall" or the "Kotel," is the most religious site in the world for the Jewish people. Located in the Old City in Jerusalem, its significance lies in the fact that it is the last remnant of the original retaining wall that surrounded the Second Temple, which was built over 2,000 years ago, and an incredibly important site of modern Israeli history.

From the Galilee Prayer Garden, we crossed a road to get to the San Antonio 9/11 Memorial and its Eternal Flame.

San Antonio's 9/11 Memorial Wall (in back)
and Eternal Flame tower (in front).

San Antonio's 9/11 Memorial Wall.

We continued around the 9/11 Memorial Wall to the Leon Creek New Life Trailhead. At this point, we followed along the outer fence of Lackland Air Force Base. Signs on the fence warned of trained guard dogs inside the fence. Our first checkpoint was just before the Tribute to Freedom sculpture.

While we walked this stretch of trail, we saw two trail maintenance workers cleaning up trash in the woods. One of them suddenly yelled and jumped back about three feet. He just missed stepping on a Coral Snake! Yikes! The second worker tried to capture the snake, but when we walked on they were still looking for it. 

Joint Base San Antonio, Lackland Air
Force Base.

We've driven on U.S. 90 past the sculpture below many times. Until today, we had never seen it up close and personal. WOW! 

Artist George Schroeder of San Antonio who designed the "Tribute to Freedom" sculpture below says it includes forms representing the five branches of the U.S. military surrounding a 75-foot tower. The central spire reminds us of the Washington Monument. Around the central spire, an airfoil-like wing and three curvilinear forms create a "protective shroud" around the symbol of the nation's capital. [Information is from elnina on flickr, January 31, 2019, and Brendan Gibbons' Trailist article in the San Antonio Report, August 7, 2022. Photos by Susan Alton, October 14, 2023.]

The 75-ft. tall "Tribute to Freedom" sculpture
by San Antonio artist George Schroeder.

"Tribute to Freedom" sculpture
by George Schroeder.
"Tribute to Freedom" sculpture
by George Schroeder.

"Tribute to Freedom" sculpture
by George Schroeder.

At night, white light illuminates the sculpture from Saturday to Thursday. Blue light commemorates the weekly graduation of Air Force Airmen basic training graduates every Friday night. We learn so many interesting things on our walks!

After exploring the ins and outs at the base of the sculpture, we turned around and headed back to the 9/11 Memorial. At the trail junction to the 9/11 Memorial, we turned east to follow another branch of the Leon Creek Greenway Trail. 

The cloud cover was heavy all morning and it looked like we wouldn't be able to see the eclipse. Every once in a while, a blue hole would open up overhead and we'd quickly put on our eclipse glasses.

Heavy cloud cover at 10:15 a.m.

By this time, the annular eclipse had started. It began at 10:23 a.m. With our eclipse glasses, we could see just a small "bite" taken out of the moon's silhouette.

After we turned onto the next part of the Leon Creek Greenway Trail. In one-quarter mile, we came to the fuselage of a C-130 Hercules Air Force plane behind a fence. This was the 5 km turn-around point.

The fuselage of a C-130 Hercules Air Force plane.

The 10 km walk passed underneath U.S. 90 and continued on the Leon Creek Greenway Trail. Here, there were big trees and shade, another place we could miss the eclipse because of the trees, leaves, AND clouds!

At the junction pictured below, we turned right, crossed a creek, and continued 20 feet (that's two stories) up a set of stairs. At the top of the stairs, we entered Levi Strauss Park and went past the soccer fields out to the Nelson W. Wolff Trailhead. This is where Camargo Park's minor league baseball field is located. As we neared the parking lot for the baseball field, we heard "The Addams Family" music playing and it looked like there was a small Halloween celebration with food trucks and booths. We weren't very close to it, so we had no idea what was going on.

I felt like goofing around while Bob took photos. LOL.

Silly Susan came out to play.

An Air Force jet practicing take-offs
and landings.

Cautions on the trailhead sign.

Other eclipse walkers coming toward us.

We went back down the stairs we had come up and headed to Rodriguez Park.

We went under the Old Highway 90 Bridge.

Leon Creek Greenway Trail to
Rodriguez Park.

If you were driving into the park,
this is the sign you would see.

The park had pretty purple, teal, and lime-green playground equipment, but I didn't take a photo (woulda, coulda, shoulda). There were a number of family events going on in the park. 

Our second checkpoint was here. We walked the length of the parking lot and then returned back through the park on the Leon Creek Greenway Trail.

By now, the eclipse was getting close to 90%. All the people with eclipse glasses kept checking the progress of the moon's transit in front of the sun. We saw a man and his son with no eclipse glasses. Bob stopped and let them look through his eclipse glasses and they were both amazed.

A quarter-mile later, we stopped where there was a clearing so we could watch the final minutes up to an almost-full annular eclipse. The clouds parted and we had a great view. 

I yelled and screamed when the eclipse was at its peak. That was to let other people know to put their glasses on. [That's what people did at the full solar eclipse in Nebraska in 2018. There were hundreds of people there yelling and screaming and oohing and aahing. It was fun.]

The eclipse "Ring of Fire" was terrific. A young lady was walking by us on the trail with her headphones on. I tried to get her attention by yelling at her to stop and look at the eclipse through my glasses, but she didn't hear me. The young men behind me (related to Ellen Ott) stopped her and handed her their eclipse glasses. She looked up at the sun and was truly amazed. The biggest smile spread over her face. It was priceless to see her demeanor completely change in an instant!

A part of the eclipse I didn't expect, because we didn't see it in Nebraska, was the dance of the eclipse shadows. Because we were standing near a tree with leaves, the eclipse shadows came through the tree onto the ground. Here is a photo of what I'm talking about, and a video as well.

Eclipse shadows on the sidewalk!

While on this walk, we met a new walker named Carmen. She was with us while we watched the eclipse. On the way back to the finish table, we chatted with her. She is Dutch and loves to walk! Her happiness was evident that she had found our group and she will be walking with AVA a lot more in the future. We hope to walk with her at more of our events!

Thank you to Cathy and Mike Schwencke of the San Antonio Pathfinders AVA Club for such an interesting walk. We had 117 walkers today to see the eclipse!

[NOTE: On April 8, 2024, there will be a full solar eclipse in Texas. AVA: America's Walking Club will have an eclipse walk in San Antonio, the exact location is to be announced. The solar eclipse totality will last approximately four minutes. It will get a lot darker than it did today. When we saw it in Nebraska, the sky turned a weird mauve color for about two minutes! There were no shadows at all.]

After the walk ended, we talked with Ellen Ott and then we hightailed it to Costco to buy a few items I forgot on Thursday. Bob wanted to get home in time to watch the Huskies and Ducks play. I don't like football, but I have to say, I found today's game really exciting, even though the Ducks lost. My son went to the University of Oregon and we lived in Oregon for over 35 years. Our sports allegiances are with the Ducks and the Blazers. The San Antonio Spurs are also on our radar since we've lived in San Antonio for almost 12 years (and they now have Victor Wembanyama!).

What a great day we had! 

Tomorrow, we will go to UTSA Recital Hall to see the world premiere performance of Texas composer Wesley S. Uchiyama Penix's new masterwork "A Traveler's Fantasy," with the South Texas Symphonic Orchestra. The performance is FREE!!