Sunday, 3 March 2013

Riding around San Antonio...

The beginning of the journey
Still feeling a little weary, but decidedly more upbeat about my hotel, which has a lot more character than the Crowne Plaza where my colleague is staying, I sauntered downstairs to see whether I could find a decent breakfast venue somewhere in downtown San Antonio. Already the sun was up and it was looking amazing outside, just like a stunningly hot summer's day in the UK in, say, mid-July. But then I heard the general cacophony of the hotel's breakfast room and decided to stay in.

The El Tropicano has a Mexican flavour about it; remember, we're virtually on the border here and the staff all seem to be Mexican or hispanic and it's great. The entire hotel has that Mexican Cantina air about it and I really like it, right down to the piped music, which isn't 'musak' but that upbeat Mexican brass sound that you get in movies like The Three Amigos.

Me and the bike, San Antonio, Sunday 2nd March 2013
Breakfast was self-service and, if it has to be said, but in a kind way, a little slapdash. Little things, like one knife and fork and spoon wrapped up in a napkin (albeit a cloth napkin, not paper). The problem is that when you finish your main course (in my case scrambled egg, sausage and fried potatoes cut into small cubes (lovely) it would be nice to have another knife to butter your toast. But they're not readily available so you have to ask, which is just a little irritating.

It was good to get tea with milk, even if I did have to ask, and the waitress brought orange juice to my table and was generally very helpful and down to earth. That's what I liked about the El Tropicano – it was down to earth and not up it's own arse.

Something else that was nice was the clientele: ordinary people, mainly Americans, some old, some young, some families, a good mixed bag and, fortunately, no businessmen. This was definitely not a businessman's hotel – it was the Harley, not the sportsbike of the hotel world, the Jeep, not the Jag, so to speak, but the room was good, as you can tell from my now traditional shot of the hotel bedroom. I really like the El Tropicano and guess what? The Rolling Stones have stayed here, probably way back in the sixties and who knows, they might well have occupied my room as it's huge, it overlooks the pool and it's the right height from which to throw a television set. Although, the nice flat-screen Hisense model dominating my room is probably a little hard to throw out of the window – and who would want to? (Alright, I have long harboured the fantasy of throwing a television set out of a hotel room window. One day, my friends, one day...).

Cycling around San Antonio

The Alamo where, sadly, Ozzy Osbourne misbehaved himself.
This morning, while out wandering about town I noticed, to my satisfaction that San Antonio has a number of what it calls B-Cycle stations dotted around. Later, after lunch and a long, tiring walk from The Alamo along Navarro and then North Saint Mary's to my hotel – in the afternoon heat – I spotted one of these stations and then noticed on the map provided by the hotel that the place was peppered with B-Cycle stations and one was a very short distance from the El Tropicano.

I was going to have a swim in the outdoor pool but believe me, the water was freezing, so I headed off towards the nearest cycle station and hired myself a bike. The deal here is $10 for half an hour and you're supposed to re-dock the bike and take out another one – the idea being you don't simply hog a bike all day. The $10 bought me a 24-hour pass, so I could go out now and get out another one, but I'm not going to, although I guess I could go out tomorrow morning. We'll see. Hey, I could ride to the Convention Center, the Henry B Gonzalez Convention Center, where I'll be for most of next week. As I say, we'll see.

View from the bike.
The shot on the left is the view from the bike. Note the lack of traffic on the road. 

 It was easy to get the bike out of the station, much easier than in Essen a week or two ago and soon I was on my way. Like the bikes in Essen, the Bixi bikes in Montreal and, of course, the Boris Bikes in the UK, the B-Cycles have baskets and a padlock. The basket carried my rucksack, which contained everything I'd need. I pulled out of the Navarro station and headed down North St Mary's, turning left on to Navarro, right into East Houston, right again into Soledad and then I lost track of what road I was in; the main thing was there was no traffic so I simply rode around town, stopping here and there to take photographs.

I found myself down by The Alamo and managed to get a photo taken of myself in front of the historical fort by an obliging gentlemen in a bright yellow Tee-shirt. By this stage I had no idea how to get back on to Navarro for the ride back to the hotel so I had to ask the man in the Tee-shirt for directions. It turns out it wasn't far away. I rode out on to East Houston from the Alamo Plaza and then across Jefferson and turned right on to Navarro. From there it was a straight road until I found North St Mary's and the bike station, which was hidden from view and, I'd imagine, quite difficult to find. I parked up the bike and then retraced my steps back to North St Mary and then left into Lexington to my hotel.
Back in the rack, the ride is over.

It was hot and I figured a cold Dos Equus would be worth drinking so I ordered one from the hotel bar and chilled for a while.

Comparing the three rides: Montreal, Essen and now San Antonio, the best was Montreal, followed by San Antonio and then Essen, although they were all good in their own way.

After San Antonio, I'm off to Knoxville, Tennessee, birthplace of Johnny Knoxville of Jackass fame and film diretor Quentin Tarrantino. If there are bikes there, I'll ride 'em. Then it's Los Angeles so hopefully there will be bikes there too, who knows?

Better go, I'm starving hungry and need something to eat, followed by a good night's sleep.

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