Burning Bright

Got home a bit ago after driving 16 hours from San Antonio. Trip was relatively uneventful and the weather was fairly decent after some early rain in Texas, late rain in Missouri. Clear enough to know when I was at my closest to the Western White House, and performed a little symbolic gesture signifying the level of my respect when I passed.

Trip was educational and enlightening, but will be the last solo cross-country trip I do. Without sharing the driving responsibilities with another, after a while the stress builds up and you can’t relax, even when there’s nothing to stress about. And when unusual events happen, you can overreact.

Tonight, coming over one of the passes in the dark and the rain in Missouri, I rounded a corner to be met by braked cars. I slammed on my brakes and hit my emergency signal, and then spotted the cause of the halt — a sports car was by the side of the road, completely engulfed in flames. No matter how much you see it on TV, in real life the effect of a burning car up close is a lot more of an impact, and a lot less entertaining.

(I imagine the same can be said of war.)

The fire department was there, but far back from the car. There was little they could do without shutting down the highway, and little that could be salvaged in the car. As for the tank exploding, that’s a pretty common myth about cars burning — cars rarely explode, I’ve been told.

However, if there had been police there, I have no doubts that the line of us that formed to inch past the car would not have been allowed when it was in full flame. I could feel the intense heat as we passed — this couldn’t have been the appropriate thing to do. Or maybe it is.

I saw three young men talking to one of the firemen, and am assuming they were from the car and no one was killed. Regardless though, you will think less of me when I say that not long after passing the car, I pulled over myself and for some reason started crying, and couldn’t stop for 30 minutes.

I do not cry that easily, I truly don’t. I think it was the shock of the car and the horror of the moment when I looked in the flames and thought that they might have engulfed people. And I’m tired. And a wuss.

Now, if I were a journalist I would have pulled over, grabbed my cameras and got some great pictures and possibly even sold one or two. But I’m not a journalist; only a writer of words and taker of an occasional picture, glad she’s home, and swearing that she will no long go on these solo cross-country trips.

And that she’s going to buy a fire extinguisher for her car.


Remember the Alamo, remember the facade

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Today was a day on foot rather than in car, and I’m feeling the difference tonight. However, my mission to San Antonio was a success and I was able to get a photo of the Alamo facade. It’s for a specific use, so I won’t be publishing it here, but I have another photo or two…or three…or so…that I’ll provide for your edification.

San Antonio is a beautiful city. A block from the hotel is La Villita, an old Texas village made into artist shops, and on the other side of it, the Riverwalk. This lovely meandering walk follows the natural course of the San Antonio river as it flows through the city. It exists as a result of an organized effort by the women of San Antonio to preserve the River’s natural boundaries, and also to prevent the River from being converted into a sewer system. Now it’s a wonderous place of color and music and restaurants, not to mention a place for various plays and other events.

Across the street from the hotel is the Hemisfair Park, including the Tower of the Americas, which I’ll visit another day. A couple of blocks from there is the center of San Antonio tourism – the famous Alamo.


The Alamo was packed – people literally everywhere. It would be nice if there was a way to connect disparate pieces of online information rather than have to gather it all together, manually. For instance, I could pick my destination to visit and provide the date, and find a hotel in San Antonio using Hotwire, and then get explicit driving directions from Mapquest. However, a third component would have event information that would then provide me a warning that the weekend I picked also happens to be the weekend before the famous Alamo Bowl, one of the highly popular college Bowl games.

I thought about taking one of the river boat rides, until I saw the line.


Despite the crowds, there’s always a quiet place you can get away to, to relax or to play.


I ended up having lunch at a Mexican food place, sitting at a table by the river. However, other diners preferred different cuisine.


The newspapers in the stands all around the area I walked today were full of the story of the tragedy in Iran. One had headlines that read, “Apocalypse in Iran!”, an accurate term because of the near total devastation of Bam. An odd term to pick, too, considering the religious connotations associated with the term, apocalypse.

My heart goes out to the families of the thousands who were killed, and all those left homeless or hurt. When you read how the town has had a rebirth recently and had been thriving, it’s destruction is that much more bitter. Our history is also left poorer at the devastation of a temple that has lasted through the ages – 2000 years old, and now, totally destroyed. Look at the photos to better understand this loss, and though we say that the cost of human life far exceeds that of a bunch of mud bricks, the loss of history, and heritage can have an impact on the people, long after the tears are dried. Bam may be rebuilt, but it will no longer be Bam.

Heritage. This was never more understandable than when walking about the Alamo here in San Antonio, a modern building by comparison but no less symbolic to a people, and not just people in the US if the visitors were any indication.

(Of course, the story of the Alamo is one of ‘bravery in the face of oppression’, but there is always more to a story then the first one you hear; however I’m too tired tonight and that will have to wait another day.)

I am so glad that the national community, including the US, is helping the people in Iran – but we should have been there ten years ago, helping the people to bolster their homes and hospitals and heritage after the last devastating earthquake.

But that’s a story of boundaries, which will, also, wait another day. Tomorrow I drive home. By the way, during the trip I received news that a publisher has accepted my book proposal. I’m back in business.


Photography Travel

San Antonio

I left San Diego at a reasonable time Christmas day and ran into the storm in the hills that ended up causing the southern California mud slides. Along the way I could see the extensive fire damage, so am not surprised at the slides. Visibility was extremely poor, but aside from the heart stopping moment rounding a corner and coming up on a car stopped dead in the freeway lane, no problems.

In fact weather Thursday and Friday was beautiful, as I made my way first to Tucson, and then the long, long trip to San Antonio.

I put my faith in digital magic on this trip, using Mapquest to get directions to all the places to stay, and using Hotwire to find the places. Thursday’s was a lovely one bedroom suite in Tucson, with a courtyard filled with palm and orange trees. Since I put a moratorium on tree photos for the nonce, you will not be treated with a photo of the palms, but I will share a photo of the view from my room’s balcony.


Friday, I read the Mapquest directions too literally and ended up somewhere past San Antonio. Thanks to two incredibly kind people I met up with at a small store I found, I was able to make my way back to the hotel with no problems, and had a lovely chat in the bargain. Social software is good, but only if there’s kind people to help you when you fall through the gaps between the bytes.

I am staying a couple of days at this incredibly funky place right next to Riverwalk, Tower of the Americas, and the Alamo: the Fairmont. It’s a 37 room historic hotel that’s been modernized, sort of. I have a one bedroom suite on the first floor facing on the ancient courtyard, with lovely, huge windows covered with antique wooden blinds in the living room and bedroom. Part of the furniture is modern, including one of those famous office chairs that cost a fortune, but the rest — mainly tables and side chairs — is old. Ceilings are 16 feet tall with wooden trim around everything; there’s a slightly musty smell in living room, a large marble bathroom with a scale, of all things, big bedroom with very comfy bed you can sink into, and I’m not sure how the heat works — but there’s a broadband connection skillfully threaded through the base of the antique lamp table. This is in addition to the wireless internet access in all of the common areas, including the little French courtyard.


It’s the combination of old and new that adds to the funk of the building. Not only that, but the place has a history. It was built in 1906 to be a railroad hotel. In 1985 Wyndham had the entire structure jacked up on wheels and moved several blocks over a period of 6 days, giving the hotel the Guinness Record for largest structure ever moved — all 3.2 million pounds of it.

The staff, like so many other people I’m finding in San Antonio are genuinely friendly and welcoming. I think I love it — the hotel and the city.

(The hotel is also extremely romantic, and my suite is much too large for one — something to keep in mind if you’re thinking of treating your significant other to a weekend in San Antonio; just make sure you can live with that combination of old and new — it is very different.)

This trip along I8 and I10 (or HI10 as they call it here in SA), was my Christmas gift to myself. I10 in particular is called the ‘lost interstate’ because it’s very isolated. What a joy to get away from the traffic and stress in California and to spend two days in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas desert and praire. Contrary to popular opinion, the desert country of these states is not plain and dull, but is, instead, beautiful in its austerity.


However, cutting the trip one day short and taking a direct route home to St. Louis tomorrow, rather than the roundabout ride through Baton Rouge. I’ve driven over 4000 miles in the last week, and I’m ready for home. For today, it’s the Riverwalk and the Alamo.