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Road Trip Adventures, Roadside Attractions, Crazy DIY Projects, Texas Fishing, Rock Hounding and more......

Past Adventures

Spanish Missions of Texas and Santa Anna's Trail - 2004

The sights include : The Fannin Battlegrounds, Goliad State Park and Mission Espiritu Santo, Presidio La Bahia,  the Fannin Memorial, General Zaragoza Memorial, Goliad, TX, The Alamo, the San Antonio River Walk, the Wooden Nickel Museum, the Toilet Seat Art Museum, Cousin Melvin's Stone Walls, Historic Castroville, TX, La Coste, TX and the Spanish Mission Trails of San Antonio.

Forward : (As always, click on the picture for for a larger image and click on the links for photos surprises.)

          In my last story, Hello Brazosport - Part II, I discussed the recent remake of the Alamo movie and the historic sites and people in the Brazosport area that contributed to the Texas Revolution. 

          Dad and I discussed the events on occasion and poor dad thought Santa Ana defeated the Texans at Goliad first before coming to San Antonio and defeating the Texans at the Alamo.  No dad, after the Alamo, Santa Ana split up his army, sent one half to Goliad to battle Colonel Fannin and then he and the rest of his troops chased General Houston's troops to San Jacinto where Santa Ana was finally defeated by Sam Houston.  The argument then got bloody.  Dad gave me a fat lip and so I bit dad's ear off.

          So, mom got upset and got out a blank set of stem cells and proceeded to clone dad a new ear.  Then, she kicked us out of the house.  Well dad, get in the car and lets head out to Goliad, TX to find out.  The truth is out there!

Star Date : 12/27/2004 - On to Goliad

          From Lake Jackson, we headed north on Hwy 332 and then in Brazoria, we picked up Hwy 36 north.  When we reach West Columbia, I wanted to take Hwy 35 south and then pick up Hwy 71 in past Bay City to Hwy 59 and then south to Goliad.  But dad said no, its too slow, the roads are bad and too many lights.  Well, since dad paid for the first tank of gas,  we proceeded to his route via Hwy 36 to Needville, CR 360 to Hwy 59 and then traveled south.  In Wharton, we made a quick stop to take a photo of the Wharton County Courthouse.  Unfortunately, It looks like it is going through some major renovation!  We continued our journey through Victoria and made our first stop in Fannin, TX.

          The Fannin Battleground State Historic Park was easily found.  From Hwy 59, turn south onto CR 2506 and follow the signs on inThe obelisk is a memorial to the Texan soldiers who died at the battle of Coleto Creek.  The park does have a nice pavilion area in addition to an interpretative center

          So we entered the interpretative Center to find the truth!  There upon the walls were the information posters detailing the events that led up to the massacre of the Texans in Goliad. 

          After the defeat of the Texans at the Alamo, Santa Ana divided his army into two.  He sent General Urrea south to Goliad to defeat the Texans holding out at the La Bahia Spanish Mission.  Santa Ana then began his chase of Sam Houston's army east.  Sam Houston had ordered Colonel Fannin, who was stationed at the La Bahia Spanish Mission in Goliad, to retreat north to Victoria.  Fannin took too long to retreat and was soon in battle with the Mexican army near the banks of Coleto Creek just north of Goliad.  There, Fannin surrendered, upon assurances that he and his men would be treated as prisoners of war.  Unfortunately, Santa Ana commanded General Urrea to execute Fannin and his men.  Therefore in the game of Texas History, Dad 0, Francis 1.  I hope you get your ear back dad.

          We left the park and continued south again on Hwy 59, entered Goliad and then proceeded south on Hwy 183.  We soon found Goliad State Park a few miles to our right and found the park's visitor center.  In addition to the normal park facilities, the main attraction was the Mission Espiritu Santo.  This was your typical Spanish mission used to convert the heathen Indians to Christianity.  The church inside was quite beautiful, but we had no time for a sermon or to confess our sins.  We exited the church and noticed this cannon guarding the entrance to the museum.   Heck, even the nuns guarded it with their lives.  We checked out their exhibits and then explored the grounds and courtyards.  There were lots of walls made of rock.  But where did all these rocks come from.  Geologically, aren't we still too close to the coast to see outcroppings?

          I found one of the park rangers and asked where the monks who built the mission got all their rocks.  The ranger stated that the rocks were quarried out of the San Antonio river and I could find the quarry site by taking their nature trail.  Dear Pet Owners, sorry, no dogs allowed.  We hit the trail and unfortunately dad slammed into a low laying branch, however, I did find the quarry and a great view of the San Antonio river.  I then called mom and told her to start cloning a new forehead for dad.

          We then left the park and headed further south on Hwy 183 until we found the La Bahia Mission just to our left.  It was this old Spanish mission in which Colonel Fannin and his men held and in which he and his men were executed as prisoners of war.  We entered the visitor center and checked out their exhibits and the usual movie.  We finally entered the mission grounds and quickly determined why Fannin wanted this place so bad.  It was well fortified.  The inside of their church was also well restored and they even had a small flag room represented the flags of the various states in which the men who fought for Texas independence came from.  Across the street was a small gift shop and about a block down from the mission was the Fannin memorial and grave site.  I don't really know who General Zaragoza is, however, near the Fannin memorial is a monument to him and his accomplishments.

          From outside the La Bahia visitor center, I thought I saw a building in town that looked like it could be a possible court house.  Dad said it was since Goliad used to be his old running grounds as a kid and many of my relatives from my dad's side lived here.  So, we hit the town square for my photo op of the Goliad county court house.  While in town we checked out the businesses around the town square.  Dad said the red building in this picture used to be the old movie house where one could see a picture show for 10 cents!  We also found my great uncle Leonard Von Dohlen's pharmacy which still operates today.  I'm sure if Uncle Leonard was alive he would give me a recommendation to get into Pharmacy school.  We managed to find a cafe and had our lunch.

          We had made plans to spend the night with my Uncle Tom and Aunt Kathy in San Antonio and use their home as base camp for further adventures.  So after lunch we left Goliad and headed north on Hwy 239.  If dad was correct in his Texas history, Santa Ana would have enjoyed these roads and what they offer.  In Kennedy, we picked up Hwy 181 and continued north.  It was a pleasant drive until I got a speeding ticket in Poth.  There was a lot of construction on the south side of San Antonio, so please be careful.  We finally arrived for the evening and my aunt Kathy was reading her favorite magazine and my uncle Tom was still doing his chores out back.  We ate, caught up on family stories and then retired for the night dreaming of the next day's adventures.

Star Date : 12/28/2004 - The Normal San Antonio tourist stuff, some wacky stuff and cousin Melvin's Stone Walls

          The next morning, Kathy made us breakfast.  I had some cereal and dad's toast came out looking like President Bush instead of the Virgin Mary.  So we quickly got on E-Bay and sold it for enough money to pay for the day's parking and museum fees.

          Tom volunteered to drive us around so we all piled into his truck.  As we headed toward downtown area, we saw the more familiar roadside attraction that most people relate to the San Antonio skyline and the first stop was the River Center, a nice trendy mall much like the West End of Dallas.  This is also a great place to park.  If you get a vender inside the mall to validate your parking ticket, then you'll get a few bucks off the cost of parking.

          We immediately made a b-line to the Alamo.  Believe it or not, the famous circular and inverse arch shape architecture for which the Alamo is famous for, was not built until many years after the battle of the Alamo.  They did have a very good gift shop and a nice outdoor mall area displaying a pictorial history of the mission and its history.  Across the street was a memorial for the Texans who met their death here.

          Across the street from the Alamo are plenty of other sights to visit such as the Guiness Book of World Records Museum and the Ripley's Haunted Adventure.   Another interesting sight is the Buckhorn Hall of Horns Museum and Bar.  I have never seen so many horns on display.  The real creepy area is their museum where one can find stuffed animals with more than one head and some with five legs for about $ 11.00.  We had to pass on that since we really didn't make that much money off of dad's toast.  We also visited the famed Menger Hotel which is suppose to be haunted.  Although it was closed, we did try to check out the Menger Bar in which Teddy Roosevelt used to recruit his Rough riders brigade.  Down below of coarse was the San Antonio river walk.  I visited this area as a kid and back then all the shops, restaurants and hotels were all quite unique with their local names.  Unfortunately today, they are all owned by those trendy names we are all familiar with such as Chiles and Dick's Last Resort.  I'm surprised that McDonald's doesn't have a restaurant there.  Well, that commercialized progress for you.  Even the Hyatt has diverted part of the river walk to run through their hotel.  Bear in mind that the river walk is really a small diversion of the San Antonio river.  Of coarse there was St. Joske's on Commerce Street, oh, I mean St. Joseph's.   Them Germans sure did enjoy building them stone churches.

          We finally left the down town area and headed to our next destination.  The Wooden Nickel Museum.  As we drove north on Broadway Street, we passed the Incarnate Word College.  I hear they will be opening up a new Pharmacy school here in next year, so I just might wind up here.  We finally found the museum on 345 Austin Road.  In front of the museum/shop was the world's larges wooden nickel.   Inside the shop, we met up with Herb Hornung, the propriety who gave us a quick tour of the museum and also explained the manufacturing process of making wooden nickels.  He even showed us his vault of the largest wooden nickel collection ever!   He wouldn't let me take a picture of his office due to that he didn't want his competition to know how he does his work.  But, I snuck in a shot!

          We thanked Herb for the tour and yeas we left with a couple his business cards, err, I mean wooden nickels.  Our next destination was the Toilet Seat Museum!   Along the way on Broadway street, we found another Icon of American eateries, the Pig Stand Cafe.  Although there are several of these spots in the city and a popular spot to eat, I think I will pass.  We finally found the museum on 239 Abiso Street in the Alamo Heights area.  There, I met Barney Smith, who posed with me and his Geo-caching toilet seat.  Of coarse with being a geo-cacher, I had to sign his seat!  Each piece of his artwork has a theme.  Of coarse like many other unique museums, Barney does have his movies in which re-runs of him on the Oprah and Montel Williams shows are played.  Barney is also an ol'e rock hound and uses his cabochon making skills in some of his art works.  One piece he is particularly proud of is his Sadam Hussein toilet seat in which an actual piece of Sadam's toilet is used!   Here's a few pieces of his work :

Cabochon's Used in a Cross

Polished Agates Lit Up from Behind

The Computer Age , A Million Dollars

Petrified Wood , Time Around the World

          Barney is retired from being a master plumber.  So, I guess this is why he uses toilet seats as an art medium, or his canvas.  Time for a quick lunch and onto cousin Melvin's place to check out his stone walls.

          Finding cousin Melvin's place was easy,  Simply head north from San Antonio on Hwy 281 and Bulverde is just to the west of the highway.  If fact, not that far from the Canyon Lake area.  My God, is this another Spanish mission?  No, it's cousin Melvin's place.  Bear in mind, Melvin comes from German stock and you know how them Germans loved to build stone walls in the Texas Hill Country.  You might say that it is in his blood.  Here's a quick tour around Melvin's house ;

Back of the House Wall

Buckets of Sand and Gravel for Future Sidewalk

Cactus Growing Out of Walls , Backyard Courtyard

Fossils in Walls , Front Yard Walls , Maze to Shed

German Pictographs , Preparing for Sidewalks

Rock Stock for New Walls , Shrine to Virgin Mary

Virgin Mary Shrine # 2

          Well, this was simply amazing.  I later found this aerial shot of Melvin's house.  Dad asked Melvin why he was constructing all these walls and his answer was simply that it came to him in a dream.  Melvin began his wall construction back in 1973.  Bear in mind that all these walls are all held in place by gravity and that there is no mortar between the stones.  The next big question was where do you get your stones?  Melvin first used the stones found on his property until he ran out.  Then he met up with a lady friend whose nearby land in the Bulverde Hills has a limestone quarry on it.  Melvin is allowed to used the waste not suitable for building construction.

          Melvin quickly offered to show us the quarry and with a quick phone call we were on our way.  As we proceeded to the quarry, Melvin first had to show us his church.  Upon the hill of the church was the smallest Catholic church in Texas!  As we drove through the canyon roads of the Bulverde Hills, Tom had to be quite careful due to all the deer running around!

          We made it to the quarry and were given the grand tour by the land owner.  First, land is cleared and a slab saw connected to a tractor is used to cut the rock into specified sections.  Next, a front-end loader breaks the rock from the ground and carries it to the mother of all slab saws!  Not just any slab saw, but a Cobra SXL!  Just the blade on that monster cost $ 30,000.00!  Once the rock is cut into its next size requirements, it then goes to this log, I mean stone splitter.  From there, the finished product is just piled up ready to be used in a new house or building.  From the quarry site, Melvin pointed out the highest elevation in Comal county where some radio towers were erected.  Elevation : 1,500 feet.

          It was a long day and quite an adventure.  We were all tired and headed back to the house.  But, before I left Melvin handed me off a few fossils found in the Bulverde Hills.  The fossil clams and snails found here and just to the east in the Canyon Lake area always seem so much bigger than the ones I have found in the Glen Rose/Waco areas.  This is probably due to some ancient nuclear accident.  Kathy served us up dinner, caught up on the news and then off to bed to get ready for tomorrow's adventure.

Star Date : 12/29/2004 - Historic Castroville, La Coste and the San Antonio Mission Trail

          Of coarse the morning started out with another wonderful breakfast.  Thanks Kathy!  Tom volunteered to drive again and our first stop was historic Castroville, TX.  Out of San Antonio, we headed west on Hwy 90 which lead straight to Castroville.  As you enter town, you will find Haby's Bakery to your right.  Haby's was our first stop for their bread.  And guys, if you don't go in for the bread, go in for the cute German blonde lady's who work there!  After checking out the girls, err, I mean bought our bread we continued into town to visit the Sunday house of my ancestors from 4 generations back. 

          First a word on Sunday houses and Castroville.  In a nutshell, a man named Henri Castro founded the city and helped Germans living in an area of France known as the Alsace region, migrated to his new city.  Castro designed the city so that the settlers living on farms and ranches outside the city would also have plots within the city to build homes on and stay for Sunday services, socialize with the community and gather up their weekly supplies.  There are quite a few of these historic homes in the area and many have been turned into restaurants and Bed & Breakfast's.  I believe Fredericksburg, TX was also set up the same way.  We noticed that these Germans also had a sense of humor

          Other areas of interest was the first St. Louis Catholic Church.  One can get a good feeling of the stone architecture from inside.   From its size, them Germans quickly out grew it so they built another one.  The church of St. Louis also has an interesting cemetery.   Mexicans on the left, Germans on the right.  Even their dead have their own mail box.  I guess cousin Melvin wasn't around to build their stone walls or else I believe theirs would still be up.  Also off of Hwy 90 is the old Steinbach House which was originally from the Alsace region, broken down, transport here and rebuilt.

         One of the last attractions to visit was the Landmark Inn.  It is now a Texas State Historic Site and a Bed & Breakfast.  This is the location for the first camp site for Henri Castro.  There are quite a few old structures on the ground that have been set up as rooms.  Their old gristmill was located here and they even converted it to steam power.  The Medina river and dam is just below the inn's grounds with the Steinbach house on the other side. The dam is famous for their recreational water sports.

          Well, we got the bread for Kathy and it was time to head on out to La Coste, TX to pick up that great German sausage for mom.  (This is the same sausage that I have been serving up for some of you guys at various get together's) From Castroville, we head south on what is known as the Old Medina River Road or for you map nerds out there, CR 4713.  The Medina River still has not recovered from their recent floods in the area.  But, we made it into town and there really isn't much to the town either.  However, we found the the meat market!  They also have some of the best beef jerky that I have ever had.  While in town, have a beer at Rhin's Place and pray that no bricks fall on you!

     We made our way back to San Antonio via CR 471, Loop 1604 and then north on I-35.  Once we were back on Hwy 90 heading east,  we saw our first sign to the Mission Trail.   Finally, the last tour of the day before heading back home.  It was time to hit the Mission Trails of San Antonio.  We followed the Mission Trail map and the following is a pictorial tour of the old Spanish missions we visited :

Mission Concepcion - Main mission was the conversion of the Indians to Christianity.

The Mission Concepcion

Inside Concepcion's Church

Concepcion's Exhibits

Mission San Jose - Noted as the "Queen of the Missions".  It is quite impressive.

The Mission San Jose

Inside San Jose's Church

San Jose's Courtyard

Inside the Walls

Mission Espada - Noted for providing the vocational skills in the production of agriculture implements and textiles.

Entrance to Mission Espada

Mission Espada

Inside Espada's Church

Espada's Courtyard

Espada's Church Grounds

Mission San Juan - Noted as a supplier of agriculture produce and ranching.

Entrance to Mission San Juan

Mission San Juan

Inside San Juan's Church

Jesus in an Aquarium

San Juan Museum

          My mission here is complete.  We headed back to Tom and Kathy's and had another great meal before dad and I left for home.  Dad and I traveled due east on I-10/Hwy 90, probably the same trail Santa Ana took in chasing down Sam Houston's army back to San Jacinto.  But, that was last years adventure.  As we reached Hwy 36, we headed north to Bellville to grab a photo of the Bellville County Courthouse.   They also had a traditional little town square for you antique junkies and an interesting old jailhouse.  After that photo-op, so we headed south on Hwy 36 to complete the rest of our journey home.  One last note, as we passed through Richardson on Hwy 36, we made a quick 3 mile trip east into Richmond to take a county courthouse photo of the Fort Bend County courthouse.  I think I will soon be adding a Texas County Courthouse page to this website soon.

           The next day, dad starts telling me about the "Black Bean Story."  Something about Texas Revolutionary soldiers in La Grange, TX who had been captured in Goliad.  The men who drew white beans lived and the men who drew black beans were executed.  Dad's running out of ears so I told him to read this :

The Mier Expedition

and this.....

The Black Bean Episode

       So, until next time, take care and I'll  See you... on the road, or in the workshop, (which is really just my garage) !!!!

                                                     Francis                        

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 Copyright 1999 by [The Texas Road Runners - Francis Kiefel]. All rights reserved.