Lots of driving between Grand Canyon and San Antonio

I left the Grand Canyon at around 11 AM, and I took the scenic drive down highway 64 before I got back on the major highways. About all I did was drive for the next two days, but it helped me remember that I love driving. At many times I was the only car on the road, and I just get a kick out of being the only car I can see on a major highway. I also discovered something I had never known about speed limits. In much of Arizona and Texas, the speed limit is 80 MPH!! I was surprised enough that Nevada had some 75 MPH limits, but then I saw this for much of AZ and TX:

80 mph

I got from the Grand Canyon to San Antonio in about a day and a half of driving. The landscapes and sunset in New Mexico were pretty (despite my crappy in-car, in-motion photography):

Sunset AZ

And I had never heard of this town in New Mexico either…

Truth or Consequences

I also took a friend’s advice, and when I was driving through New Mexico at night I stopped on the side of the road to look at the stars. It really was remarkable – there were at least three times as many stars visible to the naked eye as normal. It looked like the sky you know, just with freckles and chicken pox. I tried to take some pictures, but they did not turn out at all. In case you don’t believe me, here’s one:

no stars

Other than that, there weren’t really any interesting stops or landmarks between the Grand Canyon and San Antonio. I decided to just press on and keep driving so I could get to my sister’s house in San Antonio by Friday evening. Thanks to the 80 MPH speed limit, I made great time.

THE Texas Experience

My brother-in-law knew I was coming in town as part of my cross-country trip and he really outdid himself at lining up some activities that were fantastic exclusively Texan experiences.

Rudy’s Barbecue – I had been to Rudy’s before, when I had visited San Antonio before, but I knew it was worth another trip. I honestly never liked brisket before I had it at Rudy’s. This place is absolutely no frills, but the barbecue is good enough that they don’t need anything else. You just order the weight and type of meat you want and they serve it on wax paper with a stack of white bread. The brisket is heavenly and the turkey breast is amazingly flavorful. It helps if you have it with a gigantic sweet tea:

Rudy’s Food

They also have a uniquely delicious (albeit misspelled) sause:

Sause

Just to make sure you get a feel for the ambiance, this is what you’ll find in the men’s room:

pisser

and here’s an obligatory shot of my nephew – I know I’m biased, but I think he’s pretty cute.

nephew @ Rudy’s

and it was at lunch that we learned what the evening’s entertainment was going to be…

Rodeo Ticket

Yeah, that’s right.. the Rodeo. Not only would we get to see the Rodeo and all the Texan culture that the rodeo draws, but there was also a carnival and a livestock show right next door. AND one more surprise to be revealed shortly. First, here’s the scene before we got inside:

carnival 1

Carnival 2

We walked around outside for a while before we went into the Rodeo. One of the big attractions outside was pig racing (called Swifty Swine). They had two of the star pigs in a cage out front, and you could pay to buy some food to feed them, but first you better read this sign:

Swifty Swine

We also wandered among the food stands to find some dinner. For the main course, we went relatively tame with some tacos, but then we followed those up with this:

Fried Snickers

“A corndog?” you say? No. Not a corn dog. Though it did come from this pile:

fried things

But we’ve had corndogs before, and there’s nothing all that special about them. You can get corndogs anywhere. You’ll notice from the bottom sign that this booth also offered a slightly more rare delicacy:

food booth

yup – a battered and deep-fried snickers bar. From the outside it looks just like a corndog, but on the inside it’s quite different:

inside of snickers

That may look disgusting, and I’m sure it is one of the single unhealthiest food items in existence. Still, I must be honest… it was surprisingly very tasty. I had assumed each of us would only have one bite just for the novelty of being able to say we had tried it, but we had little trouble finishing the whole thing. I’m glad that due to geography I won’t often be tempted to try it again.

and on to The Rodeo!!

After that culinary adventure, we proceeded inside to find our seats in time for the rodeo. I made a pit stop at the restroom on the way and got a kick out of how the bathrooms were labeled so I took a picture (despite getting some strange looks):

cowboy bathroom

thankfully, city slickers were also allowed to use the same facilities. I’m not sure what’s going on around his belt line – I think that sign was just damaged.

I had been to a rodeo once before – my last big road trip when I moved from Chicago to San Francisco, we made a stop in Cody, WI. Cody is the rodeo capital of the world, and they have rodeos every night so of course I had to take one in. Still, I could tell this was going to be “the big show” and would have a bit more grandeur than the local show in Cody.

We’re not in San Francisco anymore:

If for any reason I wasn’t abundantly clear that there was a huge cultural chasm between San Francisco and San Antonio, the rodeo drove it home. They started off the festivities with a presentation of flags:

flag parade

Not that San Franciscans would have a problem with this kind of rampant patriotism, but I don’t think most events there would consider it an obligatory part of the intro. They followed the flags with a prayer. I honestly think it’s almost sad that it stood out to me that they prayed – they prayer was pretty non-denominational and I actually thought it was great. Just things like “here’s what we’re thankful for, and here’s what we hope for.” I’m just sure it wouldn’t happen at a public event like this in SF.

I also think PETA would have a lot of problems with some of the events that take place in a rodeo. Here’s a full description of the events that took place, I’ll just comment on a few after the pictures:

bareback riding

This is bareback riding. It looked challenging and was entertaining and I’m OK with it for the most part. The one curiosity is that it looks like they put a strap around the horse’s midsection, and it seems the purpose is to make the horse uncomfortable or unhappy so that he will buck. I did a very very brief internet search and couldn’t find any back-story about how this goes down. Oh well, on to the next event:

calf wrestling

Steer Wrestling: Cowboy jumps off horse, grabs steer by the horns, then grabs the muzzle to try to flip the steer over. Fastest time is best. Looks challenging and uncomfortable to the steer, but MMA has taught me that many uncomfortable-looking things don’t really do much damage. I’m sure the steers can handle it.

roping

Tie-down roping – yeah, it’s about what you’d expect. The craziest part is that the lasso that goes around the calf’s neck is attached to the horse’s saddle. Once the calf is lassoed, the horse knows to back up – to keep the rope tight. Crazy.

bull riding

Bull Riding – probably the most famous rodeo event. As this (crappy) picture shows, sometimes the bull wins. Just in case things get hairy, the do still have rodeo clowns to distract the bull if needed:

clown

All in all, the rodeo was good entertainment and a great Texas experience. The one major shortcoming is that I’m very VERY allergic to horses, and even in the 31st row, I started to have a hard time with my allergies. Luckily I planned head and before things got dire my Claritin started kicking in.

The Big Surprise

As I alluded above, the rodeo wasn’t all that was in store for us that night. Each night that the rodeo was in town ended with a concert. We hit the jackpot… at the conclusion of the rodeo Lynyrd Skynyrd took the stage!!! Check it out

circular stage 1

a circular stage was brought in by tractor

skynyrd 1

the band rocked as the stage rotated

skynyrd 2

The jumbo-tron shows that the (not-the-original) lead singer looks old and rough.

I have to say, this was not the most energetic concert I’ve seen in a while, and maybe only 50% of the audience were big skynyrd fans, but it still was a fun show. I knew nearly every song they played, and of course they closed with a long version of Freebird. I can add to my life’s list of boasts that I’ve seen a live rendition of Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Overall, I couldn’t have hoped for much more out of my visit to San Antonio. Again thanks to my brother-in-law for lining up the festivities. As if that wasn’t enough, he took me out on Sunday afternoon to see the Alamo and the Riverwalk:

Alamo

The Alamo (that guy on the step ladder was also preaching about Jesus to no one in particular – a nice touch)

The Riverwalk

The Riverwalk.

I had planned on leaving San Antonio on Monday morning, but I got a late start, and the weather was crappy, and I was behind on my blog. Besides, it’s nice to be around family and I’m not in a hurry to get anywhere.

What’s Next? I am heading out in the morning tomorrow for New Orleans. And this time I really do have to go because I already got a fantastic deal on hotwire.com – I’ll be staying at the W in the French Quarter for about 50% of their normal asking price. Hooray for hotwire and hooray for me 🙂 I’ll let you know how things go in New Orleans.

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