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August 22 - September 3, 2015
House-Sitting for Ron and Prudence


Prudence and Ron, Guy, and Nancy and Karl all left for Europe on August 13th. I've agreed to house-sit for Ron and Prudence from August 22nd until September 3rd.

Since I'll be taking Jax to doggy daycare three times a week, and since it's best I do that in Prudence's SUV, they drove it up here for their departure ten days ago. I took them to the airport in it and then brought it back to my house, and will drive it down to San Antonio for my house-sitting gig.

We had originally hoped that Steve and Mario would be able to come and spend two or three days in San Antonio; they have never been to Ruckman Haus. Fred would ride down with them and then he could drive back with me when I bring Prudence's SUV back here to pick them up at the airport. The good news was that Mario has a new job, but the bad news is that this means that all they will be able to do is drive down to San Antonio on Friday evening and drive back on Sunday afternoon. Not a long time with us down there, but we will make the best of it.



Heading Down to Ruckman Haus

You have probably seen an album page where we visit San Antonio, but in case you haven't, I want to show you the route to San Antonio from Dallas and where Prudence and Ron and Guy are located.

On the maps below, you can see the route to the Ruckmans' house. It is an easy matter to simply hop on I-35E from the Tollway in Dallas and take that highway all the way south through Austin to San Antonio. This 280-mile trip routinely takes about 4.5 hours. In San Antonio, we continue to follow I-35 into the city, eventually exiting onto San Pedro Avenue. We take that north about two miles, and either hang a left on Ashby and a right on Breeden or just a left on French to get to the Ruckmans' house on the northeast corner of Breeden and French.

In case you have not seen them, I have put below first an aerial view of the Ruckmans' house (it is the house on the corner and the garage/apartment building north of it where Guy lives) and a front view of the house (taken in 2010).



My House-Sitting Routine

I arrived at Ruckman Haus about 2PM on Saturday, and Alma was just finishing up with cleaning some of the rooms. Apparently, Prudence had arranged to have some friends of hers and some of Debbie Crawford's kids stay in the house during the previous week, but they had all left early this morning. Alma had put all the laundry in the basement, and I resolved that I would do all of it during the coming week, so Prudence wouldn't be faced with it on her return.

Although Prudence had suggested that I stay in the master suite, I thought I would use the French Room instead; it's smaller and easier to darken at night. Plus, that would leave the master undisturbed, so again Prudence wouldn't have to make it up again on her return.

I fed Jax and Spot the cat twice a day as per Ron's video instructions, and on Monday, Wednesday and Friday took Jax to Lucy's doggy daycare for the morning. My other major task was to keep all Prudence and Guy's plants watered, which I did on alternate days. Prudence has lots of large pots out front and on the West Deck, quite a few in the East Garden, and Guy had a lot of window boxes and pots on his balcony over at the garage apartment. So I did the front and West Deck on one day and the garden and Guy's stuff on the next.

I brought my gym stuff, and every other day drove out to LA|Fitness to do some weights and use the recumbent bikes. (Although I couldn't watch my own TV shows as usual, I did use the bike time to read the current book for our book club.) I either went out to get stuff to eat or cooked a frozen pizza at home. And I brought my TV shows on their memory stick, and used the large TV down in Ron's mancave to watch some of them. The rest of the time, I used my laptop to work on my online photo album.

On Friday, August 28th, I made sure that the Luxembourg Room was all ready for Steve and Mario. They and Fred arrived about eleven-thirty on Friday night.



The Farmers' Market at the Pearl Brewery Complex

Saturday would be a busy day; we wanted to show Mario and Steve as much as we could, since they would have to start back to Dallas tomorrow by lunchtime. So in the morning, we got up and drove over to the Pearl Brewery complex to show them the Saturday morning farmers' market and perhaps get a bit of breakfast at one of the stalls.

I'd intended that we might get some breakfast tacos or something at one of the food stands. The last time we were here with Prudence and Ron, that's what we did. But nothing seemed to entice us; Fred and I ended up waiting until lunch and Mario got a smoothie at one of the stores that are in the various buildings of this relatively new complex.

We spent a little while walking around the area, looking at some of the various kiosks where local farmers set up their little shops to sell the fruits and vegetables that they brought in. (There was a lot of stuff that looked good, and if I'd've thought that I'd be doing much cooking in our time remaining here, I might have bought quite a few things.)

Just before we headed over to the Riverwalk, Fred snapped a picture of an interesting wall mosaic.



The Museum Reach (North) Section of the Riverwalk

Today, Steve and Mario were both in the mood to walk, so we did right well here on the Museum Reach section of the Riverwalk. From the beautiful waterfalls and lagoon right near the Pearl Brewery complex, we walked about two miles south past the locks on the San Antonio River before turning around and heading back. We also stopped for lunch at SAMA (the San Antonio Museum of Art).

So that you can follow us on our walk south and back along the Riverwalk, I have put together an aerial view of the section of the Riverwalk that we traversed. There are a couple of places where the river actually curves and runs more east-west, and if I tried to clip out the actual aerial view, the view would be too wide to allow me to juxtapose pictures and movies with it. So I have taken the liberty of "straightening out" the view to be more continually north-south, so as to narrow the view.

When we came down the stairs from the Pearl Brewery, we were on the east side of the river. Here at the current top of the Riverwalk, there is a stone bridge that leads across to the west side; we were going to walk south on the west side and eventually back north on the east. This new area of the Riverwalk is extremely well-done, with all the waterfalls and plantings, and it was a great place for me to make a panoramic view of the area, like this one, stitched together from five separate pictures:

So that you can follow along with us on our walk down and back up the Riverwalk's Museum Reach, I have put together an aerial view of the section that we walked; that aerial view can be seen below.

You will notice, I am sure, some oddities with the aerial view- including a couple of places where the river seems to make an abrupt turn. It actually doesn't, and I had to adjust the view to fit it into a very tall but fairly narrow view- leaving me room to put the movies and pictures alongside the section of the walk we were on. You can see a very high-level view of this section of the Riverwalk at right; as you can see, I basically had to straighten out some of the more east-west segments into a more north-south orientation, with the result that I had to get rid of some buildings and fill in some areas that opened up when the separate picture sections were rotated.

But other than the odd turns the river seems to make in the finished aerial view, it's close enough to reality that it's worthwhile to be able to see it alongside the pictures and movies.

So we can begin our walk along the Museum Reach section of the Riverwalk by crossing the bridge at the top of the section by the Pearl Brewery over to the west side. I might note that we walked south mostly on the west side, and north mostly on the east, taking pictures in both directions. To avoid duplication, and to make it easier to match the pictures and movies to the aerial view, I'm going to present all the pictures in the order of the aerial view, rather than in time sequence.

As we were crossing that bridge, I made a movie, and you can use the player below to watch it:

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We also took a number of still pictures in this area of the waterfalls, including some of the ubiquitous ducks. There are clickable thumbnails below for some of these:

You can see in the aerial view that there is an amphitheatre on the east side of the Riverwalk just south of the brewery area. It has a kind of stage built a few feet out into the river. We have not actually seen any kind of performance here, but that's what it's for. When we came back north, the other guys stayed on the land side while I walked across the "stage", and so I could get a picture of the guys and the amphitheatre. I also made a movie looking around here, and you can watch it with the player below:

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South of that was a straight stretch of the river (A), and you can see it (looking back north) here. We took some other pictures on the west side as we walked south from the amphitheatre, and there are clickable thumbnails for some of them below:

Next, we arrived at The Grotto, seen below from the other side of the river:

We took a few pictures here at the Grotto, and there are clickable thumbnails for some of them at left. A couple of others showed the stairway up to street level and another showed a nice view of the waterfall. I also made a movie looking around the Grotto, and you can use the player below to watch it:

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I realize that the pictures and movies above are getting out of sync with the aerial view at left, but we will catch up eventually.

You may have to scroll up to see the next spot of interest as we walked south underneath the I-35 bridge under which there is an "art" installation of brightly colored fish that are lighted at night. There are clickable thumbnails above, left for three of the pictures we took today of the fish:

And I made a movie as one of the river cruise barges came under the bridge heading north to the brewery, and you can use the player below to watch it:

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A few hundred feet later we come to the Brewery Bridge which has an interesting history.

At left are clickable thumbnails for a picture of the west end of the bridge as we approached it and then for one of the bridge itself looking towards the east side of the river. The Brewery Bridge used to be a bridge suspended between two towers of a brewery complex which was closed and then renovated many years ago to become the home of the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA). It was taken apart and reassembled to be this this bridge across the river. The walk continues past this bridge to the museum, but the west side of the walk is interrupted there (picking up again a few blocks south at the Jones Avenue bridge) (B). So for us to continue south, we had to cross the Brewery Bridge. When we did so, I stopped in the middle of the bridge where I took pictures looking north to the hanging fish and south towards SAMA. (Just south of that bridge, the apparent abrupt turn in the river is just the result of me merging rotated aerial views.)

We got a couple of good pictures as we passed SAMA on the east side of the river, and although I might use them again below when we stop there for lunch, here they are:

Just across from SAMA on the east side is a really pretty rock lagoon and waterfall where we stopped to take a few pictures. Continuing on down the east side, there is a kind of balcony overlook that we stopped at.

This whole section of the Riverwalk has wonderful landscaping and lots of artwork, including this one at the Jones Avenue Bridge. Later, when we return north, we will cross this bridge to get to SAMA where we'll visit the museum and have lunch. For now, we continued south past a large old residence which is now an even venue, with its nice location right on the river. Here are a couple of views of it:

South of that, there is a neat place where they have divided the walkway with one part of it kind of out in the river and they've put some water plants in a little lagoon between the two parts of the walkway. South of this, we came by an interesting new office building we could see on the other side of the river, and some new commercial buildings on the west side. There are clickable thumbnails below for some of our pictures of these features, and another set of thumbnails featuring some of the plants in bloom:

Just north of the next bridge at Brooklyn Avenue/9th Street are the Locks. The San Antonio River isn't artificial, so of course it slopes gently down to the south. Since the city wanted the original section of the Riverwalk in the center of town to be level, there are locks here and below the city to ensure that. The locks allow the tourist boats to navigate the entire length of the river- from the museums on the north to the missions on the south. The locks operate just like any others. You can see them in the aerial view at left, and here are clickable thumbnails for some of the pictures we took of them:

I've made movies here before, but you can use the player below to watch the one I made today:

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Just past the Brooklyn Avenue bridge we sat down to relax for a while and then eventually turned around to walk back north to get some lunch. While we were hanging out, Fred photographed a nearby beautyberry plant, and as we passed the locks again, I took one final picture before lunch- looking upriver from the locks.

Well, that was pretty much our walk along the Museum Reach portion of the San Antonio Riverwalk, and now we retraced our path on the east side of the river (we could have gone partway on the west, but there isn't much to see on that side) to Jones Avenue, crossed to the west side, and walked over to the museum. Just out front, there was an angular steel sculpture, and I posed for what I (incorrectly, as it turned out) thought would be a funny picture and asked Fred to take it.

The San Antonio Museum of Art

Steve, Mario and Fred went into the museum itself; I'd already been through it and so just sat in the lobby for a while waiting for them. When they were done, they all came back out into the lobby (where Fred snapped this picture and then we headed over to the cafe for lunch. On the way, we passed through an area where there was a Chiluly installation in the ceiling, and Fred and I took pictures of it (I laid down on the floor to do so). Here are clickable thumbnails for some of the pictures we took:

If you would like to learn more about the Chiluly glass here at SAMA, you can visit their website where you will find an extensive description of the installation.

To get some lunch, we crossed the flagstone patio outside the museum buildings over towards a separate building that was right along the side of the Riverwalk. Here one finds the cafe.

The Cafe at SAMA

The Four of Us at Lunch

We had a really pleasant lunch, sitting on the outside balcony of the cafe right above the San Antonio River. Both Fred and I took some pictures during lunch of ourselves and of the views from the patio, and we prevailed on our server to take a few as well. Here are clickable thumbnails for some of those pictures:

After lunch, we found the stairs that led down to the actual Riverwalk, and we headed north along the west side of the river. At the museum bridge, just a block north of SAMA, we crossed to the east side of the river to get back to the Pearl Brewery. Along the way, Fred got a beautiful shot of passion flower. At the Pearl, we got back in the car and headed off to the Chinese Tea Garden.


With Steve and Mario at the Japanese Tea Garden

When we got back to our car at the Pearl Brewery, we thought we would go by the Japanese Tea Garden before heading back to Ruckman Haus. The garden is located near Trinity University- the Japanese Tea Garden.

The San Antonio Japanese Tea Garden, or Sunken Gardens, is located in Brackenridge Park, and opened in an abandoned limestone rock quarry in the early 20th century. It was known also as Chinese Tea Gardens, Chinese Tea Garden Gate, Chinese Sunken Garden Gate and is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

The Japanese Tea Garden was developed on land donated to the city in 1899 by George Brackenridge, president of the San Antonio Water Works Company. The ground was first broken around 1840 by German masons, who used the readily accessible limestone to supply the construction market. Many San Antonio buildings, including the Menger Hotel, were built with the stone from this quarry.

In 1880 the Alamo Cement Company was incorporated and produced cement for 26 years in the kiln, the chimney of which still stands today. Supporting the workforce of the quarry was a small "village", populated primarily by Mexican-Americans who worked the site. They and their families became popular with tourists, who purchased pottery, hand woven baskets, and food.

About 1917, City Parks Commissioner Ray Lambert visualized an oriental-style garden in the pit of the quarry. His engineer, W.S. Delery, developed plans, but no work began until individual and private donors provided funds in 1918. Lambert used prison labor to shape the quarry into a complex that included walkways, stone arch bridges, an island and a Japanese pagoda.

The Garden in the Quarry

At the entrance to the garden, Mexican-born artist Dionicio Rodriguez (1891-1955) replicated a Japanese Torii gate in his unique style of concrete construction that imitated wood. In 1919, at the city's invitation, Kimi Eizo Jingu, a local Japanese-American artist, moved to the garden. In 1926, they opened the Bamboo Room, where light lunches and tea were sold. Kimi and Miyoshi Jingu maintained the garden, lived in the park, and raised eight children. Kimi was a representative of the Shizuoka Tea Association and was considered an expert in the tea business nationally. He died in 1938, and 1941 the family was evicted with the rise of anti-Japanese sentiment of World War II.

The garden was renamed the Chinese Tea Garden, to prevent the razing and vandalism of the tea garden during WWII, as many other cities' Japanese tea gardens were being vandalized. A Chinese-American family, Ted and Ester Wu, opened a snack bar in the pagoda until the early 1960s. In 1984, under the direction of Mayor Henry Cisneros, the city restored the original “Japanese Tea Garden” designation in a ceremony attended by Jingu's children and representatives of the Japanese government.

For years the garden sat in neglect and disrepair, becoming a target of graffiti and vandalism. Due to limited funding, the city threatened to close the garden, but the community and parks supporters rallied and lobbied to keep the park open. In 2007, the city began a $1.6 million restoration campaign to restore the ponds and waterfall and replant many of the walkways. On March 8, 2008, Jingu family members returned to San Antonio for the public re-opening of the gardens. Mabel Yoshiko Jingu Enkoji, the sixth child of Kimi and Miyoshi Jingu, who was born at the Garden, was the senior Jingu family member at the event.

The Jingu House (Tea Room) was renovated in 2011, and now offers the same type of light lunches that the Jingu family served in the 1930s. In recognition of the Tea Garden's origin as a rock quarry that played a prominent role in the development of the cement business, as well as its later redevelopment as a garden, the site is designated as a Texas Civil Engineering Landmark, a Registered Texas Historic Landmark, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

It was warm this noon, so while Steve and Fred went off to go down into the quarry to the waterfall, Mario and I waited in the shade underneath the pagoda. I took a few pictures, and Fred took some as well, and there are clickable thumbnails below for the best of these:

We headed back to Ruckman Haus to relax for a while before Steve, Fred and I went to visit the San Antonio Botanical Garden.


At the San Antonio Botanical Garden with Steve

Saturday afternoon, Steve, Fred and I went over to the San Antonio Botanical Garden for a walk around. It was a pretty afternoon, although quite warm- a nice afternoon to show the garden to Steve.

Prior to 1877, the eastern end of Mahncke Park was a limestone quarry that at one time became part of a reservoir system for San Antonio. When the city began using wells instead of surface water, the owner deeded the land to the city (1899). The idea of a Botanical Garden for San Antonio dates to the 1940s. A group of supporters developed and presented a master plan for a public botanical garden in the late 1960s, and the old quarry site was chosen.

In 1970, voters approved $265,000 in bonds for the Garden. This money, along with a grant awarded five years later by the Ewing Halsell Foundation, other contributions from organizations and individuals, and a significant grant from the Economic Development Administration helped pay for the project. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held on July 21, 1976. The official opening of the San Antonio Botanical Garden was May 3, 1980.

Fred and I have been to the Botanical Garden numerous times, but this is the first time that Steve has been here (although I believe he and Mario have been to San Antonio before). We were looking forward to showing him around the garden.

Fred and I have been to the Botanical Garden before, and we found out some time ago that our memberships to the Dallas Arboretum would get us free admission to the San Antonio gardens (as well as fifty other gardens around the country) on a reciprocal arrangement among botanical gardens and arboretums.

Getting to the gardens is just a fifteen-minute trip from Ruckman Haus, and I knew the way quite well. This afternoon, there were not many people there, so parking and entry were easy. It is about three miles from Ruckman Haus.

Unlike the Dallas Arboretum, I don't usually show a route through these gardens, since we rarely follow the same path. But on the aerial view, I've marked some of the main features of the gardens that we visit routinely, and we'll refer to some of them in the narrative below.

I think there are a number of reasons why Guy comes to the gardens frequently, and certainly there are many reasons why Fred and I like to visit; the greenhouses, for example, are something that the Dallas Arboretum doesn't have. But like the Dallas Arboretum, the gardens are not only a delight to the eyes, but provide rest for the soul as well. That is something we should all get more of.

Fountain Plaza in the San Antonio Botanical Garden

Just inside the gardens, we took the sloping walk up from the entry building to arrive in a central area; here there is a really nice fountain and nearby a sculpture of three herons. Right near the fountain are some oversized Adirondack chairs for kids (and adults) to climb on; when sitting in it, one feels like Lily Tomlin's character Edith Anne. When I climbed in, I found that someone had left some kid's sunglasses on the arm of the chair, so I put them on for fun.

Just off this plaza is the Japanese Garden, and that is where we headed next. It is a calm, oriental-style garden, enclosed in a square perhaps a hundred feet on a side. Here are clickable thumbnails for some of the pictures we took in this little garden:

Next to the Japanese Garden, I noticed a kind of garden building I had never been in, so Steve and I went to see what it was. It seemed to be a room where classes might be held or crafts worked on. It did have great views out into the garden through some large leaded windows.

Rejoining Fred outside, we started to walk over to the greenhouses, when I noticed that there quite a few little green signs all around the area. You can see a couple of them at right. They were, of course, whimsical, like something I might do to make a bit of fun over the traditional labels that one finds in gardens like this. You can click on the thumbnails below to see some more of these funny little signs:

The greenhouses, with their amazing glass superstructures are always a pleasure to walk through; the entrance to the greenhouses is just across the lawn from the Japanese Garden. There are three greenhouses, arranged around a central open area that has a koi pond.

One of the greenhouses is filled with desert plants and the other two house tropical plants- like this banana plant.

We took a number of pictures in the three greenhouses, and you can click on the thumbnail images below to see some of them:

We think that Steve enjoyed wandering around the Botanical Garden, and we certainly enjoyed showing it to him.



Steve and Mario drove home on Sunday, while Fred stayed with me to drive home on Thursday. Together we took care of the watering and of taking Jax to doggie daycare on Monday and Wednesday. As Prudence asked us to, we also took Jax to The Palm downtown for dinner; Ron and Prudence do that fairly regularly. They get an outside table where Ron can smoke a cigar and Jax can watch the people going by. We did the same thing (without the cigar), and I took one picture of Fred and Jax at The Palm.

Guy also asked me to pick up a watercolor of his that he had framed, and I did that early in my stay. I thought I would take a picture or two of it; the best of them is below:

You can use the links below to continue to another photo album page.

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