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November 22-26, 2016
My 70th Birthday and Thanksgiving


Some months ago, Prudence asked Fred and I to come down to San Antonio Thanksgiving week to spend the holiday with them. Most all our friends in Dallas had places to go already, so we were happy to accept her invitation. It was no surprise that she also wanted to celebrate my 70th birthday, which would be the day before Thanksgiving itself.


Getting 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).

We are always happy to see Prudence, Guy and Ron, and of course this week Nancy and Karl were down for Thanksgiving as well. This would be the first year in a long time that I wouldn't be cooking a turkey on Thanksgiving; that will be Karl's job this year. (But I have one in the freezer at home to cook at Christmastime).


A Birthday Greeting on Arrival

Perhaps I should have known something special was in the offing when Prudence called while Fred and I were on the road to ask when we would be arriving. Usually, I call her around Austin, but this time she called me. My guess at the arrival time was pretty close, and when we pulled up in front of Ruckman Haus, I could see why Prudence had wanted to know.

We arrived about 4:30, and Prudence had birthday balloons on the front porch for me, and so we stopped for a while to switch off taking some pictures. I think we got everyone but Ron, who was off running an errand. We took lots of pictures; here are the best of them:

Prudence and I
Guy, myself, and Nancy
Me, Karl, Guy, Prudence, and Nancy

At left is another picture of Fred, Prudence, and myself, and below are Prudence and I:

I've already named everyone in the pictures at right and below:


A Walk on Cross Mountain

On my birthday, Guy, Fred and I drove up to Fredericksburg to make our long-awaited visit to Enchanted Rock State Park. Guy has been wanting to go there for quite some time, and with the nice weather today we thought it would make a good day trip.

We left Prudence's house about ten in the morning, and Guy drove out west on I-10 towards Kerrville. We found the exit to head north to Fredericksburg with no problem, and by eleven or so we were driving through town to find the road north to Enchanted Rock.

It was early for lunch, and so we planned to stop on the way back which we thought would be around two. We continued north on Texas Highway 16 for about 20 miles to County Road 965 which we took west to Enchanted Rock State Park.

We were disappointed to find that when we reached the park, it had already filled to its morning capacity; we had no idea that the park was "capacity-controlled", nor did we think that on a Wednesday morning of Thanksgiving Week the park would be a popular place to go. In any event, we learned that there is no way to reserve a space for the morning or afternoon "seatings", nor could we wait along the side of the road to see if we could get in at 1PM. It seemed to us to be a terrible way to run a popular park. You have to drive all the way there, first of all, to find out if you can get in, and if you can't, there is noplace to wait.

We thought that there would be a number of better ways to handle the crowds, particularly using the Internet, but apparently none of these had occurred to the Texas State Park system.

But there was little we could do; we thought about returning at 1PM, but there was no assurance we could get in then, either, so we decided to scratch the park from our list and head back down to Fredericksburg.

When we were on the outskirts of town, Fred had us turn off to our right to go to Cross Mountain, a place he's been before. It is not so impressive as Enchanted Rock, but it would give us a bit of exercise.

From the parking area just off the highway, we walked over towards the entrance gate, where I got the picture at right of Guy and Fred at the historical marker. I know you can't read it in that picture, but instead of typing it out for you here, you can use the scrollable window below to read if for yourself:

I didn't know that Texas had them, but Cross Mountain turns out to be a Texas Archaeological Landmark, as was evidenced by the marker nearby.

Before we headed off through the gate and up the trail, Fred got the picture at right of Guy and I at the historical marker. As you can see, it is a beautiful day.

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Just after we went through gate (one of those affairs where you just squeeze through in two directions- something people can do but large animals can't- I stopped while Fred and Guy got ahead of me and made my only movie here at Cross Mountain. You'll see the parking area and the trail ahead as I walk up to join them; you can watch that movie with the player at right.

As you perhaps read on the historical marker, Cross Mountain is located on a historic marl and limestone hill with an elevation of 1951 ft. It was used as an Indian lookout prior to early settlers. In 1847 during the settling of Fredericksburg a timber cross was found on the hilltop. Early Fredericksburg pioneers gave this hill the name “Kreuzberg” or Cross Mountain. In 1946, the permanent lighted cross was raised. Currently there is a Master Conceptual Plan for additional trails, picnic sites, and vista overlooks but at this time the project is unfunded.

As you can see in this picture of Fred and Guy on the trail, it leads up to the limestone outcrop and then winds around it on its way up the hill.

I think that Cross Mountain is more interesting when you look at it from above; so there is an aerial view at right. You can judge the size of the limestone marl by comparing it to the parking area, the highway, or the width of the trail that spirals around the hill to reach the top.

I also marked on the aerial view where the marker and gate were, and about where I was when I took my only movie here. On the way up we passed the limestone outcrops, where you could see the structure of the hill- much of which is fairly barren, although there were enough low trees and mesquite to give the trail some shade and a lot of interest.

When we got up to the portion of the trail that hugged the side of the hill and spiraled up the mountain, the views got really good and we came to the rock outcrops.


Right at the top of the wide part of the trail, there was a series of steps leading up to the narrower part that wound around the hill, and it was here that the views got really good:

I ran up and got ahead of Fred and Guy so I could take a picture of them looking back down the trail towards the entrance gate. The mountain isn't very high, but being the highest point around meant that the views were pretty good.

The rocky outcrops were pretty neat, and offered a number of places where you could get good pictures, like the one at right that Fred posed Guy and I for. There was a spring and a little pool just off the trail, and that added interest as well. Here are some additional pictures we took at the rock outcrops:

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There were some pretty nice views out across the valley below, too:

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The top of Cross Mountain was only a few hundred feet up the trail, but even halfway up we could see the permanent cross that was erected on the top in place of the wooden one that was found much earlier. Texans and their crosses; go figure.

From the Trail
At the Top

I will have to admit that the whitish cross against the deep blue of the sky was pretty impressive:

We walked around on the top for a little while enjoying the view and the sunshine. I also took a picture so you could read the marker on the base of the cross.

As I often do, I thought that the top of the hill would be an excellent place for one of my extreme panoramas. Although my little camera will do it automatically, I often prefer the results I get from stitching together seven or eight pictures in post-production, as I have done here:

Sometimes, though, with these extreme panoramas, fitting them onto the web page makes them quite small, and you can't see much detail. So I have put a larger version of this image in the scrollable window below:

It was a nice walk up Cross Mountain, and the views were certainly worth the small effort to get to the top. After spending an hour or so here, we returned to the parking area and headed down to Fredericksburg to walk around and have some lunch.


Walking Around Fredericksburg

We parked the car near a German restaurant that we had planned to eat at, but when we got around the corner to the entrance, we discovered it was closed for renovations. So we walked southeast along Main Street, checking out the menus of other restaurants. Some looked good, but all were crowded. About five blocks down Main, we turned onto a side street- mostly because I spotted some buffalo signs to photograph:


This must have been "buffalo row" for there was another use of the buffalo symbol down the street near a cafe called The Sozial House. Fred got a picture of me with the colorful buffalo.

Since they had an outside patio (and, better still, no wait line) we decided to just stop here and eat. It wasn't German food, but all the German places had 30-40 minute wait times. It was a simple lunch, but quite good. If you look carefully in the picture at left at the pickup truck behind Guy and Fred, you will see the colorful buffalo on the building wall behind it.

On the way down Main Street to where we had lunch, we took a few candid pictures. One was the tourist center, and another was a particularly colorful window display:

(Click on Thumbnails to View)

We had salads and sandwiches for lunch, and ate outside. It was a little chilly for me, but all in all pretty pleasant.

When we were done with lunch, we walked back to the car on the other side of Main Street, this time, passing a small park right on Main Street and right in the center of town. The park was all decorated for Christmas, with a nativity scene and, apparently, the Fredericksburg town Christmas tree.


This park was neat; it is apparently used for all kinds of displays- some seasonal, some not. I found the tall, wooden tree-like structure very interesting; I had never seen anything like it. There are two pictures of it at left. I had no idea what it was, but luckily there was an explanatory sign about it near the sidewalk.

Here is a picture of this interesting little park:

As we walked along in the sunshine, both Fred and I took the occasional photograph- some interesting sculptures, early Texas architecture, and an interesting marker outside a church:


Although we couldn't do what we originally drove up here to do (visit Enchanted Rock), we still had a very nice day trip, and by about four in the afternoon we were back at Ruckman Haus.


My 70th Birthday Party

Prudence, one of the most thoughtful people I know, had planned a party for me this evening after we got back from supper at Paloma Blanca- a Mexican restaurant up on Broadway that she knows I am partial to. I received a number of really neat gifts- including a dancing lion that was really a hoot. We all took lots of pictures and movies, and I just want to put a few of the best of these below.



Here are the two best movies we took. Fred's if of Nancy telling me about the book she got me- a tome on how noteworthy people died and where they are buried (useful information for me to know so I won't duplicate), and mine is of the incredibly funny (and entertaining) dancing lion:

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(Mouseover Image Above for Video Controls)

And now for some more of the pictures we took:




A Ruckman Haus Thanksgiving

Today is the first time in memory (but not the first, I am sure) that I have not done my traditional Thanksgiving turkey in my own home. But family and friends are the reason for this Holiday, and these are in short supply for us in Dallas. So we were very happy to accept Prudence's invitation to come down to San Antonio for the Holiday.

In addition to the seven of us (Prudence and Nancy, Karl and Ron, Fred and I, and Guy), Ron and Prudence had invited four other folks to join us, so it was a nice houseful of people. The dinner table was set in the Sun Room, and the table in the dining room was used as the buffet.

As you can see at left, Prudence has set a beautiful table here in the Sun Room; she is justifiably proud of the way the room turned out when she added it on last year. Here are some pictures Fred took before dinner:

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I made one movie today, of Prudence getting the table ready and pouring the wine. It turned out pretty good, and you can use the player at left to watch it.

Karl did a brined turkey and brought it from Nancy's house; Prudence, Ron and Guy all contributed vegetable dishes, and I put together my Mom's stuffing recipe, and cooked it outside the bird. There were pies, cakes and rolls as well- it was an iconic, Norman Rockwell repast, and everything was absolutely delicious. Fred and I took quite a few pictures before and during the meal. While they may be somewhat repetitive, going through the two slideshows is pretty quick. Fred's are the widescreen photos. To go from picture to picture, just use the little "forward" and "backward" arrows; the index numbers in the upper left of each image will keep track of your progress through the show:

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Both Fred and I want to thank Prudence and Ron for having us here for Thanksgiving. The day was one of the best Thanksgivings I can remember.


An Afternoon at the Japanese Tea Garden

After such a great (and filling) dinner, some of us (Prudence, Nancy, Fred, Guy, myself, and XXXXXXX) felt that we had to get out and walk around, and so we went over to San Antonio's Japanese Tea Garden.

The Japanese Tea Garden is a frequent stop for us when we come to San Antonio, as it is always a pleasure to walk around and through it. The six of us (and Jax) were able to pile into Prudence's SUV take Nancy's large vehicle over to the park. I know my way there quite well, so Prudence asked me to drive while she held on to Jax, since we had a full car.

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. We had just come from the San Antonio Botanical Garden which has its own Japanese Garden called "Kumamoto En".

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.

On the aerial view at left, you can see the major features of the Japanese Garden, which happens to be adjacent to the San Antonio Zoo. As a matter of fact, not only did we wind through the old quarry, past the waterfall and around the lagoon, but we also walked down almost to the Zoo itself before returning to the parking area.

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.

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 Japanese 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 is always a treat to walk across the lagoon on the intertwined pathways and then over the little arched bridge to the waterfall that has been constructed in the far wall of the quarry. The water feature adds a sound component as well as the visual one for the gardens in the bottom of the old quarry.

It was interesting walking around the garden in the late afternoon light; I know we all enjoyed it and it seemed that Jax did, too. Coming up out of the quarry, we took a path that led down towards the Zoo for a ways, before turning around and returning to the pagoda and the entry.

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As we walked around the gardens and down towards the Zoo, we took lots of pictures, and a large selection of them are in the slideshow at right. Move through the pictures at your own pace, using the "forward" and "backward" arrows in the lower corners of each picture, and use the index numbers in the upper left to track your progress.

Down towards the end of the path, relatively near the Zoo, I noticed an area off to the left of the walk that seemed to have some little shelters, about the size of dog houses, and a number of bowls situated around on the ground. I had no idea what they were all for, until I spied the sign at left.

Apparently, food for the strays is put out by personnel associated with the Zoo (or perhaps by volunteers). I would not have thought there would be particularly more stray cats here than anywhere else, but perhaps because Brackenridge is a huge park area, with concessions and lots of visitors, there are more opportunities for scavenging here.

Speaking of the Zoo, I got all the way to the end of the path, which came out right in front of the main building of the San Antonio Zoo. I've not been here before, but perhaps Fred and I should add it to our list.

After taking the panoramic picture above, I returned up the path to meet up with everyone else, and we went back to the Tea Garden and the parking area. I did take two movies while we were here this afternoon, and you can use the players below to watch them:

In the Japanese Tea Garden
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In the Japanese Tea Garden
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It was a nice afternoon in the Tea Garden- just the walk we needed after Thanksgiving Dinner!


The Christmas Boat Parade

Fred and I stayed on the Friday after Thanksgiving; Prudence wanted to go down to the Riverwalk to see the Christmas Boat Parade- an event I did not know that San Antonio put on.

In the morning, Fred took a couple of pictures of the new strings of lights that Guy and Prudence put up between the main house and the garage apartment. At night, they make the area look like something out of an Italian movie.


Ron made reservations in the bar at the Valencia Hotel because it overlooks the Riverwalk, and would provide an indoor vantage point for us all to watch the parade. The Riverwalk puts up thousands of folding chairs all along the river and sells tickets for them, so there are not many places where you can just go and stand and watch the boat parade. I did go down to the street for a little while and took up a position on one of the bridges so I could get a few pictures, but mostly we spent our time in the bar having dinner and drinks and watching the parade. Only a couple of my pictures of the parade turned out well enough to include here, but I did take a few others before it got dark- two of some window displays near the Palm Restaurant, and to of the neat architecture of the building across the street from the Valencia.

(Click on Thumbnails to View)


The Trip Home

We had a really great time being with Prudence and Ron and everyone else on Thanksgiving; perhaps it will turn into something frequent, which would be nice. We left for home on Saturday morning, arriving back in the early afternoon. A bit later that afternoon, as I was putting away the books and gifts I'd gotten for my birthday, I thought I would take pictures of two chocolate creations I'd been given- both with an "advanced age" theme:


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

December 8-9, 2016: The Andrea Bocelli Concert in Austin
October 15 - November 2, 2016: Our Fall Trip to Florida
Return to Index for 2016