Memories and Stories of the Land

What a wonderful day for a bike ride… after losing a cherished hour of sleep, we jumped on our bicycles and headed away from town on the San Antonio Hike and Bike Trail this morning. This particular section of the bike path is also known as the “Mission Reach,” as it connects all five of San Antonio’s missions. Our plan was to travel about 5-plus miles to the southernmost mission – Espada, passing Mission San Jose and Mission San Juan along the way.

Imagine our surprise as we immediately ran into numerous runners obviously in a race! Outfitted with their bib numbers, some ran and many were walking at this point. Not even a mile up the path we spotted a sign in the opposite direction indicating mile 19 of what we later learned was the Alamo Marathon and Half-marathon! It was interesting to note the different runners and walkers as some listened to music, some moved while chatting to companions, and still others – believe it or not – talked on the phone! As we continued, we passed several water stations and periodically cheered the participants on. One woman asked me, “Wanna trade places?” I politely declined!


When we passed the closest mission, San Jose, we noticed there was a large festival going on and the aromas were extremely inviting! We agreed to check it out on the way back. Once arriving at Mission Espada, one is greeted by a magnificent sculpture. In community workshops around San Antonio, the overall sculpture was created by over 700 people, 700 stories and 700 sculptures – Arbol de la Vida: Memorias y Voces de la Tierra. It’s the type of art that you could stand and look at for hours as it encompasses so many different expressions.


We traveled on to the actual mission, which still includes the original building front and door that was built by Spanish missionaries in the 1700’s. The church is still an active place of worship, hosting masses and special events. So simple in decor, Bill and I sat in the church for a while enjoying the peaceful, beautiful and ancient surroundings, including several massive mesquite trees that look like they are fatigued and just need to lie down!  Before departing, we explored the outlying residences, where the missionaries lived and worked the land, while there were always at least one or two militia men and their families living alongside them on guard for attacking Indians. Notice how short the people must have been to maneuver the entry doors – Bill is actually standing in a taller one than most!

After leaving Mission Espada, we stopped briefly at Mission San Juan, and as with all stops, added to our knowledge of Texan history. Each mission employed a gatekeeper who lived in the “porteria,” the first cell inside the gate. Visitors were always scrutinized before entering the enclosed space and if anyone was caught outside the compound after the gate was closed each night, the penalty was a fine of 6 pesos and 3 days in jail! We also learned that another position in the mission was that of the “mayordomo,” or “ditch boss.” This was the person who determined on a daily basis how much water would be diverted from the irrigation ditches for drinking and watering the crops. Even in retirement, we never stop learning!


Well, the runners were gone and the water stations and directional arrows had been removed as we headed back to the campground. As we had previously discussed, we stopped at Mission San Jose to check out the festival. We discovered that it was the 11th Annual Paella Challenge, where local chefs, along with high school groups and college cooks create this Spanish dish and hope for high honors. We were definitely hungry so I explored further, only to discover that the entrance fee to the challenge was $92 per person! Hmmm…not that we hesitate to spend money on food but that’s a lot of paella!! We traveled on and completed a delightful bike path adventure on a great Texas day!

Stay Calm and Travel On…

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