Lance Camper
Truck Camper Warehouse dealer
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Truck Camping San Antonio Missions

TCM explores San Antonio including The Alamo, River Walk, and the Spanish frontier missions.  We were also pumped and flushed to visit the world famous Toilet Seat Museum.

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Generally speaking, Angela and I have learned to avoid major cities while truck camping.  Yes, truck campers are more maneuverable and smaller than just about any towable or motorhome alternative, but they’re not cars and most public parking areas in major cities are designed for cars.  If you’ve ever tried to park a truck camper in a high-rise parking garage, you know what I mean (please don’t).

That said, not all cities are a challenge with a truck camper.  Many mid-size and smaller cities and towns often have large parking lot areas perfect for truck camper rigs.  Some of these parking lots even have sites designated for RVs, not that we usually need them.

When we traveled to the Texas Truck Camper Rally this past April, we decided to make a side trip to San Antonio to visit The Alamo, River Walk, and San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.  The colonial missions date back to the 17th century and offer a fascinating opportunity to visit European architecture rarely seen north of the border or on this side of the Atlantic.

Truck camper friends, Jerry and Judy Funk, also told us about a Toilet Seat Museum in Alamo Heights, very close to the missions, and gave us a contact and phone number to call.  Evidently, the Toilet Seat Museum isn’t open to just anyone, and you have to make reservations.  Time to make a phone call.

Ring.  Ring.  Ring.  “You have reached Barney and the Toilet Seat Museum.  Please leave a message.”  Beep.

“Hello Barney!  My name is Gordon White and I’d like to visit your Toilet Seat Museum.  Please call us at… Thank you!”

I can’t believe I just left that message.  This had better be good.

The Alamo

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Above: Our 2014 Northstar 8.5 Arrow U rig parked in a San Antonio paid lot

Our original plan was to park our rig in a lot a few blocks from The Alamo and enjoy the day exploring The Alamo and nearby River Walk.  We found a paid lot a few blocks away, parked the rig, put our money in the meter, and started walking towards The Alamo.

On the way, neighborhood was just iffy enough to set off my admittedly suburban spidey-senses.  With our cat Harley in the camper, we tend to be a little more cautious about leaving our rig unattended.  Besides, there’s no way to relax and enjoy what you’re doing if you’re worried about the rig and cat.

We came to this conclusion about two blocks from The Alamo, turned around, and drove the rig to Travelers World RV Resort campground a few miles away.  So much for my pitch on mid-size cities.  Time to adapt.

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As it turned out, Travelers World RV Resort campground is also located in a relatively urban area, but felt much safer for the rig and our cat.  There were rows of Class A motorhomes and fifth wheels set-up for long term stays.  We even had a truck camper staying right next to us.  The grounds were lush with grass and trees, and the showers were clean.  Parked in site 15, this was exactly the San Antonio oasis we were hoping for.

Across the street from the campground, we were able to catch the 42 Roosevelt bus right back into town just a few blocks from The Alamo.  To The Alamo, take two.

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Most of us have seen The Alamo in pictures and movies throughout our lives.  The first time I remember being aware of the Alamo was when Pee Wee Herman went looking for his stolen bicycle in the Alamo’s basement in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985).

The Alamo is about as iconic a building as you’ll ever see in Texas and one of the most popular, if not the most popular, tourist attractions in the state.  It was mid-April during our visit and the crowds were considerable, but not enough to ruin the experience.

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The history surrounding The Alamo is what makes it an important experience.  The Alamo was originally built in the 1700s by the Spanish Empire as a Roman Catholic mission.  In the mid-1790s, the mission was abandoned allowing the Mexican Army to later take possession of the complex.  In December of 1835, The Alamo was surrendered to the Texan Army after the Battle of Bexar.

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Above: Click thumbnails to enlarge.

Two months later, the Mexican Army returned and, for thirteen days, sieged The Alamo at the direction of President General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.  On March 6th, Santa Anna’s army overwhelmed the Texan Army killing nearly all of the defenders.

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The sense of history at The Alamo is palpable.  As the son of a history teacher, I loved exploring the buildings and reading the exhibits.  Whether you’re into history, or just want to search for Pee-Wee’s bike, The Alamo is a San Antonio must.

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Above: Click thumbnails to enlarge.

The grounds of the Alamo were surprisingly beautiful.  We enjoyed a peaceful walk around the property taking in the cannons, flowers, and trees.

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This fountain is on the right side of the Alamo grounds and is engraved with the names of famous Alamo defenders; James Butler Bonham, Jim Bowie, William Travis, and Davie Crockett.

Before we left The Alamo, I got a call from the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas plant in San Antonio.  We had contacted them a few days prior to request a truck plant tour for a Truck Camper Magazine article, but they declined due to our admittedly short notice.  The idea of touring their facility had not occurred to us until we were already in Texas.

Toyota did help us with further contacts and invited us to re-apply.  Next time we plan to be in Texas, we will certainly contact Toyota again.

River Walk – Casa Rio Restaurant

After the Alamo, the two and a half mile River Walk, with its famous Tex-Mex restaurants, shops, bars and other tourist attractions, is the other must-see for anyone visiting San Antonio.

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Angela and I were famished when we descended from street level onto the walkways lining the San Antonio River below.  One of the first restaurants we found was Casa Rio.

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Above: Click thumbnails to enlarge.

Within a few minutes we were sitting by the water getting propositioned with all matters of squawking by ravenous ducks in the river just a few feet below.  Evidently everyone, even the birds, were hungry.

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After lunch we walked the flowing pathways that line either side of the river.  Despite its downtown setting, the River Walk is simply gorgeous with tremendous old growth trees challenging the high rises above, and shimmering light and color in the water below.

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To get a water perspective of the River Walk, Rio San Antonio Cruises offers river tours and taxis.  From 9:00am to 9:00pm, these boats stop at five locations and leave every fifteen to twenty minutes.

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Maybe we’re no fun cheapskates but, at $8.25 for general admission, we opted not to take a cruise and complete our exploration of the River Walk by foot.  After a few hours of walking the river banks and people and duck watching, we needed to head back to the camper, feed the cat, rest our feet, and get some work done for Truck Camper Magazine.

Ring.  Ring.  Ring.  “You have reached Barney and the Toilet Seat Museum.  Please leave a message.”  Beep.

“Ah, Hi Barney.  My name is Gordon and I called yesterday and we’re really hoping to see your Toilet Seat Museum at some point tomorrow.  Let us know.  Bye.”

Somehow calling back to try to get into the Toilet Seat Museum was worse than calling the first time.  Were we this desperate to get into this toilet place?  Had our lives really come to this?  Yes, were were.  And yes, it has.

Mission Concepcion

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The next morning we set out in our 2014 Northstar 8.5 Arrow U rig early to explore the San Antonio Mission Trail, a roughly twenty-five mile route through southern San Antonio with five (including The Alamo) missions.  These missions and their grounds comprise of San Antonio Missions National Historic Park.  All of the missions had ample and easy parking for our rig.

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Like The Alamo, each of these Spanish Missions were essentially Catholic church compounds designed to be frontier outposts in the effort to convert the local population to Christianity.

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Above: Click thumbnails to enlarge.

While not in a downtown city environment like The Alamo, the Mission Concepcion is still in a dense urban area.  Despite this fact, Mission Concepcion was very quiet with significantly less foot traffic than The Alamo.  We spent the better part of an hour exploring the property and structures and only saw about a dozen other folks.

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For a half hour in 1835, Mission Concepcion was the sight of a fierce battle between the Texans (led by James Bowie and James Fannin), and Mexican troops.  This short battle has since been declared as the first, “major engagement of the Texas Revolution” according to historian J.R. Edmondson.

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Several areas of the Mission Concepcion building interiors are open to explore with exhibits and artifacts on display.  Catholics gather in the church at Mission Concepcion for Sunday Mass.

Mission San Jose

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Further south, Mission San Jose is surrounded by a protective stone wall.

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Above: Click thumbnails to enlarge.

Once inside, the wall reveals what was once indian living quarters nested inside the thick walls.  The stone and restored wood structures are truly remarkable, as are the many dozens of living spaces tucked into the protective wall perimeter.

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These living quarters and the security they provided must have made a tempting offer for the local Indian population.  Historians believe over 350 indians once lived in these walls.

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The limestone church at Mission San Jose was built in 1768 and is still open and active.  In 1824, the mission ceased all activities and the compound fell into disrepair until a restoration in 1930.

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The water wells inside the compound are not operational, but Angela had to check one out anyway.  Again the stone work was impressive.

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Above: Click thumbnails to enlarge.

The arches at Mission San Jose evoke Roman architectural themes.  This is truly one place where the old world has left an indelible mark on the new.

As we walked around Mission San Jose, I kept thinking that this place and these buildings belonged in Europe or deep in the heart of colonial Mexico.  They’re from another time, and a culture we rarely see in the United States.  It’s truly amazing these missions are in Texas.

Ring.  Ring.  Ring.  “You have reached Barney and the Toilet Seat Museum.  Please leave a message.”  Beep.

“Hey, it’s Gordon again.  It’s mid-afternoon, Barney, and I thought I’d give you one more call.  We really want to see your Toilet Seat Museum.  Call us.”

First Toyota, now the Toilet Seat Museum.  We were striking out.  So much for our impressive media credentials and our, “We can do this” attitude.  As far as San Antonio was concerned, no Toyotas, or toilet seats, for us.

Mission San Juan

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We parked the rig within a few hundred feet of Mission San Juan.  This photograph was taken from inside the Mission walls.

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Founded in 1731, Mission San Juan was not as successful as the other San Antonio missions.  It lacked enough land to support necessary crops, horses, and livestock.  A second church was never completed, and the complex had less then sixty native Indian residents by 1790.

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The Mission San Juan has been well maintained and offers plenty of excellent photographic opportunities.  The white facade of the church at Mission San Juan, with its three bells and inset doors (see below), is quite striking.

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One tragic historical fact about Mission San Juan happened only fourteen years ago when three Spanish Colonial religious statues were stolen on August 1st, 2000.

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While historically a bit depressing, we enjoyed walking the grounds of Mission San Juan.  Again, the archways, gates, and stonework were incredible.

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Perhaps more than the others, Mission San Juan had a sense that people once lived here.

Espade Aqueduct

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The Espade Aqueduct had a nice parking lot, and absolutely no one was there but us.  The aqueduct was once part of an elaborate irrigation system comprising of many miles of ditches and dams that irrigated several thousand acres.

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Water flows through the aqueduct, 269 years after its construction in 1745.  The Espade Aqueduct is listed as a National Historic Landmark.

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After exploring the aqueduct, Angela and I found parking in nearby Acequia Park and had lunch.  A few feet from our camper we saw this rental bike kiosk.  These automated bike renting kiosks are all over San Antonio including down town and deep into the Mission Trail.

Mission Espada

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Once again, parking at the Mission Espada was a breeze and we could clearly see our truck camper rig from inside the mission walls.  Look carefully and you’ll spot it above.

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Above: Click thumbnails to enlarge.

The walls, structures, and natural setting inside of Mission Espada are a dream for photographers with gorgeous trees, vibrant flowers, stone ruins, framing archways, and a church that had everyone taking pictures.

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The front of the church with its bells and spires is worth the stop.

Mission IKEA

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The last mission of the day was IKEA.  For reasons that probably defy logic and sense, we love exploring these enormous build-it-yourself Swedish furniture stores and it somehow seemed like the perfect way to end our day.  Besides, you have to admire a company that can get away with calling their products DUKTIG, SKARPT, IVAR, OSLO, and AKURUM.  We are big fans of the HEMNES collection, and occasionally dive into a bag of IKEA swedish fish.

The 2015 Penta-T

Our trip to San Antonio wasn’t quite as fruitful as we had hoped.  This story was supposed to be one-third missions, one-third River Walk, and one-third toilet seats; with an exciting dash of Toyota tour tease.  Oh well, life on the road can throw a curve ball or two.

We had been on the road for about a month and were looking forward to seeing our friends at the Mid-Atlantic Truck Camper Rally, and heading home.  We had one more adventure and rig test planned on the way, but our time with the 2014 Northstar 8.5 Arrow U and 2013 Chevy 3500 LT was coming to an end.  The Northstar would soon be returned, and the Chevy sold.

Perhaps next year, with our new rig, we will return to San Antonio, visit the Toilet Seat Museum, and tour the Toyota Truck Plant.  We’ll call it the 2015 Texas Toilet and Toyota Truck Tour (aka the Penta-T).

Ring.  Ring.  Ring.  “Hello Barney?  We’re baaaaack!”

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