Discovering the Alamo
So here we are in San Antonio for the Final Four, but we're a few days early so, considering that neither Cyrus nor I have ever visited the Alamo City before, we decide to take a tour of our Final Four host city.
Cyrus puts on a pouty face right before I throw him in the river.
After only two blocks of walking it's pretty obvious that this city is going to make a great host for the last three games of the Tournament. San Antonio might be the seventh largest city in the United States, but as you walk around downtown, it feels very manageable.
I was in Atlanta last year for the Final Four and that was a lot of fun, but you had to take a shuttle everywhere and the Georgia Dome felt distant from the hotel area and, in the end, what's there to do in downtown Atlanta if you're not going to a sporting event? Shop?
In the words of my friend Jared, who used to live in Hotlanta, "San Antonio just seems so much more chill." Okay, parking in downtown San Antonio is not really that chill, but once you ditch the car, everything is pretty much walkable. Out the doors of the La Quinta in which we currently reside, Cyrus and I take a right and, in two blocks, we're at the River Walk. Before we get much further into this walking tour, it should be noted that neither Cyrus nor I play tourist very well and both of us are reluctant to take a guided tour of San Antonio's attractions. But, like I said, the River Walk was only two blocks away and, once we'd arrived, it was actually kind of relaxing.
You hear that, Texas? Leave your six-shooters at home.
The River Walk was first conceived back in the 1920's by Robert Hugman as a way of controlling the San Antonio River and creating commercial development and this guy was obviously a genius. Every city should have one of these. A network of narrow walkways that line the curving branches of the San Antonio River, the River Walk creates a unique Texas/Venetian feel. It's set below street level so you feel off the beaten path, but it's not boring and touristy. Cafes and bars set up tables under the shade of decade-old oak trees so you can comfortably sip a coffee or libation, for that matter, as ferries shuttle tourists down the river on historical tours.
Initially, I try and force Cyrus to stand in line so we can take one of these river ferry tours. Cyrus looks like he might cry, but he obliges me. Standing in front of us in line for the tickets is a mom and her pudgy, little, freckle-faced kid. He's managed to shove himself into a huge cowboy hat, chaps, and vest adorned with a sheriff's star. He points his toy rifle up at Cyrus and pulls the trigger - BAM, BAM. Cyrus and I look at each other, step out of line and decide to just explore on our own.
Considering the Going Mad experience in Texas so far - freak snow storm in Dallas, over-zealous bouncer in Austin, just being in Houston - the beauty of San Antonio comes as a complete surprise. The weather, even though it's certainly not sunny, is warm enough for t-shirts and the periodic sprinkles just seem to make more flowers bloom.
The large woman in pink is just out of the picture.
Granted, the hoops-crazed hordes haven't yet descended on the city to trample the pretty tulips and block up the quaint walkways. It's still Wednesday and most fans won't arrive until Thursday or Friday, so we've got some breathing room, which is good since Cyrus, much like Axl Rose, doesn't like being stuck in a crowd.
This is apparent when we head over to the Alamo for a quick history lesson. Suddenly, we're surrounded by a herd of camera-carrying tourists. As I position my partner in front of the main gates of the mission turned fortress for a picture, a large, pale woman in a tight, pink shirt takes a liking to Cyrus. She decides to make friendly chatter and persists despite Cyrus' terse answers and sighs of discontent. For a second, I think my man is going to hurt this poor woman. He's got that "I can't take it anymore" crazed look in his eyes. But then the large woman in the tight, pink shirt gets a call on her cell phone and walks away. I snap my photo. Cyrus throws up his hands. "Enough!" He cries. "I need to get back to that river."
That's Oliver Purnell eating tomatoes.
Back to the river we go where I discover another great quality of San Antonio - there's nowhere to hide. This might be bad for ex-girlfriends and Richard Kimball, but it's great for fledgling journalists such as ourselves. The upper echelons of college hoops can't escape us. All the hotel lobbies are near each other and if you're not in the hotel lobbies, well then you're down on the River Walk. Just today, we run into Clemson Coach Oliver Purnell three times. Three times! I mean, by the third time, things get severely awkward. He looks at us with one of those death stares like, "Keep following me and I'm going to vaporize you." Cyrus immediately hides behind the nearest support column and I just sort of stare at my toes.
Finally, after what seems like ten hours, Cyrus and I make it back to the La Quinta. It's been a long, informative day. We've learned that the River Walk is a beautiful way to kill a few hours, that the Alamo is best seen in pictures, ditto for Oliver Purnell, and that San Antonio is going to kick ass this weekend, same as it did back in 1836 when Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett were fighting off the Mexican army.