We are happy to be done with the drive through vast stretches of West Texas. Buddy is grateful to be out of his carrier and Fahrenheit is in need of a walk. Mina is already fast asleep so I decide to take the pup down to River Walk, just a few blocks from our hotel. Mark and I visited San Antonio last year. It happened to be the one weekend each year where they drain the water to clean out the river. Lucky us right? The city should really halt all flights into town when that happens. Ever since then we?ve wanted to return and so I was very happy life presented us this chance.
River Walk is a real gem. Restaurants, shops and bars are tucked away along the river?s sidewalk banks. I think what makes it feel so quaint is that the river is quite narrow and bends and twists allowing for plenty of intimate-feeling nooks and crannies to enjoy a glass of wine or quiet conversation.
I decide to catch a cab back to our hotel. Ali, a Persian cabbie driving a Prius Hatchback, agrees to allow the dog in the car. Within seconds I discover this man is fascinating.
He?s one of four children, nearly each born in a different country. You see he was a teenager during the Iranian Revolution of 1979. So while he was born and raised in Tehran he tells me his brother was born in Germany, (their family?s first stop after fleeing Iran), and the other two were born in Texas. He said back then he truly thought the overthrow of the Shah would lead to an American-style democracy. ?The Shah? refers to Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi which was Iran?s monarchy.
Ali told me how many young people at the time thought the revolution would rid them of a dictator in favor of elected representation. So against his parents? wishes he returned to Iran after the royal regime collapsed. ?I was 17,? he told me, ?and I was willing to lose my life for democracy. I wanted to help rebuild my country.? He discovered that his idealism didn?t match reality. The power vacuum resulted in a power grab by Islamic fundamentals. He was drafted to fight in the Iran-Iraq War. Then he turns to me and points to his stylish frames as he adds with a chuckle, ?but they rejected me for having bad eyes. Thank goodness.?
I naturally ask him about the ?Arab Spring?. This is the expression many use to describe the recent and relentless march of pro-democracy protests across the Middle East. What began in Tunisia has spread across the region, leading to the fall of Egypt?s regime and a civil war in Libya. I wonder if the youth of today will repeat his own past. Will religious extremists hijack the protestors? well-intentioned fight for representative democracy? Ali shakes his head, ?no, I am optimistic.?
The reason? He believes what differentiates this generation is that they have access to the internet. He tells me that it allows even the most common man to be more educated because he has access to a world of ideas and information. He adds that, ?a life without bread to eat, without jobs or opportunity is a life without hope.? That these people are able to find hope in their grim circumstance is in part why he thinks they?ll have the courage and stamina to continue the fight for a true democracy.
Ali tells me driving a cab is his second job. By day he is a structural engineer for a San Antonio engineering firm. He picked up the cabbie gig to help pay for his daughter?s college education. We spend another 10 minutes chatting about American politics. He?s worried about two things: 1) voter apathy; and, 2) lack of reasonable and respectful public discourse. Without those two things he wonders if a revolution will knock on our door someday.
After paying him I realize we never had any dinner. Mark usually skips an evening meal but I am starving. Our hotel offers some basic grocery items near the front desk so I decide on a can of tuna and peaches for desert. Mina is still sleeping soundly and Buddy is enjoying cuddle time with Mark. Now it is off to bed so we can hopefully start early in the morning. On my walk with Fahrenheit I spotted a sign for a large Farmer?s Market near River Walk. At just nearly 3-months old Mina has never experienced a Farmer?s Market and so I think that would be fun for her. A great experience to introduce her to new colors, scents and textures.
I finally get the chance to take a nap. When you are a new mom parents always advise you to ?sleep when the baby sleeps?. It is truly the BEST advice! When I awake I find Mark is counting road kill. ?4 raccoons, 3 deer and 1 coyote,? he explains. A sure sign he is absolutely bored. We stop for gas and another diaper change on my lap, (I?ve gotten really good at those), before cruising into San Antonio.
We decide to stop into Fort Stockton, Texas for lunch. Not being a fast food eater we venture around town to find regional cuisine that won?t take forever because we did get a late start to the day. One problem is that we are traveling with animals. We spot the answer to our needs: Bien Venidos. A mural on the side of their building declares that Bien Venidos is ?a Great Mexican Food Restaurant.? I am excited about the other sign painted on the tan cinderblock wall, ?Drive-Thru?. That?s right; this restaurant has a drive-thru window! It is perfect for our traveling family. We decide to order and enjoy the meal at a local park. This gives us a chance to play ball with the pup and take the cat for a walk. You read that right; Buddy knows how to walk on a leash! The park had a special feature we were truly impressed with?a sizeable BBQ smoker! How many public parks do you know have a BBQ Pit? It is one of those, ?you know you are in Texas when?? moments.
Fort Stockton is home to the world?s largest roadrunner?it even has a name! That?s according to the website Tourtexas.com. The site explains that, ?Paisano Pete is 11 feet tall, 22 feet Long and is a favorite snapshot subject in Fort Stockton?. Of course it is! How many times in your life do you see a ridiculously large roadrunner statue? I am sure Paisano Pete will keep his world record for years to come. Can?t imagine why anyone else would erect a roadrunner statue.
Gotexas.About.com describes Fort Stockton as being ?way out in West Texas? and they are absolutely right. It was formerly a military installation in the late 19th century established to protect travelers and early settlers. The National Park Service states that Fort Stockton also protected the El Paso-San Antonio Road. Fitting since that is exactly our course this afternoon. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places with some of the remaining military outposts serving as a showcase of frontier architecture.