San Antonio and Birmingham
Feb. 20/24, 1998

Michael J. Ferguson

Les Publications INRS-Télécommunications, Montréal

Journal Index


1  Friday, February 20, Montreal to San Antonio
2  Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, San Antonio
3  Tuesday, February 24, San Antonio to Birmingham
4  Tuesday, February 24 to Thursday, February 26, Birmingham

Sally Mahoney is being inaugurated as President of Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) in San Antonio on Saturday Feb. 21, 1998. She invited me to come and also had the good judgment to have her inauguration on the first day of our winter break week. I am going to march in the academic procession and, on Tuesday, at 6:05am leave San Antonio for Birmingham to see Aunt Mary. Today, Feb. 20, is her 97the birthday. I have been seeing her every year for several years but missed 1997.

It is about 800 miles between San Antonio and Birmingham - I will be flying. On this trip the bike is being used only for local transportation.

1  Friday, February 20, Montreal to San Antonio

I told the US Custom's officials in Montreal that I was going to San Antonio. They said, with some astonishment, ``Really!''. When I said that I was going to see a friend inaugurated as the President of a University in San Antonio, they decided that my story that I was going to San Antonio was believable.

It was an appropriately uneventful flight, on an 1/4 full plane from Montreal to Cincinnati, continuing on with a full plane to San Antonio. I arrived to a sunny warm (70) delightful day at about 2:15pm, put my bike together, and rode to Sally's house - not the optimum way but I made it. Sally has been presiding over functions of many sorts and today was no exception. She arrived home at about 9:45pm. Her family from San Francisco is of course here, but she was able to set up an extra room in her garage for me. The real mechanics of the setup were accomplished by her secretary Yolie. As Yolie said in her email to me ``No tent is needed in San Antonio!''.

Sally's house is about 8 miles from the ``Lake'' as OLLU is known. I rode downtown, past a decrepit, Grecian pillared house, guarded by a low chain link fence and three black cats. Downtown San Antonio is a strange modern, restored, and demoralizing mixture. As I travelled down Commerce, it became semi-clean and quite poor. The motels were obviously used for semi-permanent residency. Sun set at about 6:30pm and it was mostly dark when I arrived at the Lake. It is a pleasant, small university of about 3500 day students and 4000? weekend students. On campus I saw a poor guy trying to disable his alarm system, that had been activated and refused to allow him to start his car. As far as I know, he was completely unsuccessful.

On the way back I stopped at Market Square, hopefully for a snack - it was about 7:00pm and was quite closed. It appears that San Antonio rolls up the sidewalks at 6:00pm all winter. Although the real restaurants were open, there was no Taco place so I left.

2  Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, San Antonio

On Saturday it poured rain and flooded out the city. San Antonio has no storm sewers, relying instead on signs warning of Water on the Road and 5 foot flood gauges. It may have ``rained on Sally's parade'' but it didn't remove the sunshine from the spirit. Sally thanked people at the Lake during her inauguration speech for going beyond the call of duty. The cleaning lady, who took some drapes home to be washed because she new then it would be done right, cried when Sally singled her out. I think the Lake is Sally's kind of place.

San Antonio is now the second largest city in Texas, behind Houston. It is about 5 million, very heavily armed with military installations, and generally, quite poor. It is so large that when you get near its outer limits it is difficult to tell whether you are looking at urban or rural poverty. This was most obvious when Sally, her sister Marjorie, husband Bob and I, went on the Mission Trail of four of the five missions in San Antonio.

The centre of San Antonio commerce, shopping, and restaurants is Paseo del Rio more commonly known as Riverwalk. It is a delight - about a mile of restaurants, stuff shops, and even a drug store. You know it is the centre because the Hard Rock Café and Planet Hollywood are there, practically beside each other.

On Sunday, Sally and I went to the Alamo, Spanish for cottonwood, which is right beside Riverwalk. The Alamo is the secularized San Antonio de Valera mission and is maintained by the Daughters of the Texas Revolution. It is a museum and a shrine. One interesting comment on the siege was that it was quite cold. The siege would have started this Monday and it is now in the high 70s - unusually warm? The Alamo is taken quite seriously in Texas. Here independence day is March 2, not July 4.

3  Tuesday, February 24, San Antonio to Birmingham

I left Sally's at about 3:00am to ride to the Airport for my 6:00am flight. It was a delightful morning. Devine Road to the Quarry Shopping Center was unlit. Just as I reached the well lit Center, the batteries in my headlight ran out. I put in new batteries and continued on, arriving just before 4:00am. In about 45 minutes I had my bike and bags packed and joined fifteen Air Force men and women to wait an hour and fifteen minutes for our plane.

Breakfast was again a brown bag, but better than out of Montréal - more orange juice and some yoghurt to go with the muffin and banana. Sun rose over complete cloud cover but now in Atlanta it is bright and sunny. We had to delay our landing because of traffic - at least 25 planes were waiting to take off on a parallel runway as we came down.

4  Tuesday, February 24 to Thursday, February 26, Birmingham

It was a beautiful day in Birmingham when we landed at about 10:00am. Bill Parker met me at the airport and we drove back to his place where I will be staying.

Aunt Mary is not well. I saw her four times on Tuesday afternoon but she barely knew I was there. She says that she hurts, but it wasn't until Wednesday afternoon that I could get her to say where she hurt; the answer - everywhere. She was in bed and mostly asleep for all of Tuesday afternoon, and I didn't see her up at all until I took her to lunch on Wednesday. She drank some Ensure but did not touch her food. On Wednesday morning I was there when her doctor was making his rounds. The current analysis is that she is suffering from asthma and congestive heart failure. She is evidently hurting. One of her more frequent comments was ``God, now!''. She also suggested once or twice ``Shoot me!''.

However, on Thursday, before Bill drove me to the airport, we couldn't find her. We finally did - she was in her wheelchair, on her way back from breakfast. On Wednesday morning she ate, or rather, looked at, her breakfast in her room. Bill went across the street to make some copies and I wheeled her around all the corridors in St. Martins. When Bill came back, he read her the mail. We left her sitting in her wheelchair.

File translated from TEX by TTH, version 3.02.
On 28 May 2004, 04:58.