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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Mission Report: Mission Concepcion

You may recall from a previous report how my wife and I met a very nice family during our visit to SAS. The husband mentioned to us that not enough people get out and see the San Antonio Missions (the actual missions, not the baseball team), so if the rain ever decides to cease and desist, we are making an effort to visit them.

Last week after leaving Espada Park, we took a short drive up the Mission Trail to Mission Concepcion. The road seems to be one of San Antonio's typical dual-named roads, called Mission Parkway or Padre Drive depending on which intersection you are at. (Don't even get me started)

Anyway, we took the drive up Mission Parkway to where it turns into Padre Drive near Padre Park, then up further to Mission Park. This is a really nice drive where the city has gone out of their way to make things look nice. There are lots of fancy looking street posts and in conjunction with regular sidewalk, lots of brick work.

I was surprised at how nice things were along this drive and thought of people on bikes or joggers taking advantage of the area. Unfortunately, there are lots of heavily wooded stretches that, frankly, say "mugger or sexual assaulter, please hide here". And, this may explain why on the first break in rain in several weeks, it was not full of joggers and bike riders.

I don't mean to scare you away, but before you explore a new place outside of your car or by yourself, you ought to at least get a lay of the land. I'm sure that during the day on weekends and such, there is nothing to worry about, but I'm about certain that I wouldn't take a nice late night stroll along this road without a can of mace or a shotgun. I could be wrong though.

By the way, from what we saw, Mission Park looks awesome with baseball and soccer fields etc. Thumbs up to Parks & Recreation. Also near Mission Park is a thing called the San Antonio Charro Association. They have a regular rodeo stadium right there like something straight from Mexico. That looked really interesting, but I was not equipped with my spurs, lasso or fancy sombrero. Perhaps next time.

After a short zig and zag, we were off Padre Drive and back on Mission Parkway on the way to Mission Concepcion.

When you see old movies where the star rides up on a church out in the middle of nowhere, think of this place. Of course, now, there are neighborhoods built around this one. But in sort of the same way they have strategically built the city of San Antonio around the Alamo where you can still take a good photo without the disturbing visual of progress and tall modern buildings, you can visit Mission Concepcion and appreciate the architecture and the beauty of the place without feeling like a traffic jam complete with honking horns and the obnoxious thumping of stereos will take away from the religious history of the place.

And yes, it is a church. They do hold mass there and though quite small, it is very beautiful.

You can tell that there is a lot of work taking place to rehabilitate the mission. In fact, they had one area blocked off to visitors as work progressed.

I think if you have any interest in photography, this is a must see place. Some of the shot set-ups are obvious - I was surprised that Kodak had not figured out a way to post those little "Photo
Spot" signs in front. For example, I took this one shot of the porch in front of the mission using my inexpensive, often beat-up, just hanging on by some scotch tape, digital camera, and I thought the picture came out okay. It may have been nicer had some guy not walked into the scene just as I snapped the picture, but you get the feel of the place. Only later, I was doing some searches on-line and found a web page where some guy had taken pretty much every photo I had taken, though he used a professional camera and seemed to understand something about lighting and such.

There are lots of other spiffy shots you can take, so even if you are like me and just want to take pictures as a reminder of the things I saw, or if you are into setting up the shot and doing it as art. By the way, if you are getting married or just want to take some really nice family photos, this would be a great place to use as a backdrop.

I don't know if it is part of the official rehab or if some volunteers have pitched in to clean things up, but out in front of the mission
is a little grotto similar to what we saw at Lourdes Grotto near Blanco Junction. People seem to be putting in a nice do it yourself stone walkway and adding some bricks and other landscaping work.

Like all national parks, there is an office which has information and of course, souvenirs and books for sale. But the most important thing you should know abou this place - assuming you decide to visit, is that the bathrooms are clean and have the most kick-ass air conditioning EVER! My wife went in to the ladies' and I stood out in the shade looking at a map of the mission trail, but due to the high humidity, I started sweating just standing there. I decided to hit the boys room and I swear, as soon as I opened the door, the wave of cool air nearly knocked me over. I stood there at the junior sized urinal mumbling to myself about how good it felt before realizing how incriminating it might look to Park Police. I did take an extra long time to wash my hands and comb my hair as a father and son walked in and both started commenting on how nice the air felt inside. My wife later told me that a young lady in their restroom who had worn long pants simply wasn't going to leave the comfort of the restroom.

So - note to homeless folks: Be a good tourist and wipe down the counter-tops after you take your afternoon bath. And hit the donation box on the way out.

And as is obligatory in our fair city, please Do Not Write on the Wall.

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San Antonio, TX, United States
I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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