We started this road trip through the U.S hoping to explore both the loud, boisterous, and somewhat biased pride that Americans have in their own country, and the eccentricities that seem to stir the whole drink. We haven't been disappointed. Even the term 'Americans’ seems to have been hijacked (everyone living in North and South America are technically 'Americans') by a population that genuinely struggles to understand why everyone wouldn’t want to be a U.S. American and generally views eccentricity as a needed flamboyant colouring in life (how else do you explain Las Vegas- an elaborate adult playground in the middle of the desert??).
We’ve seen examples all through the country, but San Antonio has offered up a particular sampling of extremes. First up is the Alamo which is arguably the site of the most well known battle on U.S. soil (the only trouble is that, at the time, the Alamo was actually a mission in the Mexican state of Tejas). Famous battle cries included ‘Remember The Alamo’ and the very American "Come And Take It’. I’m sure the Mexican view of the loss of Texas (and a bunch of other territories) is less generous, but you have to admire how history and major historic events are woven seamlessly into the chest-thumping, flag saluting patriotism that is a way of life here. In Canada we do have a tendency to tear down our historic figures (often harshly examining them using the standards of today) and only quietly accept our contributions on the world stage so it’s a refreshing change.
That said, we have had a surprising amount of trouble finding the hats, shirts, pants, and accessories covered in the Stars & Stripes that we need for a proper U.S. welcome when we pick our friends up at the airport in a few days time. Texas was briefly an independent republic shortly after the battle at the Alamo and a tinge of independence must remain as the Texas flag is front and centre while the stars and stripes are less visible on the trashy trinkets found in the tourist shops.
At the very eccentric end of the scale, San Antonio offers up the Toilet Seat Art Museum. Barney Smith is a retired master plumber and he began making art on toilet seat lids in his garage -- the same garage that is now the Toilet Seat Art Museum. He currently has close to 1,200 toilet seats hanging in the garage and none of his artwork has ever been for sale. He keeps them all; they're a kind of toilet seat lid scrapbook of his life. Shockingly this isn’t the high traffic tourist site that the Alamo and the River Walk is so we had to phone Barney ahead of time to arrange for a private viewing. He’s a razor sharp 95 years old and walked us through his collection with pride. And just in case you think that the world probably doesn’t need a toilet seat art museum, Bemis Co., the world's largest manufacturer of toilet seats, wants to move the museum to its headquarters in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin... but not as long as Barney is alive.
Outside of the loud and proud, and the eccentricity, San Antonio has made it to the top of DH’s list of favourite U.S. cities we’ve visited on this road trip so far. It’s a wonderful city to wonder around (at least it is during the off-season).