San Antonio June 2006

Dates: June 8 - June 20, 2006

People: Mark, Sarah, Luke and most of the family.


Today began our nearly two-week trip of various stops and two weddings. We left early in the morning to head to see Sarah's parents. We left Fort Wayne around 9:15am. Was a crazy night before packing as we are also moving a few days after returning from this trip. We gave Luke a quick breakfast before hopping in the car. We had some quick driving and little traffic as we rolled out of Indiana. We had lunch in Terre Haute. We rolled into the farm just after 2. We visited for awhile and eventually hopped in the pool. Luke enjoyed swimming around with his cousins Bailey and Connor. Luke and Bailey even shared a raft for awhile and played. We were hoping to avoid Luke getting a sunburn as it was very warm and sunny out. After swimming we returned to Grandma's house for strawberries and shortcake. Both were very fresh and tasted wonderful. Luke was piling the strawberries in and nearly ate them all himself. We got out of the farm around 4p and headed down to West Frankfort finally. We made it in and visited for awhile and then had a great lasagna dinner. After dinner we headed down to Marion to the main park there and Luke played on a playground with some great slides and we also watched a baseball game with some of Racheal's friends.


We left this morning for St. Louis to visit Grandpa & Grandma. We made it to their house around 10:30am. We had a nice time visiting. Luke played well there and didn't get all that bashful. He was handing out high fives and even some hugs while we were there. We left there and headed to Burger King for a quick lunch. Luke did really well there and was cute as he wore one of the BK Crowns and a bib which said "Future Whopper Eater". We then headed towards Forest Park and made it to the St. Louis Zoo. As we left the car and started walking we realized it really was hot out today. Weather report in the evening said the high was around 95 today. At the zoo we headed first for the wonderful penguin exhibit but found there to be a large line outside of it. So we moved on to the other animals. We headed past the sea lions and on up the hill towards some of the african animals. The zebras were out and active, most active of any animal we saw. There was a leopard who was out and walking on the rocks, close enough for us to get a good look. There was a baby giraffe walking around with its parents for us to see. During our warm walks we found some of the cooling fans the zoo put out to stay cool. They had some freezing mist put out in the fans. Mark would hold Luke with him in front of the fan and Luke gave a funny look to it. But we think he enjoyed the feeling. We finally headed back to the penguins and got in. The cold feeling inside was a great relief. In fact, Mark was almost getting cold in there. Luke enjoyed watching the penguins swimming around in the water. That was about it for the zoo. Once again, we didn't have time to go and see everything. From the zoo we made our way out of St. Louis. We stopped in the new Buffalo Wild Wings in O'Fallon which had just opened two days previously. And then made it back to West Frankfort around 7:30. The girls left shortly after for a church activity and this left Mark & Sarah at home with Luke. We all played outside and got some video of Mark pushing Luke around on the pedalled go-kart on the driveway. We also helped Luke hunt lightning bugs for the first time. He was curious but didn't get into it much. Luke had a great day overall and was in a great mood.


Sarah left with Karen in the morning to take Racheal and Lisa to a volleyball camp in Carbondale. The girls would spend the day there. Sarah and Karen spent the morning shopping there and did lunch. Meanwhile, Mark had fun watching and playing with Luke all morning while Dave got some church/sermon work done at the house. Luke did pretty well playing and even took an hour and a half nap. Spent the afternoon at home doing a few projects for the girls. Luke left with his Grandma and Grandpa around 3 to pick up the girls from Carbondale. Mark & Sarah would be heading off to St. Louis by 5 and assumed they'd be gone by the time the Carbondale group got back. They ended up returning a bit after 4:30 which was just a while before Mark & Sarah left. We got to drive Sarah's tracker once again on the trip to St. Louis. Had a quick drive to St. Louis. Got to the wedding just a few minutes before it started. The wedding was in the historic Trinity Lutheran Church in downtown St. Louis in the Soulard neighborhood. The wedding was nice for Heather and her father preached. We got to say hi to the new couple after the wedding and briefed the reception for a few minutes before heading home. It was heavy lightning and rain most of the way home from St. Louis. Finally lost the rain when we left I-64 for I-57. Got home a little after 10 and found Luke to be fast asleep already.


Driving: West Frankfort, IL to Little Rock, AR [Mark in van, Dad in truck] 359.2 miles

Mom and Dad showed up in West Frankfort just a bit before church. After church we grilled burgers and hot dogs at the house and visited for awhile before hitting the road. We left W.F. a little after 1:30 and made our way to Little Rock. We noticed the temps were hitting near 100 degrees as we rolled through Missouri and into Arkansas. We only stopped once on the trip for gas. This day was Luke's first trip to Arkansas and Mark and Sarah's first time there since being married. We made it to David's house in Little Rock right around 7pm. We took a tour of the house when we got there. The ladies then took Luke out and got some dinner at Sonic. Mark, David and Dad unloaded the truck and nearly got all of it done before the food arrived. We finished the truck up as it was getting dark. Spent the evening starting to put the house together. Dad took care of prepping the lawnmower. Mark got the computer stuff in order. David & Mom stayed up late putting away boxes and cleaning things up. Luke enjoyed his time running around the new house and exploring. He wanted to help unload the truck and we finally found something light enough for him in a camping mattress.


Driving: Little Rock, AR to Temple, TX 435.6 miles

Little Rock to Sulphur Springs, TX [David] 229.6 miles

Sulphur Springs to Temple, TX [Mark] 206.0 miles

Took it easy to begin this day. We got some more things cleaned up and organized in David's house. Mark used David's new John Deere mower to mow the grass for the first time. Sarah helped take care of Luke while Mom cleaned the house. And David went out and got his bank stuff taken care of. We got left from the house just before 1pm. We headed down the interstate a few miles and had a quick lunch at a Pizza Hut buffet. The rest of the afternoon was driving. Mark took over driving at a gas stop, around Sulphur Springs I think. We bipassed Dallas on I-635 and made our way down I-35E heading for San Antonio. We decided upon making our way to Waco and staying at a Comfort Inn there. We made it in town but the Comfort Inn wasn't where it was supposed to be. We finally called there number to find that they were no longer a Comfort Inn but a Waco Inn and they had no vacancy. We found the other hotels in town also had no vacancy because of a golf tournament in town. So we gave up for a while and did dinner at a Fazoli's. We made some more phone calls there for hotels and had no luck in Waco. We finally decided upon heading on to Temple and found a Comfort Suites with one room left there. We had hoped to drive over to Crawford to see George W. Bush's ranch but that didn't work. So we drove on to Temple and rolled in just before 9. Had a nice hotel room, the handicap room, and even got some swimming in before bedtime. Mark, David and Luke hopped in but Luke didn't stay long. He still isn't sure about the whole swimming thing. Thankfully this hotel had high-speed internet and so our evening was set.


Driving: Temple, TX to Johnson City, TX [Mark] 117.3 miles

Johnson City to Fredericksburg to San Antonio-AmeriSuites [David] 91.4 miles

Began this day with breakfast at the Comfort Suites. We headed out of Temple just before 10. Made our way down I-35 into Austin and then found the stop for Concordia. We walked around Concordia Austin for a while. We found Professor Brian Mosemann's office (a former teacher of ours) but he was not home, so we left a message. We walked about the fountain in the middle of campus and went in the large classroom building. Then we took off down I-35 again and hit US290 going west to Johnson City. Arrived in Johnson City a little after 12 and walked around the visitor center museum and toured LBJ's boyhood homestead. We didn't make the tour inside the house and opted against the bus tour over to the LBJ Ranch District. From there we headed on to Fredericksburg, David took over driving after Johnson City. We did lunch in Fredericksburg at the Auslander Biergarten. Mark has a dunkel weiss and David a Warsteiner dunkel. Both beers were German but rather average. Afterwards we walked over to the Nimitz Museum. The actually Nimitz Museum was closed but the Nation Musem of the Pacific War was open. We walked through the museum and saw the various display boards chronicaling the war in chronological order. There were several life-size imitations of aspects of the Pacific War. Luke slept through nearly the entire museum but the rest of us enjoyed it. After the museum we drove past a cemetery in town at Fredericksburg and then were headed south on US-87 heading for I-10 and finally, San Antonio. We arrived in San Antonio just before 5pm. Dad had flown in around 4:15pm and Megan picked him up at the airport.

We checked into the AmeriSuites Northwest hotel and got settled for a brief while and then headed over to the Abbott's home. We met Mr & Mrs Abbott as well as Aunt Carolyn from California and Megan's brother Kyle. Mr. Abbott grilled pork tenderloins on the grill and we had a huge bucket of mashed potatoes for dinner. Sarah and I were introduced to Sunkist Cherry Limeade for the first time as well as the Shiner Bock beer. Mark watched the Cubs game on Houston's FSN TV much of the evening, Luke took a walk outside with Kyle. Sarah helped the women make decorations for the rehearsal dinner.


Our day began with the challenge of finding Sea World. We headed north out of San Antonio heading for the Six Flags Over Texas location but then realized Sea World was southwest of there. Eventually we made it, got parked, and headed in to the park

Our first show was the Whale and Dolphin show near the park entrance. This one was similar to the show we saw a year previous in Orlando. There were pacific white-sided dolphins, beluga whales and the normal acrobats. The acrobats were good and used stand-up swings on the sides of the tank to launch themselves into the water, but were otherwise taking up too much time.

We moved on and walked past the alligators and small turtles. It was a very hot day out and lots of sun so we were looking for ways to stay cool and avoid being burnt. We made it to the penguin encounter and headed inside to the cool. It was still to dark this time to take any good still pics but Mark got some video which hopefully worked out. There was a trainer in with the penguins and answering lots of good questions.

We finally made it to the first water ride, the Texas Splashdown. This was the normal ride in a log down some slides ride. Unfortunately only Mark and Dad were able to go as Sarah was expecting and Luke was too little. Mom decided not to go. We found out afterwards that Sarah and Luke probably both could have gone. Mark and Dad didn't get hardly wet at all so we moved on anyways. Next was the Rio Loco ride, the typical ride the large circular raft down a river and get very wet. And we did. Mark and Dad rode first and got nearly drenched. Dad enjoyed the cool enough he went again with Mom and they got drenched. The cool water helped us out in the sun for a few hours.

We did lunch at the Rio Loco BBQ which was the same type of BBQ we did in Orlando. Food was still spectacular. Had a great lunch and Luke ate a ton of watermelon. Moved on to the Sea Lion stadium to see another Seamour and Clyde show. This one featured the typical sea lions, sea otters and a walrus. It was still a very good show. After the show we watched the sea lions outdoors and their feeding.

From there we headed into the center of the park to the kids play area. Mark and Luke rode on a ferris wheel style tea cup ride. It wasn't worth the wait or the time spent on it out in the sun at all. We also tried out the matted play area a bit and helped Luke crawl through some tubes. The highlight came when we found the water works area. Every one of us took our turns playing in the falling and shooting water. Luke spent several turns in there and was absolutely soaked, but loving it. This helped cool all of us down from the heat.

We had originally planned to leave Sea World around 3 in the afternoon and come back later in the evening to see the evening Shamu show. However as the time went passing by quickly we decided to stay and do it all at once. So we saw the new Shamu show titled "Believe". The parts of the show with the orcas in it was good as always, we almost got in the splash zone.

We finished the day running by the tortoises, Budweiser clydesdales (including the Budweiser donkey), outdoor dolphins and the aquarium with sharks. Luke really enjoyed standing by the dolphin tank and trying to peer in at the swimming dolphins. The aquarium was a bit of a disappointment as we were hoping for another shark tunnel as in Orlando.

Left the park just before dinner time, gave some consideration to opting up to the two-day pass to hit the water park the next day, but decided upon going home.


We headed over to the San Antonio Zoo early this morning, shortly after breakfast. The weather was nice but hot and humid. The bears were all out in the early exhibits we saw and we took some great pictures of a mother and cub pair of spectacled bears. The grizzly bear looked hot and all we saw was his head poking out of his pond. We followed to the monkey exhibits where they were all active and entertaining for Luke. We toured through the reptile house next. And then followed on to some of the larger cats. The clouded leopards were moving around close and we got some great pictures. The snow leopard and jaguar were also in good spots to be seen. From there we headed on past the large construction area for their new Africa Live! exhibit to be coming later in the summer. We saw a pair of elephants, an ostrich, a zebra and some hyenas. No giraffes to be seen and only Sarah spotted a sleeping lion hiding in his exhibit. The cheetah was walking around in his exhibit for a good picture or two. We headed for the petting zoo but it was under renovation for a few weeks. We saw some gators, including an albino alligator, as well as the hippos and tons of birds. On the way back we stopped in this large children's area at the zoo. We headed in for the campground area for what was called a hand's on exhibit. There they had two keepes and a small hedgehog in hand for us to pet. Mark petted him a few times and got Luke to pet him once. We then headed inside where they had a tiny river with magnetic fishing wands that we let Luke use. And then moved over to a kid's play area for a bit. On the way out Luke got to pet a goat with Mark. We left the zoo just after noon as Dad needed to return to the hotel for a 1pm golfing appointment. We got back just in time for Dad to be picked up by a group from the Abbott's clan. Dad was gone golfing until after 6 in the evening. The Wachtel's in the RV arrived around 2:30pm and were all pretty tired. Most went upstairs for a nap after we visited them and helped carry in the luggage. Grandma joined Mom, Mark and David to go run some errands. We stopped by the Abbott's to pick up David and then headed to the church. There we sized up a place and a stand to hang Mom's wedding banner. That trip was successful and we headed back to the Abbott's to grab a few decorations for the shower. We then headed to the Al's Formalwear to pickup the tuxes. There we were met with a few issues. Mark's tux was fine but the shoes he had ordered were out of stock for some nearly inexplicable reason. David had a vest with a spot on it as well as the bottom lining sticking out. So that had to be reordered. We were also informed that they didn't have in stock Connor's shoe size and couldn't reorder it so they would be having to give him a different shoe style. That was upsetting but we finally got the place to upgrade all the shoes to that style to solve the issue. It was quite annoying to have the place run out of stock on our shoes when our orders had been sent in many weeks ahead of time. One would think a responsible establishment would know ahead of time what shoes would be needed and plan accordingly. All the while Grandma who had been tired from the long drive down was falling asleep everywhere we went.

After returning to the hotel we took it easy for a while and did some swimming. Connor and Bailey were in the pool and Mark joined. We were taken out of the pool sometime after 6 to head over to the Sea Island Shrimp House. The entire Wachtel group and our family, minus David, headed over for food. Mark had a norwegian salmon steak which was fantastic. Connor and Bailey finished dinner quickly and spent time out by the playground. Eventually everyone gathered outside, where things had cooled down nicely, and visited for awhile. Eventually we all made it back to the hotel and had a quiet evening of visiting. Grandpa & Grandma Witte eventually arrived from the airport very late in the evening after some rental troubles. Sara and Rachel also arrived on their flight from camp sometime after midnight.


This morning was fun as most of the family was around in the hotel. We sat with Sara and Rachel and talked with them for the first time. Todd's and Dan's families went off to SeaWorld mid morning so Connor and Bailey were set for a good day. Dad and Grandpa left to get Ken and Cindy's family from the airport. Although about 5 minutes before their flight arrived Dad called David on the cell and said they'd had an accident with Grandpa's rental van and that David and Mark would have to make the aiport pickup. Sounds like a semi sitting at the intersection in front of them on the highway offramp rolled back a few feet and dented the front end of the van. So Mark and David picked up Ken & Cindy and the kids and brought them back to the hotel. Around noon time Mom and the Grandma's headed off to the bridesmaid's luncheon. The non-luncheon group went over to Pappasito's Cantina near the hotel for a good mexican lunch. They had very tasty food and Mark was able to try fish tacos for the first time in years. Luke enjoyed eating the queso on his chips and trying some salsa. He also enjoyed his quesadilla. The rest of the afternoon was a bit of a toss-up. The women got back shortly after lunch was over and were ready to decorate the meeting room at the hotel for the rehearsal dinner but the hotel staff wasn't finished setting up the room. So some went off shopping for some last minute groceries while others just headed back to the hotel rooms for a break. Finally we got the room decorate and ready for the evening with time to spare before rehearsal. Some swimming was done in the afternoon and then we made our way to the rehearsal around 4:30. The rehearsal went very quickly and nothing was too complicated. We did two quick run-throughs of the basics and everything went fine. Sarah left early to pick up the food from Mama Margie's with Uncle Larry and all was ready to go for the dinner at 6pm. Dad gave the opening prayer for dinner and we ate. The food was spectacular. It included a fajita setup with beef and chicken meat on soft tortillas and an assortment of accessories to put on the tortillas. There were also tons of chips and queso dip to round the meal off. After the eating was done Dad went around the room and introduced every single person there by name as well as a short description of who they were. It was impressive, especially after he rolled through all of Megan's relatives without any trouble. Megan's Dad then took over and read two short stories he had written about each David and Megan. They were very good and showed his fine sense of humor. That ended the dinner and from there everyone went there ways. A large group headed over to Megan's home for awhile as another headed out to visit by the pool.


The morning of the wedding came and went pretty quickly. Everyone tried to sleep in and get up just in time for breakfast. There was some swimming done in the late morning but the water was cooled from the breezes and so the swimming was brief. Everyone went their own ways for lunch and our family including Grandpa & Grandma Wachtel just did some Arby's. By the time we'd finished up our food and talking it was about time to start getting ready. We hade to make it over to the church at or shortly after 2pm to be ready for pictures. After doing so we met up with the groomsmen who were all ready to go by 2:30. The photographer decided to work with the ladies first and didn't end up getting to us guys until a little after 3pm. We were starting to worry the pictures wouldn't be done until wedding time but we finished up around 3:20pm. Everyone was ushered in quickly and the service nearly made it on time by 3:30pm. Mark ushered Mom in to church while Kyle (Megan's brother) ushered Megan's mom in. The wedding service was nice and Pastor Mueller preached a fine sermon. The pictures after service were a bit rushed as the church's "band" was warming up an hour early for their 6pm show. Everyone made it on to the reception at Los Encinos without any trouble. The dinner there was slated for 6pm but the foodstaff was slow and beyond schedule and didn't get the food out until just before 7. The location was gorgeous with a large grass yard behind the place with open room for the kids to run around. Mark finally got to say the opening prayer for dinner as people were already being ushered up for the food. Dinner was good, it was chicken and pasta with a gravy as well as green beans and dinner rolls. It was served in a line-style. As dinner finished some family pictures were taken and more mingling was done. Finally the cakes were cut and as people were getting cakes Mark gave a toast for David and Megan followed by Megan's good friend Kristi giving toast as maid of honor. The dancing commenced after that although the time seemed to already be after 8pm. David and Megan had one dance followed by a father/bride dance and a mother/groom dance and then it opened up. The dancing went on till 10 went the Los Encinos people shut things down and shooed us out.


Our family went to the mega-church Concordia Lutheran this morning. It was quite an enormous facility and at this time they claim to worship 2300 a week. It was a moderate blended service with some good hymns and a well chosen Ephesians verse for Father's Day. There was no liturgy except for a Psalm read from the big screens. The "message" consisted of a 10 minute video presentation and show put on by the two presiding pastors followed by what seemed to be a below-average seminar talk on good parenting in the form of 10 points. Only 5 points were given each containing a proof passage from Scripture. It was unfortunate however, that this message seemed to contain more Law as well as practical wisdom and showmanship from the Pastors than it did the Gospel of Christ.

After church the whole family in three groups went downtown San Antonio to visit the Alamo and the Riverwalk. Although we decided to travel separately after no more than 20 minutes there we all seemed to find each other at a restaurant. We ate lunch together at the BBQ place and then departed our ways again. We walked on down to the Rivercenter Mall and then back down the Riverwalk eventually leaving and heading for the Alamo again. We walked through it briefly and toured the gift shop before heading to the car. The heat and humidity made the outside time very uncomfortable and Luke was not feeling well at all. We made it back to the hotel around 4pm and took the rest of the afternoon off.

Mark went down to the lobby to visit around 6:30p and met Grandpa & Grandma, Mom as well as Butch & Joyce. We talked for a while and were slowly joined by Sarah, and Bob & Joyce. Around 7 Ken & Cindy came down with the kids and went swimming. We all slowly followed them out to the pool and Mark and Dad joined them in the pool. Swimming was great with the warm 90 degree heat still. Mark and Dad swam till a little after 7:30 and then finally got hungry. Ken & Cindy's group stayed in another half hour as the kids were having a blast. We took all the Witte group minus Ken & Cindy, Grandpa & Grandma over to the Sea Island Shrimp House for another good dinner. Ken & Cindy followed later. They were out of the norwegian salmon steak Mark had gotten on Thursday evening so he ordered the shrimp feast like Dad. Food was good and the kids played on the playground for a while. After we came back to the hotel and visited for awhile. Mark wasn't feeling too good then and neither was Luke so we headed upstairs for an early night.


Driving: San Antonio, TX to Little Rock, AR [Dad] 584.1 miles

Luke had us up a few times overnight with fever and crying. The tylenol we gave helped and he was doing a little better in the morning. We made it up around 7 and did breakfast around 8 after some heavy packing. We said our good byes to the remaining Witte's and were on the long road home around 8:45am. We drove until Waxahatchie, Texas where we pulled off to an exit with a Subway in a gas station. That was just around 12:30. Luke was really needing the break as he has been really fussy off and on wanting out of his seat. He's been running fevers all day still and taking tylenol regularly. We made it back on the road a little before 1. A little before 3 we stopped at a rest area to take another break. Luke has been doing a little better, he's warm, but not severly warm. Took a quick 15 minutes break and met a couple of Cubs fans headed for Kankakee with a new Alaskan malamute puppy. We passed into Arkansas at Texarkana shortly after 4. Around 4:20 we had to make an emergency pitstop on the road as Luke really filled the diaper. Unfortunately the stop did not contain an on-ramp for I-30 again. So we had to travel 6 miles up US-67 to get back on. Thankfully the highway paralleled the interstate so it wasn't a bad detour. We did another rest area stop around 5pm which was a quickie. And then we made it into the Little Rock area just after 6pm and stopped at a Wal-Mart in Benton for a few essentials. We also grabbed dinner at the Arby's in Benton. Luke's fever was running up again at this time and he didn't eat hardly anything. We left Benton and headed up SR-5 over to David's house and arrived just a few minutes after 7. Dad took the opportunity to try out David's John Deere mower and did the lawn. The rest of us stayed inside and waited for the house to cool while looking at wedding pictures. Luke finally started to eat a little.


Driving: Little Rock, AR to West Frankfort, IL [Dad] 358.2 miles

Driving: West Frankfort, IL to Fort Wayne, IN [Mark] 369.2 miles

Driving: Total, 727.4 miles

Left David's house a bit after 6:15a and headed for downtown Little Rock. We drove by the high school and the grade school to see them for once. And then on our way out of town saw out the window President Clinton's Library, or as it is better known, the House Trailer of the Future. We left Little Rock around 6:45. Made a quick stop around 8 for some breakfast at Burger King where they had dollar croissants and then a quick rest area stop closer to 9. We went on and drove well out of Arkansas and into Missouri. We made a big stop at the Boomland and got some gas and drinks and walked around a bit. They had some racks with souvenir shot glasses of each state. Of course the ones we were interested in, such as Arkansas, Illinois and Michigan were out. We headed on and passed over the Mississippi River and got some pictures. At 11:25am between mile markers 7 and 8 on I-57 we finally passed 100,000 miles on Mom and Dad's Grand Caravan.

We did a quick lunch when we reached Marion, Illinois at a Sonic there. And then finally made it to West Frankfort. We spent the better part of an hour there getting stuff swapped in the vehicles and visiting with Sarah's family. We headed out of there just before 2, with Mark, Sarah, and Luke riding in the red caravan and Dad and Mom in the silver caravan. We got into the farm around 3:30 and spent another hour there visiting and eating cookies. We left there just before 5 and started the long trek up to Ft. Wayne. We only had a few brief spots and got in a little after 10 which wasn't nearly as late as we were expecting.

The End.