Texas Hill Country and San Antonio

7/2/11 – Dragging ourselves out of bed at 6 AM we photographed another shopping mall library and then grabbed two espressos at Starbucks as we left Abilene. We drove south through several towns until we reached Ballinger. We had made a ranking system while doing our research for the trip. A “?” meant maybe we would visit the library. No ranking meant a good library we would definitely visit. A “*” meant this was a top one to photograph. Ballinger’s * library was well deserved. It is a well preserved Carnegie that had the light coming from the wrong direction but I still made it work. We continued south and entered the fabled Texas Hill Country. Fredericksburg is a classic German Hill Country town that has struck gold with the tourist business. After the plain towns we had been in earlier the crowds and overtly cute, theme-park feel of Fredericksburg was a little hard to take. The saving grace was that the library there was originally built as the county court house. The impressive old two-story, rock-walled building made our stay here well worth it. Walker then drove us through the empty Hill Country straight to Luckenbach, TX. I expected it to be a regular small Texas town. Instead, it was filled with a huge crowd of bald bikers with beer bellies. We cranked up Waylon Jennings and got out of town as fast as possible. San Antonio is the 7th largest city in the United States with 2 1/2 million people. The Main Library is large, beautiful and very modern. We do a short visit to scope it out before photographing tomorrow. I also take a few quick photos at the classic branch library in Pedro Park. We are spending two nights at the Roadway Inn in downtown San Antonio. The parking lot seems very sketchy and there is a double deck freeway right next to us and lots of police action on the streets. But driving around San Antonio we see a lively city that knows how to have a good time. We are both exhausted so it was early to bed. Even the sounds of the sirens fade quickly as we crash.

7/3/11 – The San Antonio Main Library seems to function well as both a large, urban library and as a great example of modern architecture. The six stories are filled with people on this warm Sunday morning. Librarian Julia Selwyn is very helpful answering my questions about the library and San Antonio. The Dale Chihuly statue “Fiesta Tower” dominates the atrium and I spend time photographing it and the interior. I dreaded photographing the exterior because of the heat. I plunge into it and hop from one shady spot to the next setting up my view camera. Walker finally picked me up and we headed back to chill, blog and rest in our war-zone motel. Late afternoon finds us downtown on San Antonio’s famous River Walk. Built mostly by the New Deal’s WPA in the 1930s it is now a delightful meandering walkway along a canal through the heart of the city. Part of it is an intensely crowded commercial area but most of it is open, tree shaded and not crowded. The evening air and light are magical. It occurs to us that we are seeing another form of the commons. The River Walk is such an essential part of what makes San Antonio unique. Having the vision to make the investment in this wonderful system of canals and walkways created an economic attraction for this city. Thank you Franklin Roosevelt! A similar investment into our infrastructure would produce long-term benefits for the future as well. I never imagined I would see a connection between the New Deal and today’s libraries, but the the River Walk did it.

7/4/11 – Before leaving San Antonio Walker I decided to be tourists for one morning. The Alamo and the San Antonio Missions were really important to see and not as crowded as we feared. It was interesting to celebrate the 4th of July at the Alamo. The guides were both helpful and thoughtful and made me realize how well run this place is. He also told us how the Alamo and the Missions were all restored by the New Deal. Again, the long-term benefit of investing in the commons was enormous. Lockhart, TX is like Post, TX. They are both small gems with very beautiful libraries. The Dr. Eugene Clark library in Lockhart was the oldest continuously operating library in Texas. Both towns were also very hot and the region has had over 100 days of over 100 degree temperature. I photograph and melt under the mid-day sun while Walker goes off to stand in line at Blacks Bar-B-Q. This is another class Texas Bar-B-Q cafe owned by the same family since 1932. In the 1960s President Johnson used to get his Bar-B-Q catered in the White House from this place. The excellent heavy meal makes us groggy for most the afternoon, even after we arrive in Austin. The Ralph W. Yarborough branch library is classic Americana and photographing it in the heat somehow revived my weary mind. Located in the former Americana Theater building it still has a large sign in front that says “Americana”. As we drive around Austin we know we are not hungry but Amy’s Ice Cream hits a cool, soft spot. Our first exercise in over a week comes as we take a long walk in Zilker Park in the evening along Austin’s long Lady Bird Lake trail. As we gaze at the red sunset light reflecting off the new towers of downtown we fall in love with this place. The sweating joggers and hikers give this place a real vitality. Another example of a well-loved city where people invest in the common good such as this park. We had planned on saving money by staying in the University of Texas dorms. However, after spending one night we decide to leave tomorrow and head towards Dallas.

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