One of the things about living in a small town is that sometimes you have to visit the big city. I am grateful for the dining, shopping and entertainment options we have in Live Oak and McMullen County (how cool is it that Tilden has the area’s only Cinnabon?), but even so, a venture to larger communities is sometimes a necessity.
On Aug. 17-18, my family and I had to go to San Antonio and visit the Riverwalk, partly for a story that will appear in September in a special outdoors section in The Progress and other newspapers in the Beeville Publishing family.
My story focuses on the lesser traveled portions of the Riverwalk — places that many people don’t even know are actually part of the Riverwalk. There is a section of the Riverwalk called Mission Reach that links four of San Antonio’s historic missions and is actually in a peaceful, scenic and serene portion of the community that a lot of people overlook.
It was a fun visit, but even though we got an early start, by late morning the sun had begun to heat up and made a fun stroll through the area a little bit of a broiler.
A day earlier, we had ventured up to the more touristy section of the Riverwalk and took my son to the Legoland Discovery Center.
One of the neat displays there was a depiction of some of San Antonio’s top attractions built in Legos, including the Tower of the Americas, the Alamo, the Riverwalk and even a San Antonio Spurs game.
I guess the Lego builders wanted to make sure they didn’t infringe on any copyrights, though, and so the team was referred to as the Studs rather than the Spurs.
Although it was a fun weekend, we were definitely happy to exit Interstate 37 and get back to the comfortable surroundings of Three Rivers.
A week later, we made the mistake of visiting Corpus Christi the day before that area had its first day of school.
The trip was needed because clothing stores are limited in our area, and there are no wholesale clubs inside vast warehouses offering memberships in either Live Oak or McMullen counties.
While our visit to the mall was peaceful enough, and we got a fair amount accomplished, a visit to the Sam’s Club is Corpus Christi was like trying to navigate whitewater rapids — only with people and store displays/stacks of wooden pallets instead of water and rocks.
I think I would have preferred the whitewater challenge to navigating the sea of humanity churning through that store.
My son and I can tolerate large crowds in small doses — heck, we even survived the teeming masses of Disney World in June 2018.
But the raging hordes of people we encountered in Corpus Christi was on another level entirely.
I know our Dollar General can get busy from time to time, but I haven’t seen a busier place even at Christmas time than what we encountered at the wholesale club in Corpus Christi.
A visit to a very crowded North Star Mall that we made just 10 days before last Christmas pales in comparison.
Even my wife, who is much better at handling large crowds than my son and I are, was bothered by the swarming masses.
We mostly filled our cart but cut our visit short, and it was my wife who was begging for us to pick a line and get out of there.
My son and I were way past the point of reasoning by then, so we listened to her voice of reason and left.
One of the highlights of the day was hearing the seagulls happily soaring over the chaos in the parking lot. I love the beach, and seagulls remind me of it, so seeing them helped provide some calm in an otherwise stormy sea.
We took care of another errand nearby, and I saw a line spilling out the door of a Corpus Christi shoe store. There were probably two dozen people waiting outside for a chance to enter that store.
After that, we were glad to get back on I-37 and head north.
Sometimes, people may forget to appreciate the comparable serenity of Live Oak and McMullen counties.
If you ever need a reminder of just how good we’ve got it, might I recommend a visit to a crowded wholesale club the day before school starts?
Such an experience is enough to make you want to hug a live oak tree and soak in the serenity when you get back home.
Jeff Osborne is the editor of The Progress. A Texan since 1973, he has worked for Texas newspapers for 25 years.