Nonrev Adventures: San Antonio 2015

Please note I’m writing this way after the fact.

I had just returned from my sixth trip to Japan last September. A part of me was tired of paid airplane tickets and wanted something more adventurous and uncertain. During my first few days of returning back to work at the office, I had the crazy idea of flying somewhere for an epic day trip. My parents had just returned from their own epic day trip to New York with some of their friends who also work for the same airline that my dad does. All they did was shop and eat at an iconic Filipino chain restaurant. I suppose I was feeling a little jealous of them and adventurous myself. And I get every other Friday off.

I contacted one of my buddies that I know through my church. He, too, enjoys non-revenue standby flight benefits. Throughout the week of my returning back to the office from Japan, we brainstormed some ideas.

We had a few goals in pulling off a day trip flying somewhere:

  • Flights to and from DFW airport need to be open (lest we be stuck somewhere!)
  • Public transportation should be decent
  • Places of interest should be present
  • Travel time should be short in order to maximize sightseeing

Some of the ideas we had were Austin, Houston, College Station, Ohio, and Louisiana. Ultimately, San Antonio won because of the numerous flights between it and Dallas/Ft. Worth as well as the city bus that goes between San Antonio’s airport and downtown.

Conveniently, the Friday we decided to leave was the day that I had to go to the airport anyway for a Global Entry interview. Global Entry is a trusted traveler program with U.S. Customs and Border Control. I applied for it because a previous return trip from Japan through Los Angeles International proved to be a trying experience in waiting in lines. Global Entry doesn’t bypass the Customs process, but makes it way faster by allowing trusted travelers to go in their own line at select airports. It costs money and requires an interview. Well worth it for frequent international travelers.

After my interview, we headed to the gate. We actually got there right before the flight prior to the one we listed for was about to leave, and we were able to easily switch over and hop on that earlier flight. We didn’t even sit at the gate! It was pretty much show up at the gate, talk to the gate agent, switch over, board the plane, and take off. The perks of being non-revenue standby!

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The flight was only an hour long. Just enough to chill and enjoy some orange juice.

When we landed, we both dropped $1.50 to board a 45-minute bus ride to downtown San Antonio. After disembarking the bus, we wandered down a street and happened to see a Catholic church.

Upon going up to it and checking the name of the church, I noticed that daily Mass starts in a few minutes. Seeing as how we’re both Catholic nerds, it was an easy decision to kick off this day trip with Mass.

IMG_4376After Mass, we hit up the Alamo. To remember. I’ve been a few times in the past, but it’s always cool to refresh on Texas history and the epic battle wag
ed between Texans and the Mexican army here at this site. One of the barracks is a museum with artifacts, and I found it to be particularly interesting because I’ve never seen this part. Maybe it was new? I dunno. They had stuff from life at the Alamo as well as battle artifacts. The Alamo used to be a Spanish mission, so it was also cool to see some Catholic-related things.

Once we reached a satisfactory point in remembering the Alamo, we walked around some more and headed towards the River Walk. Along the way, we ran into another Catholic church—St. Joseph’s. We walked in and marveled at how cool this one looked inside.

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This church also had a gift shop off to the corner so we browsed around a little. My buddy bought something St. Joseph is his patron saint. The storekeep asked us a few questions because it’s probably rather uncommon for guys like us to walk into a church during the middle of the day on a Friday. She was impressed that we were just visiting San Antonio for the day, and recommended that we go visit the cathedral.

And off we went!

San Fernando is the oldest cathedral in the United States. And it’s smack dab in the middle of San Antonio!

We looked around inside, and noticed they had signs pointing towards a Confession line. We went over there but learned that Confessions start back up later in the afternoon. We hit up the Catholic book and gift store at San Fernando to kill some time. I bought myself a little statue of St. Max Kolbe because I think he’s awesome. If I remember correctly, we still had time to kill before Confession so we hit up McDonald’s for a drink and chilled at the River Center Mall to recharge our phones. We headed back to San Fernando and were able to go to Confession!

After gettin’ all squeaky clean spiritually, we hit up the River Walk. There were lots of young military personnel present with their families. San Antonio is home to a lot of military presence with all its bases. I’m guessing boot camp just finished. We grabbed dinner at one of the Mexican restaurants right on the River Walk. It was muy delicioso. And I made a few quacky friends.

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Tired and full of Mexican food, we headed back to the bus stop to head back to the airport. We arrived early enough again to catch the flight previous to the one we originally intended to fly on.

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I wish I had stats on this one, but we walked a lot. All in all, we spent just over six hours in San Antonio.

What stood out to me the most about this trip was how it turned into an incidental mini-pilgrimage. To start things off, our timing in making it downtown in order to attend Mass was just perfect even though it was happenstance, and it would not have been possible unless we had opted to switch flights in the morning. We visited three Catholic churches total, including the cathedral. We were able to even go to Confession! I also associate lots of walking with pilgrimages I’ve previously been on (like Washington D.C. and Rio De Janeiro), and most certainly many steps were taken this trip. As I’ve been to San Antonio numerous times in the past, it was cool to see and experience its richly Catholic heritage this time.

This non-revenue standby flying adventure for San Antonio in 2015 proved to me that I can pull off epic day tripping by hopping on planes. And it also gave me a tangible example for having Catholic excuses to travel.

More trips like this in the near future, I’m sure!

– JD