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February 2, 2016

By meriwether, Feb 3 2016 03:07PM

Greetings All from Del Rio, Texas, on the Rio Grande -

The iconic images resonate - the coonskin hat, the flintlock rifle “Old Betsy”, sharpshooter, buckskin fringed vest and leggings, storyteller and yarn spinner, and U.S. Congressman from Tennessee. David Crockett was a legend in his own time. One of the images we have of David Crockett is Indian fighter, but he was never very partial to that. In fact, he spoke up for the Native Americans in the U.S. Congress, opposing Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act of 1830 which would banish all the Southern Indian tribes to lands west of the Mississippi.

This probably cost him reelection to the House of Representatives in 1835, and he famously said to the people of Tennessee, “You all can go to hell; I am going to Texas.” And to Texas he did go, leading a band of Tennessee volunteers. Here in Texas he would fight for liberty; here in Texas he would die; he would meet his end at The Alamo. With his death his legend would only grow and become a part of American lore and tradition.

“Come and take it!” These were the words that ignited the flame of the Texas Revolution. The inhabitants of Gonzales, Texas, issued that challenge to the Mexican army in October of 1835. They were referring to a small cannon that had been loaned to the people of Gonzales by a Mexican official for their protection against Indian raids. Now the Mexican Army under the leadership of Mexican dictator General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna wanted it back. The people of Gonzales were not going to give it back.

Mexico under Santa Anna was trying to stop the flood of immigration of land seeking Anglos from the United States into Texas - men like David Crockett. They joined Tejanos, Texans of Mexican or Spanish descent, in their fight for independence from Mexico, which itself had only gained independence from Spain in 1821. The key was the town of San Antonio de Bexar which was the home of the old mission known as the Alamo. A string of victories by the Texas rebels, including the taking of San Antonio and the fortified Alamo, sent the Mexican army scampering back across the border . . . but not for long.

General Santa Anna drove his 1800 man army mercilessly north and arrived outside the walls of the Alamo in late February of 1836. Inside the walls of the old mission were approximately 190 seekers of liberty under the command of 26 year old William Travis and 40 year old legendary knife fighter Jim Bowie. Illness sent Jim Bowie to his sick bed, so command of the defenders fell to Travis. On February 23, Santa Anna began a 13 day siege and bombardment of the old mission. The besieged defenders held out while Travis sent pleas to the neighboring towns and villages. His most famous letter was addressed “To the people of Texas and All Americans in the World . . . I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism, and everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid . . . Victory or Death!”

At 5:00 a.m. on the morning of March 6, 1836, the final battle commenced. Outnumbered 10 to 1, the Alamo defenders fought valiantly, but before long the Mexican army breached the walls, and bloody hand to hand combat ensued from room to room, from plaza to mission interior. The battle was over in 90 minutes, all the male defenders slain, their bodies thrown into a pile and set afire. Women and children were spared and were to take the news of the fall of the Alamo to General Sam Houston.

The following month, Santa Anna and his 1200 man force, in pursuit of Sam Houston and theTexas rebels to put an end to the rebellion, was surprised by Houston’s smaller 900 man army in the late afternoon of April 21 on the banks of the San Jacinto River. With the cries of “Remember The Alamo” resounding across the battlefield, the Mexican army panicked and fled, and the Texan army secured an amazing victory, and with that victory achieved Independence and laid the groundwork for the Republic of Texas and eventual U.S. statehood. Dictator General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was found hiding in a marsh after the battle.

My first visit to the Alamo 3 years ago was good, but I never actually was able to visit the interior of the old mission. The famous William Travis “Victory or Death” letter was back at the Alamo for the first time since the 1836 battle - it formally resides up in Austin. It was on special display within the old mission, and the wait to get in to see it was hours long. But this time I took full advantage of my time there, and explored every nook and cranny of this historic icon. Tucked into the middle of downtown San Antonio, it looks out of place and out of time surrounded by modern structures, but it is so worth visiting. What an amazing tale of struggle and sacrifice! Yes folks - there is good reason to Remember The Alamo!

While in San Antonio I was able to put in another volunteer day with Habitat For Humanity, working on a rehab house doing lots of painting. My fellow volunteers this day were a great group of people from Haven For Hope - individuals who are all trying to get their lives back in order after issues with substance abuse. It was a hard working team, and I’m glad I was able to share in their efforts.

Texas is endless, and the spaces out here quite intimidating. Just not much between here and there. Yesterday, Sunday, was one of the worst days of my journey. The wind came up fiercely in the afternoon, into my face. I had planned riding 70 miles, but that was not in the cards. Coming at me on U.S. 90 just west of Uvale were two motorcyclists and some traffic behind them. Just as the husband and wife motorcyclists approached me, the man slowed down to let traffic pass, but his wife did not. She ran into her husband, and a terrible crash took place. Both bikes went down hard; the husband was thrown to the side of the road, and his wife into the middle of the roadway. The man was banged up but OK, but his wife was in very bad condition lying in the middle of the road. A group of us stayed with them until the ambulance arrived, and she eventually was life flighted to a hospital.

I continued on against a strengthening head wind crawling along at 5 . . . 6 . . .7 mph, my head buried in my handlebars. I eventually made it to Bracketville in not such a good frame of mind because of the earlier accident, the howling head wind, and now my rear tire was slowly losing air.

Fortunately, the winds shifted overnight and I had an easy wind assisted ride the 30 or so miles into Del Rio on the Rio Grande where I am tonight. Yesterday’s accident and these vast, desolate, reaches have made me do a lot of contemplating about my journey. The next few days' riding toward El Paso is even more desolate, if that’s possible.

Still Proceeding On,

Al Thompson

P.S. Sincere thanks go out to some new and repeat donors who have made donations in support of Habitat For Humanity and/or Save The Children: Cheryl McCormick and Kathy and Michael Peace. Many thanks!

Feb 4 2016 08:29PM by Heath MacAlpine

I'm going to be riding from Key West, FL to Santa Monica, CA beginning early in March. I enjoy reading your posts as I get ready - Texas sounds windy and tough!

Feb 7 2016 10:20PM by meriwether

Yes - Texas has been windy and tough. The wind direction always seems to be changing - one minute it's behind you and then it's in your face. Good luck to you as you prepare for your ride!

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