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Destination: San Antonio April 28, 2010

Posted by Sarah in BRAC, Moving, Relocation, Road Trip, Tools, Uncategorized.
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A guide to planning your road trip from Washington, DC, to San Antonio

By this time of the journey, the Appalachian Mountains are behind us and the road trip begins to come to a close.  San Antonio is swiftly approaching.

Depending on the route chosen, you may have been stunned by the enormity of Nashville’s Parthenon or found time to unwind by relishing in the peaceful serenity of DeSoto Falls. Either way, the next and final part of this series offers a variety of places to visit before arriving to your destination.

Here’s to safe travels, many adventures and a new life with the US Army Installation Management Command in the Heart of Texas.  Thanks for all you do for Soldiers, Civilians and Families!

Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”

― Japanese Poet Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)

Part 3 of 3: Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas

North Route Road Map (Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas)

Hot Springs National Park (Hot Springs, Ark. – North Route)

Nestled in rolling hills, Arkansas’ Hot Springs National Park has been protected by Congress since 1832, some 40 years before Yellowstone became the world’s first national park. The park offers hiking trails, picnic areas, camping grounds, scenic overlooks and a row of luxurious stone and masonry bathhouses constructed in the early 1900s.  The Bathhouse Row structures are part of a National Historic Landmark District and represent the grandest collection of such bathhouses in North America.

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Crater of Diamonds State Park (Murfreesboro, Ark. – North Route)

Crater of Diamonds State Park is the only diamond-producing site in the world open to the public.  Diamonds up to 40.23 carats have been found in the park.  Uncle Sam, the largest diamond discovered in North America, was found here in 1924. Diamonds range in color from white, yellow, canary and brown. In 2009, 918 diamonds were found weighing a total of 182.97 carats.

Amon Carter Museum (Fort Worth – North Route)

Travel about five hours south west of Crater of Diamonds State Park on Interstate-30, you will hit the final recommended destination on Route 2. The Amon Carter Museum displays an array of art exhibits including Masterworks of American Photography: Popular Culture, Ansel Adams: Eloquent Light and American Modern: Abbott, Evans, Bourke-White (photography).

This collection of art and sculpture by Charles Russell and Frederic Remington is very extensive, with excellent information alongside each to narrate the stories depicted. You may not be a fan of the cowboy life, but these illustrations keep it realistic, with all the everyday detail.  [The] Indian costumes are particularly interesting.”

― TripAdvisor.com member Debora4967 of Philadelphia.

South Route Map (Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas)

African American Military History Museum (Hattiesburg, Miss. – South Route)

The African American Military History Museum has been dedicated to America’s African American Soldiers since 1942.  “From their beginnings as Buffalo Soldiers to their modern-day service in Operation Iraqi Freedom, hundreds of artifacts, photos and unique displays tell the story, so that we may be inspired by their courage and patriotism,” the museum’s website notes.

Confederacy of Cruisers Bike Tours (New Orleans – South Route)

Confederacy of Cruisers is one of New Orleans’ premier tours. Listed as No. 1 of 297 on TripAdvisor.com’s popularity index in New Orleans attractions, Confederacy of Cruisers will give you an intimate, relaxing tour of the Big Easy. The tours are slow paced, allowing you time to soak up the local sights and color. The tour offers a friendly guide, tuned-up bicycles, safety helmets, water and an encyclopedic knowledge of the colorful past of the Big Easy.

The three-hour tour is a leisurely ride around the city, through several different neighborhoods and covering nearly every aspect of New Orleans history and culture. I don’t think I could have learned more living in the city for a year than I did in one afternoon on this tour.”

― TripAdvisor.com member Amanicen of Milwaukee, Wisc.

Creole Nature Trail Map

Creole Nature Trail (Lake Charles, La. – South Route)

Nestled along the Gulf of Mexico in southwest Louisiana is the Creole Nature Trail, one of America’s scenic byways.  Untouched wetlands stretch out across thousands of acres encompassing three wildlife refuges and a bird sanctuary.  Running westward parallel to Interstate 10, this Family-friendly byway offers more than 300 species of birds, toothy alligators and timeless tranquility.

…You will be enchanted by the entwining ecosystems of the coastland and the marshland.  So drive the trail through Louisiana’s very own outback and discover the culture, nature and history awaiting you there.”

― National Scenic Byways Program website

Houston Maritime Museum (Houston – South Route)

Exhibiting more than 150 ship models, 100 types of navigational instruments and numerous maritime artifacts, the Houston Maritime Museum captures and preserves the wonder and influence of maritime history.

It’s a tiny museum in a tiny house, dedicated to model ships and the history of seafaring. They have a remarkable collection of model ships (some quite large). … A friendly [man] gave us the tour and you could tell he really enjoys sharing his knowledge.”

― Yelp.com member Rebecca F. of Providence, R.I.


DISCLAIMER: The Installation Management Command does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness or completeness of information contained on external linked websites. The appearance of external links does not constitute endorsement by the Installation Management Command, the Department of the Army, or the Department of Defense of the services or products offered on external sites. Links are provided solely for convenience.

Destination: San Antonio April 26, 2010

Posted by Sarah in BRAC, Moving, Relocation, Road Trip, Tools, Uncategorized.
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Sunset at Morton's Overlook, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tenn.

A guide to planning your road trip from Washington, DC, to San Antonio

Part 2 of 3: Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama

With Virginia and North Carolina in the rear view mirror, it’s time to start the second leg of Destination: San Antonio.  If you enjoyed the history of Monticello or the adrenaline rush of Sliding Rock, just wait until you explore Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama.  About a two-hour drive northwest of Sliding Rock and downtown Asheville is Gatlinburg, Tenn., the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains.

At this point of the journey, the roads diverge and you must decide which route you’d like to travel: south or north; Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi or central to western Texas and Arkansas.  Nevertheless, whichever way is right for you and your Family, the journey will be exciting and memorable.

North and South Routes

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Gatlinburg)

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers a myriad of opportunities for exploring the natural and cultural history of its ancient surroundings. The national park encompasses more than 800 square miles in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. No other area of equal size in a temperate climate can match the park’s diversity of plants, animals and invertebrates. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park provides countless activities such as scenic and historical drives, Elkmont’s synchronized fireflies and white water rafting.

Asheville, N.C., to Gatlinburg, Tenn.

Asheville, N.C., to Gatlinburg, Tenn.

The Parthenon (Nashville – North Route)

Built in 1897 for Tennessee’s Centennial Exposition, Nashville’s Parthenon might have you thinking you’re in Greece. Both the building and a 42-foot statue of Athena are full-scale replicas of the Athenian originals.  The Parthenon, amongst hosting events such as proms and weddings, serves as the city’s art museum.

I’ve been to the Parthenon in Athens, and the experience of visiting the reproduction in Nashville is at least equal to and perhaps surpasses the original.”

―TripAdvisor.com member Snakebite_Survivor of Chapel Hill, N.C.

Graceland (Memphis – North Route)

Driving through Memphis won’t add extra hours to your driving time, so don’t fret! If Tennessee and Arkansas are ideal for your travels, you should visit the King’s Graceland Mansion.

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Many forget that Elvis served in the armed forces and historic items on display serve well to document this period in the King’s life. A visit to Graceland will leave you with a new found appreciation to the man we all know as the King.”

― Yelp.com member Hideki K. of New York, New York

Stone Mountain (Atlanta – South Route)

Frommer’s lists Stone Mountain as one of the 500 Places to Visit with Your Kids Before They Grow Up.  The park is home to the largest bas-relief in the world, which portrays three major figures of the Confederate States of America: Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis.

DeSoto State Park (Fort Payne, Ala. — South Route)

Nestled atop scenic Lookout Mountain in northeast Alabama, DeSoto State Park’s 3,502-acre wilderness is accented by rushing waterfalls and fragrant wildflowers. The park offers hiking, fishing, camping, swimming and horseback riding.  If you’re bringing your horses to Texas and want to stretch their legs – this is the place. DeSoto Falls, located in the state park, is more than 100-feet high and is one of the tallest and most visited waterfalls in Alabama.

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DISCLAIMER: The Installation Management Command does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness or completeness of information contained on external linked websites. The appearance of external links does not constitute endorsement by the Installation Management Command, the Department of the Army, or the Department of Defense of the services or products offered on external sites. Links are provided solely for convenience.

Destination: San Antonio April 22, 2010

Posted by Sarah in BRAC, Moving, Relocation, Road Trip, Tools, Uncategorized.
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Monticello in Charlottesville, Va.

A guide to planning your road trip from Washington, DC, to San Antonio

The car is packed, gas tank full, kids buckled up, now it’s time to go West, Army Soldiers and Civilians, and join the Installation Management Command in San Antonio.

Don’t expect to get from Washington, DC, to San Antonio overnight. The most direct route runs the course of about 1,600 miles and goes through seven states, but don’t let this semi-cross-country drive get you down. There are many places to see along the way especially if you’re willing to use your four-and-a-half travel days to the fullest.

Below are a few natural and historic marvels to visit on your journey to San Antonio.

Part 1 of 3: Virginia and North Carolina

Virginia to North Carolina

Virginia Caves

Virginia is home to more than 60 caves, about 10 are open to tourists.  Most of these caves are located in the Blue Ridge Mountains along Interstate 81, which is a straight shot on your route to Texas.

Virginia Safari Park (Natural Bridge)

Nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia Safari Park offers something most zoos don’t – an upfront animal encounter that you won’t have to leave your car for! The park offers hands-on animal encounters with gazelles, kangaroos, bison, zebras, camels and giraffes.

At [Virginia Safari Park], you’ll be able to see animals run and frolic with abandon … or block your path.”

―Virginia Safari Park website

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello (Charlottesville, Va.)

Monticello is listed as one of the “8 Places Every American Should See,” according to Budget Travel.  Designed by Thomas Jefferson using neoclassical architecture, Monticello is an autobiographical masterpiece designed and redesigned, built and rebuilt for more than 40 years.

Biltmore Estate (Asheville, N.C.)

“Biltmore Estate provides the ideal location for romance with a century-old French Renaissance chateau. George W. Vanderbilt’s 8,000-acre estate with its 250-room Biltmore House, 75 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, and the nation’s most visited winery offers plenty of opportunities.”

―RomanticAsheville.com

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North Carolina: (D) Biltmore Estate, (E) Looking Glass Falls and (F) Sliding Rock

Looking Glass Falls (Asheville, N.C.)

About four miles from Sliding Rock and nearly 60 feet tall is Looking Glass Falls, one of the most popular falls in North Carolina.  You can venture onto the rocks, wade and swim underneath the falling water, or just take in the surroundings while perched on a bolder.

Sliding Rock (Asheville, N.C.)

Fueled by 11, 000 gallons of chilly water flowing down the 60-foot flat, sloping bolder each minute, Sliding Rock is a natural hit for thousands of children and adults each summer.  This exhilarating favorite natural mountain waterfall is located in the Pisgah National Forest, near Asheville, N.C.

My family has been coming back to North Carolina for the last 20 years and we always make our pilgrimage to Sliding Rock.”“We do it in April and it is freezing cold, but darn well worth it. It helps to remind you of how alive you can feel!”

― TripAdvisor.com member Marine86297

DISCLAIMER: The Installation Management Command does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness or completeness of information contained on external linked websites. The appearance of external links does not constitute endorsement by the Installation Management Command, the Department of the Army, or the Department of Defense of the services or products offered on external sites. Links are provided solely for convenience.

Virginia Caves

Virginia is home to more than 60 caves, about 10 are open to tourists.  Most of these caves are located in the Blue Ridge Mountains along Interstate-81, which is a straight shot on your route to Texas.

Virginia Safari Park (Natural Bridge)

Nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia Safari Park offers something most zoos don’t – an upfront animal encounter that you won’t have to leave your car for! The park offers hands-on animal encounters with gazelles, kangaroos, bison, zebras, camels and giraffes.

“At [Virginia Safari Park], you’ll be able to see animals run and frolic with abandon … or block your path.”

―Virginia Safari Park website

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello (Charlottesville, Va.)

Monticello is listed as one of the “8 Places Every American Should See,” according to Budget Travel.  Designed by Thomas Jefferson using neoclassical architecture, Monticello is an autobiographical masterpiece designed and redesigned, built and rebuilt for more than 40 years.

Biltmore Estate (Asheville, N.C.)

It’s time for Fiesta! April 14, 2010

Posted by Sarah in Moving, Relocation, San Antonio life, Transformation.
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Fiesta Folklorico

The US Army Installation Management Command’s Base Realignment and Closure Act move to San Antonio is rapidly approaching. For those planning to make the transition from the politically charged DC metropolitan area to the third fastest growing city in the United States, be jealous.  It’s party time in San Antonio and Texans do it big.

Today marks the beginning of Fiesta ― an 11-day celebration that has been going on for 119 years. The tradition began in 1891 when a group of women paraded in front of the Alamo in horse-drawn carriages and pelted each other with flower blossoms. It was a huge success and has taken place every year except for 1918, during World War I, and 1942 through 1945, during World War II. Belknap Rifles carried in the first Battle of Flowers Parade were used to represent the military.  In recent years, military personnel actively take part in the celebration.

 
NIOSA Kabobs
 

Fort Sam Houston celebrates with its Fiesta and Fireworks Extravaganza April 18.  There will be a variety of food, exhibits, games, carnival rides and music from the Naval Academy Band from Annapolis, Md., and Fort Sam Houston’s Army Medical Command Latino Band.

The city’s events include the Battle of the Flowers Parade, a 10k walk, Fiesta Casino Night, Family Funday Sunday, Fiesta Arts Fair, Marines at the Alamo, and Miss San Antonio Scholarship Pageant.

This is a great opportunity for IMCOM Soldiers, Civilians and Families in San Antonio to enhance their well-being. There’s no better way to get into the San Antonio lifestyle than with the Fiesta Celebration.

To learn more about San Antonio’s Fiesta, check out the links below:

San Antonio views: San Fernando Cathedral March 31, 2010

Posted by Neal Snyder in Uncategorized.
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San Fernando Cathedral/Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria y Guadalupe – San Antonio, County Bexar, Texas USA, originally uploaded by N3074Echo.

Built 1738-1750, enlarged in 1836, San Fernando could be the nation’s oldest cathedral.

Wall Street Journal: A Good Time to Buy? Yes March 31, 2010

Posted by Neal Snyder in Real Estate.
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A little stress relief for househunters in today’s economy — according to the Wall Street Journal’s real estate blog, homes are a good investment overall.

Many housing economists say that for borrowers who can get a mortgage and who have stable incomes, pulling the trigger on a house they like makes a lot of sense right now. (Of course, they also note that the days of buying high-end properties as high-yield investments are history, at least for the time being).

the headline goes on, “…but no need to rush.”

…the market is still oversupplied. And those who do make purchases need to be realistic about the potential for some future price declines.  … On the other hand, as mortgage rates are low for those who can get financing. “If you’re waiting because you think the price might get better, well, the mortgage rate could go in the wrong direction,” says John Burns, a real-estate consultant based in Irvine, Calif. He says it could be a good time to buy generally speaking in markets where values have returned to 2003 levels.

Based on the trends  HERE (House Almanac) and  HERE (Yahoo Real Estate – click “10 yr” on the market value graph) , even though values declined 2008-2009, San Antonio homes are worth far more than they were in 2003.

via A Good Time to Buy? Yes, But No Need to Rush – Developments – WSJ.

Do you have to be bilingual? and other San Antonio topics March 22, 2010

Posted by Neal Snyder in Relocation, San Antonio life.
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We have some more serious topics in the oven, but to keep things cooking, here’s a forum discussion covering a topic in the “embarrassed to worry about, but I have to ask” category:

Do you have to be bilingual in SA? courtesy City-Data Forum.

The short answer is no … but it helps to pick up a few phrases, such as por favor (please) and gracias (thank you).

Check the rest of the City Data forum for San Antonio for local opinions on other topics: restaurants, churches, attractions, schools. 

Also visit the main City-Data page for San Antonio. It lives up to its name.

Open House March 15, 2010

Posted by Neal Snyder in Tools.
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Been to the IMCOM BRAC and Relocation page recently? We’re in the process of moving the furniture, cleaning the windows and pitching the clutter to make your visit a better experience. The page has always been full of good information, but finding it has always been … an issue. It’s getting easier. Check the right column – the “Total PCS Manual” gives you a timeline for your move from the East Coast to San Antonio.

Here’s the link

School surfing March 12, 2010

Posted by Neal Snyder in Real Estate, Relocation, San Antonio life.
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Got kids?  Want ’em to larn reel good?

In other words, how do you find the best public schools before you take that househunting trip?

San Antonio doesn’t make it easy. With 19 different school districts in Bexar County, quality necessarily varies. Finding the right situation takes a little research. Here’s one method:

  • Get familiar with the workings of a school evaluation service like Great Schools (http://www.greatschools.org/). This site takes test scores and parent input to rate schools on a 1-10 scale. One can find ratings by school, and learn what schools are close to a particular location.  One of the many demographic maps on Cyberhomes (http://www.cyberhomes.com/maps.aspx) uses Great Schools data to match school ratings with ZIP Codes, helping you visualize where the good schools are — click on Neighborhood Characteristics, select school ratings, then zoom in on San Antonio.
  • Determine how much weight you want to give school quality against other factors, such as commute, house size, or crime characteristics. Cyberhomes has maps for those.
  • Get to know the names of the schools within the ZIP codes you are interested in, and double-check them on the school rating site. Keep in mind, the post office doesn’t usually talk to the committee drawing the school boundaries.
  • After selecting a house, but before making an offer, check the school boundaries one more time – is the school correct? Frequently, the school on the real estate listing does not correlate with school system information. Most district Web sites offer ways to pinpoint the school serving a particular street or address (here’s a list of San Antonio district sites). For instance, the North East Independent School District offers this service, where users can enter the street of a prospective residence and get the names of the relevant elementary, middle and high schools. It might be smart to check this information and correlate it with Great Schools before committing to a residence.

In San Antonio, if you do your research, it’s easy to find an affordable home where schools are well above average not only for Texas, but for the country.

Ratings are not the only indicators of school quality, and education is not the only factor in choosing where to live. Note also. boundaries, teachers and administrators change.  But when schools are a consideration, and you can’t audit the classse in person, knowing the rating removes a measure of anxiety as you relocate your family.

*Mention of commercial Web sites does not constitute endorsement by the DoD. All opinions are strictly personal and do not reflect the position of IMCOM, the Army or the Department of Defense.

Best of San Antonio: A photo gallery March 10, 2010

Posted by Neal Snyder in Relocation, San Antonio life.
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If you’re wondering what you’ll experience in San Antonio, take a look at this Riverwalk-free Flickr gallery