When I moved to San Antonio from Dallas at age 18 I started downtown, where my first job was as a bicycle courier. I used to visit San Antonio as a kid to go to Fiesta and thought it was a cool city, so I moved out here the first chance that I got.

I bounced around from apartment to apartment all over the city. One little unit was in this tiny neighborhood called River Road. It was here that I found my forever neighborhood.

When I met my wife she asked to see the places I have lived. Because I had lived in so many places I took her on a tour of my previous abodes. From the Medical Center to the South Side, Bitters to King William – she was shocked at all the places I had lived. But when we pulled into River Road, she almost gasped. We spent many Saturday mornings driving through the neighborhood enjoying coffee and imagining what could be. I know others were doing the same as sometimes it seemed like a train of cars just perusing.

My wife and I saved and saved and kept trying year after year to live in this coveted little corner of San Antonio. When we closed on our house we were beside ourselves. I can’t imagine living anywhere else and I get a little giddy pulling into the neighborhood every day after work.

Access to the San Antonio River off River Road.

When you pull into this neighborhood it’s quite unassuming. You either enter behind a Rub-a-Dub car wash, almost through an alley, or you drive down along Davis Park, which is ultimately just a big field. It’s not until you drive all the streets, including both Magnolias, that you come to realize that you’re somewhere special. When you’re in River Road, you just know you’re home.

We’re 3 minutes from downtown and 7 minutes from the airport, yet it feels like living in a secret garden. The streets are quiet at night, full of trees and wildlife (the skunks could be evicted, but we’re staying positive), and due to the proximity to Brackenridge Park the birds are plentiful.

If you need a night out the St. Mary’s strip is just a couple of minutes away by foot, and if you’re in need of a morning stroll Brackenridge Park can’t be beat. The Pearl is a quick 5 minute bike ride down Avenue B, and downtown just beyond that. I can’t imagine a more serene place to hang my hat.

A pedestrian crosses an intersection with no crosswalk along N. St. Mary's St., or St. Mary's Strip.
A pedestrian crosses at North St. Mary’s Street.

When I first approached my neighbor to introduce myself, he introduced himself and his wife only as Briones. His wife, cute as she could be, elbowed him and said “Yolanda and Jorge” with a smile. The next few times I’d seen him, he started opening up a bit. He knows all the neighbors, as he’s been in his house since ‘67. 

One story he tells really stays with me. He said that Woodlawn Avenue, which is our street, was once a busy thoroughfare. It’s hard to imagine now, but it went from Woodlawn Lake all the way to Broadway. If you look at an aerial map you’ll see two major impediments to that claim. One being the golf course and the other being U.S. Highway 281. Jorge has lived here since before U.S. 281 existed and he told me that he once had to dodge golf balls as people played across Woodlawn.

Jorge said he came home one day and there was caution tape on some houses down the street. His story meanders along with nuns, universities, and environmentalists slowing progress but the city ultimately building the highway. It’s hard to imagine this city without U.S. 281, and it’s hard to imagine driving down Woodlawn Avenue dodging golf balls. 

Why I love River Road is the journey it took to get here and the life we’re building. Enjoying every minute inside this little gem. We can’t wait for more backyard gatherings and more tales of the hood.

Chris Christal

Chris Christal is a business owner who believes in paying it forward. He volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas and was named Big Brother of the Year. He loves San Antonio, tacos, and...