SAN ANTONIO -- With the NFL labor issues a thing of the past, the Dallas Cowboys have set up shop at the Alamodome in San Antonio for training camp. The Alamodome is walking distance from the famed Riverwalk, making this an easy work/play trip after a surprisingly smooth drive down I-35. Granted, we did leave DFW around 11 p.m. on Saturday and avoided the dreaded "Austin traffic."
Close to every one of the 46,000 hotel rooms in the downtown/Riverwalk area were occupied. When we arrived at the hotel around 3 a.m., we asked why the city was so packed on such a random weekend. The nice young lady behind the desk simply smiled and said, "The Dallas Cowboys are in town."
We set up shop in the Grand Hyatt since the Cowboys were staying there. At 1,003 rooms, it is the largest hotel in San Antonio. If you are scoring at home, the next largest is the Marriott across the street with 1,002 rooms. The locale could not have been better. We were on the Riverwalk across from Rivercenter Mall and an easy walk over to the dome. And the breakfast buffet on the downstairs patio at the Achiote River Cafe did not disappoint.
The Cowboys practice began at 2:30 p.m. Sunday with a crowd of more than 9,000 fans, many of whom had been lined up outside to get the best seats. In the first four days of camp, 31,341 fans showed up to catch a glimpse of the Cowboys. (Word to the wise, if you plan on attending training camp, you can join the True Blue Fan Club and have access to the "Fan Club Entrance.")
I was down on the field for the practice. The players were in full pads. Now, I have been to training camp the past few years and it is hard to get stoked to watch a practice with the guys wearing shorts and going half-speed. But this was a really good time -- maybe I was just so ecstatic to have pro football back or to be escaping the oven that is DFW this summer. The highlight was the opportunity to catch up with KXAN (NBC-Austin) sports reporter/anchor Leila Rahimi and chat about topics ranging from the Dallas International Film Festival to the recent Davis Cup in Austin. Also spotted observing practice was Johnathan Hillstrand and Andy Hillstrand from The Deadliest Catch on the Discovery Channel.
After seeing Cowboys players including Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware and Dez Bryant sign autographs on their way off the field, I asked my Twitter family to help me find a place to eat. The overwhelming response was Mi Tierra Cafe in Market Square. The place is open 24 hours and has great food. I had the Deluxe Mexican Dinner and my buddy had Steak and Eggs off the breakfast menu. This is now officially my favorite eatery in San Antonio.
After a long day, we relaxed by the hotel's Olympic-sized pool, which had a great view of the Tower of Americas. We also had a view through the gym of multiple TV stations as they took turns interviewing Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
As I was experiencing my own version of the Entourage lifestyle that my friends and I dream about, I realized that I had been awake for close to 24 hours and decided to call it a day. Afterall, I did have another day of Cowboys camp to attend.
Dallas Cowboys Training Camp runs through Aug. 9 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. For more information, visit DallasCowboys.com.
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