Sunday, November 18, 2012

As Close To Mexico As Possible: Rio Grande Valley Texas

If you start at our house and drive south-south-east for about 4.5 hours you will reach the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.   Once there you will find over 20 cities and many more small towns that really come across as one huge metropolitan area with over 1 million people!  Check out the map!  (Hint: The tan part is Mexico.)

I am sure at one time the towns actually had space between them, but now you can't tell when you have left one town and gone into another except for a sign.   I think some people who grew up down there don't realize how much it has truly grown.  We were in one library getting a cup of coffee, because that is what you can do down there, and I asked if there were any Starbucks in town.  The guy answered with a no.  We later got in the car and literally drove down the road and saw one, but he technically didn't lie since we WERE in a different town when we saw it.  But really?

Frankie and I went down there to look for books and to just go since we had never been before.  I really liked it down there is completely different from what I expected.  (Not that I really knew what to expect!) There were some parts that we could tell had been recently upgraded. The roads were nice and wide. The main parts of towns were clean and easy to navigate.

We went mainly to libraries to do our book looking and let me tell you what, I LOVE the libraries in the Valley!  Almost every single one of those towns in the map above had a library that sold books.  Not only that but almost every single one of them had a little cafe in them with nicely priced coffees and pastries.  It was like a dream world!  Check out the money and pride that is put into just the outside of the McAllen Public Library!

McAllen Public Library

There is a waterfall for crying out loud!  The building use to be a Wal-Mart that they converted into an award winning library.  You can read all about it here.

Another town we visited was Hidalgo.  I am sure there are many great things in Hidalgo, but we were looking for libraries.  Near the library was one of the coolest things I have seen! The World's Largest Killer Bee!  In 1990 a colony of killer bees flew over from Mexico and invaded the town.  The town's mayor decided to use the opportunity to promote the town and a statue was made!

worlds largest killer bee sign-Hildago

side worlds largest killer bee Hildago

wing in sun worlds largest killer bee Hildago

McAllen, wasn't the only library worth talking about.  Another amazing library was in Harlingen.  They had the loveliest outdoor space with statues, trees, and even Mark Twain!

Mark Twain at Library Harlingen

book arch library Harlingen

Did you know that Baldemar Garza Huerta better know as Freddy Fender (and I can see why he changed his name) was from the Valley (more specifically San Benito)?  Me neither.

Hometown of Freddy Fender San Benito

Since we were in the "area" we decided to go to South Padre Island.  Way back in 2000, this is where we went for our honeymoon.  It was fairly exotic for a couple of people from west Texas who had rarely been to the beach!  It was nice to be there and to reminisce. 

South Padre Island Sign

Frankies footprints South Padre Island

DPizza Joint South Padre Island

There is a story that goes along with D'Pizza Joint.  While on our honeymoon, Frankie decided to be very sweet and went to get us food.  He chose to go to the D'Pizza Joint.  We ate and as far as I can remember, 12 years down the line, it was okay.  Not too long after eating I began to feel sick, Frankie was fine.  So I sucked it up and went with him on a jet ski in the bay.  

I wanted to die.  I wanted to just fall off the jet ski and die.  I didn't care.  I was miserable.  We paid for half an hour and I stuck it out the full half hour.  Then Frankie started feeling bad.  We believe that we ate something bad at the D'Pizza Joint.  Now, I just think it was one of those things and don't blame D'Pizza Joint.  Although, looking at the reviews that I linked above on Urbanspoon....

There is a two mile long bridge connect South Padre Island to the rest of Texas called Queen Isabella Causeway.  Traveling back to the mainland we saw this sign on the bridge.

watch for pelicans sign South Padre Island

You just don't see that sign everywhere!  

I really like the town of Port Isabel. At one point Frankie and I thought about getting teaching jobs down there, but it is so far from the rest of our world that we decided against it.  The draw I have to it has to be the lighthouse.  It is just such a lovely icon to see in Texas!

Port Isabel

lighthouse moon Port Isabel

Driving back to the hotel after visiting South Padre Island and Port Isabel we stumbled across life size dinosaurs and larger than life (larger than me!) tropical fish.

dinosaur Bobz World Los Fresnos

coral reef4 Bobz World Los Fresnos

We had no idea what it was.  As it turned out it was a place called Bobz World.  We were going to go in but it was about to close so we just drove around the parking lot, which was just a fascinating!

After all our adventures it was time to go home.  Once you are out of the Valley, you are out, there is not much outside of it.  So I don't have much to report about the trip home.  I did find it cool that we were in the part of Texas that is called the Tropical Trail

Texas Tropical Trail

The state of Texas was split into ten different heritage scenic driving trails in 1968 as a marketing tool.  As you drive along the highways, if you are paying attention, you will see these blue signs telling you what trail you are on.  The Valley is known for their citrus fruits since they have the climate to grow such wonderfulness!  We are far enough south that I could grow citrus fruit (it never really freezes here), but I don't have much luck with plants, which makes me sad.  Maybe one day it will not be drought conditions in the summer and I will have better luck!

Before completely leaving the Valley there were two more towns that I want to mention.  The first one is Roma.

Roma Texas

I want to mention it, simply because of its name.  I have now been to Florence, Italy, and Roma, Texas!

The second town is Zapata.

Zapata Texas

The reason I want to mention this one is also because of its name.  I love the word zapata.  It means shoe in Spanish, but it just a fun word to say!  Try it: zapata.  See!

As we were driving from Zapata to Laredo, I was trying to use my phone when all of the sudden, instead of saying AT&T it changed to some company from Mexico.  I promised we never crossed the border, but looking at the map (Mexico is the gray area) we were so close I could have thrown something into Mexico and that says a lot because I throw like a girl!

I am really glad we went.  It was nice to see a new part of Texas and we made a killing on books!  It might be a new annual summer trip for us!  I hope you enjoyed our trip as well and stay tuned because we have our big Christmas trip coming up to Paris!  I am soo excited!