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South Texas

Border towns of South Texas, are known as the borderplex that include Laredo, McAllen, Harlingen, and Brownsville.  Corpus Christi is known as the Gulf Coast Capital in the Coastal Bend of Texas.  


Honestly, not a clue what to expect in this region.  It looks like parts can resemble Florida with the subtropical climate being close to the Gulf of Mexico, while other areas seem dry and desolate because of the high desert mountainscape.  I've been to border cities before, like El Paso and Nogales, AZ, but this part of the state seems different.  I mean this is really deep into Texas, where even the side of Mexico is not densely populated.  There must be tons of influence from Mexico, as much of the population is from our neighbors to the south.  This includes the architecture, food, activities, and pace of life.  Corpus Christi sounds like a modern city by the water, with a population of 300k.   


The closest I've been is San Antonio, which is still significantly far away.  I'm reading this area is a focal point for trade and big on agriculture and automotive manufacturing.  Quite a fascinating part of the country that I know little about.  It's a very old area, as Spanish settlements in the mid-1700's and the territory was fought during the Mexican-American War.  I do wonder how people today feel about being a part of the U.S. even after centuries.  


To call South Texas an experience is an understatement.  There's so much to cover here.  First, I'm not one to talk about the superficial topics such as weather, but it must be mentioned.  At the end of October, it was scorching.  I mean, I had the a/c on the entire trip from the car to the hotel room.  I prefer to have the fresh breeze with my window rolled down, but it was so humid, I was sweating off shirts.  I don't even want to know what the summer feels like.  Now, that's out of the way, I'll bring up some cool items from my memorable visit to the triangle of South Texas, from Corpus Christi to Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley.  

The Valley is flat.  It is tropical and the drive along Interstate-2, which is the border felt like driving along the ocean.  It had similar vegetation, breeze, and even pockets of sandy terrain.  The towns along the border were all different.  I did feel like I was in a foreign country for most of the drive, especially being that most signs were in Spanish.  I loved how I couldn't tell what places of businesses were, like a liquor store, restaurant, etc.  Many places had colorful store fronts and even some with flashing lights like it's Christmas.  I did have tacos.  I decided to have Mexican food for the entire trip.


I drove from Zapata and flew my drone over the Rio Grande River.  No border wall.  There was even a boat launch and some parts had a ferry.  I'm curious if that was for tourists or commuting.  Many of the elaborate and modern buildings were the city halls and Independent Schools Districts.  They must really care about education in Texas to make that the focal points of towns.  As I arrived into McAllen, where I gave a talk, the city was commercial.  Many big box stores and malls.  I strolled through the downtown and there's no skyline and no vibrancy.  This is understandable since people are shopping in the big national chain stores.  

It was recommended to see a car wash.  Well, that's a funny story.  I drove around the city of McAllen and all I saw were car washes with flashing colorful lights.  I stopped to take a picture and the GM came out and asked if I needed anything.  He told me that people wash their cars daily with a subscription and offered to put me into a car wash light show.  

McAllen has an active canal trail with several people out jogging and walking.  There were some pretty cool pillars decorated with colorful tile patterns.  Not sure if these were functional or just for the sake of art.  In the early morning, I also heard the loudest birds!  They were black and annoying, like crickets.  I was told that the RGV is known for birding, considering birds fly south for the winter.  There were also many gated communities, some looked like they didn't need to be, if you know what I'm saying.  

When I went to the South Most part of Texas in Brownsville, I was observing the busiest border crossing for commerce in America.  There are actually three international bridges in Brownsville. So many trucks for shipping was interesting to see.  I saw families taking pictures with the Welcome to America sign.  I toured the South Most College and was impressed.  They have mariachi music as a major, and many graduates go on to teach it at the high school levels. I need to go back and attend one of their many festivals.  Okay, so this is probably the most unique thing I observed.  People have fun!  There are many places to eat, festivals, parades, and carnivals.  They know how to have a good time.


Brownsville has a color palate fitting for its name.  The buildings were also flat and boxy.   


I headed to the beach!  South Padre Island was a nice escape for many locals to the waters.  I'll be honest.  It was identical to every other beach town/island in America.  It looked like the Outer Banks, Virginia Beach, Mrytle Beach, and so on.  The culture of these types of places are attractions and hotels.  The gulf was beautiful, as I drove up to Corpus Christi.   Before I mentioned this mid-size city, I saw some unique sites going up the coast.  First, many horses were outside fences, so very close to the road.  Then, I saw an animal that looked like a horse, and I thought I must not have seen that right.  It was a Nilgai from Africa, for the purposes of hunting.  The land near Corpus Christi could be mistaken for the Midwest.  Very fertile farmland and ranches, but there were many oil/gas refineries.  I didn't realize this city was not on the gulf, rather a bay.  The waterfront is stunning, and I especially liked the parks and Water St., where I had some fried shrimp.  The best part of the city was Ocean Drive, where there's many mansions along the waterfront.   

Lastly, I cut over to Laredo.  If you don't want to leave the U.S., but still want to experience Mexico, then visit Laredo.  It was an impressive culture shock.  I went into the local grocery chain, HEB and didn't recognize many of the foods.  Everyone spoke Spanish. The hot case had only Mexican food.

I'll post some pictures of my time on the border of Texas/Mexico. I'm sure you're wondering if I saw many border patrol officers.  Yes, many SUV and some vans all around the region.  I stopped at 5 inspection stations on the highways as well.  They just ask, "are you a US citizen?"  Yes, I am.  Most definitely.  

I did extend my trip up to Eagle Pass and Del Rio.  It was interesting to see the climate changing from tropical to desert in a 40 miles span.

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