Harlingen Texas Trip
My trip to the southern tip of Texas was awesome. Even the flight started out good. I used Continental for this trip and they let me print my tickets at home and reserve seats. I think all airlines let you do this, but last time I checked I could never reserve an exit isle. With Continental I reserved an exit isle for both flights on my trip. It turned out the exit isle on my plane had a ton of leg room. This is because there are two seats that are removed (one on each side) for the style of plane I was on. So if you get one of the seats behind the missing seat you get the leg room of two seats plus the room normally taken by a seat. By my rough estimates this is about 6-7 feet of leg room. Leg room heaven, baby.
The first full day in Texas I spent going to South Padre Island which is in the Gulf of Mexico just on the Texas side of the US/Mexican boarder. I spent most of the morning swimming in the warm waters of the Gulf. The strip of water between South Padre and the mainland is called Laguna Madre Bay. Laguna Madre Bay is 7 miles wide but only averages 7 feet deep! This makes for some very warm shallow water on this side of the island. I walked out a few hundred yards and it was still only waist deep. Because of these shallow waters that beaches on this side aren't that great. The other side of the island it's more normal and the beaches were great and the water wasn’t much cooler!
In the afternoon we went on a dolphin watching tour. I saw a bunch of different pods of bottle nose dolphins which I incessantly referred to as Flipper. This was pretty cool, but it got even better. Then dolphin tour boat dropped a small shrimping net to the bottom and dragged it for a few hundred feet. When they pulled it up it was filled with some crazy fish.
There was a small sting ray in the net, some puffer fish, a few crabs, a few more normal small fish, and this giant snail that was almost the size of my head. I termed it a blood snail because the actual snail was bright red color which reminded me of bleeding. The guide said he never saw anything like this snail before.
The next day we headed south of the boarder to a small boarder town in Mexico named Progreso. This town is a hotspot crossing for Americans to go and get cheap prescription drugs and dentistry work done. I separated from my folks for a few hours and walked off the path traveled by most American tourists. I found it very interesting seeing how the Mexican culture lived even if it was through my tainted American eyes. While I was out on my own I was offered the services of a prostitute. At least that's what I gather she was offering since I had to go solely on body motion since her English was about as good as my Spanish. The most interesting thing I saw was a school recess for some 3rd to 4th graders. These kids were having a blast playing kickball. They were having just as much fun as American grade school kids would have during recess even though their school building would have been condemned if it was 5 miles to the north. It's amazing how people and especially kids adapt. And I'm not just referring to people adapting to poverty, but how people can adapt to just about any circumstances. Take the opposite of poverty for example. People in the US certainly become adapted to a certain level of wealth and when that’s not there they become uncomfortable. I know a lot of people would have been very nervous in some of the neighborhoods I was in because they looked like run down slums and they associate that with crime. Truthfully I was a little apprehensive myself. However this is just how these people live and to classify these people as some lower class is nothing short of bigotry.
While in Mexico there was a huge plum of black smoke rising from across the Rio Grande. One the Mexicans jokingly said that that there was now no more United States to go back to. I found out from my parents that this smoke is part of the process of harvesting sugarcane. When sugarcane is fully grown it is a tangled mess and combine farming equipment can't harvest it so they burn the whole field. This burns all the tangled leaves and brush away leaving only the thick sugarcane stalks which can be easily harvested with machines. This got me wondering why I didn't see any farm lands on the Mexican side of the boarder. I found out that Texas has an elaborate pump and irrigation system that takes all the excess waters out of the Rio Grande before the Mexican's can get any of the water. That is why the Mexican’s can't raise crops like Texas’s do.
During my last full day of vacation I explored some of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. Most of the places I visited had geocaches at them which is what usually led me there. Geocaching is a great side quest when your primary quest is exploring an area. The first place we visited was called Anzalduas Park. This was a park built around a huge dam that was constructed back in the 50's. After this we went to La Lomita Missionary. This was a very old chapel that cowboys used to stop by while they were driving cattle through the area. It is now a historical monument.
The last big thing I did while in Texas was to visit Bentsen State Park. This is a bird watcher’s paradise. There were many blinds setup so you would sit and watch the birds. I even saw this animal that looked like a wild boar, but then I asked the guide she said it wasn't part of the pig family. I'd swear it was, but I guess she knows more than I about this so let's just call it the not-pig pig. Anyways you can look at the pictures here and you'll see why I originally thought this not-pig pig was a boar.
One last commentary I have about the people in Texas. They sure like their state. Instead of super size they have "Texas size" on all their billboards. I also ran into "Texas deals", "Texas times", "Texas taste", and "Texas good". I even made up the phrase “Texas cups”. In all these cases Texas means either big or good, which are pretty much similes in Texas. If there is one place that likes everything big that place is Texas.
Overall my trip to Texas was a blast and I'm pretty sure I'll be back to Texas sometime in the future. Hope you all had a Texas time reading this.