Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Texas, Pharr, South Padre, Edinburg, Harlingen

Thur, March 1st - Wed, March 7th

I found the pictures I thought I had deleted. The Gruene Dance Hall is the oldest continuously operating dance Hall in Texas (just a few miles north of San Antonio). George Strait, Lyle Lovett, Hal Ketchum and many others started their careers here. There are pictures all over the walls of people who have played here like Bo Diddley, The Dixie Chicks, Jerry Lee Lewis, Garth Brooks , Willie Nelson and John Travolta in "Michael".

"Grandpas Gone Wild" on South Padre Island. We thought we better hurry up and get over to the island and check it out before it gets mobbed with college kids on spring break next week. It wasn't a very clear day for pictures, but it was in the 80s.

It was very windy and there were lots of kites flying. There are many high rise hotels along the beach. The island is 34 miles long bordered to the east by the Gulf of Mexico and the west by the Laguna Madre Bay. It is at the tropical tip of Texas with year round moderate temperatures. It's only a half mile wide at the widest point. They had lots for sale for $495,000.00.

There are millions of sea shells and they are not all broken up, like they are on most of the beaches we have been to. So, of course, I brought a bag full of shells home.

Only the south five miles is inhabited with just over 5,000 residents. But they have a million overnight visitors each year. Driving north along the beach, the roads were drifted over with sand. There was a payloader scooping it up and hauling it back to the beach.

They have lots of old shipwrecks and world class diving off the coast of South Padre Island.
Heading home over the Queen Isabella Causeway, we stopped in Port Isabel, home of Point Isabel Lighthouse, the only lighthouse on the Texas coast open to the public.

Another day we visited friends, Bob & Elva, at Green Acres park in Donna, Texas. They took us to Harlingen to see the original working model of the Iwo Jima Memorial. It was donated by the artist to the Marine Military Academy here. The artist was inspired by the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo and made a scale model within 48 hours that became the symbol of the 7th and final war bond drive. After the war he thought we should have one of massive size at the nation's capital, so he spent over nine years making a working model from molding plaster. It took three more years to complete the bronze casting process and erect it at the Arlington National Cemetery. It was dedicated by President Eisenhower in 1954. The original was stored at the artist's home until it was donated and erected here in 1981. The figures are 32 feet high, erecting a 78 foot steel flagpole with a 12' x 19' flag. The quote on the base is by Admiral Chester Nimitz of Fredericksburg, Tx.

Another day we went to the Museum of South Texas History at Edinburg. It is in the old Hidalgo County Jail across the street from the Court House. Here I am standing in front of a mastadon skeleton. Early in WWII the Texas State Guard Unit at Pharr started training with brooms which were soon replaced with 1903 Springfield rifles. Mexican workers were the solution to war time labor shortages. They became crucial to valley agriculture, but because they were illegal immigrants, they were subject to deportation. In 1942 a U.S.-Mexican agreement enabled Mexican workers (braceros) to cross legally for limited time periods. This agreement continued long after WWII, but I guess we don't need them anymore... or do we? The valley soil produces citrus fruits of superior quality to any other place in the world. They are especially famous for their ruby red grapefruit.

When stuff was being rationed during the war, folks down here were able to cross the border and get things like gas, leather shoes, sugar, etc. This is a picture of the transportation methods used by South Texas bootleggers during prohibition. There were mule trains laden with fiery Mexican tequila crossing the river and fast cars to take it on to San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and beyond, while the "yanquis" flocked to the bars across the river at Rio Rico, Matamoros and elsewhere.

Back at our camp at Tropic Star Resort in Pharr, Texas (near McAllen, just north of the border) I was able to find time to relax by the pool a few times and even joined in the weekly game of scrabble. John joined in the Trivial Pursuit game. We both found that we were a little out-classed by the folks who have been playing every week for many years. Some of these folks have been living here for 20 years, since they retired in their early 60s.

Kind of a cool cloud formation as the sun was setting over our camper. Heading northeast to Corpus Christi Wednesday morning.

Happy Hiking,


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