I know many of our Winter Texans have already started home. Those who have not already left are probably thinking of packing up and closing down their winter homes. We are going to miss you and look forward to welcoming you back again in the fall. Have a wonderful summer wherever you may be.
But now as you think about the drive home, will you stop along the way? Yes, you are anxious to be home but why not stop and enjoy a little bit more of Texas as you head home? One of your first stops could easily be at Schulenburg - located some five hours straight up North Highway 77. Schulenburg is the home of the Painted Churches and well worth a stop as you head North.
Truly, Texas has been blessed to have so many different nationalities and cultures to settle in our state. Remnants of a European culture still exist in Schulenburg where the original settlers were from Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia.
It was in 1848, when the German speaking countries were in revolution that so many who were seeking a democratic form of government over a monarchy decided to leave their homeland. Even so, to leave everything behind and start life anew must have been very difficult. It is no wonder that these immigrants missed the architecture of their homeland and the beautiful churches they had left behind. Farmland abounded around Schulenburg but art and materials to copy the beautiful artwork and marble found in their homeland was sadly lacking.
Read more: Stop and smell the roses on your way
Sometimes those of us who live in the Rio Grande Valley just take for granted all the wonders that surround us. Regardless of our age, we have so many opportunities to enjoy our life.
For the young or more active, how about canoeing down the Rio Grande River or perhaps kayaking in the Arroyo Colorado or in the Bay at nearby South Padre Island. Hiking trails and nature parks are scattered all over our semi-tropical area. Spring and Fall migrations attract many residents and visitors who want to add to their Birding Life List. For those of us who are more sedentary, river boats can take us up and down the river. Simply said, the Rio Grande Valley is virtually a natural paradise.
There are so many opportunities for travel and exploring. How about a Sunday afternoon drive down what is now referred to as the Memorial Highway. At one time bandits on horseback rode in this area often intercepting and robbing the mail wagons that not only carried the mail but often more valuable payrolls. Later this same road became the thoroughfare for the Oblate Fathers who were the ministers of the Christian faith to the ranches scattered along the river road. Those ministers were named the Cavalry for Christ.
Read more: Beauty and opportunity surrounds us in the RGV
Spring is in the air! Or at least that is so in the Rio Grande Valley. But not so in parts of the United States. Some places are still feeling the chill of winter with morning temperatures of around 35 degrees while temperatures for those of us in South Texas are enjoying 70 degrees - just perfect for an early morning stroll.
We can't rely on the ground hog to predict Spring for they just don't exist in this part of the United States. We often depend on another method to predict when Spring is in the air.
It is generally in mid to late February when the ordinary dead looking mesquite tree begins to show signs of life. Almost overnight beautiful emerald green lacy looking foliage adorns this tree. Then we can be sure that Spring is just around the corner. Mother Nature is giving us a tried-and-true signal - Spring is in the air.
Read more: The hardy mesquite tree
Sometimes it is a good idea if the boss becomes a guide. I really enjoy being with the passengers and guiding. Even when I do have a backup guide, things can just go wrong and I get to step in and guide. And what fun that is.
That is just what happened this past Thursday on a King Ranch Tour. My backup had covid and so I became the guide for the day. What a history we have in the King Ranch and in the formation and settling of the Rio Grande Valley. As I related the history of our area, I was again impressed with how we became the State of Texas.
Read more: History of Texas and the RGV
It's a small, small world! Just last week I received an e-mail directing me to an article presented by the British Broadcasting Company. The Rio Grande Valley and the story of Rio Rico made the news all the way across the world. At first, I just could not believe it.
The article was all about Rio Rico, a Valley town that was once in the United States but is now in Mexico. How would you like to go to sleep one night living in the United States and wake up to find that you are now in Mexico? Well, that is exactly what happened to the citizens of Rio Rico for you see it is said that the winding and curving Rio Grande River cut a new and straighter channel leaving Rio Rico in Mexico.
This occurred back in July 2006 and all these years when guiding I have used this as an example of how strong the force of water can be. That episode was easy for me to accept for in Mexico, the Rio Grande is named the Rio Bravo del Norte or the Brave River of the North. And certainly, water can be a powerful force destroying bridges, sweeping cars off of highways that are flooding, and carrying entire houses away in their swirling currents.
Read more: Uncovering the real story
Why is it that we Texans like to think that we are the biggest? Is it because we want to be head and shoulders above everyone else? Is it because human nature just naturally wants to brag? Is it because we like to look down on our fellow man?
Whatever the reason, Texas does still have some bragging rights. Perhaps these attributes - maybe better to say brags - are not necessarily what we would like to brag about but it is true that some things are just bigger in Texas. These things are so much bigger that Texas has made the Guinness World Record a total of 550 times. Here are just some of the most mind boggling of those records.
Can you imagine a pizza that would cover an eight foot long and thirty-two-inch-wide banquet table? A local pizza establishment at one time offered a pizza that was three feet in diameter. My office staff decided to order one. The box holding our lunch barely fit on the back seat of my station wagon. It was good - and a novelty.
Read more: February 8, 2023 - On the Road with Jo
I would like to think that Spring is just around the corner - but I know we could still have another freeze. I hope not - but our climate is changing. Or is it? I remember maybe eight or so years ago that we had ice on the highways as late as February 6. So even if you do want to start replanting, hold on - it is a little too early.
Even so we are having some beautiful weather right now. Low to mid-seventies is just the perfect time for long walks, trips to the zoo or maybe even a visit to South Padre Island. It's time to fly a kite, build a sandcastle or even join in the beach cleanup.
How blessed we are to be in the Rio Grande Valley. I check the temperature daily to have an idea of what to expect for the rest of the week. And of course, I want to see what the temperature is in San Antonio and Austin as that is where my children live. I was shocked a few days ago to see printed in bold letters COLD on the map for Amarillo. I am very glad I don't have to live in 21-degree weather.
Read more: Cool days lead to warm days
I hope that I did not miss seeing you at the Winter Texan Expo. Those of you who stopped by the Go...With Jo! and needed a French speaker were pleasantly surprised to be able to speak French to my volunteer helper. Thank goodness he has even volunteered to be a coordinator on some of the tours. If you know a fellow Canadian or a French speaker who wants to learn more about the Rio Grande Valley, just call the office to learn which trips might be given in French. Just remember no office employee speaks French. I wish we did.
English? Spanish? We can help you in those languages. And what a blessing it is to be able to communicate in just two languages. It would be wonderful to speak more languages. You don't have to speak and understand the language of the country you are visiting but it helps. In the Rio Grande Valley, you will hear both languages being spoken and sometimes the speaker will jump from one to the other even in the midst of the same sentence. That means your mind has to shift gears in the middle of the conversation. That is quite a challenge.
Read more: There are benefits in learning a second language
Texas trails and farming
Texas! It's a whole other country! Maybe it would be more descriptive of our state if we said, "Texas is a lot of country!” And how true that is. Texas covers so much territory that the Texas Historical Commission decided to divide the state into Heritage Trails. There were several reasons that the State decided to create and promote these trails. First of all, the Historical Commission wanted to preserve the history and culture of the different regions. Of course, another reason was to promote tourism into the different regions.
If you have traveled across Texas, you know immediately how different each area or trail is. The different regions seem to have a personality of their own. There is The Plains Trail, The Pecos Trail, The Mountain Trail, and The Lakes Trail plus six more. Those of us living in the Rio Grande Valley live in The Texas Tropical Trail. Yes, the trails are unique - definitely different - which makes traveling on those trails so interesting.
Read more: January 18, 2023 - On the Road with Jo
Take a look at what’s in the RGV
And how are you doing on those New Year's Resolutions? Not so good? Maybe we need to take another look at why we make those resolutions in the first place. Could it be that it is just a long-time tradition? Is it just expected? But why? What is the tradition and when did that tradition start?
Most of us have no idea as to how, why, or when the tradition began. Actually, the tradition started over 4,000 years ago when the belief was that if you did not make promises to the gods to do better that you would be punished and would have bad luck.
It is said that about 45% of our population still make New Year's resolutions. The flip side is that only about 8% of those who make resolutions will actually keep those same resolutions. So how are you doing so far?
I hope that somewhere among all those resolutions were some who resolved to travel again and to travel more in 2023. You don't even have to travel very far to really enjoy yourself and learn more about our surroundings.
From the telephone calls that we are receiving, it appears that more and more people are ready to travel. And that is great as travel broadens your mind and helps you to understand the history and cultures of other people and countries as well as to understand and appreciate what’s around you.
Read more: January 11, 2022 - On the Road with Jo