Hi y'all (they really do say that here),
We have now left the Rio Grande Valley and are on Mustang Island, just outside Corpus Christi. The Rio Grande Valley isn't really a valley ~ it is the Rio Grande delta but apparently when they were trying to get settlers to come in the 1800's they thought a valley sounded more attractive. In the Valley they grow a lot of citrus fruit, cotton and sugar cane. We picked a couple of big bags of red grapefruit at the last campground and are enjoying delicious fresh juice every morning. On the drive up here from Brownsville the landscape stayed completely flat and we went through some farmland and a huge cattle ranch.
The area between the Rio Grande river and the Nueces river (here in Corpus Christi) was originally part of Mexico and was disputed back and forth between Texas and Mexico. Now there is a large Hispanic population in the valley (some say about 80 % after we "winter Texans" have left) so there are lots of Mexican/American restaurants and almost everyone is bilingual. We tried to find restaurants serving Texas BBQ and did but they are outnumbered by Mexican. Now, we are further from the border and have noticed no bilingual signs. The other aspect of being in the Rio Grande Valley is that you are right on the Mexican border so there is a strong Border Patrol presence ~ at Bentsen we had Border patrol trucks parked on the levees where we walked, driving through the State park and frequently (especially at night) helicopters flying really low. They are looking for Mexicans trying to sneak into the States and also drug smugglers ~ smuggling has increased a lot in the last couple of years, mostly bringing in marijuana. I read in the local paper that already hundreds of Mexicans have been caught this year. When we were in Brownsville there were Border patrol boats going out on the river every night.
One more funny Tess story for you: at our last golf lesson we had taken Tess and left her in the truck with windows open a little. Part-way through our lesson 2 guys came by in a golf cart asking if anyone knew whose dog this is. Yes, ours! She had pushed the back sliding window all the way open, run to the 18th hole and was "retrieving" balls on the green and taking them back to the golfers!!! Luckily they all thought it was funny.
So, now we are at Mustang Island State Park. Just offshore from Brownsville to Galveston ( about 450 miles) there are barrier islands and Mustang is one. It is about 40 miles long and thin with dunes on the Gulf of Mexico side then grasslands on the other. Apparently there were wild horses here until the 1880s, hence the name.
This morning we had a nice long 2 hour walk on the beach ~ luckily we did as now it is becoming overcast. There were hundreds of man o'war jellyfish on the beach and also some really big clear jellyfish shaped a bit like a squid,called a "cabbage head". We are planning to stay here another few days to do some birding ( there are many parks, wetlands, reserves and World Birding Sites around here so hope to do some good birding), explore Corpus Christi (Malcolm wants to see the USS Lexington) and just enjoy the beach!
Hope all is well with you and yours,
Malcolm and Elinor
ps:finally saw an armadillo at a park near Brownsville :)