December 31, 2016 thru February 1, 2017
Our extended stay in the Rio Grande valley started on New Year’s Eve with a visit to Lazy Palms Ranch in Edinburg, TX for one week. Edinburg is a city of 82,000 located about 20 miles north of the Mexican border. The city is also the home of University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. This will be our northern most stop in the Valley. From this point the Rio Grande meanders south-east to the Brownsville, TX area.
We arrived at Tropic Winds Resort in Harlingen, TX on January 7, 2017, aptly named since its windy here most of the time. Tropic Winds is our home base until April 7, 2017. The last time we visited the Valley was February 2011. During this visit, we decided to check out some of the seven Encore resorts in the Valley. We liked Tropic Winds because it seemed to have the most generous sites and appeared to be very well maintained. It’s a lovely gated community with plenty of very nice facilities and activities available. Our only disappointment with the site is the lack of a picnic table and no fishing facilities within the park. The resort is in a very convenient rural location yet an easy four mile drive to the city of Harlingen.
When we were in Columbus, TX we were graced with small herds of deer every day, here in Harlingen we have many Black-tailed Jackrabbits (American Desert Hare). It’s not unusual to see three to eight rabbits around our site. A few times a day we see Jackrabbits running down the middle of our street. They’re getting to feel like our personal pets.
Harlingen is considered the heart of the Rio Grande Valley. The city with a population of 65,000 is located about thirty miles from the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and ten miles from the Mexican border. Due to its strategic location, Harlingen is blessed with an abundance of excellent medical facilities. The Valley International Airport located a few miles from our resort serves as the valley’s primary air service terminal serving about two million passengers per year as well as a major hub for some cargo airlines such as DHL, FedEx & UPS.
The Port of Harlingen is located on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, which stretches from the Mexican border at Brownsville, along the entire coast of the Gulf of Mexico to St Marks, Florida. The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway provides over 1,300 miles of protected waterway, 12' deep and 125' wide. The Harlingen Channel is supplied by the Arroyo Colorado, a fresh water river.
During our first month here in the Valley we’ve been behaving more as Winter Texans (residents) than visitors to the area so the majority of our time is just plain living, or should we say staying alive. We have been blessed with wonderful weather; even the 90 degree days are tolerable because of the wind we complain so much about, however we haven’t taken advantage of the weather like we should have.
Our first excursion was to revisit the popular resort town of South Padre Island. The scenic two mile long Queen Isabella Causeway is the only road connecting the island to the Texas mainland. The causeway is the only bridge we are aware of that has signal lights to warn drivers of Pelicans. The structure has a sorted past. On August 13, 1996, a small Cessna plane collided with the causeway while maneuvering near Port Isabel, Texas. Witnesses and local authorities reported that the airplane was observed flying a pass from north to south under the causeway. The airplane made a 180-degree turn and approached the bridge toward the north for another pass; however, the airplane struck a concrete bridge pylon and column. In the early morning hours of September 15, 2001, four loaded barges crashed into one of the Queen Isabella Causeway's support columns. Three 80-foot sections of the bridge fell into the water, leaving a large gap in the roadway. The collapsed sections were just next to the highest point of the causeway, making it difficult for approaching drivers to notice. Eight people were killed as their cars fell 85 feet into the water. Five vehicles were recovered from the water along with three survivors. The collapse had a significant economic impact on the region since the causeway bridge also carried the only electricity lines and fresh water to the island.
In late January we visited Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen, TX about thirty miles west of us. Quinta Mazatlan means “county estate” in Spanish. The 10,000 square foot historic Spanish Revival adobe hacienda is surrounded by lush tropical landscaping & native woodland. Quinta is also one of the nine World Birding Centers in the Rio Grande valley. On our visit about the only birds we saw were Inca Doves, they look like a Mourning Dove with dark scaly pattern all over. We believe they are unique to south Texas and Mexico. We enjoyed touring the hacienda and walking the fine trails with bronze bird statues along the way.