Texas on my mind


I’m back to wrapping my head around Texas, and not having much luck.

The All Valley RV show is going on this weekend. We went for a very quick visit on Thursday. There was so little to be seen so we didn’t stay long. A year ago we were in Tampa at the Tampa RV Supershow and let me assure you —there is no comparison.  But then one doesn’t expect that here.

On the way home we stopped at the Texas state tourism office in Harlingen where I found more helpful information about birding sites and a new version of the Texas Tourism brochure. What that short stop really did was to get me thinking about the diversity of this state.texas-regions

We are purposely sticking close to home right now.  Considering that we had not been planning on buying a home before we arrived, the decision to do so put a temporary crimp on cashflow so being old fashioned we’re cutting back for a couple months until the bank balance recovers.  That sort of low profile and refusal to spend a lot of money  accounts for some of the things I’ve been writing about lately.  I’m amusing myself in stationary ways!  Going nowhere and doing very little. And trying to get a feel for Texas is proving challenging.  Let’s face it, we humans tend to summarize things, or categorize them, or profile them, or turn them into cliches.  Texas, however, doesn’t translate into cliches easily.

Texas is over 268,000 miThat means four Wisconsins would fit inside the state of Texas.  It’s 879 miles along I-10 from the Western end at El Paso to the Louisiana border; and 881 miles from Texhoma to Brownsville on the variety of roads that it would take to make the trip.  that’s a lot of space!

Reflecting on a lifetime in Wisconsin I know it was hard enough to wrap one’s head around Wisconsin as an “entity.”  There are unique areas of the state no matter whether you look at it from the cultural, geologic, agricultural, employment or any other vantage point.  If Wisconsin is diverse — then what the heck is Texas?

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone tell me they moved to Texas because of it’s beauty. That’s not a criticism; merely an observation of fact.  Oh, be assured there are beautiful places here.  But there can be a lot of space in between them. refineryIt could be that Texas is more about getting stuff done, than it is about appreciating the place the stuff is done.  In our small circles of friendship it’s much more common to hear people talking about diversity of bird and butterfly life than it is to hear them talking about scenery. The scenery here is flatness.  Lots of Yucca and scrub and fields.  There’s also a lot of agriculture here — the Rio Grande Valley provides produce for a good part of the nation.  But among our acquaintances there’s not much talk much about crops. Perhaps because we’re all retired and while we might like to eat and because we’re all retired agriculture sounds too much like work!

If I step back to that topic of Texas natural beauty, I’m sure that when we head to Hill Country with Katy that we’ll see some of it.  bluebonnetsWe’ll be a bit early for Bluebonnet season but we’ll have other years for hunting the grand Texas Bluebonnet!   On our last trip to Texas I had learned about the Blanco Lavender Festival and this year we might actually get to participate. I hope so… It’s going to be a busy Spring what with a wedding in Milwaukee so we’re taking a lot of things under advisement for now.

A field of lavender rows interlaced with the yellow of dead grass
A field of lavender rows interlaced with the yellow of dead grass

One of the aspects of Texas I think I have to investigate is the nature of Texas towns.  Any place of this size is bound to have more ghost towns than Wisconsin.texas-ghost-towns There are plenty of places that have been abandoned as new and bigger roads have replaced rural farm life.

best-hill-country-towns-gruene-texas-rend-tccom-616-462We’ve seen a lot of different architecture here in small towns.  That includes a lot of businesses with covered porches.  Surely that’s more of a Southern thing.  They are pretty uncommon in Wisconsin. All that snow load in the winter you know — and nowhere near the heat in the summer.  A lot more towns seem to have developed lengthwise along the highway than I recall in Wisconsin.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-7-47-59-amThere are also attempts to cope with problems in different ways.  Take for example the Austin Moon Towers erected in the late 1800’s to provide safety lighting for Austin citizens.  They were a creative attempt to address urban lighting.  I have no idea how effective they were — any more than I have any idea how often those porches out in front of the businesses were used — in the days when they were built.  But they are residual reminders of days gone by and ways of living never to be repeated.  My point being that in a state this size there are bound to be a variety of places that are unique and creative attempts to bring meaning and ease to life in new and novel ways!

Hidalgo Pumphouse Museum
Hidalgo Pumphouse Museum

If you love birds & butterflies this is a great place to be, but I’ve noticed that I’m spending more time in odd sorts of places.  Take for example the Hidalgo pump house museum.  I’m not sure whether birds actually like water pumping stations and wastewater treatment plants but it sure seems that humans think they do because a lot of sites preserved for birders seem to be adjacent to one or the other.  One of the nearby hot spots is in Hidalgo (50 miles from us) where the World Birding Center has put in a facility adjacent to the old water pump house.  Getting to these out of the way places takes us through a lot of towns and we are getting acquainted with small town life in ways we had not in Wisconsin.  Wildlife refuges too are often in locales disused by humans — it seems that we relegate to birds and critters only those places that humans and businesses don’t find appealing.  🙂

nationalbutterflycenterSimilarly the National Butterfly Center is located in Mission Texas — just another 20 miles down the road from Hidalgo. Not only is this a great resource for how to attract butterflies to your property, it’s a great place to see them.  November and December are their most butterfly-populated months and at times one needs to make sure to keep their mouth closed unless you want to inhale a butterfly — but it’s a fascinating place if you have a thing for butterflies!

I haven’t said anything about Oil, or chemical production.  Texas has a lot of industry and a lot of industrial plants in what appear to be god-forsaken places.  Of course oil is big here.  So are chemicals, and the railroad tracks needed to move railcar after railcar of chemical to manufacturing sites around the country and the world.

I haven’t said much about the fine arts in Texas — we don’t yet know much about where to find symphonies and art museums within a days’ drive in this great big place.  Over time we shall, I’m sure.  Right now I’d be happy if I could find a civic choral group that performs in English — might be time to see if my voice still works.  dd-2002_yoyomasr_0495048900Then again as I get older I’m an ever increasingly fidgety sitter — so maybe I’ll be happy listening to YoYo Ma on CD instead of in the concert hall. Thus far the concert promotions I’ve seen haven’t been of interest to me.

When I look at the map of this state I wonder how much exploring we will ever do in the Western and Northern parts of this great big state.  It may turn out that the Big Bend and Panhandle Plains are just more than we want to tackle unless we are already planning on passing through.

Life in the U.S. 100 or 150 years ago was difficult and formative.  There have been settlers in this area for as long and longer than there were in Wisconsin.  But the nature of the early challenges were vastly different — among them heat rather than cold; drought rather than than snow.  The fact that the challenges they faced were so different has to have had an impact on the way people thought — and the way people think even today.

Another factor in understanding Texas is the difference of ethnic settlements.  The resident populations in the two states are hugely different and that means the traditions they brought with them were different, their values, their biases (we all have them).

A person could probably spend a lifetime getting to know one state; I have no illusions that I’ll ever be more than a Temporary Texan, and probably an ill-informed one at that.  But I surely intend to have fun getting to know this place.  Have a great day, stop by tomorrow and say hi! I’ll be here waiting to chat.

 

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11 Comments

  1. As a native Texan, one thing I can share is that we’ve always been willing to hop in the car and drive pretty long distances in shorter timeframes, mostly out of necessity, but also because of the drive itself. The road trip itself is just part of the fun. Sounds like that may be one difference we are just accustomed to, even if we still fuss a bit about it at times. I still think nothing of hopping in my car and driving over 600 miles each way by myself to see friends and family in the Houston/Beaumont area. I guess that’s also why we love to go in our RV, too, even if we have to take things slower. Nothing like a good road trip! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL — I used to think nothing of a 250 drive on a weekend morning just for breakfast. I don’t know that distance is necessarily a deterrent — heck I used to drive from Milwaukee to NYC for a weekend. Leave after work on Friday and be back JUST-before work on a Monday. But after a lifetime of go-go-going I’m at a point where the objective for the trip has to be worth it. I’ve seen lots of fairs and stores and touristy places; I’m holding out for places i really want to see or things I really want to do. Kind of hard to define, I know. And I admit that I AM slowing down a bit. I used to do 700 miles in a day and think nothing of it. Or WA to WI in 2 days solo. But now my butt gets tired and I’ma little more concerned about thrombosis and such…

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  2. One of the things I remember about Texas is the County Courthouses. Courthouse Square nearly always is a fascinating place to hang out for a bit. People used to attend court sessions as entertainment. You don’t see that as much nowadays, I think, but it can still be an interesting place for people watching both in the courtroom and out in the square.

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    1. LOL — WI has some lovely County Courthouses and squares. We’ve spent a fair number of weekends chasing down some of them.

      I know nowadays you can watch the Cameron county court on local TV! Eat your popcorn in the living room. 🙂

      We have found some lovely little towns — with and without town squares. I’m sure over time we’ll find all sorts of interesting things to do.

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  3. My suggestion is to get a State Park annual pass and bookmark the State Park website… I raised my kiddos with an annual pass and most every weekend we would randomly pick a direction and head out a couple hours to a new destination.

    Texas is amazing. If you like arid, desert areas; we have that in West Texas. If you like lush and tropical; we have that in East Texas. If you like hilly and green; we have that in the Hill Country. If you like sand and beaches and coastal; we have miles of that along the Coast. North Texas is warm and friendly and more agricultural. We have big cities with flourishing nightlife, if that’s your thing. We have amazing Museums and Theatre and Art and all sorts of cerebral things. The only limit is your imagination, sense of adventure, and fuel budget! 🙂

    Texas Parks & Wildlife has a magazine to which you can subscribe.
    TourTexas dot com has a good calendar of events.
    FairsAndFestivals dot net slash TX has interesting goodies, too.

    Don’t despair — You just settled in a kinda low key location that has a very rugged and harsh beauty. Plan a couple of day trips and see some of the other wonderful scenery!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OH, I’m sure it will all come together in time. Being as my blog is sort of stream of consciousness — you get the temporary uncertainties that come with life.

      We DO have a TX park pass now, and I’m sure we’ll keep buying them as we get to know the state. I suspect we’ll probably find a couple communities from which to make a 2-3 day area visit. For example, last time down here we did that in San Antonio, and another trip to Blanco and San Marco. It’ll just take a while to wrap our head around what’s here.

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      Liked by 1 person

      1. Next time you breeze through San Antonio, hit me up – we can show you where to get the best margaritas or a wonderful local brew or an awesome cinnamon roll! LOL!

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