Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Mission, TX, Delights and Surprises

Mission, TX was full of surprises. It looked small on the map, like a little strip of city, not so much. We are here on a mission, AdventureMan wants to visit the National Butterfly Center (did you know the United States had a National Butterfly Center?) and I wanted to see the Rio Grande.

Mission was big, and modern. Contrary to much of our Texas experience, it has very new roads.

Mission, and McAllen, her next door sister city, are right on the Rio Grande. There is a huge Homeland Security presence in Mission and McAllen. Many of the TripAdvisor reports I had read to find a good hotel seemed to have been written by government workers, so I should have put it together, but I didn’t, and I found the hugeness of the security presence a little overwhelming, and seriously intimidating. I am guessing all the new infrastructure is in support of guarding our borders.

Our hotel was very new, very modern and welcoming. It was all polished surfaces and glossy textiles, clean white linens, totally lovely for a chain hotel. We jumped into our swimsuits to hit the equally lovely pool, only to discover it was really cold, and for an Alaska girl to say a pool is cold, it really has to be cold.

Fitness goals thwarted, we checked at the desk for a local restaurant recommendation. The desk clerk was very helpful, but recommended a chain, and we wanted something more truly local. Fortunately, there is Trip Advisor. In minutes, we found a place that thrilled our hearts. It was a Thursday night date night kind of place for the very married. People were flocking in and ordering platters of BBQ. The Lone Star was our kind of place.

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We are not people who like to waste, so AdventureMan had to take about half of his beef brisket back to the hotel, thinking he would have some for breakfast. It was very lean and beautifully smoked. Unfortunately, we discovered we did not have a refrigerator in this lovely hotel, oh AARRGH, and the excess beef went to waste.

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I had my favorite, BBQ chicken, and a really good potato salad. Normally, I am not a big potato salad fan, I don’t like too much mayonnaise, and I like flavor. This was really good potato salad, for me, and very tasty.

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The entire time we were there, people were flooding in. We really liked the Lone Star BBQ. We do a lot of talking with locals, so we later learned that everyone goes to Lone Star for it’s famous grapefruit pie. Grapefruit pie had not sounded all that tempting to us, but before Homeland Security, Grapefruit was the mainstay of the Mission, TX economy, and Lone Star BBQ specializes in a wonderful, very sweet, Grapefruit Pie.

I have a feeling that in order to make grapefruit into a pie, it’s kind of like rhubarb, you have to use a lot of sugar, a LOT of sugar. I would rather like to try one spoonful of a grapefruit pie, just for a taste, but I am not all that sorry that we passed, only that it is something that Mission was once famous for.

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April 12, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Fitness / FitBit, Hotels, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | Leave a comment

Beaumont and Refugio, TX en route to Mission, TX

This is an exciting day; this is a day we travel new roads, roads we’ve never travelled before. New roads make our blood race.

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First, we have to get through Houston. It’s early in the morning, so Houston friends, I didn’t call. I know you’ll appreciate it 🙂

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One of the best parts of this trip was crossing rivers. We crossed lots of rivers. These are some of the rivers we crossed:

Brazos River
Colorado River (we crossed the Colorado many times on our journey)
Lavaca River
Arenosa River
Garzitas Creek
Guadalupe River
San Antonio River
Aransas River

Texas can be a very dry state, but after this winter and spring, southern Texas is as green as Alaska, and the rivers are flowing. We learned that a swale is the same as an arroyo; we know them better as wadis – places where rivers or creeks may sometimes run, but which may also dry up. In a country like Tunisia, when we lived there, there were not a lot of public facilities available, so a bridge over a wadi always was a welcome sight.

We trust in Google, but sometimes we don’t thoroughly understand the instructions. On this route, when we got to Victoria, they told us to take the Southern business route, so we exited and tried to find it, but discovered (it was only about ten minutes) that the road we had been on was the southern business route around Victoria.

Some of the worst roads we travelled were in Texas. At one point, we gassed up and it was my leg for driving. It wasn’t an interstate, but it was a highway with two lanes going both ways, a 90 degree entrance to the highway, and fast trucks barreling down the road. I am not a person who likes screeching tires, but I had to screech my tires to get on that road, and I still feel resonances of the adrenaline jolt.

Along this long long route 77, we got hungry, and there aren’t a lot of likely stops – it’s a long, lonely road. When we saw the signs for Refugio, our tummies were rumbling and we knew we needed to take a chance.

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Sometimes, luck is just with you. As Highway 77 went straight through Refugio, we saw, on the left, a place called Gumbo Seafood, and the parking lot was packed with big trucks, farm vehicles, cars; we’re not even sure we can find a place, and just as we start to turn into one, a big huge lawn-service kind of double truck takes it and we are forced to go to the back, where we find a spot. Inside, it is packed with customers, and loud, and food is going to the tables and it looks . . . Mexican!

We are shown to a table in a quieter area, where we order. When my meal comes, I am delighted – grilled shrimp, with sauteed onions and green peppers, a very hot pepper of some kind, and about half an avocado sliced. It was magnificent. In this hopping roadside stop, I had one of the best meals of my trip. AdventureMan’s tacos were stuffed to the brim, so much meat he couldn’t eat half of it, and he said it was not tasty, so he would rate this place lower than I would. Sometimes, it’s all in what you order, and there is no telling what you’re going to get. I loved this meal!

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For some reason, we assumed all the seafood was frozen, and wondered how an interior town would specialize in seafood. Once we saw the larger map, however, we saw they weren’t all that far from the Gulf, and we had evidence that at least the oysters were very fresh:

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A lot of times, we run across fun places to stop along secondary and back roads, but we didn’t find any fun places this time, like for home made goodies. It was all rural and agrarian, and a lot of it looked like it had seen better days, until we got to Mission, TX.

April 12, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Eating Out, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Living Conditions, Relationships, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment