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Thursday May 7 — Rainbow Flight & Texas Border Towns

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Oh NO! Attack of the killer bee!!

Today was a long day of driving, our longest day in a month. We drove 400 miles, which isn’t that far in terms of distance. However, our need to document the trip and take photos can turn quick stops into hour-long affairs. So, we tend to need lots of time, which we had because we both woke up at 7am on Thursday wondering why we were awake (we are late risers). It was in part due to the air conditioner’s inability to cool our room. So, rather than fight the air conditioner, we decided to pack and get going.

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Our first stop of the morning was Lackland Air Force Base (aka new name: Joint Base San Antonio), the home to the Air Force’s Basic Military Training facility. It was there that Ann went through basic training. Apparently, she had some fond memories of her time there. Unlike other recruits, she found her experience much less stressful than growing up with her mother. Even better, she got to eat to each three times a day as much as she wanted! The only downfall, besides the marching, was a set of golden arches she’d see everyday just outside the training grounds. She yearned, but never got a chance to eat there.

Well, today was her lucky day, but first we had to find the training ground. Having ditched Siri’s navigation, I’ve turned to Google Maps. That app took us to the main base. Of course, I didn’t know any different, but as we drove around, Ann said she didn’t recognize anything, because the Air Force ‘never let us mingle with real military people’. It took us a while to realize that the training grounds were on the other side of the highway. So, over the highway we went. That’s when things started to look familiar to her. She pointed out the airmen dressed in their blues marching on the parade grounds. Then she pointed to some newer recruits having to go through inspections. Finally she giggled at the sight of the Rainbow Flight, the newbies who had not been issued their military clothes, so they had to dress i their street clothes (which were a myriad of colors).

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Airmen in their blues close to graduation.

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Ann’s basic barracks. In the morning she and her co-airmen had to go down the stairs with both hands on the rails chanting. At the bottom the had to line up under the covered area as shown.

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The Rainbow Group. They are the newbies. The don’t receive their equipment until their entire group arrives. Ann had to stay in her street clothes for two weeks before all of her group arrived.

It was about then that Ann spotted a familiar McDonalds’ sign that stretched high into the sky. Her giggles at the Rainbow Flight group turned to lust for anything greasy from McDonalds. For decades she’d never had the chance to fulfill the dream of leaving base and eating that McDonalds … and that is what I’m here for: to see her live her dreams!

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Oh those golden arches called to Ann daily. But, she couldn’t leave the base.

So, that’s exactly what happened. We left base and went straight to the restaurant. Of course, before we went inside she had to get her photo taken in front of the McDonald’s sign. As you can imagine, there were no shortage of strange glances our direction.

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She was SO excited to go to THAT McDonalds!

After Ann feasted on her bun-less sausage McMuffin (still can’t tolerate gluten — not every dream is a perfect fantasy), we left San Antonio and the Texas Hill Country behind for the flat lands of South Texas and Laredo.

We arrived in Laredo about noon. In my head, I wanted Laredo and its downtown area to be a dry western town full of cowboys. It would be sun drenched and weathered in the truest sense of a western movie. I really wanted to find something I’d like about the place. However, this was not to be.

Instead, after wandering around looking for downtown, we finally found it. The streets were narrow and dingy. The shops left us uncompelled to enter them. Laredo’s downtown was simply a gateway from Mexico into the United States.

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At one point we were stopped at the entry gate waiting for a couple cars that had just passed the border patrol inspections to pass in front of us. Mexico literally dumps into downtown Laredo. That was the most interesting thing we could find about the city. None of our usual tricks worked to locate a neat thing to record or photograph. At that realization, we decided to leave.

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Had we turned right we’d be going the wrong way into Mexico (and caused all kinds of havoc). Under the large carport border patrol and customs agents inspected vehicles heading into the US.

From Laredo I purposefully chose to drive southeastward along US Route 83, the fifth longest north-south highway in the United States (the longest being US Route 1 along the east coast — Ann and I lost a trivia game to that question once). Near the southern end of Texas, US Route 83 hugs the border. We wanted to see what that meant.

At first, it meant very little. The road was stop and go lights for twenty minutes or so. After we finally got out of the Laredo area, the road opened up to 75mph and we cruised through farmlands and quiet rural areas. There were a few warnings about pickup up hitchhikers, but that had to do with escaping inmates from the nearby prison and not people crossing the border illegally. Even driving through the city of Zapata and along Falcon Lake, made infamous due to the cartel turf war and the 2010 death of an American, we found nothing to alarm us. In fact there were signs promoting Falcon Lake.

It wasn’t until we passed through the small town of Roma that we really began noticing an increased police presence. It was there that we spotted our first feral jeep in more than a week. We also spotted a few other cool things.

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Texas and snow cones. What is it about Texans that they love their snow cones so much? We’ve been amazed at some of the long lines we’ve seen. While this place is cute, there were no lines because it was closed. Roma, TX.

After Roma we spotted this jeep. It was used as an election tool. What’s funniest about this jeep waving the American flag is that it was resting on blocks stamped “Mexico”. I guess it isn’t quite all-American.

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Though we were having some fun, by the time we were driving through Roma, Texas, there was a distinct change in police presence, including more border patrol trucks, local city police, county sheriffs, and state troopers. We were seeing police of one form or another about every mile. At one point we had two border patrol trucks ahead of us. Between approximately Roma and McAllen, a distance of about 60 miles, we probably only went a few minutes without seeing police of some kind. Neither of us had ever seen police presence like that. We were not sure if she should feel safe with all the police or worried because there was a reason they were all around.

About 12 miles west of McAllen at the town of La Joya, we began seeing huge homes built on both sides of the freeway. They were non-gated, non-fenced modern homes that felt completely out of place. We wondered who in the area could afford such homes and who would want to build and own land so close to the border when there were obvious problems (hence the police presence). We are still puzzled by that question.

As we drove into McAllen the police presence vanished, though it was replaced in part by mechanical devices that recorded drivers coming and going. In its place was a very modern McAllen (I was expecting, for no particular reason, an old dusty town with a dying downtown). McAllen had several miles of upscale restaurants and retail shopping that again felt out of place, just as the La Joya homes did. All in all, it was a pretty unforgettable experience.

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I wonder what the police call this creature?

When we reached McAllen, we headed south toward the small town of HIdalgo. The town’s claim to fame is that it has the largest killer bee and the first US location for ‘killer’ bees from Mexico.

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After getting a few photos, we continued toward South Padre Island. Along the way Ann spotted these jeeps and M-151s all parked at the same house.

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Then, just after that, we discovered Bobz World, part gift store and part kids entertainment. We didn’t care about any of that. We just liked the big cool sculptures

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You can just make out Ann to the left. That shark was big.

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This is the back side.

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This is the entrance to the gift shop/mini golf area.

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With pics snapped, we drove the remainder of the way to South Padre Island, where I scored a nice hotel room for only $40 for the night (on Friday the price shoots up to $140, so we will be elsewhere).

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Crossing the bridge to South Padre Island

On Friday we begin our trek north. We plan to stop in Kingsville to see the ranch museum. Other than that, we’ll be winging it.

(Want to see more of the 2015 Texas Trip? View the posts from the beginning)

 

8 Comments on “Thursday May 7 — Rainbow Flight & Texas Border Towns

  1. Allen Forrester

    Looks like you are having fun kicking around in Texas. I am certainly enjoying reading about your experiences.

    Snow cones are popular in Texas because everyone needs a snow cone after eating a bowl of Texas chili. There have been occasions when I needed two snow cones. One for each end of my digestive track.

  2. mmdeilers Post author

    Allen,

    That’s as good of an explanation as any! And since we haven’t had a hot bowl of Texas chili (for me, chili does not make a good traveling companion), we haven’t had the snow cone urge yet 🙂

    – Dave

  3. Joe in Mesa

    Now THAT’S a true armadillo catcher on the first jeep (with the American flag). Too bad she’s out of commission. I hope the home with the jeeps/M-151 is an eWillys reader; recognizes his/her collection; and chimes in 🙂

  4. Mom

    David, it is too bad that Ann has such lofty goals such as eating at the McDonald’s outside the base. Amazing what a sign can do to eat (no pun intended -ha) at your psyche.

  5. Tom

    I didnt recognized anything in the pictures at Lackland. Egads! the last time I was there was 49 years ago next month June 66. 🙂

  6. mmdeilers Post author

    Tom: But was the McDonalds sign there? lol.
    Bob: Ann says they haven’t changed a bit. There are some newer ones as well.
    Mom: Yeah, she’s a cheap date some days 🙂
    Steve: She really enjoyed her Air Force experience. Well, at least she did until she went boom.

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