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Sharing your talents this holiday season

On the ROad Kids Quilts webThanksgiving! It’s a time for caring. It’s a time for sharing.

As we turn our thoughts to the Thanksgiving celebration, let us remember how much we have to be thankful for. How grateful we all should be to be living in a beautiful world. And to be able to see and enjoy the flowers and trees that surround us. How thankful we should be to be able to communicate with each other. How grateful we should be for the skills, the attributes, and the talents that we have.

But what are we doing with our talents? Are we sharing them with other people? Do you have skills as a mechanic? Are you sharing those skills by offering to help a neighbor with a problem that he cannot fix? That he knows nothing about?

Perhaps you were a teacher or a tutor. It’s not too late to give of your time and talent to a local school or to your church.

So many of the Winter Texans share their skills with us. Thank you for your time and talent. Let us follow their example.

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The water and rich soil of the Valley

20181215 Riverside Dreamer Tour JMB 0025 webThanks to the Winter Texans, I now understand more about the game of Cricket … at least on paper. Now all I need to do is make time to go to one of their games. In fact, one way to keep up with all the happening in the Rio Grande Valley is to read the Winter Texan Times.

And there is a lot going on. Just take your pick – there is something for everyone – music, art, dances, garages sales, cruises on the Rio Grande River or on the Laguna Madre for fishing. The Rio Grande Valley has just about all you could ever want. Sure, we are not really a Valley, and we don’t have any mountains. In fact, we are virtually at sea level.

I live in Harlingen, where just a few miles up the road is a small town named Combes. Now old timers would call that town Combes Mountain. But why?
When I look up the elevation of Harlingen, my computer tells me that the average elevation of Harlingen is 46 feet. The elevation of Combes is just 39 feet. Could it be because Combes is somewhat north of Harlingen, people identified north with going up? Now I am really beginning to wonder why or how we look at things.

Residents of Harlingen have always said that downtown Harlingen is 33 feet. Since the Rio Grande River is actually higher than downtown Harlingen, it stands to reason that when the river floods, Harlingen, as well as most Rio Grande Valley cities, are going to be flooded. The natural flow of the flood waters will be from the river toward the Gulf of Mexico. Anyone living in the Rio Grande Valley in 1967 when we experienced Hurricane Beulah will remember how most of our Valley towns experienced major flooding. With excessive rain and slow drainage how can we not flood?

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Enjoy the great outdoors with sports

November – truly a wonderful month to enjoy the great outdoors… It’s not too hot and not too cold – it’s just right. Our beautiful weather should be enticing all of us to step outside. I am sure the golfers are having a field day. Golf must be a wonderful sport. In the little farming community where I grew up, nobody knew anything about golf. Our school had a baseball diamond and a basketball court. Those were our two sports and that was it … you chose one or the other or perhaps, even both. If you learned to swim, you learned in the creek.

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Welcome home and enjoy this paradise

20210202 SPI SPI Convention Center CAB 5630 webA big, big Welcome Home! We have missed you…. And you missed a hot, hot summer. In fact, we had record-breaking heat and very little rain. When the temperature dropped below a hundred it was like a cold snap and were we ever relieved.

Now the weather is just perfect for enjoying an early morning walk or a golf outing or a game of shuffleboard with your friends. In fact, the weather is just right.

Our Winter Texans contribute so much to the Valley. I know economically. You help us out. And we appreciate that. But you offer so much, much more to us and you do it with so much love and understanding.
You are a pleasure and a great benefit to us. We will never be able to tell you how much we appreciate your sharing your talents, your experiences, and your loving nature with us – The most wonderful thing is that you are willing to share with us. Thanks!

Some of you may drive a little slower than some of the others who are always in a hurry to get to their destination. But I drive a little slower than I used to also. You may not see as well as you used to, but then I don’t either. But why not go a little slower. Let’s enjoy this paradise.

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Quilting: Just one of the things you do

20191111 Brookridge RGV Quilt Guild Presents Quilts to Veterans CAB 0528 webWhat a wonderful contribution our Senior Citizens make to the Rio Grande Valley. They are just so willing to share their talents. Some volunteer to tutor in public schools. That is a great service not just to the teachers, but what a blessing for the students who may be having trouble reading or with math.

I think back to the time when my only grandson needed a tutor in math. He was a June baby and just a little behind in math comprehension. Today, at age 25, he is a straight A student in a prestigious law school on the East Coast. Many thanks to that tutor who was able to give her time and talents to help a child succeed.

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Stop and smell the roses on your way

Painted church webI know many of our Winter Texans have already started home. Those who have not already left are probably thinking of packing up and closing down their winter homes. We are going to miss you and look forward to welcoming you back again in the fall. Have a wonderful summer wherever you may be.

But now as you think about the drive home, will you stop along the way? Yes, you are anxious to be home but why not stop and enjoy a little bit more of Texas as you head home? One of your first stops could easily be at Schulenburg - located some five hours straight up North Highway 77. Schulenburg is the home of the Painted Churches and well worth a stop as you head North.

Truly, Texas has been blessed to have so many different nationalities and cultures to settle in our state. Remnants of a European culture still exist in Schulenburg where the original settlers were from Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia.

It was in 1848, when the German speaking countries were in revolution that so many who were seeking a democratic form of government over a monarchy decided to leave their homeland. Even so, to leave everything behind and start life anew must have been very difficult. It is no wonder that these immigrants missed the architecture of their homeland and the beautiful churches they had left behind. Farmland abounded around Schulenburg but art and materials to copy the beautiful artwork and marble found in their homeland was sadly lacking.

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Beauty and opportunity surrounds us in the RGV

20200217 Bentsen Palm RV Park Cinderella Rescue Donation DAB 4468 webSometimes those of us who live in the Rio Grande Valley just take for granted all the wonders that surround us. Regardless of our age, we have so many opportunities to enjoy our life.

For the young or more active, how about canoeing down the Rio Grande River or perhaps kayaking in the Arroyo Colorado or in the Bay at nearby South Padre Island. Hiking trails and nature parks are scattered all over our semi-tropical area. Spring and Fall migrations attract many residents and visitors who want to add to their Birding Life List. For those of us who are more sedentary, river boats can take us up and down the river. Simply said, the Rio Grande Valley is virtually a natural paradise.

There are so many opportunities for travel and exploring. How about a Sunday afternoon drive down what is now referred to as the Memorial Highway. At one time bandits on horseback rode in this area often intercepting and robbing the mail wagons that not only carried the mail but often more valuable payrolls. Later this same road became the thoroughfare for the Oblate Fathers who were the ministers of the Christian faith to the ranches scattered along the river road. Those ministers were named the Cavalry for Christ.

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The hardy mesquite tree

Spring is in the air! Or at least that is so in the Rio Grande Valley. But not so in parts of the United States. Some places are still feeling the chill of winter with morning temperatures of around 35 degrees while temperatures for those of us in South Texas are enjoying 70 degrees - just perfect for an early morning stroll.

We can't rely on the ground hog to predict Spring for they just don't exist in this part of the United States. We often depend on another method to predict when Spring is in the air.

It is generally in mid to late February when the ordinary dead looking mesquite tree begins to show signs of life. Almost overnight beautiful emerald green lacy looking foliage adorns this tree. Then we can be sure that Spring is just around the corner. Mother Nature is giving us a tried-and-true signal - Spring is in the air.

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History of Texas and the RGV

20201111 Brownsville Palo Alto Battlefield CAB 4154 webSometimes it is a good idea if the boss becomes a guide. I really enjoy being with the passengers and guiding. Even when I do have a backup guide, things can just go wrong and I get to step in and guide. And what fun that is.

That is just what happened this past Thursday on a King Ranch Tour. My backup had covid and so I became the guide for the day. What a history we have in the King Ranch and in the formation and settling of the Rio Grande Valley. As I related the history of our area, I was again impressed with how we became the State of Texas.

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Uncovering the real story

20181215 Riverside Dreamer Tour JMB 0076 webIt's a small, small world! Just last week I received an e-mail directing me to an article presented by the British Broadcasting Company. The Rio Grande Valley and the story of Rio Rico made the news all the way across the world. At first, I just could not believe it.

The article was all about Rio Rico, a Valley town that was once in the United States but is now in Mexico. How would you like to go to sleep one night living in the United States and wake up to find that you are now in Mexico? Well, that is exactly what happened to the citizens of Rio Rico for you see it is said that the winding and curving Rio Grande River cut a new and straighter channel leaving Rio Rico in Mexico.

This occurred back in July 2006 and all these years when guiding I have used this as an example of how strong the force of water can be. That episode was easy for me to accept for in Mexico, the Rio Grande is named the Rio Bravo del Norte or the Brave River of the North. And certainly, water can be a powerful force destroying bridges, sweeping cars off of highways that are flooding, and carrying entire houses away in their swirling currents.

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February 8, 2023 - On the Road with Jo

20230208 JO Pizza 2 webWhy is it that we Texans like to think that we are the biggest? Is it because we want to be head and shoulders above everyone else? Is it because human nature just naturally wants to brag? Is it because we like to look down on our fellow man?

Whatever the reason, Texas does still have some bragging rights. Perhaps these attributes - maybe better to say brags - are not necessarily what we would like to brag about but it is true that some things are just bigger in Texas. These things are so much bigger that Texas has made the Guinness World Record a total of 550 times. Here are just some of the most mind boggling of those records.

Can you imagine a pizza that would cover an eight foot long and thirty-two-inch-wide banquet table? A local pizza establishment at one time offered a pizza that was three feet in diameter. My office staff decided to order one. The box holding our lunch barely fit on the back seat of my station wagon. It was good - and a novelty.

Read more: February 8, 2023 - On the Road with Jo

Cool days lead to warm days

20230201 Jo IMG 1661 webI would like to think that Spring is just around the corner - but I know we could still have another freeze. I hope not - but our climate is changing. Or is it? I remember maybe eight or so years ago that we had ice on the highways as late as February 6. So even if you do want to start replanting, hold on - it is a little too early.

Even so we are having some beautiful weather right now. Low to mid-seventies is just the perfect time for long walks, trips to the zoo or maybe even a visit to South Padre Island. It's time to fly a kite, build a sandcastle or even join in the beach cleanup.

How blessed we are to be in the Rio Grande Valley. I check the temperature daily to have an idea of what to expect for the rest of the week. And of course, I want to see what the temperature is in San Antonio and Austin as that is where my children live. I was shocked a few days ago to see printed in bold letters COLD on the map for Amarillo. I am very glad I don't have to live in 21-degree weather.

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There are benefits in learning a second language

20181014 Nuevo Progreso HMoering 0925 webI hope that I did not miss seeing you at the Winter Texan Expo. Those of you who stopped by the Go...With Jo! and needed a French speaker were pleasantly surprised to be able to speak French to my volunteer helper. Thank goodness he has even volunteered to be a coordinator on some of the tours. If you know a fellow Canadian or a French speaker who wants to learn more about the Rio Grande Valley, just call the office to learn which trips might be given in French. Just remember no office employee speaks French. I wish we did.

English? Spanish? We can help you in those languages. And what a blessing it is to be able to communicate in just two languages. It would be wonderful to speak more languages. You don't have to speak and understand the language of the country you are visiting but it helps. In the Rio Grande Valley, you will hear both languages being spoken and sometimes the speaker will jump from one to the other even in the midst of the same sentence. That means your mind has to shift gears in the middle of the conversation. That is quite a challenge.

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January 18, 2023 - On the Road with Jo

20230118 Resaca de la Palma Observation Deck D webTexas trails and farming

Texas! It's a whole other country! Maybe it would be more descriptive of our state if we said, "Texas is a lot of country!” And how true that is. Texas covers so much territory that the Texas Historical Commission decided to divide the state into Heritage Trails. There were several reasons that the State decided to create and promote these trails. First of all, the Historical Commission wanted to preserve the history and culture of the different regions. Of course, another reason was to promote tourism into the different regions.

If you have traveled across Texas, you know immediately how different each area or trail is. The different regions seem to have a personality of their own. There is The Plains Trail, The Pecos Trail, The Mountain Trail, and The Lakes Trail plus six more. Those of us living in the Rio Grande Valley live in The Texas Tropical Trail. Yes, the trails are unique - definitely different - which makes traveling on those trails so interesting.

Read more: January 18, 2023 - On the Road with Jo

January 11, 2022 - On the Road with Jo

Take a look at what’s in the RGV

20230111 GPZ Baby Giraffe 2 webAnd how are you doing on those New Year's Resolutions? Not so good? Maybe we need to take another look at why we make those resolutions in the first place. Could it be that it is just a long-time tradition? Is it just expected? But why? What is the tradition and when did that tradition start?

Most of us have no idea as to how, why, or when the tradition began. Actually, the tradition started over 4,000 years ago when the belief was that if you did not make promises to the gods to do better that you would be punished and would have bad luck.

It is said that about 45% of our population still make New Year's resolutions. The flip side is that only about 8% of those who make resolutions will actually keep those same resolutions. So how are you doing so far?

I hope that somewhere among all those resolutions were some who resolved to travel again and to travel more in 2023. You don't even have to travel very far to really enjoy yourself and learn more about our surroundings.

From the telephone calls that we are receiving, it appears that more and more people are ready to travel. And that is great as travel broadens your mind and helps you to understand the history and cultures of other people and countries as well as to understand and appreciate what’s around you.

Read more: January 11, 2022 - On the Road with Jo