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Museums, Museums, Museums

WEB On The Road HeaderMuseums abound in South Texas. If you or your child or grandchild are interested in history, then you have come to the right place. Museums and history can be so much fun! There are so many museums from Edinburg all the way down to Port Isabel and South Padre Island. Museum after museum after museum could entertain you on any of your week end exploratory drives. Let's start with Edinburg and the MOSTH museum ..... MOSTH standing for Museum of South Texas History.

Exhibits take you back to pre-historic times in our area with a mammoth to greet you as you arrive. This museum depicts the history and culture of our area into the 1900's. You can even see the saddle that belonged to Pancho Villa. The museum utilizes the old Hidalgo County Jail, beautifully situated on Closner Street in the very center of Edinburg. Part of the old jail is still intact, and although it brought shivers to my spine, my grandson thought it was really cool. The first time I visited this museum, I was very impressed with the bi-lingual explanations on all of the displays. Since our history and culture definitely tie to that of Mexico, it seemed only fitting to me that people from either country or either culture should be able to read about our history. The museum is closed on Mondays, but other days of the week, convenient hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10 a. m. to 5 p.m.; Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Call (956) 383-6911 to verify times and any entry fees.

On the other end of the scale would be a second museum - The Motorcycle Museum - with an awesome collection of vintage bikes. Although it is quite small, the cycles displayed are all in very good condition and would no doubt appeal to those who like motors and engines and like to admire the evolution of the Harleys and Indians that are on display. This museum is located at 4403 Richardson Rd. in Edinburg and is open.

All the way from Edinburg to South Padre Island, almost every town has at least one museum. Perhaps one of the most interesting to the young, and to the more energetic, would be the Light House in Port Isabel. This Light House is the only one remaining on the Texas Coast that you can actually enter and climb some 80 winding steps to the top. There, you will have a magnificent view of Port Isabel, South Padre Island and the sparkling blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. You can even see across the channel to Space X on Boca Chica Boulevard! The light house was constructed in 1852 to guide ships through Santiago Pass. I sometimes wonder if perhaps the light house was built not just to guide the ships, but perhaps as a deterrent to Jean La Fitte, the famous pirate who often visited South Padre Island.

Old timers say that Lafitte tied lanterns to donkeys’ legs and had them walking up and down the island. Ships offshore, seeing the blinking lights, would think that must be a village and would run their ships
aground as they tried to make shore only to be looted by the pirates waiting to take their bounty. Just maybe the locals were tired of Lafitte's shenanigans and wanted the pirates to move north and east towards Galveston and New Orleans. Who knows? But if you are taking young ones, or someone with an imagination, they will like the donkey story.

And while talking about Jean Lafitte, why not visit his well in Laguna Vista? Never did I believe that you could really find fresh water if you dug down deep enough - especially if you dug on the leeward side of an island. Then one Saturday afternoon, a lady friend and I were out exploring for a possible shelling tour to Puerto Mezquita, Mexico. As we looked across the bay to the barrier island, we saw several men gathered around what appeared to be a big hole dug into the sand. Buckets of water were being hauled up and poured into 55-gallon drums. Even after filling the drums, the men kept waiting around the well.

Finally, we realized that they must be waiting for us to leave so that they could enjoy their weekly Saturday bath. So much for wells in salty terrains. Maybe Jean Lafitte also enjoyed a weekly freshwater bath at his well!

Monarchs, runners, fly to Mexico

WEB On The Road HeaderRight now, the Monarch Butterflies are migrating right through the Rio Grande Valley - and so were the Monarch Ultra Runners. On Sunday, October 20, the runners made an overnight stop in Pharr before crossing the Mexican border the next morning to follow the path of the Monarch as they fly from Ontario, Canada to their winter home deep in Mexico. The migration route used by these colorful creatures covers 2,671 miles.

Three locals joined the Ultra Runners on their last leg into Pharr - Harlingen cardiologist Dr. Charles Mild; Jose Uribe, from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; and Angel Guzman, a high school science teacher and Texas Master Naturalist.

These runners hope to draw awareness to the declining number of Monarchs and to encourage the planting of native plants that will attract and help sustain the butterflies on their long flight. Mayors from cities across the United States have joined together in their pledge to support habitats to help save the iconic Monarch from further decline. Harlingen's Mayor Chris Boswell became the most recent mayor to sign the pledge when he became the 500th signer. McAllen, however, is a Monarch Butterfly Champion City, an honor bestowed on only a few cities in Texas.

The Rio Grande Valley is blessed to have the National Butterfly Center located near Mission, and right next door to Bentsen Rio Grande State Park. The NABA - North American Butterfly Association - has designated Mission as the Butterfly Capitol of the United States.

Annually, the butterflies begin their migration from Canada to preserves located in the state of Michoacan, Mexico. For years no one knew where these beautiful orange, black and white spotted creatures migrated.

Can you imagine banding these delicate creatures hoping that someone, somewhere, would see the band and report their whereabouts? And that is exactly what happened.

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There are two preserves high in the pine covered mountains near Angangueo, Mexico. Another preserve is in Valle de Bravo. Perhaps there are others still waiting to be discovered but those are the preserves that are recognized at this time.

Towards the end of October, South Padre Island annually recognizes the importance and beauty of the migratory Monarch with a Gala and a two-day celebration. Mission will celebrate the migration with their 24th annual Butterfly Festival on November 2 at the 100-acre National Butterfly Center, abundantly planted with native plants that butterflies thrive on.

But nothing can equal the actual experience of visiting the Winter home of the Monarchs located in the Sierra Madres of Mexico. From a distance, the pine trees covering the mountain side will look orange - not green - from the millions of Monarchs that are clustered on the branches. As the Monarchs begin to wake up, they will fall to the ground. Stunned, but not dead, they wait for the sun to warm their wings before they fly down the mountain side for water and food.

All the visitor must do is be patient, be still and be quiet. Listen and you might even hear the flutter of their wings. Better yet is when the Monarchs land on you, in your hair and on your clothing. It will be a magical moment!