Thursday, March 29, 2012
We departed Weslaco in route to Laredo, TX, a 165 mile drive up along the US – Mexican border following the Rio Grande River on Hwy 83. We passed by Falcon Reservoir where the river is dammed to create a water source for irrigation of agriculture in the RGV, on both sides of the border. As we neared Zapata at the north end of the lake, the flora started to change to that of semi-arid desert with a vast array of cacti and mesquite.
After an uneventful trip (the way we like it) we arrived at Casa Blanca State Park in Laredo. By now, it was time for happy hour, and as we sat outside, noticed Peter's cousin had come to join in the fun.(As usual, click on any image to enlarge.)
The humidity was low, compared to that of the RGV, and even though temps were in the 80’s, it felt nice to sit out, and enjoy a mild breeze. (Unlike the gusty winds in the RGV.) The cacti are just starting to bloom, and we look forward to many more on our trip to Big Bend and beyond this spring.
We, actually I, am always searching for CC’s native(?) food, in the form of little non-descript places that only the locals know about. What is her native food you asked? Well, she CLAIMS to be part Choctaw Indian, but after living with her for this long, now realize there is a Mexican in the woodpile somewhere. She once had an Indian Taco in Mexican Hat, UT, and didn’t care for it at all; but she craves Mexican food daily, if not more. That, coupled with the fact that every time we went to Nuevo Progreso, the locals would start speaking Spanish to her, which she understood "un poquito". Now, where I come from, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck……nuff said about that. Where was I? Oh, yea, El Meson de San Augustine, a true diamond in the rough, with NO signage of any kind. It’s as though they don’t want any new customers. A word of warning, get there early as they only have 11 tables with 4 chairs each. We arrived about 11:20 am, and the place was full by 11:30, with a waiting line outside. (No room inside to wait.)
It is located on San Augustine Plaza at 908 Grant St., just a few hundred yards from the border. We drove by the place twice, then parked and walked, and then only figured out IT was the place as the two bordering businesses were 906 and 910. That’s right; no address on the building either. But the food my friends, OMG; the salsa was one of the best we have ever tasted; so good in fact we bought some to take home. CC chose the Chili Relleno plate for only $6.50; one queso and one picadillo.
While I opted for the roasted pork stew, which was very tasty, and made with pork belly; just a wee bit on the fatty side, as I just cut that part off. The beans had a unique flavor, and the rice as well, served up with three corn tortillas, was almost more than I could consume. Notice I said, almost. Needless to say, neither of us was hungry for dinner that evening.
Now it was time to walk off some of that pork belly. San Augustine Plaza, built on the original location of the first established home/ranch, Villa San Agustin de Laredo was founded on May 15, 1755. Don Tomás Sánchez who established the new settlement, gave it a saint's name (typical custom for all Spanish colonial settlements) and added Laredo for the town on Spain's north coast.
Sánchez was a captain in the Spanish colonial army and brought with him three families from his ranch to the site he had chosen at an Indian crossing on the Rio Bravo del Norte (Rio Grande). The settlement was part of a grand plan for bringing civilization to an area which now comprises northeastern Mexico and South Texas, known in Spanish colonial times as Nuevo Santander.
Despite isolation and raids by Lipan Apaches and Comanches, the cattle and sheep ranching settlement grew, and Laredoans found themselves participants in the conflicts of Mexico and the United States. Laredo was pillaged by Texans during the Mier Expedition in 1824, has an American garrison during the U.S.-Mexico War, and contributed two companies to the Confederate cause during the Civil War.
In 1840 it served as the capital of the Republic of the Rio Grande, a separatist movement in northern Mexico. Through these changes in sovereignty (seven flags in all), and even after heavy immigration from the north occasioned by the building of railway lines in 1881 from San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and Monterrey, Laredo never lost its Hispanic character. A unique border culture had emerged.
Economically, agriculture (especially onions) assumed importance from the 1890s until about the time of the World War II. The mercantile trade with Mexico eventually became the dominant factor, and petroleum and natural gas ventures were important early in the century and again in the mid 1970s.
Beginning with a few houses around San Augustín Plaza, Laredo grew to a town of some 2,000 in the 1820s in spite of attacks by Indians who sometimes staged dances in the Plaza, to 4,000 in 1880 just before the railroads arrived. With heavy immigration in the 20th century which began with the Mexican Revolution of 1910, Laredo's population is now approaching the 180,000 mark.
With Laredo behind us, we traveled 122 miles to Eagle Pass, and pulled into the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino, where the nightly rate is $15 for full hook ups.
They only have about 15 spaces, but we had no problem getting a site, but, it was mid-week, and I can only assume that since it is only two hours from both Laredo and San Antonio, securing a spot on the weekend might be problematic. This place doesn’t have the “it” factor, but what would you expect on an Indian reservation?
After dropping a few pennies in the penny slots, we decided to do their Tuesday Night Special Prime Rib Buffet for only $9.99, with a free Club Card. The food was better than average for a buffet, and we left feeling more than satisfied. Back at the rig, I thought it would be interesting to see just where we were using Google Earth; just about as close to the border as we could be. We saw Customs and Border Patrol on routine surveillance around the clock. There is no fence in this area, but I suspect anyone wanting to enter the US illegally, would prefer to do so in a more populated area, thereby blending in more quickly.
Today we move a whopping 55 miles to Del Rio. I may need a nap before Happy Hour. Thanks for stopping by, and until next time, take care and stay well………………