Following my mini road-trip, I flew from Lubbock to McAllen, a city in the Rio Grande Valley. I lived and worked in the Rio Grande Valley for five years, and it's where I had left all of my things in storage. I stayed with my friend J.C. while there, and although a lot of my time was spent getting my things in order and from my storage unit and A.L.'s and J.C.'s house into my PODS container, I had some free time to drive out to west Valley, which is the rural area where I spent four of my five "Valley Years." Here are some pics from my drive out west:
The Rio Grande. The left bank is Mexico; the right bank is Texas. This picture was taken from the Roma Bluffs, one of my favorite places in west Valley.
Miguel Aleman, Mexico. This city is directly across the border from Roma, Texas. This bridge used to be filled with cars all hours that the international bridge was open, but because of the drug wars, very few people cross back and forth now.
The shack by the river where my friend A.L. used to live. Look closely at the door...do you see how the bottom had to be chopped off so it would fit in the door frame? Hahaha. My other friend S.R. moved in here after A.L. moved to McAllen. We were all surprised, because S.R. usually prefers swankier dwellings. The arrangement lasted only a month or so before the frogs, javelinas, insects, and rats got to be too much for S.R. and she had to move out.
Big Daddy's. Sigh. I have so many fond memories of this place. I know it looks like kind of a dump in this picture, but believe it or not, Big Daddy's used to be kind of classy. When I moved to this small town, there was one bar. One. But people got kidnapped from there on a regular basis, so we avoided it, natch. And then it closed anyway. Another bar opened up my third year living there, and it was a little less sketchy at first, but that soon changed, and that place followed suit. So then there were none. When Big Daddy's opened up during my fourth year living there, it really seemed...different. Not swanky, but not sketchy, either. The furniture and counters had been freshly carpentered and the smell of sawdust lingered in the air. It was nice. It was the one "hangout spot" in town that was open on Friday and Saturday nights, and there were a lot of great pool tables. I don't mean to make it sound like I'm a bar rat, but it's nice to have someplace to go now and then, you know? One of my favorite memories is requesting songs for them to play. Beyonce's "Halo" was big at the time, and I always requested that song. And even though they always reminded me that it was just satellite radio, I still made requests. Good times.
Sadly, as you might be able to tell from this photo, Big Daddy's fell upon hard times and went the way of Los Tepos and On the Rocks. Now it is just another empty storefront in that small town.
I stumbled upon this fancy neighborhood while driving around one weekend. If you look closely at the street sign and you know me personally, you'll understand why I like this neighborhood so much. There's another street in the neighborhood called "Deer Run," which is the name of the neighborhood where my parents live. Weird!
Ah, the Big Red Barn. "Now Open," except not really. This used to be a drive-thru beverage center. It was open for about a week, I think. (Side note: there used to be another drive-thru beverage center in the shape of a ginormous six pack about 20 miles from my town. I never actually went there, but it looked pretty awesome from the highway.)
This painting on the side of an herbal medicine shop cracks me up. It's actually in McAllen, not in the small town where I lived, but I love it anyway.
These are just some of the quirky sights I love in the town where I lived for four years. It may not seem like much, but they are things I saw on a regular basis, and bring back so many good memories of the time I spent there, and more importantly, the people I came to know and love while living there. Sometimes people ask why I love Texas and west Valley so much, and I guess it's partly because it's the first place I lived on my own. It's also the place where:
...I worked harder than I've ever worked
...I became a teacher
...I met the friendliest, most humble, and hardest-working students and people in the world
...I saw proof that with hard work, people can overcome all the odds stacked against them
...I learned that I can make your own fun and have an amazing time in a place where "there's nothing to do"
...I made some of the best friends I'll ever have
I didn't know anyone or anything about the area when I moved there. Originally, I planned to stay for only two years, but I ended up staying for five years. During those years, I really built a life there, and I guess that leaves its mark.