We knew that as soon as we decided to leave Galveston, the rain would clear out -- and, of course, it did!  The harbor side of the island is predominately a commercial area with lots of construction activity.  Because of the weather, leaving the island was the first chance we had to see it all.

Draw Bridge - Galveston Harbor        Barge/Construction Activity                                  As we headed South toward Kingsville and Laredo, Texas once again proved that 

"they do it big no matter where you drive."  The Central Artery in Boston (old or new) doesn't hold a candle to the complexity and height of the interchanges in Texas.  One wrong left merge or right merge and you'll end up somewhere where you didn't want to go and considering we're 65 feet long. . .this could be a disaster!

Houston Highway Interchange                          


 The terrain was flatter than we could have imagined.  From the vantage point of the motor home, you can see forever.

Miles & Miles  of                     Water Tower                                                            
Plowed Fields                                    
We saw rice paddies in northern Texas and processing plants close by.                    
                                                                                                                                                 Rice Silo                                            Rice Warehouses

The sites continued to change as we traveled south.  Here are just a few of them . . .

Field Shack w/Cattle             Branding Corral                   Water Tower                          CSX Along I-59                   First Cactus Sighting              

Oil Derrick                                Oil Storage Tanks


One of the last items that Ron sold before we left New Hampshire was his Ford King Ranch Pickup.  Before we bought the truck, we had never heard of the the King Ranch.  We realized that the ranch was big but had no idea of the impact that the holdings had on the past and current history of Texas.  

KING RANCH, a National Historic Landmark, is recognized as the birthplace of the American ranching industry.  Captain Richard King obtained a land grant in 1853 as a beginning to the 150+ year legacy.   The Santa Gertrudis breed of cattle -- cross between a Brahman bull (nature to India) and the British Shorthorn -- was developed on the King Ranch.  Santa Gertrudis breed is recognized as the first American breed of beef cattle.  The steers can withstand arid climates and is considered to be some of the best, most tender beef in the world.   The King Ranch also has the honor of producing the first registered American Quarter Horse.   Today, King Ranch sprawls across 825,000 acres of South Texas land, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island.  As the home of 60,000 cattle and 300 Quarter Horses, King Ranch is one of the largest ranches in the world today.

King Ranch is one of the largest privately held corporations in the United States.  

The day we were at the Ranch, one of the oldest living Rancheros was talking to the tour groups.  Alberto V. Trevino ("LoLo") was born on the Ranch and is in his 80's.  As a young man, he worked as a "bronco buster" for the cowboys' horses.  He had some great stories about ranch life, rustlers and branding.  The horse blanket in the photo is made exclusively for use by the cowboys.    Texas Magazine featured LoLo on the cover as part of the story of life on the King Ranch.  The saddle in the picture is one of the last saddles that LoLo used as a cowboy on the ranch.  The original workers were recruited from a village in Mexico.  Those workers came to be known as Los Kinenos, or the people of King Ranch.  Third, fourth and fifth generation Los Kinenos continue to work on the ranch today.  

The brand examples are from all over the world.  There are actually King Ranch properties outside of Texas including Florida and Australia.  Each ranch may modify the brands over the years or for different locations but can generally be recognized as the "owner" ranch.  The King Ranch brand is called the "Running W."  The Running W is in the middle of the photo.   No one is certain what the design was originally meant to represent -- legends include a diamondback rattlesnake, the winding Santa Gertrudis Creek or the Longhorn's sweeping horns.  .

Henrietta King was very much a part of the operation of the King Ranch.  She insisted that every child on the ranch -- family or hired help -- be educated at the San Gertrudis School.   The original one-room school building is a stop on the tour and recently a man on the tour started crying when the tour bus stopped.  He grew up on the ranch and attended school in that building -- it had been over 50 years since he had been back to the ranch and he was overcome with emotion because of "how the kindness of Mrs. King gave him an education."  A large percentage of the students who graduate from the King Ranch schools go on to graduate from college. 

The main house -- hacienda -- was built and rebuilt a number of times due to fire.  It was one of the most extravagant homes in Texas.  The formal dining room table would seat over 30 people at one time.  Mrs. King always had an open home policy -- any of the cowboys were welcome in her home for any meal and she supposedly was not concerned about the dust that they may have on their boots.  Peacocks wandered the grounds and were out the day we visited.

The revolving gate was designed on the King Ranch years ago to make it easier for the cowboys to move equipment from one field to another.  The gate is weight activated -- you drive up to the gate and let the weight of the vehicle push the gate open -- but can be dangerous if you don't hit the fence moving at the right speed.

At one point, Texas Fever was one of the most deadly threats to the cattle industry.  A process to "dip" cattle in pesticides to kill the infected ticks.  This process developed on the King Ranch has all but eliminated the disease in this country.   Water caldrons are visible in the fields all over the ranch.   Generally, there is also a windmill close by that harnesses the air to pump water to keep the caldron full.  

We saw a herd of Quarter Horses grazing along a river bank.  As we watched, one of the horses walked into the river and started to cross to the other side.  Remember the old adage, the "grass is greener on the other side" -- well, we were told that horses usually do not swim without being prompted to do so and that this was out of character.  For one to do it, was unique; but, before we left the stop, the entire herd had entered the river and was swimming to the other side.  These horses are big and beautiful.  There is significant history associated with the King Ranch and thoroughbred racing including horses that have one the Triple Crown.

There are examples of the past all over the property.   The chuck wagon sits in the display area at the Welcome Center and was used on many of the cattle drives and roundups.  You can also see a display of antique saddles.     

The town of Kingsville is laid out in a series of square grids -- east/west and north/south.  Years ago, if you worked for the ranch or any of the affiliated companies, you were able to purchase a tract of land for very cheap money.

The King Ranch today is still owned by descendents of Captain King and remains one of the most progressive and profitable companies in the world.

Kingsville Water Tower      Main Street                      Welcome to the                     Roadrunner                        Grazing Quarter Horse        Revolving Gate
                                                                                        King Ranch

   Steer                           Cattle Herd                           Bull & Yearling                      Calf                                   Water Caldron                        Longhorn Steer                            Dipping Corral

                 Quarter Horses                                                 LoLo                        Texas Magazine                     LoLo's Saddle                International Cattle
                                                                                                                                Life on the King Ranch                                                   Brands

Saddle Blankets                        Old Santa Gertrudis School                             Peacocks at Main House                                Original Stable

Antique Saddles                   Viewing the Back 400,000            Chuck Wagon                        Ranch Flags                          Flying W

Laredo, Texas

Laredo was established by a Spanish land grant in 1755 and has flown seven different government flags.   Nuevo Laredo (New Laredo) is Laredo's international sister city.  A short walk across the International Bridge provides an interesting experience and great shopping.  San Agustin Church was first constructed in 1767 through a grant of the bishop of Guadalajara in 1760.  The current church is the third building as has stood since 1872.  The church sits on the east side of San Agustin Square.   

One of the biggest celebrations in southern Texas (started in 1898) is the Washington's Birthday Celebration.  Celebrating George Washington's efforts to establish a country free of Europe influence,  the celebration lasts for 16 days with parades, balls, street parties, pageants, concerts, a carnival and fireworks on both sides of the border.   The Jalapeno Eating Contest is the culmination of the celebration.   

                                                    Sunset at Lake                                          Going to Mexico                International Bridge
                                                    Casa Blanca Intl State Park

                              San Agustin Church         San Agustin Square             Carnival -- Washington's Birthday       Tigers at Carnival

Republic of the Rio Grande Museum  -- The spirit and resolve of Texans to be independent became evident in 1840 when an independent republic was established for a short ten months ending in November of that year.   Mirabeau B. Lamar, as President of the Republic of Texas, tried to maintain a neutral position between his former government to the north and Mexico to the south.  The Museum was established to preserve the history and culture of the region during that period.  The exhibits are interesting and are presented in an original building right along the Rio Grande in Laredo.  Here are a few examples of the displays of period furniture and artifacts while Laredo served as the capital of the short-lived Republic.

Museum                           Hacienda Office                Miscellaneous Items                Bedroom                                    Kitchen

We had an interesting few days in the area.   We stopped at the Visitor's Center in downtown Laredo to get our bearings.  It was lunch time and we asked about a place to eat.  We were directed to a "yellow door" a couple blocks away.  The El Meson De San Agustin restaurant has no signage on the street but offered the best authentic Mexican food that we have ever eaten.  There was room for probably a total of 30 patrons and stayed packed right through the entire lunch time with locals -- we were the ONLY gringos in the place!

One of the Celebration activities was a bull fight in Mexico.  We thought about going because you would be able to get public buses just across the border and you were well within the 26 miles travel radius so that we didn't have to get a travel permit.    The hunter in Ron came out and he researched an "authentic Spanish" bull fight on the Internet and we decided not to go.  A Spanish bull fight requires that the bull be killed and this is often accomplished in a humane way.  So, we'll wait until we get to California (several stops on the bull fight circuit) where we understand the bull doesn't get killed to attend a bull fight.

We read that Laredo is 93%+ of the population is Mexican/Spanish.   We found that many of the local people we tried to talk to, couldn't speak English.  The evening we attended the carnival, we never heard English being spoken except from the vendors!  The old City is somewhat dirty with narrow, one-way streets.    Keeping that in mind, several weeks after we were there, we weren't surprised to read that Laredo appeared at the very bottom of the list of "best places to live" in the United States. 

Nuevo Laredo (New Laredo), Mexico

Mercado                                     Old Glory -- Flying Over                               Clock Tower --
                                                      Laredo (viewed from Mercado)                Plaza Hidalgo
                                                      in Nuevo Laredo)