Section 14: Laredo to McAllen
Dan and Julia asked if they could hike with us this morning, which was just about the best surprise and put the cherry atop the sundae of our undying love and affection. They’re pretty good at staying active and also pretty good at being a supportive aunt and uncle. It is so, so, SO much better to hike with people. Dan and Julia, we can’t thank you enough! Hiking with you was so fun!
Dan dropped the two of us plus Julia off at the start and went back to town to park the car and hike out of town towards us. For the first several miles, we just chatted and power walked, catching up on the events of the last year and talking politics as Claire’s family is genetically predisposed to do. A rest area, propped above the surrounding area, provided a great panorama and our first glimpse of the Rio in days. We are total suckers for a view! We proudly narrated the surroundings to a patient Julia, trying to distinguish the actual line of the international boundary amongst the sea of green. Only a handful of months down here and we feel such a strong sense of stewardship and belonging.
Dan met us halfway and turned back around to join our procession. We agreed that our troop of four was large enough to keep any crazy drivers from mistakenly running over us. The size of our group, however, did nothing to prevent the traffic from thundering by, and we were impressed by Dan and Julia’s general badassness in regards to hiking along the road. There are not many people out there who would gamely commit to walking down the shoulder of a Texas highway in 90% humidity while semis flew past.
The tantalizing promise of a nearby Dairy Queen kept us moving and we were full of energy when we entered Zapata. A dangerous mood to have when there’s plenty to see because every spot sucked us in for a lengthy and preoccupied investigation. Zapata felt overlooked by the world, perhaps due to its unincorporated status and lack of municipal government. It felt unplanned, with plenty of funky buildings springing up at random, but also kind of happening, with several well-funded historical landmarks and monuments. There were a number of signs, in particular ones casually advertising the deer on someone’s property, that made us laugh. Dan posed next to a camo jeep with a frame and two swivel chairs welded on top. Everything here revolves around hunting. A closed gas station was so neglected that the overhead canopy was upturned and on its side.
There was too much going on to comment on everything. We ran into our friends from yesterday’s happy hour standing outside the CVS. The building was under construction and they were on the job. We were tickled to see each other and glad they could see us in action after we spent so much time joking about it yesterday. We paused at a giant bull statue outside the town’s tidy museum and dipped inside. The docent had seen us walking yesterday on 83 just like many others we have spoken to in the last few days. Eeek, how on display are we? She asked if we were walking for a cause. Yes ma’am. Love, friendship, and peace! Or the more nuanced version of that. Sesquicentennial Park was past the museum, it’s part of a Civil War commemorative trail between Laredo and Brownsville.
Did you know that the last battle of the Civil War was fought on the borderlands in this part of Texas?
Our parade continued until we reached the DQ. We loaded up on much-deserved ice cream and water and continued down the road, already missing our company who had hightailed it to the hotel’s swimming pool. It was hot. Like really, really hot. Town quickly faded into the background as we plodded with our heads down. Back to familiar Texas scrub. Side roads picked up randomly only to disappear entirely just over a hill and bridges spanned sluggish straits of water that extended in every direction from the Rio in a spiderweb of crooked channels. We were all too happy to call it quits at the first sight of Dan and Julia’s approaching vehicle. Our last night with these two. Don’t leave us!