Section 15: McAllen to the Gulf
Our second to last day. It's hard to believe. Zak and Corey dropped us off in the morning and we walked while they followed us with the camera. The last time Zak and Corey were with us we were army-crawling through the cane along the river and now we were strolling down a city sidewalk.
Lots of extremes on this trip! An entire half of the road was closed off for construction and we walked straight down the middle, blissfully enjoying the space from the cars. Our mood was euphoric. Fred and Kim were arriving tomorrow, Zak and Corey were here, and we were about to see the ocean!
Downtown Brownsville was hopping. Our construction zone eventually ended and we transitioned back to the sidewalk,
becoming normal city pedestrians. It was hot. The busy road was lined with the type of storefronts you would find in a slightly shabbier part of town, like car washes and Little Caesars, but once we hit the interstate we upgraded to Applebees and a Wal-Mart. Zak and Corey popped up throughout the day to direct us down different sections of sidewalk so they could get the city footage. It was exciting to have them with us, mostly because they are awesome people but also because they kept us entertained. The attention wasn’t too unwelcome either, with the cameras trained on us passing drivers went from thinking we were homeless to thinking we were special and possibly famous. Thank you, thank you, we’ll be here all week ladies and gentlemen!
We impulsively stopped at a streetside stand selling snow cones (raspados) to rehydrate, pump some sugar into our veins, and get out of the sun. Best idea we have had yet. Our snow cones were huge and took forever to eat. We made sure to send a picture to Zak and Corey to make them jealous.
What kind of idiot picks sitting inside in the cool, dark air-conditioning over this?!
Brownsville has some truly spectacular food (a favorite of ours was a small gorditas shop we couldn’t get enough of) but we’re embarrassed to admit that today’s lunch spot was a decidedly unglamourous Burger King. So much for supporting local businesses! But we needed to find air conditioning and take a break from the sun.
Plus did you know BK makes a halfway decent veggie burger? Neither did we.
After lunch we told Corey and Zak to pick us up in a few hours and got back to the business of walking. We’re trying to figure out what we need to do for tomorrow and think of what we want to say. It’s strange. After spending the last few months looking forward to the fantasy of being done, now that it’s here it feels...unimportant. Finishing the hike, a route we entirely made up, feels kinda irrelevant to our overall purpose. Sure it will be nice to stop our endless trudge along the highway and there are plenty of people we are looking forward to seeing, but caring about this part of the world and thinking about how to be a more empathetic human being is a mission that we will continue to work on long after we stop walking.
We passed the airport and then the last remaining houses before hitting the entrance to the state park and the last 15 miles of our trip. You could smell the ocean from here. After spending so many months in Texas scrub, the transition to sand and ocean grass was startling. Now instead of vultures, we had gulls circling overhead. The sounds and smells worked on our subconscious like a time machine, sending us straight back into childhood and nostalgia as the ocean always seems to do. What a place to finish. There’s something about the ocean that just tugs on some inner, secret spot. We are so grateful to be here!
Our last Border Patrol checkpoint. The agents working the station were the usual mix of friendly, helpful and gently baffled by what we were doing.
They warned us that there was no water between here and the ocean but for once we didn’t need to worry about that! We will have support from here to the finish line. We thanked them and continued on to our last mile for the day. Zak and Corey pulled up not too long after and before we knew it our second to last day was done and all we had left was tomorrow.