January 31, 2019
Our route from Mathis to South Padre Island was mostly uneventful except our friend The Wind decided to join us once again. The majority of the time it was following at various angles which wasn’t too bad but as usual we had to change course on a port tack, making the force of the wind much more prevalent. Driving a big box with 22 mph winds and 30 mph gusts trying to upset the turtle ain’t fun.
Although this part of Texas doesn’t look very inviting to this gringo thankfully its value was and still is recognized by a lot of folks. I’ve included an excerpt from The King Ranch website: https://king-ranch.com. I recommend reading about its legacy on the website.
The King Ranch Legacy
In 1853, Captain Richard King purchased a creek-fed oasis in the Wild Horse Desert of South Texas, sparking generations of integrity, preservation, and innovation.
King Ranch now covers 825,000 acres—more land than the state of Rhode Island. Over the course of over 160 years, King Ranch led some of the first cattle drives, developed the Santa Gertrudis and Santa Cruz breeds of cattle, bred the finest Quarter Horses, and produced champion Thoroughbreds—all under its iconic Running W® brand.
Today’s King Ranch is a major agribusiness with interests in cattle ranching, farming (citrus, cotton, grain, sugar cane, and turfgrass), luxury retail goods, and recreational hunting.
King Ranch continues to foster a culture of uncompromising quality, stewardship, and authenticity—a true testament to Captain King’s integrity and commitment to the land.
We drive through Kingsville (23,000 souls). Henrietta King deeded a portion of the ranch to entice construction of a town and to bring the railroad close to the ranch.
In 1904 Robert Kieberg Jr. was charged with planning and constructing the town. At nearly the same time the construction of the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway began which would connect the Rio Grande Valley to the rest of Texas. And so it began and the legacy continues.
Driving south on Highway US 69/Texas 77 we pass ranching, and some farming communities with names such as Ricardo (1000 souls), Riviera (1900 souls), Sarita (382 souls), Armstrong (0 souls but a post office?), Norias and Rudolph (never towns but shipping points), Yturria (named after the ranch), then Raymondville (11,300 souls)- seat of Willacy County and Gateway to the Rio Grande Valley. Lyford, a town of 2800 souls, and Combes (2900 souls) come next.
Then we reach the large city of Harlingen (65,000 souls), It is known as the capital of the Rio Grande Valley. The World Birding Center is in nearby Mission, TX but this city has its own sites on the Great Texas Coast Birding Trail. It appears that San Benito is being absorbed by Harlingen as the two appear to be growing together.
We exit US 69 in favor of highway 100 and cruise through Los Fresnos (6600 souls), then to Port Isabel (5000 souls) where we cross the Queen Isabella Causeway over the Laguna Madre, the body of water that separates the port from South Padre Island.
We are staying at the South Padre Island KOA Holiday for a few nights. Our friends and neighbors Linda and Brian are wintering here. We will visit them for sure!