Lone Star Gridiron

S2S 2017 Summer Road Trip Pt. III

Part 3 of a 4 Part Series

(Sideline 2 Sideline's Grant Goodwin and Kevin McPherson embark on their annual summer road trip to experience the food, hospitality, sights and sounds of towns rich in Texas high school football tradition.)

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Day 3 (Saturday)

It was a bit of a struggle to get up and get moving, but the thought of authentic barbacoa (cow’s head smoked in a ground pit) motivated us to shake off the salt water and head towards Robstown, Kingsville, and, eventually, the Rio Grande Valley.

One unexpected gem as we approached Brownsville via I-69E was Bobby Morrow Stadium in San Benito. The 12,000-seat stadium, only 11 years old, features one of the largest video boards among high school stadiums in the state. The scoreboard is 74 feet wide by 45 feet high and the screen is 22 feet wide.

Bobby Morrow Stadium

There was little doubt that the journey to Vera’s Backyard Bar-B-Que in Brownsville made this trek well worth it. Selected recently as one of Texas Monthly’s Top 50 barbecue locations, Vera’s offers different parts of the smoked cow’s head: cachete (cheek), lengua (tongue), ojos (eyes), and jeta (face.) See more at http://www.texasmonthly.com/bbq/bbq-anatomy-101-beef-head/

We were lucky enough to drive west of Brownsville on Highway 281, paralleling the Rio Grande River and the border fence. We did not have time to take advantage of any of the international bridges, where one can park and walk across the border. But we did get out and take a glimpse.

The mandatory "we are at the edge of Texas" shot

Instead, our focus was on the second Top 50 barbecue location, The Smoking Oak in Mercedes. Although we were disappointed because vacation had temporarily closed the business, we found perfect afternoon treats at the nearby DeLaGarza Bakery. A very inexpensive delicacy was found in the “pecan pie,” which was actually a triangle-shaped pastry with donut-flavored glaze and creamy filling. Only 75 cents each!

De La Garza Bakery sweetness

One of the biggest surprises to us was the amount of cotton and sugar cane farmed in the valley. On one stretch of U.S. Highway 281 we saw both crops on both sides of the highway and cotton gin facilities at many of the towns. And it was apparent that these folks are old-school farmers who don’t take any shortcuts. More than 180,000 acres of cotton is grown each year in the four-county area known as the Lower Rio Grande Valley, while 40,000 acres of sugar cane crops annually produce more than 1.5 million tons of sugar in the same region.

In Progreso, it appears the school district has abandoned maintenance of the football field. The unique Progreso Red Ants logo can be found at entrances and throughout the school; but, alas, the natural turf is uneven and chocked with weeds and an uneven playing surface.

We were impressed with the stadiums at nearby Mercedes and Weslaco, where the facilities appear to have many of the modern-day amenities.

Another great day of food, football and fun came to a close.

by Kevin McPherson & Grant Goodwin

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  1. Pingback: Sideline to Sideline DFW to RGV Road Trip – 956sports.com

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