Friday, April 17, 2015

Waze App Is Helpful in the Rio Grande Valley

Lately, I have been using the +Waze app more and more to get around here in the Rio Grande Valley. Granted, the RGV is not quite San Antonio or Houston in terms of traffic. Still, there are areas that get congested during different times of day, which makes it frustrating at times.

In case you are not familiar with Waze, it is a mobile app that calculates the fastest route between your current location and your destination. Waze does this by tracking data sent by users like myself. Their servers recognize patterns and figure out the best route to take based on data sent from others users. If traffic slows down on your route, Waze will even reroute you to a better path.

Normally, you would use GPS to find places you have never visited. Waze can help you find locations like any old GPS; however, Waze is useful even when you know exactly where you are going because it is watching traffic ahead of you.

For example, in the mornings and afternoons, streets near schools get congested because parents are dropping off and picking up their m'hijos at school. Going around those areas can save you a couple of minutes. Waze manages to route around these busy areas so that you aren't stuck waiting behind a line of cars taking turns at the school drop off zone.

Personally, I pick up and drop off my oldest from +The University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA) regularly. Going from Mission to Edinburg will take different amounts of time depending on the time of day. Waze surprises me by picking different paths between home and UTPA. Even driving home from McAllen to Mission takes different paths. Sometimes Waze takes Bicentennial to the Expressway, sometimes it chooses 3 Mile Line.

Every once in a while, Waze will pick what seems like a strange path to get on a highway or to cut through town. It chooses streets that are almost completely empty and get me to my destination faster than I thought possible.

The RGV has sufficient traffic and enough users to make Waze a useful tool for getting around. Of course, the more people who use Waze for even routine drives, the better it gets. Waze definitely has a place in the daily drive. I recommend it.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Best Time of Year in the Rio Grande Valley

We are in the best time of year for the Rio Grande Valley in terms of temperature. Mornings are cool, days are warm and evenings are pleasant. This is the sort of weather that inspires one to go out for a walk to enjoy the glory of the outdoors, whether it is rural or in town.

Obviously, not all is perfect with this time of year. Allergies run rampant for those who suffer them. On my part, I get leaky eyes; whereas, others in my family get the whole stuffy face and headache with their allergies.

We have discovered that air purifiers are a tremendous help. Not only do the  allergy sufferers in my home sleep better, they wake up in a better mood.

Coming back to the weather this time of year, I love it because the heat is not oppressive during the day like it is in summer. Summer days start off sweaty. I would say humid and hot; but, that's not how it feels. As soon as you step outside into the day, you start to sweat like a cheese with your patina of moisture, even in the morning. As the day heats up to triple digits, it can feel slightly suffocating.

In that kind of weather, going out for a walk, even in the mornings, is unpleasant. Forget walking in broad daylight.

Winter is no better. No. Winter is not too bad when the air is simply cold without wind or rain. I think what makes winter in the RGV unpleasant is the rain and wind. This is probably the same the world over, mind you. The best winter days are those in which the air is still. There is a crispness to the the outdoors on still winter days where everything seems more real. Perhaps it is the overcast soft lighting in which you don't have to squint.

Our version of spring time and after the summer heats are the best times because we have the crisp mornings and evenings, with the comfort of warm days.

This time of year in the Rio Grande Valley is the best for barbecues and spending time outside with friends and family. Entertaining guests, even in modest homes, is possible, because the outdoors is your entertaining room.

I'm going to miss this weather when the summer arrives. For now, I'll just pop some allergy pills and go to to enjoy our little corner of creation.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Orange Blossoms

Spring is almost in the air.  We are seeing blooms around the RGV.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

RGV Commute Is Great For Learning

You could learn a great deal if you have to travel between South Padre Island and Roma. I don't imagine many of us make the full drive; but many of us drive somewhere in between. Recently my work requires driving from McAllen to Rio Grande City or McAllen to Raymondville. These aren't the longest drives in the world. However, if you fire up audio books or podcasts, you can learn some things.

There have been plenty of people to recommend Automobile University over the years. The idea started back in the day when you could buy a book on cassette. That later evolved to books on CD. Today's technology allows you to purchase and download an audio book in seconds. Thus, you can learn all manner of things if you put the effort into it.

Personally, I use Audible for my audio books because of its tie-in with Amazon. But, there are plenty of other places where you can download some books, such as Audiobooks.com, Google Play, iTunes, and Librivox among others.

If you are not into books, preferring radio show-like productions, then you can download podcasts and play them on the go.

There are plenty of places in the RGV where there is slow traffic that give you 10 to 20 minutes of listening time. A little here and a little there adds up.

Some of my favorite drives are the open areas between La Joya and Rio Grande City, or between Harlingen and Brownsville. Of course, there is the open country on the way to South Padre Island. But, even a boring commute to the office is 20 minutes of listening you can put in.

Some time ago, I did the opposite, calling in a Blog Talk Radio show for 30 minutes during my commute to work. We have the time to do things, is my point, if we use some of that wasted time in our lives.

Fortunately, the RGV being the land of tomorrow can result in tons of wasted time, which you can use for self-improvement.

If everybody in the Valley takes heed of my words, we could become some of the best educated people in the state.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Signs of Spring 2015 in the RGV


Signs of Spring in the RGV
We have had some warm days in the 2014-2015 winter. Here we are mid-February. It is likely Spring will roll in, except for Spring Break. For some reason the weather likes to hit us with a cold front for Spring Break.
Peach blossoms


Blooming Aloe

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

It Feels Like Fall 2014 Is Finally Here

I woke up this morning and felt the morning air much cooler than during our summers. It seems that Fall has finally come around to the Rio Grande Valley.

I remember days when we still had 100 degree weather in October. I'm not longing for those days to come back, mind you. I am perfectly happy having Fall weather in the Fall than later in December.

Of course, this makes me wonder, with Fall coming so early to the Rio Grande Valley this year, if Winter will be colder than usual. Hopefully the weather remains temperate in its chill as it was in its heat this year.

I think that cooler weather gives us opportunity to wear more interesting clothes that we do not have opportunity to use the rest of the year, such as jackets, sweaters, scarves, and hats. I do see people walking around with beanies in the summer heat. Fools.

Cooler weather also makes it pleasant to be outdoors during the daytime rather than having to wait until the evening. I think I will enjoy the Winter of 2014.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Rain Backlog of 2014

It seems like it has been raining for weeks in the Rio Grande Valley. The weather forecasts have almost exclusively hovered around something like: Chance of Showers. High 90. Low 75.  There have been a few days here and there where temperatures have climbed up to 100 degrees, but they have been very few compared to other years when it has been 100 F through October.

It's as if all the rain that we have not had these many years has suddenly decided to pay back its debt.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the Falcon Reservoir level, which is often used as an indicator of drought conditions. Despite all the rain we have been receiving, the Falcon Lake level is still about 30 ft below capacity. In fact, we are below 2010 and 2011 levels at the same time of year. But, we are above 2012 and 2013 levels by a few feet. We seem to be somewhat following seasonal variability, in terms of lake level. In short, not quite drought, but not quite in breathe easy territory.

So, what has been the result of so much rain in the Rio Grande Valley?

Certainly, everything has greened up rather nicely with so much rain. We have grown accustomed to yellow landscapes after so many years of little precipitation. It is a nice change to see the local flora thriving and flourishing.

Of course, the rains are also responsible for bringing something that we certainly have not missed, mosquitoes and flies. Certainly, we had flies during the dry times; but, not to the same extent. The same goes for mosquitoes, there may have been the occasional mosquito; but not the roving squadrons we see today.

To be sure, local health officials have been dispatching trucks to spray for mosquitoes once it became evident that it would rain for more than two days in a row. Municipalities like McAllen have also been enforcing weedy lot ordinances to ensure that citizens mow down their jungles to help control mosquitoes.

Speaking of growing populations, have you seen all the potholes that have proliferated around town? It seems as though there were benefits to the drought.

My only other pondering on the rains is what effect this will all have on the cracked foundations that have proliferated from our shifting clay soil? It has been sad to drive around town and see huge cracks making their ways up the walls of people's homes. Even the place I'm renting has had some issues with the shifting soil. The house is wood frame, which surprisingly doesn't help. Some of the doors get stuck, sheet rock has cracked here and there, and joints between the concrete and house have separated.

It looks like we will have more rain in the foreseeable future. With any luck, we'll skip the 100 degree weather for the rest of the year, which is my real interest.
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