We experienced a RV mishap in Tennessee. I was purging the black water tank, only to discover that a small amount of water froze in a water line. That in turn blocked the passage-way into the black water tank. Water sprayed from a hidden plumbing connection point, pooled, and started running across the bathroom floor. No permanent damage was done, but it did instill a more cautious approach to cold weather camping. We are now playing it safe this winter, and have decided to hang out in south Texas until mid February. Being from Minnesota I feel wimpish to be so concerned about temperatures below 32 degrees. Then again I had never lived in a house that travels at speeds exceeding seventy miles per hour. So here we are in south Texas.
We have visited South Padre Island, the Texas towns of Alamo, Mission, Mercedes, and Brownsville. Ohh,,, and we have also crossed the boarder into Progreso, Mexico. Deb purchased an annual Texas State Park pass, and we are now camped right next door to Estero Llano Grande State Park. The whole area here is referred to as the Rio Grande valley. The local news may reduce it down to, “The Valley”. What’s the deal? There are no mountains, there is no valley, but yet here we are in the Rio Grande Valley. Texans do make a big deal out of everything, even molehills. Ha ha. Here’s the thing, the Rio Grande river provides water for miles and miles of irrigated land, it sometimes floods and nutrients are carried onto the farm land. A lot of produce comes from, “The Valley.”
I’m sure you are familiar with cement culverts, the type that carry rainwater and sewer waste underground though out your city. Here in The Valley there are thirty-inch diameter cement culverts poking strait up out of the ground. They may range from six-feet to thirty-feet tall standing straight up out of the ground. These plain Jane cement culverts are a very common site. You will see cement pipes in town next to a food store, along the interstate, out in a farm field, along a trail in a state park, they are everywhere. I was curious about this early on. What I learned is that they are vent pipes for the underground irrigation system. Some are valves, some are vent stacks. In order for this gravity feed plumbing to work there needs to be air in the lines. Your house sewer system has vent stacks; the irrigation system also needs vent stacks. Each cement stacks height is determined by the flood stage level for its position in the irrigation system. One would not want debris being washed down the vent stack into the under ground irrigation system. Very interesting.
Long time Minnesota friends, Gary and Sharon have been wintering at Alamo, Texas for six years. Back then before heading out on their new houseless life style they mentioned changing residency to South Dakota for income tax savings. I’m glad I tucked that little nugget away. We too became SD residents for the exact same reason. It’s not unusual to see South Dakota license plates at RV parks all throughout the southern states.
We found Gary and Sharon at the Winter Gardens RV Resort, and fortunately for us there was an available site. We planned on staying a week. The weekly rate was $250.00, but with the first time stay incentive, we were offered a months stay for $249.00. Whoo hoo,,,, camping for $8.50 a day. BTW, here in Texas we Yankees are referred to as Winter Texans. The term is more endearing when compared to Snowbirds.
Having someone showing us around was great. I mean really, how else would we have known about, “Tuba Christmas.” I feel so remiss. There were over 135 cities participating in a Tuba Christmas this 2019 season, and McAllen, TX is one of the largest. There were over 600 horns celebrating. Click here for Tuba Christmas information
Gary and Sharon also invited us to their place of worship, Palm Valley Church in Mission, TX. Deb and I found it worth the 25 minute drive. We are no longer staying at Winter Ranch, but continue to meet them on Sunday’s, and go out to eat afterward. Palm Valley Church home page
Southern Texas is a major destination offering a mild, subtropical climate, and it is generally more affordable than some other snowbird destinations in the United States. While a large number of northerner’s head to Texas in RVs, there are also plenty of affordable accommodations. The Alamo winter population is forty thousand, and the summer population is closer to twenty thousand. But I think everything is full now, so don’t bother coming down, and taking our spot.
The RV resort life is pretty cushy. We have Internet, full hook ups, laundry rooms, swimming pools, billiards, rec rooms, dances, card games, yoga classes, wood working shops, and many many local restaurants. All that to say playing it safe in Texas is making for an easy duty 2019 – 2020 winter.
Winter Ranch Resort
Winter Ranch is a great home base. From here we traveled to South Padre Island, several state parks, and Progreso, Mexico. Line dance lessons were available to us, and we did give it a go. Deb and I both found it more difficult than expected. I now have a whole new appreciation when watching line dancing. The instructors kept saying, “This is good for mental health, it makes your mind challenge it self.” Gee gosh, line dancing is choreographed movements set to music, and everyone is suppose to be doing the same stuff at the same time. The jazz box left, twinkle toe, swish, turn right really blew my mind. Rock on line dancers.
We walked within the RV park almost every evening. It was fun seeing the Christmas light displays increasing as more Winter Texans arrived. Some nights we would go for a swim and then spend time in the hot tub.
I was nominated to lead yoga class during the absence of its leader. We really had fun with our make it up as you go sessions. We opened with prayer giving thanks for all our blessings, both seen and unseen. Did our thing for thirty minutes, and then bounded into the day with fresh pep in our step.
Give Texas some water, and it will flourish
Estero Llana Grande State Park
Winter Ranch Wood Shop
I needed to make a few improvements to our seventy MPH home. To have access to all the equipment and tools was a real blessing. I was most excited to see a vice in the wood shop, but was not ready for the anti metal work atmosphere. Because of metal filings generated when working with metal, and the possible scratches put into wood projects, the guys frowned on doing metal work. The thin metal brackets securing the sewer and grey water dump valves had broke on the RV. I knew what I wanted to do, and how to do it, but I needed a vice. As if I don’t have enough vices’,,,, ha ha. The standing rule for the shop is that at least two guys need to be there, for safety reasons. I befriended a shop monitor and he followed me with a vacuum sucking up metal shavings. I sawed, drilled, and bent my one-inch wide, eight-inch flat stock steel. Oh baby, now this is a dump valve bracket for the ages.
I purchased some quarter inch plywood and made dividers for the closet, and a shelf in the kitchen. Installed a tire pressure monitoring system for the trailer. Deb and I also replaced the standard entry door window with one that has a shade mechanism.
South Padre Island
There are many public access points to South Padre Island beaches. It’s kind of weird. December, January, February are considered the “Off season” here. It’s the summer months when Texans come to the beach area for vacation time, and to be near the water. This is a good thing; it made parking easy for us. We walked the beach, took a dolphin site-seeing cruise, and found some nice restaurants. We will go back with our bicycles to ride the beach some day. There is also some kayak possibilities here.
Entering into Progreso, Mexico is pretty easy. It only costs a dollar, and you walk through a turnstile. Getting back to Texas only costs thirty cents, but you have to wait in line with your passport. We were coached to say, “Medications” as apposed to “Drugs”, if necessary. I also learned that tire rental is a thing here. If you want your ride to look really cool, you can rent shinny chrome rims for as long as you may need them. Like on a Saturday night date for example. You can also rent fairly new tires for a day so your vehicle will pass an annual DOT inspection. I really do love how there is always away to make a buck.