Wintering the Rio Grande Valley

by Dan Hogan
(Saint Louis, MO)

The Navigator & I, left St. Louis, MO the end of November, 08 to spend the winter in the Rio Grande Valley; mostly the TX side. This was our first run to the border, Texas anyway. Our route took us down the west side of the Mississippi to Memphis, TN and then on through Vicksburg, Jackson & Natchez occasionally on the Natchez Trace, some times on local roads and a few interstates. Nothing like a 28 degree night on a Wal-Mart parking lot in Memphis to hurry you south.

New Orleans got it's earliest snow on record while we were there for a week plugged in at the Elks for electric and a Christmas Party. The French Quarter was much cleaner than I remembered it from past visits. Pay them a visit, they could use the trade. We hurried for the Houston Elks where we could plug in before turning left and following the coast south for warmer weather.

Elks Lodges, Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks, often provide refuge to the roving Elk of other Lodges. They let you plug in, hook up, etc. as their facilities allow; usually for just a donation for the good of the order, or no fee. Between Wal-Mart, friends & the Elks our first commercial park was a week in Palacois, TX on Matagorda Bay with a full hook up, $100. Bay Front RV is on the north end of the city park. The manager sent us off with a couple pounds of the local shrimp. Palacois has a municipal park that covers the waterfront. It has fishing piers, boat launching ramps and no fees. I have it on good advice that if you venture too far up the bay into fresh water, the gators are bigger than the kayaks.

A Wal-Mart in Rockport with designated pull through parking for RV's got us on down to North Padre Island, the National Park, by way of the Port Aransas Ferry. The campground is just a parking lot behind the dunes with access to water and their dump. We did make note on the way of a few good on the water boondocking opportunities for next year. After a couple of nights and an opportunity to explore the N Padre Island area by kayak, bicycle and Jeep; we moved on down to the end of the pavement, which in TX is often the beach. Beaches are highways in TX, licensed vehicles required. We spent the first week of 09 on the beach, after ringing in the New Year at the Bay Yacht Club in Corpus Christi. We had a few interesting beach neighbors come and go. The ones that got their cars stuck at the end of the pavement, prior to making the hard pack near the tide line never knocked after 10 p.m. The Jeep even extracted a few trucks that got stuck pulling out the cars. Most RV's that have ever driven snow can drive sand. Scope out your situation before driving in, keep up your momentum, and you usually do fine. The shovel, rope and boards are for when you were wrong. The beach is free and so is the dump and water outside the camp ground.



The beach at South Padre Island is free also, as is the shoulder of TX 100 near the end of the road. You will be more likely to get stuck on South Padre's beach. Port Isabel has several RV Parks, we spent a week on the water at Park Center, $14 per night. We moved in and out of the Elks in Harlingen several times, $8 per night with water, electric and a dump facility{Too cold for the pool}. There is a Texas Tourism office in Harlingen at the US 83 / 79 intersection. They work well at informing you of your things to do.

Boca Chica, south of S Padre Island at the Rio Grande is free beach, but I would only recommend it for very experienced and capable groups for technical and security reasons.

For $6 per night when using electric; McAllen Elks provided RV parking and a good Friday night fish fry for $7 and dance prior to our Go with Joe two night bus tour to Monterey, Mexico.

Falcon Lake State Park at the west end of the Valley is $6 for just water, $12 for water & electric and $18 with sewer. The county park is $2 for great parking with marvelous views and you drive right by it going to Falcon state park. You would take the straight ahead to the dam, rather than turning right to the park. The county park entrance is on the right just past the stop for the park / dam intersection. TX 2028 gets you there from US 83. We spent 1 night at the State park and 2 at the county park.

When visiting Mexico, park at the border and walk or take a bus unless you have Mexico vehicle insurance.

Most of these locations mentioned have good cell phone and wireless internet service, N Padre being the exception.

It is coming up on the last week in February 09 and we will be heading north to be in St. Louis in April. Wal-Mart, the Elks, a few state parks and friends will see us there. We will not have spent $500 for RV parks for the trip. We travel in a 30' Winnebago Brave & tow a well loaded Jeep Wrangler with 2 kayaks & bikes. Some times we get 8 mpg other times less when the generator is running into the night. Our previous Winnebago were smaller but got the same mpg. Prior to them, we sailed.

Dan Hogan is a well known St. Louis area banking consultant who finds some time to work from the road.

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Jul 26, 2011
Full time Texans
by: Dan Hogan

We liked TX so much we bought a house. Now we travel west for a couple of months each winter/spring.. We like Quartsite & Yuma, AZ

Jul 25, 2011
Winter Texan Information
by: Rod Graham

I'd like to plug my website ...
www.wintertexaninfo.com
My goal is to create an online resource covering all aspects of the Winter Texan Lifestyle in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas

Feb 21, 2009
Thanks!
by: Jim Schrankel

Thank you for that primer for boondocking! Those are the kind of tips I'm looking for, as $ will be tight when we hit the fulltiming road next year.

Feb 21, 2009
Oh Danny Boy!
by: Brian

:-) Great Info and story Mr. Dan!... but... savin' all that dinero on your parking fees... don't tell me you didn't spend a lil' bit, to have a camera, to get a picture of your rig sitting on one of those Beaches!
... I'd give up another star for a picture! :-)

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