Well, to us, the month of December is what Snowbirding is all about. No stress; no worries; only fun!!!

You know when you have achieved " a spiritual oneness" with Snowbirding when all you are worried about is the Campsite you are in, the weather you are having and most importantly, what you are having for dinner that night. We achieved that this month!

Western Horizon is the Membership Park System to which we belong. They have parks all over the South in California, Arizona and Texas. Bay View is their Park in Rockport. Now, there is a problem with this outfit; they buy parks, run them for years, and put absolutely no money into them for upkeep and maintenance. The result is sad to see. This Park, has their interior roads in such bad condition, that they fill the larger potholes with clam and oyster shells: a very plentiful and cheap commodity around here.


Even pulling off the main road into the Park, careful swerving is necessary to miss the larger of the potholes.

I have in previous epistles, discussed the financial advantages of having a membership in Western Horizon so a further discussion here would be superfluous. Suffice it to say, unless they begin to invest money in the superstructure of their Parks, they will end up with no new members and in a deep financial cesspool. Ah well, enough of this!

Well, not exactly enough of the financial woes. We heard on Friday December 1st that National RV met their employees on their way into work with a notice stating they were declaring Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and closing their doors. National RV is no more! We now have an "Orphan" Coach. This is not really a hardship for us as other companies have purchased the idiosyncratic fiberglass molds for the product line, and we are well out of warranty anyway. The really sad part is the friends we have made in National who will have a tough Christmas, and those folks who have recently purchased a National Product who will lose their warranty. Our heart goes out to those people!!! However, it goes without saying that the value of our rig on the open market has dropped like a pole axed bird. But, Harvey is performing like the true gentleman he is, so replacement will be years away. With the dropping American economy and the stupid fuel prices, I wonder how many more RV companies will disappear in the near future. I guess it is very much like the automobile shakeout in the 1950's when Studebaker, Nash, Kaiser, Fraser etc. succumbed to economic pressures and closed their doors. Only the truly "fit" will survive. Is a Japanese entry into the RV Market on the horizon....???

That is enough negativity!!!

As I said above, December was GREAT! We are going to spend two weeks here in Rockport with our friends, Ken and Betty Oka. They were heading into Mexico for several months, and first we had thought to join them. Somehow, it just didn't seem to be the right time for us to head south, so we decided to spend the next 6 weeks just exploring the Rio Grande Valley.





A Quick Geography Lesson

I guess, if one was to draw a line straight north from us, it would probably enter Canada just a little east of Winnipeg Manitoba. In fact Brownsville Texas is 24.54.5 North Latitude and 97.29.50 Longitude. Winnipeg Manitoba is 49.55.16 North Latitude and 97.7.28 Longitude.

Why is this important I hear you ask??? Well, it partly explains the migratory patterns of us -- the Fuel-Cost Endangered "White Legged Wandering Snowbirds". A quick trip around any of the parks in this area, and it becomes very obvious from license plates just where people come from. The majority of Americans come from the east coast states and the majority of Canadians come from Manitoba, Ontario and (shudder) Quebec. A few years ago, the main destination for these Snowbirds was Florida, but now, given the costs of accommodation in that State, many of them head here to Texas. Because of the number of older people who, in the past, have headed to Florida, it has been nicknamed "God's Waiting Room", but for Snowbirders, a better sobriquet might be "Too far and Too Expensive". We have heard reports of some campgrounds in the south part of Florida charging $2,000.00 plus per month for your site. On top of that, you pay for your electric use at over 0.15 per kilowatt hour. Here in Texas, you can expect to get a nice full-featured Campground Resort for somewhere in the $500.00 per month area. It becomes a no brainer just where to go for those folks.

Now a quick comment about our French Canadian friends.

Over the years, I have heard stories about Parks in Florida with signs at the Gate stating "no French Canadians allowed". I assumed that for the most part these stories are more apocryphal than true ... more of an urban legend than the gospel. But now, I don't know. There are a lot of Quebecers here in this Park. They do tend to stick to themselves and generally are not as friendly as the usual Snowbird. But, it does seem to go further than that. Apparently, last year in this Park there were a lot of Quebecers here, so they went to the management and asked if they could have all park facilities, i.e. Pool, Clubhouse, etc declared French only on one day per week. Paradoxically, the owner of this Park is a Canadian who lives in North Vancouver. Fortunately, the answer to this query was a flat "No"!!! This has not been the case in some Parks, and the Quebecers have taken over. We have been looking around this area at other Parks, a little closer to the Mission area. At one Park, I asked the fellow at the Gate House if there were many Quebecers in this Park. He was very straight forward ... his comment was that they were encouraged to go elsewhere. Not wanted here as they destroyed the feeling in the Park. You all know me; I'll talk to a stump. But, if I 'm sitting in the hot tub and a couple of Quebecers come in, I'll say "hello" to which they will respond. Most can speak English if they have to. But, after that brief nicety, they will turn to the other and speak French loudly and ignore all others in the pool. You can imagine how the Americans respond to this!!!! But enough ....

The Month's Synopsis

December 1st saw us pull into BayView RV Park in Rockport. This is what RV'in is all about! After setting up beside Ken and Betty we looked forward to two weeks of exploring this area, and eating the seafood. The temperatures did get a little on the humid side for us tender West Coasters, but at least it was warm. When the wind blew, it was nicer as the humidity was cut down and the flying bugs disappeared. Our sites were surrounded by fire ant hills and gopher holes. There was even a resident park 'gator somewhere around. This is a place that indeed "craves wary walking"!!! Those little red devils hurt when they bite. We still have the scars to prove it.


It sure is amazing just how fast the time flies especially when you have friends to share things with. Ken and Betty had arrived there a day before us and had been there before so they knew the area. So, a quick tour of Fulton and Rockport was in order. As you can see from the map above, there is plenty of water around us and hence plenty of birds. Ken and Betty are avid birders and are ready to show us the "birder ropes". We have to pick a date to head out with them.

Just to explain, we are known in Texas as "Winter Texans" and actually are warmly welcomed by the locals. The Texans have to be some of the most friendly, hospitable people we have met on our North American wanderings. Many of the local activities were set up so that Winter Texans can attend, and we are always acknowledged. It gives you a nice feeling ...

Our birding experience was neat! Ken and Betty have all the equipment with cameras, binoculars and spotting scope so we knew that this would be something we'll not forget. We headed to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge a couple of miles outside Rockport. Even before we got to the Park, we had to stop and identify the birds on the electric power lines and in the farmer's fields. If you are "birding" you don't travel too quickly. Here is a list of the birds we identified on our two birding experiences:

December 1, 2007 Rockport TX on the water front

Belted kingfisher
Great blue heron
White pelican
Brown pelican

December 4, 2007 Bay View RV Resort

Black bellied whistling duck
Pied billed Grebe
Ladder-backed Woodpecker

December 5, 2007 Aransas Wildlife Refuge near Rockport TX

Brown pelican
White pelican
Common grackle
Immature little Blue Heron
Great blue heron
Turkey vulture
Loggerhead shrike
Eastern meadowlark
Great egret
Crested caracara
Northern harrier
Brewers blackbirds
Ferruginous hawk
Northern mockingbird
Common moor hen
Ladder-backed woodpecker
Black Bellied whistling duck
Roseate Spoonbill
Ladder-backed Whooping crane
American Coot 
Eastern phoebe
White faced ibis
Greater yellow legs
White ibis
Pied billed grebe

Great northwestern sweating Joe

Suffice it to say, we had several good days and learnt a lot. Now, if Elsie will only let me buy that spotting scope that fits onto my camera ....

As you all know, food and the acquisition of same, occupies a big part of our day. No difference here ... the four of us went shrimp hunting -- the locals don't even know the name "prawn" -- and we found some fresh caught 16/25's for 4.99 per pound. (that means there are 16 to 25 shrimp to the pound) Nothing left to do but head home, enjoy happy hour, crank up the Barbie and pig out!!!! These shrimp/prawns were some of the best I have ever eaten. On another occasion, the four of us were wandering around sightseeing, and it became lunch time. As we were in Aransas Pass and right on the water, I'll bet you thought that we would find a quaint little fishing shack restaurant ... but no ... we stumbled upon a Welsh Restaurant of all things. As you walked in, you were immediately taken back to a Pub in Blighty complete with the requisite smells -- cigarette smoke, beer and deep fried food. To remain true to the sea side location we ordered the fish and chips served, of course, on newspaper. It sounds hokey but believe it or not, it was one of the best fish and chips I have had!

Continuing with our eclectic ways, we found a Renaissance Fair was happening in Aransas Pass just a few miles from us. I have always been a fan of the Society for Creative Anachronism in Vancouver so this Fair was a must hit for us. I was situated in the ubiquitous county fairgrounds that every small town has. There was a road that went around the grounds in a circle -- half mile walk in either direction. Along this small road were clearings that housed different little tents each selling things like candles, perfumes, food, jewelry etc. At one larger clearing, actual jousting on horse back was happening. This was neat as the "Knights" explained what they were going to do before each joust. Then, at full speed they charged at each other. I was surprised that no one was actually hurt in this. At the end of the performance, they actually had the nerve/naivety to ask if there was anyone in the audience who would like to take this up as a sport. The silence was deafening!!!

Around one of the bends there were acrobats performing on a huge swing set. This was just like I always imagined a true Renaissance Fair would look like in the 1300's. Many of the people attending dressed up in Medieval costume and that added a lot to the setting. All in all, a great morning's fun!

More sightseeing ... Mustang Island (yes, that is Island and not Ranch), North Padre Island, Corpus Christi, and the free little ferry ride from Aransas Pass to Port Aransas. We are sure putting the miles on the Honda.

One pre-Christmas event that bears mentioning is the Family Country Music Show that was held in Fulton at the "Paws and Taws" auditorium. The name comes from Square Dancing so if anyone knows the significance of the name, please let us know. This was an interesting experience! The auditorium held about 200 people and it was FULL, even to the 4 "very" middle aged women who must have had dinner in the local bar before choosing seats just behind us. Yahoo's YEHAA's etc. and all the hokey Texan shouts they could think of echoed off the back of our heads. And the performers ... everyone in town had a crack at us, Fiddle players, yodelers, story tellers, singers ... all performed two songs and then it was some one else's turn. The fellow who was running for Sheriff in the spring election even sang, after a plea for everyone's vote. The owner of the local RV Dealership and his salesman sang, but again, after inviting all the Winter Texans to visit his dealership. An hour and a half later, it was intermission and a quick look at the programme indicated that the second half would be the same performers ... we thought "horse kissin music" is all and good, but enough is enough! It was fun but we slipped out the back door.

All too soon, December 15th came and we headed to Mercedes Texas and Ken and Betty headed into Mexico. It was a hard decision to make, not accompanying them south, but maybe next year. This was our opportunity to investigate the Rio Grande Valley.

The whole Rio Grande Valley (RGV) fills up in January and February so we had a little problem finding a campground for a month. We were lucky and found a spot in the newer section of Llano Grande Lake Park Resort and County Club in Mercedes. (the double Ll is pronounced "y")

The main road in the RGV is highway 83. Just off this road are all the campgrounds and the stores necessary to support all these Winter Texans. If you go a mile off the road, you think that you are in Mexico. It is almost like visiting Mexico without crossing the border.

I don't think that I have mentioned the HEB chain of food stores. This is a huge chain that sure puts Safeway, Albertsons etc to shame. And, if you can find a HEB "Plus" store .. you have died and gone to heaven.

These stores are huge! They are very much like an upscale Costco, but they carry all different types of products that we only see in specialty stores at home. And did I mention the meat???? Texan Steaks are incredible!!! Tender beyond belief! But, a little spendy. Our two favourite steaks are Rib eye and Tenderloin. The Rib eyes go for 13.50 and the Tenderloin goes for 23.99 a pound. Damm ... but we soon learned that the display meat only sits on the counter for one day and then the next day, it is packaged and sold for half price if you can get there ewarly enough. This also happens to the lamb chops. They regularly sell for 9.99 a pound but the next morning ... there they are at 4.99. Can you think just how full our freezer is?????

However, there are HEBs and HEBs. In the area we are in, their cliental is mostly Spanish speaking so the local HEB caters to them. We spent one day "HEB Hunting" until we found the HEB Plus in Mission about half an hour away from our Park. But, no sacrifice is too great for good food, so we make this run into Mission every second day for nourishment.

We have spent a few days wandering around different campgrounds in the area. Our friends Matt and Carol from Swan Lake Park in Vernon are down here at a different park. We have run into them twice this year so far: once in Tucson at the DataStorm Rally, and once in Kerrville. So, we decided to make it three times and wandered over to see their Park. They were in Mission area and therefore were a little closer to the main body of Winter Texans. Their Park was very impressive, and we thought we could make reservations there for 6 weeks next year. However, it turns out that the Park is a little heavy on the Rule's side of things to the extent that they were attempting to stop anyone from using a wireless connection in their RV. Now this is why we have the Satellite Dish on the roof. They thought that there was interference from the DataStormers that was hampering the Park Wifi. Do we need them???? No bloody way ... there must be another Park ...

We had a good chat with Matt and Carol and then continued our search.

The Park we are in is very nice, but not one of the most friendly places we have been. There is an older Park Model section and the newer RV section. The Park Model section was built in the late 80's and the people there tend to be a little on the older side.

Next year ... hmmm do we want to drive three extra days to get here, and then put up with the wind and humidity??? Decisions Decisions...

Christmas dinner was interesting here. The meal was $11.00 each and was served in shifts from 1:00 in half hour shifts. We chose the 3:30 shift. The meal was to be roast ham plus veggies. No Turkey .... Damn!!!

When we arrived early, of course, we picked a table, sat down and waited for more people to show up. There were a few tables with 10 to 20 people sitting there, obviously friends, and as new people arrived, they sat at empty tables. We went up and got our dinner and sat own. No one had acknowledge our presence at that point. So, we thought what the heck ... we began to eat. Finally, a couple from Ontario sat down with us as they were early for their group. They turned out to be good company so the dinner was saved. We were back in Harvey in under 1 hour ... sigh ... and it was Christmas Dinner too ...

We were determined not to let this happen for New Years!!! Off to HEB in Mission and our food search was on. We settled for Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese appetizers accompanied by a very nice J Lohr Chardonnay, Tenderloin and scallops for the main course accompanied by a Clos de Bois Briarcrest Cab. For dessert we had fresh strawberries and ice cream. We began to prepare food in the later afternoon and ended up finishing just before mid night just in time for the Champagne. Sadly, no one else was up in the Park so Elsie and I went outside, looked around, shrugged and went inside and went to bed. These Parks are strange!

More wandering around in this area ... we headed to Port Isabel and South Padre Island about an hour from here. South Padre reminds us of Hawaii in that it is primarily composed of hotels and restaurants all catering to the tourist. The road does not stretch very far north on the Island, but on each side, there are beautiful beaches. Yes, we did walk out and got our feet wet in the Gulf of Mexico!

The road just ends and there is no place to turn around easily in a large vehicle. Just at the end of the road a Class C RV was parked and as we walked out on the beach a large 5th Wheel trailer arrived. We were wondering how the poor 5th Wheel was gong to turn around so as we returned to the car, I offered to help spot him as he completed this very difficult maneuver. He didn't need help, he explained. He was going to park here for a month or so. His truck was resplendid with lots of extra water and fuel tanks, and his 5th wheel sparkled with the solar panels on the roof. He said that he would have no problem existing. Curious, I asked him about the local police; would they allow it? His answer was amusing ... "it is always easier to say I'm sorry than to ask for permission". He went on to say that the Class C had been here for 4 months and he had no problems as long as he fixed a coffee for the cop who patrolled each morning. Free Camping in available in the US!!!!!

Anyway, we have enjoyed the "down time" here, up to New Years, and anticipate it continuing until the 15th of January when we head to San Antonio.

The RV World is fascinating and certainly never dull. We love this life style!!!!!


Joe and Elsie and the intrepid pair

Lord Stanley and Lord Thurston


Return to Top of Page


Go to Pictures

Return to Winter 07/08

Return to Home Page