2011 Winter in Brownsville, Texas
After finding that neither Florida or the southwest are winter-proof, I decided to travel to Brownsville, Texas for 2011. Latitude here is the same as Naples, Florida. So, I loaded up the RV and F-150 and headed south on January 6. Four days later, I was headed on the last 300 mile stretch of the trip. At 2 miles to destination, palm trees lined the highway median. At one hour away, the AC came on in the truck and I was overdressed. By the time I pulled into the RV park, the sun was shining under blue skies and mid 70 degree weather. My plan for this winter is to not travel beyond the southern Rio Grande Valley.
After arriving, some cooler weather with showers arrived, so I took the next few days to organize and make improvements to the RV. I had wired a 115 v light over the sink, and had an audio cable from my netbook PC to the AUX IN for the sound system. Replacing the duct tape with wire moulding made a big improvement. A three light stand was bought to illuminate the rear of the RV. Finally, an extra thirty feet of lamp cord was added to the inflation device for the air mattress, making it easy to inflate the air mattress without moving the truck. I was set for the duration.
Wednesday is golf day. Just come to the golf course and play 9 or 18, whatever your pleasure. The park has organized activities for each month. After figuring out that I could store my RV here for the year, I later found that for just a few dollars more, I could move to a larger, permanent lot, leave the RV set up permanently and live here for up to nine months of the year. I signed up and became a Winter Texan.
So, after three weeks, I made a video: Winter 2011 Chapter 1
Normally, it never freezes this far south, but this winter has set new records for the north. At the start of February, an arctic blast slipped south and froze the region, ending with freezing rain the last morning. I had to take pictures, but could not capture the ice falling after the thaw. Click for video. Now that temperatures have returned to normal, I hope our winter is over.
Just at the northern end of Brownsville is Palo Alto National Park. At this location, the US Army commanded by Zachery Taylor defeated Mexican forces commanded by General Arista. This 1846 battle arose from a border dispute between the US and Mexico. The superior artillery of the US provided the winning margin in the conflict. Here's a video of the park.
Completing the weekend, Wes and I attended a rodeo at Los Fresno. Having never been to a rodeo before, I took some pictures and video. Click here for the video, and enjoy the rodeo!
The circus was in town, so I went on a Saturday afternoon. It was too dark for taking photos, so you will have to recall your childhood memories. Later, Wes & I visited Dirty Al's on South Padre Island for an excellent seafood dinner [photo in first video].
I met up with Noble Rider (John) from the GL1800 Riders Forum along with Jules, who had a very nice HD Electra Glide [stock and not loud] for a weekend ride on the back roads of the Rio Grande Valley. Actually, the 'valley' is more like a plain. Along the way, we toured the Southwest Texas Motorcycle Museum and finished the day at a Mexican restaurant in Harlingen. Thanks to John & Jules for a great day.
February went out sunny and warm after the cold start. How to mark March 1st? How about swimming in the ocean; actually, the Gulf of Mexico. Click to watch a day at the beach. Later that week, I took a tour of the Port of Brownsville which included a boat tour followed by dinner at the Shrimp Haus. As you will see on this video, the boat tour included free beer!
I've been enjoying the milder March temperatures: Days at the beach, golfing in Brownsville and the park swimming pool. I've been getting a jump on the summer to come by working on my tan. I'm not sure how the golf will translate, as the ground is harder here, the greens are so hard that you have to play short and bounce on, and the grass in the rough is like steel wool. It took me months to finally hit a lob wedge to the green and hold the shot. Plus, you need to bring food for the ducks, who come right up to you and beg! So, I made a video - click to enjoy. The music, Forty Miles of Bad Road, seems to fit!
March 17: St. Patrick's Day! Top o' the mornin' to ya! Sunny and warm, I headed to the beach on South Padre Island. I forgot one thing: Spring Break! Still, the parade of college revelers was something to see. I must have spent three hours enjoying the water on my boogie board, when tragedy hit! A wave threw me and while I was able to hold onto the board and sunglasses, my 'Jed Clampit' hat was washed out of reach. Before I could retrieve it, the waters claimed my hat. Somewhere, the song 'Endless Sleep' ran through my mind. I had to spray my head with sunscreen for the remainder of my beach day.
March 19, the last day of winter [hurrah!] was spent on a motorcycle ride in search if chicken fried steak. We took some of the usual roads for turns [there is only one road for that] followed my more roads heading generally in a western direction. Our first stop was in the middle of nowhere. The cattle were roaming, and the bull was grazing. After passing through a border control check point, we made our second gas stop and corrected for a missed turn to somewhere west of Falcon. I was able to get a Mexican sampler with chicken fried steak: Good choice! Naturally, I have a video.
March 22: Our park owner took us on an off road trip along the north and south sides of Boca Chica [TX Route 4] which ends at the Gulf of Mexico. A 4 x 4 vehicle was needed. Along the way, we saw the south side of the Brownsville shipping channel, a subdivision with an off road entrance, the harbor south of South Padre Island, a ride along the Rio Grande and a trip over the beach to the mouth of the Rio Grande with a lighthouse in Mexico across the river. This made for an interesting video that ends with a movie clip of the Gulf & Rio Grand junction. Click to view.
Thinking that 3 hours was too far for chicken fried steak, I went to Big Daddy's just a few miles down Boca Chica. The meal was so good that I later returned for one of their famous burgers, appropriately named 'whatamess', and it was outstanding. Overall, Big Daddy's has a varied menu, good food and low prices.
Things are winding down to returning home. Three years ago, I bought the RV to search for the most winter proof place to stay, and I've found that in Texas. So, I've sold my RV and will rent a larger winter home in Brownsville for 2012. With the RV having served its purpose, it is time to move on. I've even found a friend nearby who will let me ride his extra motorcycle next year, but it will cost me at least a case of Yuengling [can't get Yuengling in Texas!]. There is more to do that I was not able to get to the first trip here, but I have enjoyed it - especially the shrimp.
Epilog: After three years of roaming the southern US, I have found the best winter location for me in Brownsville, TX. Negatives: Sometimes, it is too windy, especially when storms are sweeping the north. The positives win: Close to the beach, lower cost of living, friendly people, many things to see and do, and great food! The shrimp are huge. So, my truck has the official decal, and I'll be thinking of the shrimp until I return.