On a “Mission” to Visit the DeWalds
We knew that being in South Texas for the Christmas season would be a little different for us. However, having recently visited with both of our families in the last two months on our trip from Maine to Texas, we were okay with something different. Ever since Betsy and I have been together, we have always spent time with family during this time of year. That included our first Christmas as full-time RV’ers in 2016 when we drove from Campbellsville, KY to Waldo, OH to spend Christmas with Betsy’s family. As we settled into our jobs, and new work schedules, at Texas Lakeside RV Resort, we soon realized that we would be off work on Christmas Day and the two days immediately thereafter. As much as we enjoy spending quiet time with each other, especially after some of Betsy’s busy Christmases at ICED by Betsy, we decided we would take the opportunity to visit my sister, Annette, and her husband, Mike, who are spending the Winter about four hours south of us in Mission, TX. We definitely knew we wanted to explore the Rio Grande Valley, or “The Valley” as it’s known. So that, combined with the chance to spend Christmas Day with some family, helped us decide to hop in the car and head south.
Although we worked on Christmas Eve, the office did close at 3:00 PM, which allowed us an evening to relax in the peace of our home. But we were up early on Christmas morning, not to open presents, but to get in the car and head south towards The Valley. It was a cool morning and we did not encounter much traffic during our drive. We attributed the lack of traffic to the remote parts of Texas we were driving through, and the fact that it was Christmas morning. Whatever the reason, we enjoyed a quiet and easy drive. As we entered the McAllen / Mission area shortly after lunch time, we were a little surprised at the size of the area. We drove through a very large commercial / retail area which contained just about any type of restaurant, store or dealership you could want. Once exiting the main drag, we wound our way back to the Bentsen Palm Village RV Park, where Annette and Mike are calling home for the winter.
Bentsen Palm Village RV Park is part of a 2,600 acre Master-Planned Community which includes four unique neighborhoods, mostly dedicated to RV’ers. The neighborhoods include the RV park, RV sites with Casita homes, larger homes with RV ports attached, and standard homes. After catching up with Annette and Mike over some snacks we headed outside to explore the campground and visit where they were working for the winter. Directly behind their site was a row of fruit trees, mostly grapefruit trees. Betsy was in heaven having the chance to pick fresh fruit for free and carry away as many as she could hold.
Oh yea, we hadn’t mentioned that Captain Mike and his First Mate Annette would be giving pontoon boat tours on the Rio Grande River three days a week in exchange for the cost of their site for the season. Kind of a dream job for a life-long boater like Mike. We jumped into their Prius for the short five minute drive to the covered boat dock where the pontoon was housed on a short canal off the Rio Grande River. We parked across the street from a pasture which contained a couple of horses and a herd of goats, which are always entertaining to watch.
The area was definitely rustic, but very peaceful, and next to a small park on the river. After looking around a bit, we were looking forward to our chance to enjoy a cruise tomorrow. Back at their camper, we enjoyed a delicious Christmas dinner with ham, turkey and all of the fixings. The evening was a game of Scrabble for Betsy and Annette while Mike and I enjoyed the Eagles playing on Monday Night Football. Ok, it turned out to be a pretty normal Christmas Day, just in a different place!
On Tuesday morning Betsy and I were up early to head out to Quest Diagnostic to have some blood work done in preparation for our annual visit to our doctor in a couple of weeks. Ok, maybe the day after Christmas wasn’t the best choice for blood work, but it was convenient and fit into our schedule. We returned in time for breakfast before learning that Captain Mike had enough people for a pontoon tour, which was six paying guests, plus Betsy and I. Time to head out on the river. After going down to get the boat ready, we headed back to the campground to greet the other guests and bring them down to the boat. The weather wasn’t the best, it was a little cloudy and the temps were cool, but it’s hard to call any day that includes a boat ride bad. After entering the river from the canal, we headed north for about 30 minutes before turning around and retracing our path, then heading about 40 minutes south of the canal, before returning to the dock. In total we were on the water for about 2 1/2 hours. This part of the Rio Grande River was winding and not very wide. Being the winter season, and a little on the cool side, we only saw one other pleasure boat on the river. However we did see a couple of Border Patrol boats on the water. Border Patrol agents were quite visible on the water and on land, but they were all very friendly and always seemed to be smiling. For the most part, the banks of the river were just vegetation, although there were several large homes on the Mexican side of the river, and an RV park on the US side south of our canal. We enjoyed our afternoon on the Rio Grande and to top it all off we had a pretty cool captain and tour guide!
After returning to the RV, Betsy, Mike and I jumped into Mike’s Gator and headed back down to the boat to refuel it and secure it for the night. We spent a quiet evening chatting in the RV and enjoying another yummy meal served by the DeWalds. Wednesday morning came a little later than the day before, but we still enjoyed another hot breakfast from the DeWald kitchen. Even though it was a short visit, we enjoyed spending time with family at Christmas and getting a feel for what the Rio Grande Valley had to offer. Thanks for your hospitality Annette and Mike and for opening your home to us during the Christmas Season.