January 06, 2018

The Rio Grande Valley

We have been, for the past 9 days, in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas, at Mercedes. More on the RGV later; first I will tell you about our trip since the last post, which was in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Incidentally, at Vicksburg, were assigned a pull-through site next to a Pinnacle fifthwheel identical to ours. Ours has optional full-body paint and clearcoat. Our particular paint scheme was offered only in 2011, and as this was the first model year for the Pinnacle, our particular colour scheme is very rare. I have only ever seen one other in our travels, and it was the "REQS" floor plan. This one in Vicksburg was the same floor plan as ours, "RETS". Unfortunately, the owner was not around, or I would have struck up a conversation.

2011 Pinnacle RETS with full-body paint (x2)

The day we left Vicksburg, we stopped at a Blue Beacon Truck Wash in Louisiana, and for $54 our truck and fifthwheel was washed. We had an easy 290 mile (464 km) drive along I-20 west to Longview, TX, where we left the Interstate and took state highways to a small RV park near Chandler, TX, and spent a relaxing night. It is our policy when traveling to make an early start in the morning, and arrive at our destination for the day by early afternoon, allowing us to relax for the rest of the day and evening. 20 minutes after arriving at an overnight stop, we are connected to utilities, slides are extended, and we are enjoying an afternoon cup of Earl Grey tea in the comfort of our home.

Waiting our turn at Blue Beacon

Early the next morning we resumed our journey, on state highways, southwest across the interior of Texas. Taking these state highways is a pleasant alternative to the usually-busy Interstate corridors. It works well in the western half of the country because the distance between built-up areas is usually 50 miles or so, and unlike Ontario, speed limits are usually between 60 and 70 mph (96 - 112 KPH), allowing us to maintain a good average speed. Many towns and small cities in Texas have a bypass around them.

We arrived later in the day at La Grange, notable for the classic ZZ Top hit of the same name. La Grange is a town about 60 miles west of Houston, on the Colorado River. We stayed at an RV park where they were rebuilding after catastrophic flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in August. We spoke with the elderly owner, and he described how the entire park was under 8 feet of water when the Colorado River burst its banks when 27 inches (70 cm) of rain fell in three days. The park is now operational with all utilities working, but all of the buildings had to be demolished and rebuilt. He described how only 70% of his business loss was covered by insurance, but it is remarkable how resilient people are when faced with these natural disasters. The RV park was this man's life work, and within a year will be better than it was before the flood.

The next day, we resumed our journey, and arrived at around 2 pm at Llano Grande RV Resort and Country Club, located in Mercedes Texas.

Site 487 at Llano Grande Resort
We had booked a complimentary stay for 9 days, to allow us to explore the Rio Grande Valley area of the state. The RGV is a very popular winter destination for snowbirds from the northern states and eastern Canada. It is one of the most southerly points in the USA, on the same latitude as Naples and Miami, Florida. The big advantage for people is the cost of staying in the region, which is about half of what one would pay at a resort in south Florida. Over a 4 or 5 month winter season, the savings are considerable.

Llano Grande Resort has a policy that allows a free stay of up to 14 days for qualifying snowbird RVers, who have not stayed at the resort before. We took advantage of this so we could explore the region, which we have not been to before.

These are our impressions after a week here.
Keep in mind that these are only our personal impressions, and will certainly not be shared by everyone.

-The climate is very nice, on a par with south Florida, albeit more windy.
-The cost of accommodations is comparatively low.
-The RV resorts are well-organized, with numerous on-resort activities for people so inclined.
-Llano Grande Resort seems to be one of the best in the region. It appears well-managed, and is an attractive place to stay, within the resort.
-Easy access to all of the trappings of suburban life, such as Walmarts, restaurants, big-box  stores, supermarkets, medical services.
-Very convenient to the Mexico border, for people wishing to visit Mexico for the day.

-The region is not very scenic, comprised mostly of flat land and heavily-populated urban areas.
-The traffic is usually heavy, and the urban areas are very busy.
-Many of the RV resorts are showing signs of age, with some deterioration of infrastructure.
-The ocean resort area at South Padre Island is not really very attractive, compared to the  Florida Panhandle and the Southern California coastline.
-Outside of the prosperous suburban sections, some areas show evidence of extreme poverty, with many run-down and decrepit buildings.

In summary, if it is one's desire for a resort winter, with lots of on-resort activities, in a warm pleasant climate, at a very reasonable cost, this is an ideal destination. We rarely participate in organized activities, preferring instead to independently explore the area and surrounding points of interest. For us, we will likely not return, as there are many other areas of the country we want to visit.

The landscape behind the resort

Over the causeway to South Padre Island

My dear Navigator on the beach, South Padre Island

Enjoying a cappuccino at South Padre Island


  1. Sounds like you are having good time.

  2. Hi Michael, thanks for reading. It has been a relaxing 9 days here, and now it is time to continue our trip west. We leave tomorrow morning, and plan to arrive at our destination in California one week later. This is my favourite part of the journey, through west Texas, New Mexico, Arizona then California.