Our Stay in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas

Green Jay.

We spent five weeks in the Rio Grande Valley, known by locals as the RGV. The weather was crazy – beautifully warm for a few days, then very cold, windy and rainy, then back to warm, maybe even hot. Throughout our stay, the wind blew hard, many days and nights with sustained winds of 20+ mph, gusting to 30+ mph. That kind of wind keeps the motorhome rockin’ and rollin’ and makes styling hair a waste of time.

South Padre Island in the Winter.

South Padre Island in January

People from all over the USA and Canada flock to the Rio Grande Valley every winter. The parks mostly cater to the 55+ and retired crowd. Being a bit younger and anything but retired, we were in the minority, but warmly welcomed. Our home base was Tropic Winds RV Resort.

Our site at Tropic Winds RV Resort.

Ruby in the Moonlight at Tropic Winds RV Resort

Overall, the RGV is not an especially beautiful area – mostly bare and brown in the winter, punctuated by scrub bushes, mesquite and palm trees, and a few flowering cacti. An abundance of tiny thorns cover some areas we’re told by our friends from Gone RVing, who had them puncture bicycle tires and their lovely dog’s feet. Ouch!

But get off the beaten path and explore the abundant nature preserves and you’ll find a different, rugged kind of beauty. These preserves are tucked away and unless you’re looking, you might not even find them. We drove by a natural area just a few miles from our park several times before noticing a sign identifying it as a nature preserve. It was worthy of a stop, with a few miles of trails through native flora and fauna. We met three photographers there who identified a bird up in the tree as a ‘Butter Butt,’ similar to a Warbler, but with yellow just above its tail. They told us that the park offers guided tours every Wednesday morning at 7:30. If the weather had only cooperated, we’d have participated.

American Kestrel in Texas.

American Kestrel

Plain Chachalaca.

Plain Chachalaca

Female Nilgai at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

Nilgai at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge ©Dennis Eccleston

We took a drive to the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Preserve with friends early one morning. The preserve offers guided, open air tram tours for only $4 per person at 8:30 AM and 1:30 PM a few days each week. Before even getting on the tram, we were delighted by the local birds surrounding the office. We saw Green Jays (see photo at top of post), American Kestrels, Plain Chachalacas, Cardinals, and a Screech Owl. The tour follows a road through the preserve that had been open to visitor traffic until recently. Now it’s closed to protect the Ocelot population. We were so hoping to see this elusive cat! But what we did see – Nilgai, Wild Boar, hawks and waterfowl that we had never seen before, all in a beautiful natural setting – with the Laguna on one side of the road and open grassland on the other. It was nearly a three hour tour, fully narrated and we learned a lot about the local area. Simply point, and the driver would stop so that the whole group could get a good look at whatever you saw, and the guide would identify it.

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Shari Voigt

Shari Voigt is an author, website developer, and marketing consultant. She's been working and living on the road with her husband Gerald since July 25, 2013. When she's not working on the latest marketing idea for herself or her customers, she's exploring new places and meeting new people from all over the USA.