117. Rio Grande Valley Update

It’s been a quiet couple of months here in the RGV. Very little, to almost no, sightseeing. But the brutal weather has lifted so I’ll update.

Lots of citrus grown in S TX. Lots of orange and grapefruit trees in the park as well. There’s a bench with boxes outside the main clubhouse door where folks put their excess citrus and you can take what you want. There’s a large citrus processor a few miles down the road always, seemingly, full with semis unloading oranges. It’s located in the US/Mexico McAllen Trade Zone.
On Saturday morning, this vendor’s truck is at the clubhouse with all manner of fresh fruit and veggies for sale.
You can see how busy the park is with the Canadian border being closed. Eh?
Went to the Old Hildago Pumphouse and Birding Center. It used to control Rio Grande River water flow but now a museum to S TX farming. It was closed due to the pandemic. Heard some birds but saw none. No one but me on site. Not all was lost. It is located directly on the border and could walk the US side, talk with border patrol etc. Thru this gate the border patrol can drive their non public gravel roads patrolling the border
Said gravel patrol road
Rio Grande River
Brush like this is pretty while also a crossing deterrent

I took a side trip 30 miles west along the border past Los Ebanos and Rio Grande City. Not too much to see except this church, which I thought photogenic, in Los Ebanos

It really was picturesque


I received my phone call from Ashley Pediatrics telling me of my appointment two days later for my Covid booster shot. At my appointed time, I arrived, got my shot and was gone.😎. No ill effects from either and 10 days post I’m as protected as I can get from the vaccine.

AND THEN the weather changed. A full week of freezing temps and with constant north winds 15-25mph, gusting higher, wind chills down to zero, freezing rain and a smattering of snow overnights. Further north but not that much further, snow accumulation on the roads and from the I-4 corridor and north, substantial accumulation. Texas does not have the equipment to handle snow and the operators not enough experience to understand how to use it. You don’t plow snow from this lane onto the next lane which had already been cleared until you plowed it back over, guys! Duh.

It also brought to the forefront that TX does not have power producing equipment properly set up for zero degree weather. No or insufficient antifreeze coolant in the generators. Electric windmill turbines (yes there are a lot of them in oil country) frozen. Solar panels not seeing sunlight. Pipelines freezing. The State’s electrical infrastructure couldn’t keep up as sources came off line and finally power was basically turned off to the State lest there be a complete failure. Attempts were made to keep power to necessary facilities like hospitals, shelters etc.

No power meant no heat for most of the State with many stories of house interiors dropping to 40 degrees or less, people setting up a tent in their living room, carbon monoxide poisonings etc. No power meant, for most, no water pressure and no water which, when restored, meant pretty much statewide boil water notices. No power meant gas pumps didn’t function even if the station had fuel. Ravaged grocery stores had the balance of their frozen food, produce, meat etc spoil. Zero delivery trucks on the road resupplying. Bottled water was scarce with the best supply being government handout. However that too was a problem.

FL should consider putting on seminars for state and local governments on how to deal with nature’s emergencies. For example, back in maybe 2005 or so, Sharon and I were in Naples when a hurricane came ashore at Cape Romano (Marco Is) and tore through Naples and the Everglades heading to Ft Lauderdale. The area was a mess. In Silver Lakes Golf & RV Resort, lanais storage sheds were destroyed, RVs blown sideways on their site and even blown off site and into the lake. Similar damage around the cities. Police, fire trucks, city and county trucks were employed to drive down the streets filled with cases of water stopping at every inhabited home. ‘We’ve got water for you. How many cases do you want? What else can we provide?’ And they kept coming around daily for probably a week.

People could 1) stay off the roads 2) use less unavailable fuel 3) take care of their families 4) try to clean up debris 5) try to restore some normalcy rather than use precious fuel and time trying to find supplies, wait in lines etc.

TX also got FEMA and other donated trucks full of water which were centrally located at a county center (you know how big some counties are?). You needed to drive to pick up the water. But wait. There’s no place to replenish your fuel. In a coup de grâce, the powers that be declared “one case per car” which surely discouraged two, three or four neighbors or families from car pooling it. More cars on the road, more fuel burned, longer yet lines at a single distribution point. TX version of a primer on “how to turn a red state purple”.

Thankfully the water supplier to this park did maintain a generator and, therefore, water pressure so no boil order here now that we’re above freezing. (It’s in the 70’s as I write and last night was the last sub freezing night in the forecast). I did disconnect the water hose from the park’s bib for the week. I had a full tank of water aboard which, on a day above 32 degrees, I topped off.

As I wrote a few blog posts ago, I have a diesel fueled AquaHot system on this bus. My diesel tank, which I topped off when I arrived, is 150 gallons. My generator and AquaHot running full time will use about 1/2 gal per hour or slightly less. With total loss of power for 4 full days plus some partial, my generator flawlessly put on quite a few hours. I had complete power in the rig. The AquaHot kept me toasty at whatever temp I chose. Dual pane windows equaled zero drafts. The AquaHot also provides heat to the basement ‘wet bay’ (where the fresh water, waste water tanks are as well as the hose and sewer connections) so all I needed was to dial up the temp below and my systems were free from freezing.

But all wasn’t rosy. The last of the powerless mornings, I woke up and my frig and freezer were warm. It’s a GE residential frig. It had power and I could hear the fan, see the light etc but it was not cold. And it smelled. Everything was thawed and am guessing it failed the previous day sometime but still was cold enough the prior evening such that I didn’t notice. Everything needed to be thrown out.

I had, maybe a month or two ago, purchased my first ever in my life cast iron fry pan. I then practiced and discovered that one can control cooking steaks, for example, better in a cast iron skillet than on a grill. And so, about a week or so prior to the ‘great TX freeze’ I ordered a selection of Wagyu (first ever too) Gold filets and tenderloins from Snake River Farms. I’ve had one and the others were comfortably resting in the freezer until they all thawed. 👎😰.

I had just gotten the prior week 3 month refills on my meds which includes 5 refrigerated meds. I have an extra couple months of each in that pharmacies might not always be handy when I travel (a habit from the boat). So there was approx $5-6,000 of meds in the frig. Since all of them can be a room temperature for a month, once placed in service, I don’t think they were ruined. I’m borrowing other frig space temporarily for those.

I got a mobile appliance authorized repairman out on Thursday and the. Frig needs a new thermal relay for the compressor. Part suppliers either not back open or didn’t have so part ordered from Dallas to be here Monday. Easier fix than getting old frig out and new one in. Cheaper too.

So Friday the day got above freezing so I hooked up the hose, switched from tank to city water and did my laundry. All went well except for the very end of the spin cycle. It stopped and front loading door wouldn’t open. The motor growls but the drum won’t turn. Turned it off and laundry was wrung out enough to go into the dryer. When the repairman comes Monday, I’ll have him look at it.

About 2-3 weeks ago, I bought a power management system for the motor home. I’ve never had one before cause I was too cheap. One is always plugging into some park’s power pole which may or may not be wired properly or may or may not, at the end of a ‘street’ or a very full park have enough volts/amps. Brown outs, loose or bad ground wires etc can easily take out part or all of your appliances, computers, heating systems, inverters etc. I found out how expensive it can be on my boat when a marina’s power was wired wrong at my pedestal causing reverse polarity and causing about 2 weeks repair and $20,000 in damage. So the power management system is placed between the power pedestal and the bus’s power cord. It does the simple things like preventing power surges and the more valuable work of checking polarity, ground faults, proper voltage and amps before it even will allow power to flow (about a 90 second delay). Once cleared, it continues buffering and monitoring the incoming power and I think it was helpful with all the brown outs and on/offs of power that have occurred of late. The LED display continuously shows avail amps/volts and any error messages. A problem may destroy the management system but replacing that is far less expensive than fixing the RV.

Haven’t been east to the Gulf/S. Padre Is area yet. It’s about 90 miles east. I leave here in two weeks and am thinking that rather than a side trip there, I’ll wait till I leave and make a park nearby S Padre my first stop for a few nights. From there, who knows. Don’t want to plan too far in advance!


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4 thoughts on “117. Rio Grande Valley Update”

  1. Hi Al,
    I’m glad you are doing well! It’s been very cold here also with lots of snow!
    Steve and I are living at a fun Lake while we remodel our house. It is slow going but we are happy we have another place to live!
    They just finished the drywall (ceilings also, they were popcorn) so the big mess/process is done. Now on to more fun stuff like kitchen cabinets etc..
    Take care and safe travels.
    Love, Sue
    Ps Steve’s dad is having triple bypass surgery this Thursday!

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  2. Hey, Allen. I have never seen that church. And I’ve been over that way many times. However, have you been to the La Lomita Mission? It is the Mission after which Mission, Texas was named. It’s in a little park setting with some other exhibits near the old Pepe’s on the River and is always open. I can’t tell you the name of the road to take there, but it is just down river from Chimney RV Park. Chimney Park is well known in the area and you can drive on the levee from Chimney Park to LaLomita. Also, while in Los Ebanos, did you go to the river to see the only hand drawn ferry on the Rio Grande? Take your passport with you because they now have a border station there and if you go to look at the ferry, they give you a hard time if you don’t have your passport. Don’t ask me how I know. And I’m talking, even if you don’t cross the river.

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    1. Haven’t seen LaLomita. Did see the ferry border station but turned around ‘cause I couldn’t see whether I could turn around closer to the station so didn’t see the River or ferry there. The pictured church is within a few blocks if I remember right. Have been to Mamba for fish a couple of times. I think they’re good and they are good with distancing tables and masks.

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