Friday, November 13, 2009

Our Mission: Get to Mission

extended living room

    Having traveled nearly 3800 miles through WI, MN, SD, WY, CO, UT, AZ, NM, and TX, we finally arrived at Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort in Mission, TX on November 1, right on schedule (yes, even retired people have to meet a deadline now and again). As exciting as our wandering was, it’s nice to sit still a while. At least the RV has sat still. We’re still exploring and will continue to do so.
   Our site, in RV parlance, is a “back-in”. During our time on the road when we were in a site for only a day or two, we preferred a “pull-through” when we didn’t have to unhook the RV from the truck. Just leveled the rig, hooked up water and electric and greatly minimized our housekeeping. 
   The disadvantage of a pull-through is that the view out the back of the RV (our “living room” is located in the rear) usually isn't ideal. A “back-in”, typically has a much nicer outlook...or rather, lookout. Our unrestricted winter site view is of an expansive grassy agricultural field with Brahma bulls in the distance often being stalked by a large flock of Cattle Egret. Vermillion Flycatchers and Golden-fronted Woodpeckers frequent the fence line. This week White-tailed Kites have been hunting over the field. And in the evening, Common Pauraque call and on occasion have landed immediately behind our RV. The feeders we’ve set up have attracted both Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers (Golden-fronted love grapefruit). Black-chinned and Ruby-crowned Hummingbirds are regulars as are a couple of Buff-bellied Hummingbirds (a very special Rio-Grande Valley bird).

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Buff-bellied Humminbird 
   Many sites we encountered during our trek to Mission were compacted gravel or in some instances plain grass. Our site at Bentsen is a level concrete pad with ample room for our RV and truck. One side of the pad has an extension of concrete bordered by native shrubs and trees – our extended living room. This arrangement wouldn’t work in WI in the winter for obvious reasons. But in a much more temperate climate like TX, it’s ideal. The site includes “full-hookup”: water, electric, and sewer. There is also a cable TV connection and wireless broadband included in our monthly site rental fee. 
   The park is populated with “Winter Texans”, folks from all over the US and Canada, all with one main desire – to avoid winter’s cold. When we first arrived the park was about ¼ full but now as November has advanced, the park is filling up. January and February are the most desired months.
Mexican Bluewing (which never sat still but you get the idea of color/pattern) 
   Bentsen is a very popular RV winter destination. Reserving a site wasn’t easy. There's usually a waiting list. Although our on-site visit in March helped pave the way to reserving a site, we were only able to reserve one through mid-January. Another RV couple had made a prior reservation which began then. A bit tenuous not having a site reserved for longer but the park management felt confident that they could put us somewhere after mid-January.
   When we arrived it was explained that we could indeed stay through March, but, based on existing reservations we would have to move at least twice within the park. Maybe three times. However, just this past week we learned of a cancellation at another back-in site similar to the one we're in. We spoke with park management (they're always so friendly and accommodating!) and worked out an arrangement to take the canceled site. And, we can have the site until we want to leave. Yay! Now we'll only have to make one move. We will make it next Monday (11/16). We'll be moving from site 234 to site 215 (map) and stay there through the end of March when we plan to depart for WI. Better still, we won't have to move our trailer to storage while we're in Ecuador in February. Double yay!

this one's for Jess - Texas Horned Lizard

   In addition to full-hookup, Bentsen offers several other amenities. Two laundry areas, a swimming pool and spa, a large activity center/library (Tom is already scheduled to present a program on one of our Costa Rica trips), exercise equipment, an extensive wood working shop, and free access to Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park/World Birding Center. Canoes, kayaks, and a pontoon boat are available to use on the Rio Grande River which borders a section of park. The park and surrounding property (approximately 4,000 acres) that fall within its borders may be explored on foot, by bike, or by 4-wheel drive. A palapa (an open air thatched roof shelter) is available for large group gatherings along the Rio Grande. Worried about getting lost? The ever present Border Patrol (also friendly and accommodating to the extent they can be) is more than willing to help point you in the right direction.  
   When we stopped at Davis Mountain State Park we purchased a Texas Parks Pass. It’s a card rather than a window sticker as in WI. Cost was $60 but we have more than made that back with discounts during our stays at Davis Mountain and Falcon State Parks. Since we arrived at Bentsen, we’ve visited a few other state parks using our card, which is valid for twelve months from the time of purchase, not at the end of the calendar year as in WI.
Carol on aerial walk at Santa Anna NWR

   We’ve quickly learned our way around the area. Local grocery stores, hardware stores, birdseed stores, gas stations, etc. Oh, and we’re zeroing in on restaurant recommendations on both sides of the border. Then there are the birding areas. We purchased a copy of “A Birder’s Guide to the Rio Grande Valley” (Lockwood, McKinney, Paton, Zimmer). It’s our bible for getting to all the best birding spots. We’ve also signed up to receive postings from TexBirds, an indispensable resource like the Wisconsin Birding Network in WI. We’ve already added a few life birds and ABA ticks and no doubt more to come. Northern migrants are just now starting to dribble in. Saw our first Yellow-rumped Warbler a few days ago.
   We're meeting more and more folks as they arrive and of course we're still hanging out with the Smiths. They're a short walk away in a "Super Site" which has extra parking space and a small storage building for their extra stuff...extra stuff we hope not to accumulate!
Happy Hour with friends seen from our patio - typical view on most evenings


  1. Hi Tom and Carol. I was quite happy to have found your blog. I enjoyed reading about your trails since moving, and look forward to reading more. Not being a camper myself, I will be able to live it vicariously through your blog. Glad you are enjoying yourselves. Marie Rohrer, Neenah, WI.

  2. I'm sure it's a good thing not to have to worry about moving, I recall that from my old RV days. We got a big snowstorm overnight, and I'm so glad I filled the feeders. We have a spotted towhee, stellar jay, bunch of house finches, pygmy nuthatches, chicadees, western juncos, etc.
    This week, I heard of a house in the neighborhood that earlier this year had a saw whet owl run into their window, they identified it while it was stunned. wow, that would be a lifer for me.
    Our dog Sherlock, undergoing chemo for lymphoma, came face to butt with a skunk last night when I took him out for his business, but I was able to yank him out of harms way in time for both of us! yikes.
    enjoying your blog and your bird reports.