Escape from Winter - 2012 travel blog

LLano Grande

Tropic Star

Tropic Star


We’ve lived in the Chicago area all our lives and as we began to travel farther afield, we grew rather disenchanted with our home base. Although the Chicago lake front was spectacular in the summer, we hated the long, gray winters; traffic jams; flat, boring scenery; expensive real estate prices and grew bored with the familiar. We wondered why so many new people kept moving there. It definitely was a case of the grass is always greener.

So in the last ten years we worked, we began to research various attractive areas of the country with more than tourism in mind. We quickly discovered that no place is perfect. Hawaii may be paradise, but our expensive real estate prices couldn’t hold a candle to the prices there and island living could become confining. The weather in San Diego was wonderful, too, but if we bought a home there, we would have no money left to do anything else. We visited Florida in the summer and found the heat and humidity just as oppressive as the long winters were at home. Places further north may have had less wintry winters than Chicago has, but they were wintry nevertheless and their summers hotter and more humid than ours. We learned that we are urban people; taking advantage of the culture a big city provides is important to us. Being near a big airport that offers decent fares on non stop flights overseas is also. Our explorations brought us to the decision to keep our home where it was and to buy a nice RV. We have been following good weather looking for interesting destinations ever since, spending time at home in parts of spring, summer and fall. We appreciate friends and family nearby and the Midwestern values that we used to take for granted.

After making a few naive mistakes we have learned that there are very few spots that we can drive to that are comfortable in January - the most southern parts of Florida, Texas, Arizona and California. Mexico used to be on that list, but these days the bad news has kept up north of the border. So now we have turned our quest for the perfect place to live to the best place to camp in each of these areas.

We have returned to Tropic Star in Pharr for the third time because it has so many activities, we never worry about running out of things to do. It’s proximity to McAllen satisfies our shopping and cinema needs. But it’s an older campground and the sites are narrow for behemoths like us. Internet coverage is sketchy and we have to go the lodge whenever we want to download anything more substantial than email and web pages. There are only two tennis courts so competition is fierce to get a chance to play There are easily twenty other campgrounds of similar size in the valley and that always makes us wonder if Tropic Star is the best place for us.

So we stopped at LLano Grande, nestled in a bend of the Resaca River. It has a real golf course on the property (for fee) rather than the chipping course at Tropic Star (for free). This park has grown over the years and the sites in the newer areas were more spacious; they were also more expensive. Internet was available park wide, but none of the lodges placed in each section as it was developed were very large. Many of the large activities and performances we enjoy at Tropic Star would not be possible here. While it was closer to Padre Island than we are now, Llano Grande was a long drive from a town of any size. Our quest for perfection will continue.

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