Posted on Nov 23rd 2018
(From Chapala to RGV)
After 13 years in Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico, the need for a lower elevation, as well as Medicare & VA facilities, caused us to choose another location. We landed in Tucson, which had all those things, and stayed there for four years. Our house was comfortable and the yard was ‘desert landscaped’, so it was easy living. However, it was rather boring and few were interested in befriending old folks. The elevation was about 1500 feet lower, so breathing was somewhat easier, with less use of oxygen required. But, wanderlust began to set in, as it always does.
Inn our RV days, after retirement in 1998, we had spent a few winters in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, just ten miles from the border with Mexico and with a delightful winter climate. “Winter Texan Snowbirds” congregate there by the thousands and populate the many RV resorts for six months of dances, BBQ, birding, hiking, and enjoying the Mexican culture on both sides of the border; especially shopping, eating and visiting dentists in Nuevo Progresso, Tamaulipas, just across the Rio Grande, or more properly; Rio Bravo del Norte in Spanish.
So, on 25 September, 2018, we drove from Tucson to Texas for an exploratory trip. Our Nissan Sentra whisked us to the West Texas high desert town of Sonora on the first day, and on to the Rio Grande Valley on the second.
Online exploration, along with our 20 year old familiarity with the area, led us to look at five homes in the Alamo Country Club; a 55+ gated community with golf and all the usual clubhouse and recreational facilities, nice walking trails and even wildlife, all right in the middle of Alamo, TX, with easy access to shopping, Medical facilities in McAllen and Harlingen; 15 and 30 minutes away, respectively. By noon, we had a contract on a house, returned to our hotel, a block away, and got some rest. On the 28th, Louise put the pedal to the metal and the Sentra whisked us back to Tucson in a day and a half, with an overnight in Ft. Stockton, TX, at the very old but now elegantly re-done Budget Motel, which has budget rooms for $100 with no dog; that would be $20 more. However, the place is rather amazing and the nearby restaurants are pure Texas fare. We had chicken fried steak, beans and all the fixings we could handle! It was a treat. Sunday was a day of rest & planning in Tucson. We needed that!
Since we were now committed to a house in Texas, it seemed wise to select a realtor and sell the house in Tucson. We researched people, sales and listings in our area and chose Armando Tavares, of Long Realty. He took our listing on Tuesday, had the professional photographer there on Wednesday and scheduled an Open House for Friday. Meanwhile, on Thursday, 4 November, there were several showings. Things happen fast with internet access to new listings. Before the Open House even started, on Saturday, we had an offer for a price just above our asking price. We accepted! By the end of the day, we had another offer in hand, as back-up, in case the first did not prove to be successful. But, it was, and the buyer was pre-qualified. Closing was scheduled for November 15th, so it was time to plan the move.
A quick phone call to our Texas realtor lady, Yuri Mayorga, and we were scheduled for early closing in Alamo on 9 November. Both closings can be done with online signatures and our physical presence is not really necessary. That does make travel plans easier, but for one small detail: All our stuff, which magically grew to a house-full from an SUV-full when we moved from Mexico.
Fortunately, we sold the Tucson house completely furnished, and the Texas house was newly renovated and furnished for rental, including all the necessities for a visitor with just a toothbrush. Nevertheless, the Sentra could not carry much more than us, dog, and suitcases. So, we returned to our Nissan dealership; traded the car for a Nissan Frontier Crew Cab pick-up truck with a five foot bed and a tow package. I always admired the Frontier as a very practical vehicle for multiple purposes, and we had loved our 1999 Pathfinder SUV, which is the same chassis. Now, we had options! PODS were about $2000, but a U-Haul was only $160, and we had to load either choice. Home Depot had all the boxes and packing materials we needed, so you know how we spent our “waiting time”. We filled 28 boxes (18x18x16) and still had a lot of loose stuff. After staging it in the family room, we figured we could use a 5X8 U-Haul closed cargo trailer, and the back of the truck to complete our move.
We sent funds to Texas for the closing there and arranged all the utility and medical details; mostly by phone and local drop-offs of modems and routers.
On 9 November, we picked up a U-Haul and loaded it until it could hold no more. On the next morning, Saturday, Armando came to do the final inspection and to help us load the back of the truck. We had a tarp, and ratcheted tie-down straps, which just barely accommodated the remainder of our belongings. We were on our way to Texas!
It took half an hour to get from our house to I-10 Eastbound, where Louise put her recently acquired driving skills to the test, with the addition of a trailer in tow. It does say 55 MPH on the fenders, but she was soon cruising at 65, and then 70, which she found quite comfortable and in compliance with the speed limits in both AZ and NM. At St. Simon, AZ, just six miles before NM, we decided to use the rest stop and walk the dog. That is when the left wheel of the U-Haul departed the scene; never to be seen again. We came to a stop in the exit lane, where I took over and dragged the tilted trailer on its left springs, throwing sparks, to the first parking spot near a picnic area. Now what?
It was windy and cold in the high desert, with nothing for miles around. Cell towers are rare and we were too new to a smart phone too know how to deal with it. Fortunately, the rest stop maintenance worker, Carlos, came to our rescue and called the U-Haul road service number. An impossibly difficult lady could not understand that it was equipment failure, not an accident, and insisted on filling out an accident report, in spite of no injuries and no police; she was easily confused. Eventually, she said she would send a towing company to arrive in 90 minutes, from Lordsburg, NM, some 26 miles to the east. Well, the wrecker had a flat tire, and arrived a few hours late. We froze, snacked on granola bars, and waited. When Jesse, the wrecker driver, arrived, he had no tools and no jack; but Carlos came to the rescue with a jack to level the trailer and get us un-hooked. With some difficulty, Jesse winched the U-Haul onto the flat-bed and we followed him to Lordsburg, where he dropped us at Day’s Inn, close to his wrecking yard, and drove off with everything we owned…..and a promise to call us in the morning.
A much more competent 77 year-old U-Haul gentleman agreed that they would pick up the tab for hotel and meals, and that even the professional movers might not be able to repack a replacement 5x8 trailer as tight as we had done, with time to spare. So, they upgraded us to a 6x10 trailer; if they could find one somewhere in the desert. We ate and slept amazingly well.
Sunday morning: U-Haul came through with an even bigger 6x12 trailer with surge brakes. Heavy, with enough room to pack and go camping too! It, and two professional movers would be at the yard at 11:25 AM. Well, the trailer was there, and we caught Jesse there too. However, there were no movers to be had. Jesse was called to a series of wrecks, as he is a one-man-show at Badlands Towing and Recovery. We begged him, as a local resident, to find someone; anyone, to help us unload and reload. Yes, it was still windy and winter had definitely arrived in the 4000’ high desert, and we were freezing! Jesse did manage to find Tiara, all 300 lbs of her, and her string bean 127 lb 15 year-old son. She was amazing and he was compliantly useful. They got the job done, and U-Haul would also pay them. But…..by now it was suppertime on Sunday and we were in our usual state: Exhausted frozen, and hungry! Back to the hotel with the new trailer in tow, and a short stop at the Love’s Truck Stop to pick up some pizzas. We slept very well again. At 5:00 AM, Monday morning, we awoke to a 24ºF windy morning, but were ready to go; wearing double shirts and light jackets. The new trailer behaved at 80 MPH and we were eating up the desert, and the truck was guzzling gasoline. At one point, we got too low and had to make a 26 mile round trip, off to a remote mining town of Iraan, TX, where we put $57 of gasoline in our little truck at the general store!
Onward and eastward, we managed to reach Ozona, TX after another West Texas winter day. Nothing there, but a very nice Quality Inn, which accepted our dog, Missy, and……we slept well again; now able to unwind a bit from the ordeal of the fly-away wheel. On Tuesday, we finished the trip through San Antonio, then four hours south to the land of palm trees and warmth in the Rio Grande Valley. Well, there was a cold snap there, too, but all things are relative. It was 68ºF in the afternoon, with normal mid-70s due by the weekend.
We managed to make a call on the new smart phone, to Yuri, who would meet us at our new home. Actually, she brought a friend, and those two girls unloaded the trailer in no time, and even took everything inside the house with our hand cart. All utilities were functioning, so ‘we are at home’.
We dropped off the trailer at a nearby U-Haul location, right there in Alamo, and made a raid on the huge Walmart Supercenter for groceries and a Mohu TV leaf antenna, and here we are; finding our way around a new house. Well, it is 21 years old, but the Tucson house was 46 years old. All things are relative. The antenna brings us a lot of local channels, from both sides of the border, but we still want cable for CNN, History, Discovery, HGTV, etc.
The good news is that this new house was half the price of the ‘old house’, and we like the brand new granite counters, double vanities, all ceramic tile floors, and even new water heater, softener, and such. I love my new walk-in shower, and Louise is very happy to have her own bathroom with both tub and shower. The dishwasher is smaller, but it will do the job for the two of us. The laundry room is separate, off the carport, and there is even a reverse-osmosis water unit for drinking water to the kitchen sink. A downside: Another one of those damned glass-top stoves!!! Oh, there is a separate little garage, with an overhead door, just for a golf cart. After all; we are in the Alamo Country Club…….but, we don’t play golf. The hot tub awaits, along with the gym, billiard room, theater/event room/kitchen, library, shuffleboard, tennis, etc. at the clubhouse.
Oh yes! We have a guest room and a couch with a bed inside. Last, but not least: We are scheduled for internet/WiFi/TV installation at 8AM Sunday morning, when I will be able to send you this long and tedious story.
Meanwhile, we have made another excursion to the Supercenter, and a stop at True Value Hardware.
Then, there was the obligatory and promised visit to an old favorite, from 20 years ago; The Original and famous Willie’s BBQ right here in Alamo. Just parking by the smokehouse is a treat, but the feasting is what its all about! The huge combo plate of pulled pork, BBQ brisket, beans, mac & cheese, potato salad, green salad and a quart of iced tea will cure any weary traveler……and provide food for the next day, too!
Sunday morning has arrived, as has Luis from Spectrum. He is now installing new lines for the internet modem and TV router. We will be back to normal in a couple of hours, send this to you, and then begin the online quest for a few more furniture pieces; once we decide upon placement, size, color and…….need vs. want. But first, there are those Thanksgiving left-overs………
All the best…..we survived it,
Bob and Louise
Alamo, TX 78516