Tropical Trails – Month One (January 27 – February 27, 2023)

On Friday, January 27th, Jan had her initial appointment with her new PCP in Kerrville scheduled for 9:15 am.  Since it was 350 miles from Kerrville to Brownsville, we decided to drive separately, rather than arrive after dark.  We packed up early and Phil got on the road by 8:45 am and arrived at Tropical Trails by 2:45 pm.  Jan arrived a few hours later. 

We had stayed at Tropical Trails for three months during January – April 2000.  It had been the campground’s grand opening, and we had a good time with the small group of campers who stayed here then, many of whom we are still in touch with.  Despite this, we swore we would not return to Tropical Trails due to the nearly constant strong winds.  However, since then we have followed the activities at the campground on Facebook.  This, combined with a desire to return to South Padre Island and Progresso, Mexico, led us to give it another chance.

Upon our arrival, the most obvious difference was that virtually all 240 sites were filled.  In 2000, there had only been about 30 rigs here at the peak.  Another change was that a large number of the sites are now covered with blue canopies.  One thing that hadn’t changed was the thick mud surrounding the concrete pad.  Although there was more ground cover than three years ago, a light drizzle as Phil was getting set up quickly turned it into a mess.  He soon had mud up to his knees and was scraping ½”-thick mud clods off his shoes.

After a rainy Saturday, we headed out on Sunday to the Don-Wes Flea Market in Donna, TX.  We found the parking lot much less full than in the past.  As we walked around, we quickly learned the reason.  The main building, which had held most of the stalls, was gone.  We learned that the building had burned down in July 2022.  We made a few purchases, but not as many as we had anticipated.

On Monday, Phil went to play pickleball.  In 2000, Phil had been one of the few campers who had played the game before, and he spent a lot of time teaching the others.  This time, things are quite different.  Advanced players are scheduled from 9-11 am, with beginners from 11-12.  Phil arrived before 9 am and the four courts were already packed.  He spent more time waiting to play than playing, until people started leaving shortly before 11.  Jan headed to the fitness center, which was also popular.

That afternoon, Tropical Trails was holding a Welcome Back event, with free pulled pork sandwiches and a deejay.  Although the event was scheduled from 1 – 3, they were about out of food when we arrived at 2:15.  When we arrived, the entire pool area was packed and we quickly realized that we should have brought our own chairs.  We ended up bringing the food back to our rig.

A strong storm front brought cold weather to much of the United States over the next few days.  Kerrville got below freezing temperatures and ¾” of ice.  Although Brownsville is only 300 miles south of Kerrville, we were spared the ice storm and the freezing weather.  We still had several days with highs in the mid-40s, which largely kept us indoors.

Although it had only warmed slightly by Friday morning, Phil headed back to the pickleball courts.  There were a few other hearty souls playing, albeit bundled up.

By Saturday, February 4th, it had warmed up enough for us to venture out to South Padre Island for the first time in 2023.  We listened to music at Longboard, then headed to Pier 19 for dinner.  In the past, we drove through the KOA campground to reach Pier 19.  This time, as we drove through the campground, we couldn’t find our way to the pier.  Upon checking the Internet, we learned that Pier 19 is now permanently closed.  As an alternative, we drove to Port Isabel and had dinner at Joe’s Oyster Bar.

On Sunday, we hung out by the pool listening to music provided by a deejay.  It was good that we remembered our chairs this time, since all the pool chairs were taken.  As is typical in resorts, people come out early in the morning to claim the lounge chairs for the afternoon.

On Tuesday, we drove to South Padre Island and took a two-hour cruise with 38 of our fellow campers from Tropical Trails.  It was a windy day, with a small craft advisory, so the boat captain kept us in the bay and along the canals between the homes of the rich, and possibly famous.  We were very well fed, with servings of grilled shrimp and fajitas filled with beef, chicken and grilled fish. A couple of musicians kept us entertained throughout the trip.

On Thursday morning, Phil participated in a pickleball tournament.  It was pretty low-key and, although they did record scores of the eight games, they never announced an overall winner.  On Friday, we attended our first shrimp boil of the season.  While the food was being prepared, we sat outside and listened to Kenny Ray Horton perform.  It was rather cool and windy, so the audience was bundled up and glad to move inside when the food was ready.  In addition to the peel-and-eat shrimp, we had potatoes, Italian sausage, corn on the cob and a roll.

Jan’s cousin, Lori Davis, and Lori’s husband, Bruce, came to South Padre Island (SPI) for the weekend.  After the shrimp boil on Friday, we drove to their hotel and delivered a coconut cream pie Jan had made for them.  On Saturday morning, we returned to SPI and met Lori and Bruce at Yummies Bistro for brunch.  The food was excellent.  Jan and Lori each ordered a Spanish macchiato, a deluxe coffee concoction which the barista had decorated beautifully with a floral design.  We then took Lori and Bruce for a driving tour of SPI.  We stopped outside the gates to Isla Blanca State Park and walked a loop around the park and along the Gulf-side beach.  Afterward, we drove to Longboard and listened to live music for a couple of hours.  We then had dinner outdoors on the deck at Louie’s Backyard.  The high temperature for the day was only in the upper 50s, but the sun made it feel good.  As the sun set while we were eating dinner, it cooled off rapidly and we decided to call it a day.

The cool and windy weather continued for most of the next week.  Other than Phil playing pickleball every morning, we didn’t spend much time outdoors.  Phil participated in a pickleball dink tournament on Thursday, but found it to be a rather boring format.  Jan got a massage at the campground on Friday.

On Sunday, February 19th, we attended the Los Fresnos PRCA Rodeo.  The weather was in the upper 70s and quite sunny, so it was a great day to be outdoors.  We arrived two hours before the rodeo and spent the time wandering around the fairgrounds.  We had some lunch, listened to live music, checked out the livestock, and attended a ventriloquist performance.

The rodeo itself was a sellout, with rather tight seating for over 8,000 attendees, and the professional rodeo cowboys put on an excellent show.  The events included bareback bronc riding and saddle bronc riding; calf roping, team roping, and breakaway roping; steer wrestling; barrel racing; and bull riding.  Kids ages 4 – 7 participated in mutton bustin’, in which they attempted barebare riding on a sheep.  Kids in grades 3 – 5 participated in calf scrambles, in which they attempted to chase down calves and capture the ribbon attached to the animals’ tails.

On Tuesday, we observed the golf cart Mardi Gras parade around the campground.  The turnout was rather small, due to the extremely strong winds.  On Thursday, we gathered by the pool for live music provided by Leslie Blasing.

On Friday, February 24th, the pickleball group gathered for pictures, sporting the new Tropical Trails pickleball shirts.  That afternoon, we headed to South Padre Island and attended SPI Market Days at the Convention Center.  We then stopped at Clayton’s for some fish tacos and listened to live music provided by a couple known as The DuOver.

On Saturday, we visited the 77 Flea Market.  Despite it being very hot, we wandered through almost all the massive venue.  Although there really was not much of interest to us, we did manage to buy a nice selection of fresh fruit and only spent a total of $5.50.

On Monday, Phil participated in a Pickleball Boot Camp, in which JR, a certified pickleball trainer and former Marine drill sergeant, provided tips to improve the participants’ play.