Wrapped In Donna’s Loving Embrace

Seven months of busy travel had us longing for some time in one place, doing nothing. That, and we need to wait out winter a bit, since our return date to Orlando is May 14 and most of the country is freezing its whatsits off right now. Victoria Palms in Donna, Texas would be our first stop, for three (!!) whole weeks, and it made the ideal spot, with next to nothing that would tempt us away from “home.”

Here’s the short version of the blog:
Weeks 1-3: Did nothing.

For the longer version, keep reading.

Wasting three hours in a post office parking lot, because we only had a one-hour drive between campgrounds and check-in isn’t until 3pm.

We were given a free one-year Thousand Trails membership with Encore Resorts when we purchased Fati, and our membership was coming to an end. Donna and Harlingen Texas each have Thousand Trails Encore Resorts, so we headed on down to the state’s Southwestern corner, where we’d spend five weeks (including a week split between South Padre Island and Brownsville, not in the Thousand Trails system) relaxing, cleaning, and writing.

Laundry day! Clean sheets! Clean rugs! Clean dog bedding!!

We did pop out for a hike at Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park where, if you’ve been following us on Facebook, you know we weren’t allowed on the tram with a dog (in spite of being told dogs are allowed everywhere) and we finally, finally saw Javelina. Eleven, in total.

They DO exist! We knew it all along.

We also paid a visit to Estero Llano Grande State Park for some high-level bird-watching, having so enjoyed our time watching the Sandhill Cranes in Willcox, Arizona. But no water means no birds, and this area of Texas was having a bit of a dry spell.

“Where the heck IS everything?”

“Where the heck IS everything?”

To make the trip worthwhile, we stopped at the wildly popular Nana’s Taqueria, (as recommended by everyone and their brother) not far from the park. This is a local hot-spot, but it’s tucked away just enough that you won’t find it if you’re not specifically looking for it.

Nana’s courtyard feels like a plaza in Mexico.

We agreed to split a Nana’s Sampler of two steak tacos, one chalupa, and one ground beef loncha, while Simon ordered a Bohemia beer. There were seven Mexican beers on the menu, and we only knew what the Corona was like, so Susan asked our server which ones were not too heavy, and not dark. The server wasn’t sure, but said she’d ask the bartender, so Susan said, “Thank you! Just have them surprise me.”

There is a beer bottle missing from this photo because it’s too ashamed of itself to show its face.

Our server returned with chips, salsa, the Bohemia, and a Michelob Ultra.

Now, we have a rule in our house: if you’re going to drink, drink good. In restaurants, choose something representative of the place you’re in, and, ideally, opt for something locally made.

Only once in the last four decades has Susan endured a mainstream beer, and that’s when we were in Georgia. The day had been long and taxing, and when we asked our server at the BBQ joint which craft beers they had on tap, she said, “We got Bud, and we got Bud Lite. In bottles.”

With nowhere to go but up at Nana’s, we dove into our shared meal. There’s a reason this place is so popular, from the salsa’s fresh-from-the-garden flavors to the hearty chunks of steak and silky-smooth crema that topped it all off.

Chalupa on the left, loncha in the middle, steak tacos on the right.

We gobbled like puercos (pigs), and when we were done we decided we weren’t done. Simon ordered the Tacos La Patrona, featuring three corn tortillas topped with fajita meat, queso panela, avocado, and chicharonne (deep-fried pork rinds).

Normally, Susan avoids pork rinds. Some things should not be eaten. But these…holy mother of gawd, they were SO delicious! None of that awful pig-in-a-barnyard taste, just a subtle flavor that made us feel like we were in someone’s abuela’s kitchen, eating food made by loving hands.

We’d scarfed down two of the three before we remembered to take a photo. Then Simon scarfed down the last one.

We’d had no breakfast that morning, and didn’t bother with dinner that night. We’d really only eaten the equivalent of one entrée each, but some food fills the soul as much as the belly, and nothing else was needed.

As our second week came to an end, an Arctic blast descended on the country, including southwestern Texas, and the bone-chilling cold made sure we spent three days tucked up in Fati, trying to keep warm.

We did venture out into the freeze to pick up some hot tamales from Delia’s Tamales in San Juan, Texas, not too far away. Everyone around here says Delia’s are the best, so how could we say no? You can only order them by the half-dozen or dozen, so we got three half-dozens (pork, beef, and spicy chicken in green sauce), and made them last for four meals each. A gigantic to-go cup of Horchata was enough for two. Score!

Yes, I’m wearing a robe but no, it isn’t morning or bedtime. It’s just freezing, and this is one of about four layers.

We’ve been enjoying the quiet time at “home,” doing a lot of writing (Susan’s writing a children’s book, Simon’s finishing the Africa book), so much so that we transferred our booking at a campground in Harlingen (22 miles away) and we’re staying another 11 days at Victoria Palms.

So our next blog might have more food in it, since there’s one more place we’ve been told we have to try, but really, it’s going to be, Week 3-5: Did nothing.