‘Winter Texans’ Begin Annual Trek Elsewhere
Meandering past rows of Pinnacles, Hitchhikers, Open Roads and Bounders, Bill Hoffart is home at Gateway to the Gulf RV Park in Victoria, Texas.
For the past three weeks, the 69-year-old explorer and his wife, Carolyn, who left their home in the Virgin Islands to “stretch out,” have called themselves Winter Texans by way of Victoria, the Victoria Advocate reported.
“There’s no sign of recession or depression,” Hoffart said. “We just feel great being here.”
But as the temperatures warm up, Hoffart feels the itch to drive. He and his wife plan to leave Tuesday morning for Big Bend National Park.
“We’re going to head west, then follow spring north,” Hoffart said.
Ron and Delly Wentz, owners of Gateway to the Gulf RV Park, located on U.S. Highway 59 North, said their busy months are November, January and March.
Typically, couples are packing up and heading back home in time for tax season by the first of April, Ron Wentz, 56, said. Although an early spring in the Midwest drew some Winter Texans home sooner, he said most will stay through till the end.
“There are some people who want to get home as soon as possible, for others, it’s their lifestyle and they want to experience it,” he said.
Delly Wentz, 46, said Victoria’s location makes it a prime base campsite.
It is close enough that Winter Texans can get all the benefits of the valley, or make day trips to Houston, Austin or San Antonio, without getting caught in traffic or trouble, she said.
They are seeing more first-time Winter Texans, mostly Baby Boomers who recently entered retirement, Ron Wentz said.
“They really thrive on doing – getting out to experience something,” he said. “A couple just re-upped because they realized there was more they wanted to see.”
His wife said she thinks the local Winter Texan industry will see more growth.
“I look forward to the day we can be on the other side,” she said.
LaRue Roth, Victoria Convention and Visitors Bureau director, said in an email that, for the most part, Winter Texans come to Victoria for daytrips from the Rio Grande Valley or the Rockport/Corpus Christi area.
However, some stay in Victoria as because of its central location.
“One couple from Iowa, who stopped in last week, said they picked Victoria because it was ideally located about two hours from Houston, Corpus, Austin and San Antonio,” Roth said. “They brought their motorcycles along and planned to do day trips to those cities and other smaller towns in the area.”
Jim Goinz, 68, of Bemidji, Minn., has a simple philosophy to surviving northern winters – leave.
He and his girlfriend, Vikki Devich, 60, also of Bemidji, in Victoria, Texas have escaped northern winters together for six years. This was their first in Texas.
They went to Alabama, Florida, Phoenix, trying to find the perfect climate.
“Everywhere we went wasn’t warm enough,” Goinz said.
While sitting under the sun at The PumpHouse Restaurant’s riverside patio in Victoria, the two agreed to come back and stay in Rockport again next year.
“We don’t want to be here in the summertime,” Devich said. “For us, this is the time to be away.”
Goinz said the weather is not the only perk. Because January through March is considered off-season along the Texas coast, they save financially.
Goinz said they found Victoria online and decided to make a day-trip out of it.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “If we don’t see everything we wanted, we’ll come back.”
They plan to make the 1,700-mile trek back home at the end of the month.
“Sometimes I get a little homesick,” Devich said. “But then I remind myself that it’s not warm there.”