If you notice fewer RVs coming back into the area next fall, it could be because they're already here.
Local RV park operators say more Winter Texans stored their recreational vehicles in the Rio Grande Valley when they went home this spring to not burn fuel hauling them back next season.
Bonnie Dominguez, the manager at Fun N Sun RV Resort in San Benito, said Winter Texans who reserve a space for the 2008-09 season only have to pay a nominal storage fee to leave their mobile home behind. She said there are more RVs in storage at her facility this year than in any other she can remember.
At Sunshine RV Park in Harlingen, manager Lon Huff estimated the number of RVs now in storage is a 30-percent increase over past years.
It's all because of the high gas prices, Dominguez said.
She said the skyrocketing fuel costs have also spurred a 30-person waiting list of Winter Texans who want to rent park models at Fun N Sun. She hopes this year's renters will become next year's owners when Winter Texans realize the benefits of owning a park model.
At Tropic Winds RV Resort in Harlingen, sales director Susan Pritchett said the 11 park models available for sale last year are sold, and all six rental units are reserved for next season.
Winter Texans have said they don't want to haul a rig, but "they're not willing to give up coming to the Valley," she said.
After eight years of spending the winter in the Valley, Jim and Marjorie Hughes of Frankfort, Ohio, bought a park model at Tropic Winds RV Resort.
The last time they pulled their RV from Ohio to the Valley, Marjorie said, it cost them about $100 per day on a four-day, 1,500-mile trip. She estimated the same trip would now cost them at least $1,000.
The Hugheses have even decided to leave a car here in the off season. Now, they fly between the Valley and Ohio.
Paying $2,200 annual lot rental for their park model is more economical than $1,200 for three months' rent, she said.
"For us, that was the way to go," she said.
Both Fun N Sun and Sunshine RV Park are offering "early bird" discounts for Winter Texans who arrive early or stay later in the 2008-09 season, Huff said.
"We're concerned about the gas prices, too," Huff said. "We need to give them a reason to come back."