The Drive To Del Rio From the West
From Sanderson, it’s about an hour and a half of no civilization eastbound to Del Rio. It’s beautiful, in my opinion, during the springtime when recent rainfall has left the normally dry and dead desert shrubbery different shades of light to dark green. After crossing the Val Verde County line, you’ll eventually run into Seminole Canyon State Park and the Pecos River – which again, is quite gorgeous. Even if you don’t stop at Langtry (the site of a legendary Judge Roy Bean’s courtroom, which also doubled as a saloon) or Seminole Canyon State Park, you will probably be as amazed as I was at the natural cut that both the Rio Grande and the Pecos River have made in the local terrain – it is actually quite beautiful.
Other Restaurants. Del Rio also has the standard fast-food restaurants. Chick-Fil-A just opened a year or so ago and is still a big hit, as is Panda Express (even newer). No Denny’s (bummer for me), but an IHOP. Applebee’s and Chili’s. Buffalo Wings & Rings. But, let’s talk about some unique places. Keep in mind, my wife and I don’t eat out much, but when we do – here’s where we prefer:
Walmart does have a decent supply of amenities, and Home Depot, Russel's True Value, AutoZone, and O’Reilly Auto Parts are a weekly stop-off for the Do-It-Yourselfer in me. There are a few furniture stores in town, a decent-sized small-town mall (Marshalls, Ross, Bealls, JC-Penny, and a small Cinemark theatre along with the standard small-shops).
My wife is pretty satisfied with the beauty salons such locally. I don’t know much about that sort of stuff, but she’s still been able to maintain being sexy since we got here.
Banking can be a challenge if you are used to the larger banks like Wells Fargo or Chase. Neither of these banks exist in Del Rio, the closest being San Antonio or San Angelo. So, you can either online bank, or work with a local branch.
We give UPS, USPS, and FedEx quite a bit of business with Amazon Prime and Ebay – simply because the closest drive to anything that we can’t find in town is either three hours north in San Angelo or three hours east in San Antonio.
Auto care in Del Rio isn’t really the greatest, unfortunately. The normal car dealerships are all here – so you have plenty of a selection for new and used vehicles Service isn’t superior, however – I’ve struggled to find a good combination of honest and affordable. H’s Audio was decent, however, when I visited them – they do more than audio (most of the standard mechanic stuff), and have arguably the cheapest labor costs in town. Thompson Tire is also decent for tires and alignments. Southwest Motors is also decent – they were great for me, and for many others that I’ve spoken to. Of course, each place has the occasional bad review too – and that scares many transplants to San Antonio. I’ve just become more of a do-it-yourself kind of guy because of the lack of auto repair amenities locally.
VVRMC used to have a somewhat bad reputation – but from what I here, it’s gotten much better. My wife and I had our daughter here, and, given the circumstances, it was as pleasant of an experience as we would have gotten in most small towns. Granted, our daughter needed some extra medical attention (pre-mature), so she had to be ambulanced to San Antonio for more intensive care. She turned out just perfect, if you’re curious. Del Rio is a small town – with not a huge doctor presence – so many folks head to San Antonio for healthcare, but it’s nice to know that Del Rio (as well as Uvalde and Eagle Pass) does have plenty of resources, if you need them.
Housing in Del Rio is a bit more expensive than many parts of rural Texas. I think this is because of the Border Patrol and Air Force presence (decent wages). There are a lot of very nice neighborhoods and elegant houses in Del Rio, especially on the north side of town and south near the San Felipe Creek and near the Val Verde Winery. The north side is definitely populated by the more transient population (federal employees), where the mid-section (lettered and numbered streets) and south of the railroad tracks are more populated by Del Rio Natives. Some houses are barely hanging on, others look like mansions. You can pay a little, or you can pay a lot – it’s up to you. From what I’ve seen, rent runs from about $700-1100 for a small house and can run over $2000 for a larger house near the lake or on the north end of town. The buying market seems to ebb and flow with the summer-moving cycle of the Border Patrol and the Air Force Base – but decent houses can be bought between about $130,000 to $225,000…and even more if you want something real nice.
If you are looking to rent (or buy, for that matter), we use Texas Heritage Realty. Very friendly staff that will really take time out of their day to ensure you get the perfect house for your family. And no, they didn’t give me a discount for referring them.
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Cost of Living
Del Rio is not expensive, really. While maybe a tad more pricey than other towns in rural Texas, you can make it by in decent shape, if you are wise with your money (that’s the key). The bills start adding up when you pay for more amenities and services (yard care and housekeeping, for example). A lot of folks (especially the transient population of federal employees) drive a lot of back and forth to San Antonio for shopping and entertainment - and that can add up.
Utilities aren’t terrible, but they aren’t cheap, either. I think we pay about $200 or so a month for water, sewer, trash, and electric, if you average it out across the year, but we have a smaller house and are pretty conservative with utility usage (it was cheaper in Tucson for us).
While San Antonio is the go-to place, there are plenty of other towns much closer. San Angelo is also about that same distance as San Antonio and offers just about everything, but San Antonio is larger. The drive to San Antonio takes about three hours (two and a half for lead-foots), and, after about the tenth time, feels like a drive down the street. The longest part of the drive (as far as level of boredom) is between Del Rio and Uvalde. From Uvalde to San Antonio, you will enjoy a number of small towns and farmland to break up the monotony – especially Hondo, recently taking flack for its “God’s County” welcome sign.
Since Del Rio can be a drive from just about anywhere, it’s always a great deal to become a AAA member, or pay for some roadside assistance elsewhere. Usually, a membership will pay for itself in just one call.
Like all places, Del Rio is what you make of it. I’ve met a number of people – some natives, others transplants – that say Del Rio is the best place they’ve ever lived. Other people choose to hate Del Rio – some with good reasons, others just because. One of the local Game Wardens in San Angelo once told me that his wife came to Del Rio crying, and then fell in love with it and left crying. I won’t lie, if you don’t like hot weather, Hispanic culture, or remoteness – Del Rio probably won’t be at the top of your list. On the other hand, warm winters, Tex-Mex, and a little bit of peace and quiet away from the big-city hustle and bustle is what I enjoy about this town. It’s not perfect, nor is it my favorite, but it clearly is exactly as I said – what you make it, and I will miss it when it comes time to leave.
Dan Schreiber is an operational meteorologist, with experience