I do not like cold winter weather any more. I like the warmth of the southern states. I want to help people when I see an honest need. How could I combine my selfish desire to go south for a few days to escape the cold, and help somebody at the same time? In previous years, I have gone on mission trips to Guatemala and Mexico which were both warm and rewarding. This year, I wanted to do something different that was more outside the box. Then I thought of my old friend Harry. Harry is a 90-year-old man who goes to my church. I have known Harry since I was a kid. His daughter was a classmate of mine, and Harry was also a good friend of my dad. Harry was the service manager at the local Ford dealership for many years and also ran the big wrecker for the dealership. He also fixed lawn mowers, chain saws and small engines on the side in his humble garage behind his humble house. For the last 30 years, Harry and his wife have wintered in Mission, Texas. Mission is in the far southern tip of the Rio Grande Valley. Harry lost his wife five years ago, but he has continued to drive to Texas until this year. I knew he really wanted to go again this year, but he also knew he was not physically up to driving 1,400 miles anymore. When I asked Harry if he would be interested in me driving him down there this year, he said absolutely. Flying did not interest him, because he has a small dog to bring along. There are three layovers to get there, and Harry is a bit old school. He does not even have a credit card. The trip down was on Harry’s terms. We had to leave the day after Christmas, so he could keep his doctor appointment to make sure his prostate cancer was under control. He also wanted to spend Christmas with his daughter and grandkids. When we left, Harry said he had been taking the same route for 30 years, so I turned off my phone guidance app, and I turned when Harry told me to. Chico, his 18-year-old fat little dog, sat on Harry’s lap the whole way. The only time I strayed from Harry’s plan was when he suggested we stop for the night at a Motel 6, because they allow companion animals for free. I called my booking agent (daughter Tae) and told her to find us a nice motel in Norman, Okla., that would accept a pet. She booked a brand new Best Western with a great, free breakfast for $75. We arrived at Harry’s trailer house in Mission on the second night after dark. The trailer was older with all paneling on the inside walls. It was very clean inside and only smelled a little musty from being closed up for six months. I immediately took a short walk around the trailer park to stretch my legs and enjoy the 66-degree weather. Harry informed me that at 6 the next morning we were going to his favorite local restaurant to have breakfast with about 10 of his southern friends. I soon figured out that the schedule for older retired people in the south for the winter revolves around getting together for food and or coffee about five times a day. There are no cows to milk, feed or any other productive activities going on ever. Harry did tell me in his younger years he fixed golf carts and did many small construction jobs. I think he was the exception though. The three days I spent down there I kept pretty busy in between coffee and meals getting Harry’s pantry stocked with basics and making sure everything was in working order. I even ordered a part for his golf cart on my Amazon account and got it in two days which just amazed Harry. When we were not fixing or eating, we had to go and meet all his friends at the cafes and in the mobile home park. There are a lot of widows in those places, and Harry would get long hugs from every one of them. He also got hugs from all the young waitresses in every cafe. Guess how many hugs I got? Zero. Two other highlights of my trip were the grapefruit and my meandering trip home. The grapefruit in the valley had just hit the farmers markets and were gorgeous and cheap. I bought 150 pounds to take home for family and friends, and wish I would have bought more. The grapefruit, Siri and I also decided we wanted to see a little of western Texas on the way home. When one way is 1,400 miles on the shortest route, what is another 250 miles? By looking at the map, I figured I could avoid all the big city traffic of San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth and Oklahoma City if I went a little further west through Lubbock, Amarillo and Dalhart. I even streamed the music from Waylon Jennings and George Strait. I stopped and hand-picked ripe cotton in a field, saw huge feedlots and a couple big dairies. We do not know for sure how Harry and Chico are getting back to Minnesota in April, but, if need be, I will go in a heartbeat. Vander Kooi operates a 1,800-cow, 4,500 acre farm with his son, Joe, and daughter-in-law, Rita, near Worthington, Minn. Send him feedback at davevkooi@icloud.com. Follow him on Instagram, @davevanderkooi.