A Year On The Road – The Final Maps

Back in Orlando again, it’s time to tot up the final mileage and trace our entire route (in 2 maps) around the US. We reached West Glacier, Montana, at our furthest distance from Orlando at almost 2,700 miles away, albeit we reached there via a distinctly circuitous route that involved fully 12 states!

The first 7 months saw us take in by far the biggest ‘chunk’ of our year-long route, including side-trips into Colorado and Southern California by car, as well as parts of Northern Arizona and New Mexico

The “return journey” from there was also far from a straight line, taking in another 10 states before completing what was essentially a giant circle of the Midwest, the North, South West and Southern states. For much of the last 5 months we were close to the Gulf of Mexico before coming back into Florida via Pensacola and the Panhandle area, where we were definitely able to relax a bit (albeit keeping more than one eye on staying out of the way of some seriously stormy weather).

The final five months took us from the heart of New Mexico down to the far south-western corner of Texas, then right around the Gulf of Mexico via Galveston, New Orleans, Biloxi and Gulf Shores

So, with no further ado and a bit of a fanfare – “Ta RA!!!!!” – our final mileage comes to, wait for it…35,186 miles since we left home on May 14, 2023. In our RV, Fati, we traveled a total distance of 9,846 miles, while in our trusty little Ford Fiesta, Nippy, we added a whopping additional 25,840.

Somehow, we’re all still in one piece, albeit Fati has been in for several repairs and 2 full services, while Nippy is heading for a fourth service today and has needed new tires, windshield wipers and two air filters (!). Needless to say, we are immensely proud of our Ford-engined Winnebago RV, as well as our little Fiesta, and they both now deserve a good rest.

Finally back in Florida, we spent a quiet week in a beautiful little RV campground in Milton in the Panhandle before turning south for the last leg of the year-long trip

Will we have more travels to report anytime soon? The debate is now on at Chez Veness! We DO have a fair bit of work to catch up on first, but there is already talk of an East Coast RV tour, as well as a possible trip out West to the areas we missed this time, namely Washington, Oregon and Northern California, as well as more of Colorado.

So, stay tuned for further travel bulletins, and, if you have liked and enjoyed our blogs, please leave us a comment and be sure to check out our YouTube channel for a series of snapshot videos of the trip on this link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCP5dY0TcznDGkOY8BQUkpQg

Bye for now…!

The Month 11 Travel Map

As keen-eyed blog readers will know, we have just hit the 11 month mark in our grand “A Year On The Road” RV trek across the US. After Louisiana, we arrived in coastal Mississippi, our 23rd state in this epic voyage.

The story so far – 11 months on the road (NB: The pin-points are not our only stopping points – there are more than 60 of those so far!)

Since our last monthly update, we have covered another 181 miles – a totally sedate travel distance at this stage of our journey (especially when we covered more than 2,200 in the first month!).

In the last month we have moved from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Biloxi, Mississippi, and our traveling has been a lot more focused on the areas close by, rather than trying to cover vast distances quickly. Even including the last two months, we have only gone a total of 672 miles in our trusty Winnebago, Indefatigable (or Fati for short).

The last two full months of our journey, from Port Aransas in Texas all the way along the Gulf Coast to Biloxi via Louisiana

Mind you, we have still covered some territory in our trusty tow car, Nippy, putting an additional 2,534 miles on our little Ford Fiesta (and 3,991 in the past two months), which shows that we’ve completely changed the balance of our touring – going shorter distances in Fati but doing more exploration in Nippy.

Now, with just a month left of our travels (but still more than 550 miles from home), it definitely feels like the end of our grand adventure is firmly in sight, which is very hard to contemplate after such a prolonged – and intense – period of traveling.

In total, we have come 9,225 miles in Fati since leaving home, and another 24,604 in Nippy, for a grand total of 33,829 around this amazing country. Eat your heart out, Hardest Geezer!

A Year On The Road – Month 6 in The Independent

The latest instalment of our exclusive series for The Independent newspaper in the UK is now online, highlighting our travels through Nevada and Southern California, including the Mojave National Preserve, Valley of Fire State Park, and Greater Palm Springs.

This section of our Year On The road adventure took us deep into desert territory – both the Mojave Desert of much of Nevada and the Sonoran Desert that runs from Mexico up into Arizona, including part of SoCal.

Our view of the Hoover Dam from our travels around Las vegas

We spent much of the month in Nevada, either from our base in North Las Vegas (the fab Hitchin’ Post RV park) or further south in Laughlin, where Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort & RV Park provided the perfect base to explore along Route 66 and down into California, where Joshua Tree National Park was another highlight.

There were scenic wonders aplenty, and a chance to see why both one of the Star Trek movies and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall were filmed here and, for as bright as it shines, we honestly felt the scenery around Las Vegas actually glittered brighter than the city itself.

Read all about it here: https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/north-america/usa/great-american-road-trip-nevada-southern-california-b2503940.html

The superb Joshua Tree National Park

We also want to offer our sincere thanks to both Travel Nevada and Greater Palm Springs for their help in ensuring we saw the best of their areas, as there was a LOT to see!

A Year On The Road – The 9-Month Map

Somehow we’ve reached the three-quarter mark of our grand RV adventure, and we’re looking at another month of travel that completes nine full months on the roads of America.

The full scope of our 9-month journey to date, starting from our Florida base, then heading north and west, taking a loop from Yellowstone National Park (G) to Glacier National Park (H), then down through Montana and Wyoming (I) before heading west again to Twin Falls, Idaho (K) and south through Utah and Nevada. We’ve then headed east and south through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas

January was very much a “rest” month, in which we were largely in one place, down in the southwest of Texas, but we got back under way again at the beginning of February, turning north and east to skirt along the Gulf Coast of the Lone Star State, a part of Texas we’d heard a lot about but had never visited before.

Setting out from Donna, close to the Mexican border, we drove due east to beautiful South Padre Island, part of the barrier island system along the coast that is laced with wide, open beaches. Here, we were lucky enough to find accommodation at the KOA Journey close to the long stretch of SPI Beach.

The long-distance view of Month 9, down in the southwest corner of Texas

From there, we back-tracked slightly and then headed north for more coastal experiences, first at a tiny but lovely spot on Baffin Bay called Riviera (and the wonderfully natural Seawind RV Resort, part of the Kaufer Hubert Memorial Park), then it was on to the busy port city of Corpus Christi, where we were lucky enough to stay at the Colonia Del Rey RV Park, ideally situated between the beaches and the city itself.

Finally, the last week has brought us to another idyllic spot on the epic Texas seashore, Pioneer Beach RV Resort, where we are only a few hundred yards from the unbroken 18-mile stretch of gorgeous beach hideaway.

The close-up view of Month 9, showing our route from Donna to South Padre Island and then north to Corpus Christi and Port Aransas, truly a lovely part of the state

It is a total of 294 miles, which is barely a day’s drive under normal circumstances, but we’re looking to stay out of the way of all the winter weather immediately to the north and explore an area we’ve never been to before, hence the slow pace and the chance to really savor the journey at this stage.

That compares with 928 miles in Month 8, and takes us to a grand total of 8,536 miles since we left home.

However, we have managed an additional 945 miles in the past month in our little Ford Fiesta, Nippy, exploring the state parks, small towns and wonderful open countryside of this part of the world. Our extra mileage in the car is now at 20,653, and the grand total of miles covered in both Fati and Nippy has reached a whopping 29,189 across the USA, or enough to fly back and forth from Orlando to London almost four times!

We still have at least another 1,500 miles before we get back to our Florida base, and another three states to visit, but we can safely say at this stage that our grand RV adventure has definitely lived up to our expectations, and more besides!

A Year On The Road – The 8-Month Map

Here we are at the two-thirds mark of our grand ‘A Year On The Road’ RV adventure, and we have reached deep south Texas. We are currently in Donna, TX, and we have traveled a full 928 miles in the last month from our December base in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Our route from Las Cruces took us down through El Paso to Van Horn, and then on to Alpine (for the magnificent Big Bend National Park), before heading further south to Del Rio and then Castroville for Christmas (just outside San Antonio). The New Year then took us southwest to Donna via Kingsville.

All safely set up at our RV resort in Donna, Texas. We could end up being here a whole month!

Our total RV mileage since we left home is now 8,242 and Texas is our 20th state (not counting Florida). That 928 miles probably doesn’t sound like much, but it is more than the total for months 6 and 7 combined, as we had started a significant slow-down in favor of being longer in one place and exploring further by car.

The story so far. The full track of our trip in Fati is in yellow, and our multiple side-trips in Nippy are shown in pink. We still have another 1,500 miles or so to get home!

Our little Ford Fiesta, Nippy, has put in an additional 1,558 miles in the past month, giving her a total to date of 19,708. Combined with Fati, we have driven a grand total of 27,825 miles, or basically enough to have gone right the way round the world, plus an extra 2,924 miles!

We had to make sure we didn’t arrive too early at our Donna campground, so we paid a call to the local Post Office (which had a nice empty parking lot!)

In all honesty, we are not looking to break any long-distance records at this stage. We knew we had to get some miles under our belt by January as the weather becomes a major factor at this time of year, and we need to stay as far south as possible. RVs are not built to travel far during the depths of winter and, even being this far south has had its challenges, with temps dropping below freezing several times this month. Including the wind-chill, we hit 15F/-9.5C at its coldest and, living in what amounts to a glorified tin can, that gets REALLY cold, really quickly!

Our route from here will hug the Texas coast all the way to Louisiana in March, and we should just be warming up again by then!

Simon, Susan & Ruthie

Snug as a dog in a rug!

A Year On The Road – The Half-Way Map

May 14, 2023 seems like a long time ago. In fact, it is just 7,053 miles ago. That’s the 6-month distance we have covered in our “A Year On The Road” RV adventure since leaving home in Florida.

From that original departure point to November 14, we have traveled through 18 states and totaled a mind-boggling 22,319 miles when you add in the mileage we have covered in our little Ford Fiesta, Nippy, as well as that 7,053 in RV Indefatigable (or Fati for short).

This isn’t quite 6 months, as Google won’t allow additional destinations after Lake Havasu in Arizona, but it should show the most recent part of the trip, to current spot Tucson (see below)

The last month has added 545 miles to Fati’s total but also 1,927 to Nippy’s. That means Nippy has now piled up a whopping 15,266 miles to date, so she is proving a real workhorse.

Of course, we should have gone even further afield, as we scrapped plans to head out to Washington and Oregon after reaching Glacier National Park in Montana, but we think that is still a pretty respectable total.

Below are two maps showing just the last month of our travels, from Kingman in Arizona to Tucson, via sparkling Lake Havasu City, Hope, Goodyear and Mesa (with 3 weeks in the greater Phoenix area in all):

From Kingman in northern Arizona, we traveled down the extreme west part of the state before reaching Interstate 10 and heading east to Mesa and then Tucson, with a week in between in Goodyear
And this shows the more detailed version, highlighting an overnight stop in tiny Hope and the (rather confusing) route through and around Phoenix before reaching the chic Voyager RV resort in east Tucson

A Year On The Road: The 4-Month Map

Highlighting our fourth month on the road and the route so far – all 5,929 miles of it

After three months of fairly hectic traveling, our four-month mark shows that we have come the shortest distance for any month of the grand RV trip to date, from Wheatland in Wyoming to Fillmore in Utah (via what looks like a strange detour to Declo in Idaho, but which was the best way to see some of Idaho without putting too many miles on our RV).

Our mileage for Month Four was therefore just 868 miles, compared to 1,318 last month, 1,239 in Month Two and a whirlwind 2,504 in the opening month.

The total distance in Indefatigable (or Fati for short) since we left Orlando is now 5,929 miles.

The slower pace has been deliberate, of course. We realized that we were trying to pack too much in to this crazy 10-wheeled adventure and we have purposely changed both our itinerary and our pace of travel to avoid the mental and physical breakdowns we experienced in the first two months.

The key has been to identify an area that allows us to explore in multiple directions for a week or so, and then use our tow car, Nippy, to do more of the exploration.

To that end, we have actually gone an additional 9,621 miles in Nippy in those four months, almost 3,000 of them in the past month alone. That total includes a spur-of-the-moment trip into Canada from Montana, our overnight excursion to Rocky Mountain State Park in Colorado and an extensive day trip to the Flaming Gorge in Utah, both from Wyoming.

Our total mileage for the trip so far is therefore a whopping 15,550, or 3,887.5 a month!

The next month could see us top that record for Nippy, too, as we plan on basing ourselves in southern Nevada for trips into Southern California. As ever, this is an – ahem – moveable feast, but you can be sure to read all about it here!

A Year On The Road – The First Three Months

On August 14 we celebrated the third month of our grand ‘A Year On The Road’ RV adventure, with a chance to tot up our mileage and chart the latest course of the scenic route we are forging across the US.

Having ended Month Two at Fishing Bridge RV Park in the heart of Yellowstone National Park, we have basically undergone a bit of an about-face on our original planned route and gone “freelance” for a few weeks. Our third month covered a total of 1,318 miles, giving us a whopping 5,061 for the trip to date.

Month Three – 1,318 miles, starting in Yellowstone and reaching El Rancho Village RV & Cabins in Wheatland, Wyoming, via Glacier National Park in Northwest Montana

As you’ll see from the map, we continued north from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park, but then broke away from the proposed westward trek to Washington and Oregon via a bit of Idaho in favor of seeing more of Montana and Wyoming, two states which we have found utterly enchanting.

We have tried not to cover any of the previous route, apart from a few miles along I-90 in Montana, and have dived much deeper into Wyoming in particular, including side trips to Cheyenne and Laramie – very much the heart of the Old West – in Nippy to avoid putting too many miles on Fati. From here, we’re looking to turn West again, with each of Colorado, Idaho and Utah on our radar – and more of the magnificent Rocky Mountains.

The first two months – and 3,743 miles

The Glory Of Going-To-The -Sun Road

There isn’t really any way you can follow-up the magnificence of Yellowstone, but we were hopeful Glacier National Park would be the next best thing as we headed north back into Montana again.

We were already aware the only entry to the park between 6am and 3pm was by the National Parks Service’s reservation system, which had defeated us for months, but we had a back-up plan – Simon would try for a Red Bus tour on the fabled Going-to-the-Sun Road and Susan wouldn’t. After her nerve-shredding experience in the passenger seat in Nippy going over the 8,878ft Dunraven Pass in Yellowstone, she was more than happy to sit out anything that offered the prospect of mountain-edge driving.

We had snagged a four-night reservation at the Lake Five RV Resort well in advance, knowing how popular Glacier NP is these days, so we were right on the doorstep of the park’s west entrance (and there are only really two ways to see Glacier, from the east or west roads).

The view from the back of our spot at Lake Five RV Resort, with Glacier NP in the distance

The park was beautifully situated and we were able to get set up and then visit Glacier NP’s visitor center, taking the (short) scenic drive along Camas Road, and spending time in the delightful Apgar Visitor Center and Village, which is the heart of the park’s western side.

Just a week out from our arrival, we were able to snag a seat for Simon on the Xanterra Red Bus Tour from Apgar Visitor Center to the Logan Pass – the passage from west to east across the stunning Lewis range of the Rocky Mountains – but we were going to have to wing it for the rest of our four-day stay.

What we hadn’t counted on was the fact that there really isn’t a lot to do and see outside the West entrance to the park. There are no other major scenic drives beyond the park’s boundaries – other than the hilly, winding drive in from the town of Browning, which showcases the southern edge of the Lewis range and which we had already seen in reaching West Glacier.

One of the, ahem, highlights of the West Glacier area

There was also major reconstruction under way of the 10-mile stretch of road along Lake McDonald from the Visitor Center to the lower end of Going-to-the-Sun Road. Not only had the usual paved road been ripped up for replacement, leaving a crude, pitted dirt track in its place, the construction crew also seemed to have abandoned any attempt to keep down the clouds of dust in the afternoon, making it 10 miles of driving torture, especially with a low-slung car like Nippy.

To put it mildly, this was a shocking state of affairs for any park, let alone one of the NPS showcase parks, and to say it was inhibiting was a major understatement. We abandoned the road at the Lake McDonald Lodge, and limped back to the Visitor Center.

The rutted dust bowl of the “road” alongside Lake McDonald with its ongoing reconstruction

This left Simon’s trip on Going-to-the-Sun Road as our lone highlight of the visit. It turned out to be a pretty memorable highlight.

Now, GTTS Road is aptly named, albeit it isn’t quite what you think. It is actually named for the 9,647ft Going-to-the-Sun Mountain, the sacred peak of the Blackfeet Indians, and the rather tortuous translation of their word for it is actually “The-Face-of-Sour-Spirit-Who-Went-Back-to-The-Sun-After-His-Work-Was-Done Mountain.” More aptly, for first-time visitors to the road, it merely feels like you are going to the sun, such is the precarious nature of the precipitous passage up to the 6,646ft mountain pass.

The road dates back to 1932, when it was opened after an 11-year construction process that cost the lives of three workers (how it wasn’t any more is one of the minor miracles of the project). It wasn’t fully paved until 1956, and is one of the hardest routes in America to reopen after each winter, such is the nature of its extreme inaccessibility. Put simply, this road is scratched into the side of a near-vertical mountain wall with all the seeming permanence of an Etch-a-Sketch. How the engineers conceived it, let alone built it, absolutely boggles the mind.

A viable road or an unfeasible creation of an over-worked engineering mind? You decide…

But there it is – the only way to cross Glacier NP, on a winding, sketchy, winter-worn stretch of “road” that wouldn’t earn that designation in any other place on Earth.

Oh, and the iconic Red Bus vehicles – nicknamed the Rubies of the Rockies – that take you there (and back), are almost 90 years old. Really. OK, so they have been modified with modern engines, transmissions, and braking systems, but the basic vehicle was introduced in 1935 and each has chalked up around 200,000 miles since then.

The maximum length for all private vehicles is 21ft. The Red Buses are 25ft long. Yup. Go figure.

So, the basic equation is:

Rickety Road + Outrageous Drop + 90-Year-Old Over-Long Vehicle – New Engine = A Hair-Raising Experience for All Concerned (especially Susan waiting back at the Visitor Center, praying for my safe return).

(It should be added, however, that each vehicle has a 100 percent safety record throughout all those years and miles, and each driver is a specialist)

One of the original Red Bus fleet, which made its debut in 1935. Glacier National Park had 35 of the original 500 that were made for the NPS, and 33 are still in service

The journey from the Visitor Center to Logan Pass, and back, takes almost 3.5 hours. It reaches a top speed of a daring 45mph, and just 20mph on the seriously scary bits. Two red buses can pass each other on that cliff-edge monstrosity. With about six inches to spare. So, absolutely no worries for the passengers, especially Simon in the front seat next to the driver, with the grandstand view 3,300ft straight down the mountainside.

The first part of the journey is pretty gentle, through impressive cedar forest, alongside Avalanche Creek (nothing inhibiting in that name, either) and past several suitably scenic picnic areas. Then it reaches The Loop.

The full magnificence of Going To The Sun Road

This is the most critical feature of the entire Road, the only serious hairpin bend on the whole, implausible 50-mile route. It is the engineering pivot that allows the roadway to cling to its precipitous perch and provide access all the way to Logan Pass, which adds a resounding wide alpine plateau for a sizeable visitor center of its own, plus a variety of hiking trails which vary from gentle to “You’ve Got To Be Joking” (the latter for the Highline Trail, which is barely 4ft wide in parts and equally precarious, especially when you hear that the wildlife has right of way, and can include both bighorn sheep and black bears. Any takers…?).

That’s the Highline Trail, in that frail line30 yards above the road

But – and this is a seriously substantial adverb – none of that even begins to describe the utter, stonking majesty of this drive. The solidity of the buses, the assurance of the drivers, and the ability Simon has to be blissfully ignorant about the likely terminal nature of any vehicular mishaps make this a journey of total superlatives.

On each side, the mountain ranges seemingly reach up to levels normally reserved for stratospheric aircraft, including the heart-stopping Garden Wall that towers to 9,553ft and is the main conduit for GTTS Road, as well as the demarcation line for the Continental Divide. That’s right, this is where the North American continent is basically split into East and West, albeit that is primarily a geological term and not a regional designation, seeing as Montana is about as Wild West as it gets.

The stunning extent of the Garden Wall – and the Going-to-the-Sun Road crawling along it

The mountains are studded with breathtaking waterfalls at regular intervals, along with various overlooks to allow drivers to get out and confirm that, yes, that really IS a bugger of a long way down, and “Don’t look now Ethel, but the car brakes are over-heating.”

Seriously, driving these buses up there is something approaching an art form, and sometimes you’re not sure whether to gape at the mountain scenery or the driver’s nonchalant style as they narrate the full story of the Road and everything connected with it.

And that’s it. We comfortably made it there and back, our open-top vehicle providing the best possible viewpoint of the entire Glacier NP, along with regular stops when, on the command “Prairie Dogs Up!,” our 18 passengers all stood up through the open lattice-work of the bus to take photos and marvel at the increasingly insane drop on one side.

“Prairie dogs up!”

It was an experience of the utmost refinement and beauty, a combination of Evel Knievel and Bob Ross, with a dash of Errol Flynn thrown in for good measure. It called for extreme belief in the person behind the wheel, and a cavalier disregard for normal road safety. And it was totally, utterly, mind-blowingly brilliant.

And I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

A Year On The Road in The Indy

While we are charting the almost day-by-day story of our grand year-long RV adventure here on the Uno Cinecalidad Travel Media blog, we’re also writing a monthly considered piece for The Independent travel section, featuring the full lowdown on how to do this great American road trip. Part one is now online here: