Padre Island National Seashore

Yes, you can drive on the beach in places on Padre Island. And yes, you WILL attract a ton of birdlife at the merest hint of food!

The travel may be over (for now!), but we still have plenty of material to share from our recently-completed Year On The Road RV adventure, and here is another snapshot video from the Texas leg of the trip, highlighting the wild – and completely natural – Padre Island National Seashore. This pristine 66-mile stretch of barrier island along the south Texas coast is one of the few remaining coastal prairies in America and feels like a true wilderness in its own right, rich for exploring and packed with bird life:

This whole area was completely new to us and we would certainly come back this way again. With the happening city of Corpus Christi and miles of unspoilt, sandy beaches a metaphorical stone’s throw away, it is the ideal blend of urban setting and sheer nature. The video didn’t fully capture the wild spirit of the National Seashore, but you can still feel the windswept wonder of it all.

It’s hard to get a full appreciation of the size of the sand dunes along Padre Island National Seashore, but they can top 40ft in places

Gateway To Mars…!

While we were in South Texas, you may remember we got the chance to visit Boca Chica Beach, home of the official Gateway to Mars. Well, official in the mind of Elon Musk, anyway. This is where you’ll find Starbase, which is Musk’s bid to create his own spaceport, capable ultimately of sending people to Mars. Starbase is currently the focus of his Starship heavy-launch project, and it was truly amazing that we were able to stand right next to it and take this video of the set-up…

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:

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!

What We Learned During Our Tenth Month On The Road

Today marks ten months since we locked the door to our house in Florida and set off for a year-long adventure in an RV. Here’s what we learned during the past month:

When someone is trolling along the beach using a metal detector, all the RVers camping beachside lose their ever-lovin’ minds trying to figure out which alarm is going off in their rig, and shout, “What’s that beeping? I’ve never heard that beeping before!”

Oh, wait. No. Maybe that was only us.

“All hat and no cattle.” It’s a saying in Texas, and if it’s directed at you, it’s not a compliment. We don’t have the hats and would be gored to death in the first ten minutes if we tried to have the cattle, and when that became obvious, Texas stepped up.  We continue to be amazed by the incredible kindness we’ve been shown, and we think we now understand what “Don’t Mess With Texas” is all about. Mess with one, you’re messin’ with ‘em all, and if one of them takes you into their fold, they’ve all got your back.

We now know how to diaper a dog in under 10 seconds. She now knows how to stand still for 10 seconds. And we shout and cheer about how beautiful she looks when she plays “dress up.” So far, she’s buyin’ it and is happy to wear her “fancy nappy.”

When you smash a mosquito on the inside of your windshield, don’t use hand sanitizer to wipe away its bloody carcass. You’ll only make it worse.

If you do use hand sanitizer and make it worse, tell yourself and everyone else you meant to create that big, nasty smear so you can revel continuously in the glory of your victory.

Louisiana! Home of the best crawfish, shrimp, and gumbo in the world! Big, steaming pots filled with boiling goodness all over the place! Happy families gathered on the front lawn around a table covered in a mountain of orangey-pink “mud bugs,” enjoying a gorgeous Sunday feast! But not for you. Because all of the restaurants are closed on Sunday, so you’re having a McDonald’s Kids Meal. At least you get a prize.

Covid sucks. I (Susan) am tempted to say it sucks more when you’re in a 36-foot space, but really, it sucks no matter where you are. That big pack of N95 masks we brought with us? Thank God for foresight, because they’re keeping Simon safer, and we’re grateful for that.

The end of Month Ten means there are just two more months left of your trip, and you have now entered some sort of freakish time warp in which days only last, like, 45 minutes, because surely we just posted our What We Learned During Our Ninth Month On The Road blog a week or so ago. What the actual hell…?

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 7-Month Map

Charting our “Year On The Road” RV adventure across America after Month 7

As another milestone rolls around, it’s time to update our ongoing Map of the whole trip and tot up our latest mileage chart.

The 259-mile route from Tucson, Arizona, to Las Cruces, New Mexico

On face value, this has been our least-traveled month, at least in RV terms. We have driven a scant 259 miles in our Winnebago Indefatigable (or Fati for short), starting a month ago in Tucson, Arizona, and reaching Las Cruces in New Mexico, a simple journey almost entirely on Interstate 10. Not the stuff of traveling legend, especially compared to our hectic first two months, when we covered fully 3,849 miles from Florida to Wyoming.

How our Road Atlas looks after seven months of our RV adventure. Our overall route in Fati is shown in yellow, with all our various side-trips in Nippy show in pink

The larger view of the past month’s travels, showing our steady 259-mile easterly progress from Arizona into New Mexico

Even by the standards of the last 3 months (869, 579 and 545 miles respectively), it is a slim return. But the fact is we are now spending longer in specific places (like Tucson and Las Cruces) and doing more of our actual journeying by car (our faithful Ford Fiesta, Nippy). We learned our lesson several months ago, after Fati suffered several mechanical issues with our hectic pace, that it was better to reach a destination from which we could explore by car in all directions, and this last month has been the perfect example of that.

Because, while our RV mileage is WAY down, our travel in Nippy has increased substantially. In month 6, she chalked up a whopping 1,927 miles, and in month 7 we have added an even-more-whopping 2,884, which included long-distance trips to Silver City, White Sands and, especially, Santa Fe. But, with Nippy getting a good 45 miles to the gallon on longer drives, and gas prices in New Mexico the cheapest since we left home ($2.25/gallon on our most recent fill-up), it is an economical and strategic success.

The wide, open and inviting mountain roads of New Mexico, as seen from Nippy’s front window!

What all this means is that we have now traveled 7,312 miles in Fati and a humongous 18,150 in Nippy, for a total of 25,462 miles since we left home.

Next up, we turn south for Texas and a long tour down the western half of the state as far as the Gulf Coast. Probably more miles for Fati than Nippy, but you never know…!

What We Learned During Our Seventh Month On The Road

Today marks seven months since we locked the door to our house in Florida and set off for a year-long adventure in an RV. Here’s what we learned during the past month:

Time spent in the bathroom is sacred time, at home or in an RV. But if you’re really just sitting there playing Wordscape on the phone for forty minutes, you deserve the scorn you get when you’re found out.

Simon now knows the bathroom isn’t the right place to play Wordscape.

Get an electric skillet with a cover, and get it before you even set off on your trip. What strange and wonderful wizardry that allows you make an entire meal in one appliance! Gone are your days of flipping one burger or one pancake in the Instant Pot set to Saute. Life has meaning again!

You’ll never run out of conversation when you travel. The only time we’re quiet when we’re touring is when we’re burned out from so much talking. Some of the most compelling conversations we’ve had have come from seeing places – usually very small towns or areas where housing is spread far apart – that make us feel our privilege in ways we never did before. Not financial privilege, specifically, but the privilege of opportunity. And we wonder, are the people happy and content? Do they love their freedom and their solitude? Is this their desired life? Or has opportunity been denied to them? We come at it with our life-experience bias, and talk our way around to wider possibilities.

Visiting the desert during dry season is disorienting, and it’s hard to get used to seeing rivers and creeks with no water in them. As Mark Twain said, “Until I came to New Mexico I never realized how much beauty water adds to a river.”

Remember back in the early months, when you struggled to keep the fridge cold? Yeah, well, it’s winter now, and your fridge has become a freezer.

Literally (and we do mean literally) every restaurant in Hatch, New Mexico closes at 3 p.m. Plan accordingly or you’ll be eating “Mexican food” from the Village Market grocery store deli.

The Green Chili Stew from Village Market’s deli is pretty good!

Arizona and New Mexico have more mountains than we expected, and some of them are whoppers. Check your preconceptions at the border when you enter a new state. Surprises await!

We knew the desert gets cold at night, but really? 21F? That’s not cold, that’s Arctic! Unplug the water hose from spigot; drain water lines; wear a shirt, pants, and socks to bed; and add your robe to the five layers of blankets you already have on the bed. Oh, and your coffee or tea the next morning will be cold within three minutes. Welcome to winter.

Walmarts in New Mexico have loads of Mexican candy right before Christmas. Taste-testing results? Mixed.

With so much mountain driving behind us, Simon now has a quiet confidence while driving Fati, without relaxing his guard or taking safety for granted. Susan can sit in the passenger seat without gripping the arm rests for dear life. As of right now, this single minute, assuming nothing, travel is an absolute pleasure.

Posole (Mexican pork and hominy stew) is a gift from God. Eat it and know you are loved!

How I Ended Up Wearing My Husband’s Underwear, With Lysol All Over My Feet

Posting this story has become an annual Thanksgiving tradition. It happened several years ago. There are no photos because some things should never be seen.

It’s 4 a.m. and I should be sleeping soundly, getting my energy back after two days of cooking in preparation for the big Thanksgiving feast tomorrow (today). Instead, I’m sitting at my computer, counting down 10 minutes, because that’s how long it takes Lysol to kill food-borne pathogens.

All I had to do was empty the brine bucket at 3 a.m., six hours after immersing what will surely be a glorious turkey when it’s cooked to 170 degrees (just to be sure) and presented lovingly to my family. A quick bleaching of the sink, return the turkey to the fridge, and Bob’s your uncle; off to sleepy-land again.

I knew the brine bucket was full. Like, really full. So I was careful, because, as we all know, cross contamination is an ugly thing. The plastic bag I put the bucket on in the fridge, however, had other ideas.

The brine sloshed out of the bucket onto the plastic bag, the plastic bag hit the floor, and a poultry-infused mess splattered everywhere. It left a trail from the refrigerator to the sink, soaking the kitchen floor. It drained down my shirt, into my underwear, down my legs, and all over the counter. A literal trail of horror and unhappiness.

There may be some among you who would do a quick mop-up and think no more of it. That’s not me. Every single drop of cross-contamination welled up around me, like oceans of food-borne illness waiting to happen.

The bleach bottle was in the laundry room, which meant tracking brine through two rooms, cross-contaminating one-quarter of the downstairs portion of my home. But there was no escaping it. I had to do it, and I had to keep track of every single thing my hands, my feet, and my shirt touched during the round-trip journey.

The next hour was spent bleaching the floor, the sink, the counters, my feet, the faucet, the refrigerator, and the laundry tub.

My clothes, of course, had to come off, and I had to wash myself with hot, soapy water to avoid further cross-contamination. All I had was laundry soap, but it would have to do. Mercifully, the tablecloth I was going to launder was still on the washing machine, so I wrapped up in it, just in case anyone came out of their bedroom to see what the hell I was doing. The only thing that would make this night worse was to have my loved ones watch me run through the house naked.

I didn’t want to wake Simon by opening my underwear drawer once I reached the bedroom, so I rooted through the laundry basket, but only found a pair of his old tighty whities. The ones he wears when he’s doing sweaty yard work. They would have to do. I grabbed a clean shirt, put it on, and went back to sanitizing.

Bleach is good, but Lysol is better. I should own stock in Lysol. Just the smell of it makes me relax, and since the required 5 minutes it takes bleach to kill salmonella had passed and the floor was almost dry, it was time to put my best friend to work.

Methodically, like a woman who knows what she’s doing (the kind of woman who wouldn’t have filled that damned brine bucket up to the top in the first place), I sprayed my microscopic enemies and took pleasure in hearing the last of them die.

So, that’s how I came to be sitting at my computer wearing my husband’s underwear, with Lysol all over my feet. It should only take one or two episodes of Are You Being Served to get me back to sleep again, but there are some things you know you’re going to live again and again in your nightmares for several years to come.

I CAN chuckle appreciatively at the fact that the clean shirt I am wearing reads, Nevertheless, She Persisted, but you can be damned sure I’m getting a bigger turkey-brine bucket on Friday.

Happy Thanksgiving. I wish each and every one of you a blessed day and a safe, healthy meal.

Kind regards,