Catch Our RV Journey on YouTube!

The journey itself might be over, and our “A Year On The Road” RV adventure is officially in the books, but you can still catch up with all the excitement and intrigue on our YouTube channel, which now has almost 100 snapshot videos of different aspects of the trip in the bag.

Javelinas! Jevelinas! Finally, we get to see Javelinas!

From Pictured Rocks National Seashore in Michigan to Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, plus dozens of fascinating places and experiences in between, this is our chance to wow you with the visuals of this epic RV journey across 23 states.

Our latest contribution is all about those elusive Javelinas in Texas, but you’ll also find recent videos that highlight the vibrant Historic Market Square in San Antonio, Big Bend National Park and a stunning tequila sunset in New Mexico.

Check it all out on this link:

The stunning Natural Bridge Caverns just north of San Antonio featured in a recent snapshot video

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!

Did Nothing. Ate Food.

Our 34-day break in Donna, Texas comes to an end on February 1, and we’re totally refreshed and ready to start touring again. First-draft of Susan’s new children’s book is done, Simon’s long road to finishing the Africa book is nearly done, and our old friend the Gulf Coast is calling!

The short version of our last couple of weeks is much like the first couple of weeks:

Did nothing.
Did nothing.
Did nothing.
Ate food.
Did nothing.

For the longer version, keep reading.

Obviously, the only interesting part of the last two weeks is the food, but it’s also worth noting that Simon got up early a couple of mornings to play pickleball with the residents of the resort, and on the fourth day he pulled a calf muscle. Badly. But you don’t want to see him with his leg on ice, so instead, here’s some food from the fabulous Teddy’s BBQ, a dive-style place in Weslaco, TX that everyone recommends, and for a good reason.

Gotta love a place that stays open until they’re “Sold Out.” They know they’ll sell out!

Strips of red tape over the menu items let you know what has already sold out.

Happiness is what counts with husbands. Happiness, and harmony.

El Plebe was our go-to for great tacos this week, and I think you can tell we didn’t enjoy it at all.

Susan was determined to make Posole soup, and, with a side of some sort of pillowy Mexican bread we found at a bakery, we’re here to tell you it’s worth the effort.

We also visited the Farmer’s Market that comes to the RV resort once a week. A pickup truck pulls up in the parking area not far from Fati, with a man and his wife who came to this country to work hard and provide something special for their adopted community, and we were delighted to be a part of that.

We did make a trip out to the Iwo Jima Monument in Harlingen, Texas, about half an hour away.

The monument is huge.

The little museum that interprets the site closed half an hour early, so we were sad, but we stopped for a coffee at a Pilot, where Mexican Hot Chocolate was on the menu. So we were happy again.

We each took a sip, and while we were still making “yummy” noises, the guy who rang up our purchase said, “You should make the real thing. Like Mexican grandmothers make!” He then gave us the recipe, which we now bestow upon you.

Mexican Hot Chocolate
In a saucepan over low heat, mix:
1 Nestle Abuelita Chocolate Tablet
12 oz. Nestle Carnation Evaporated Milk
20 oz. milk (any type)
1 Cinnamon Stick
Stir until it boils and the chocolate has fully melted. Serve hot.

(You’re welcome!)

It’s hard at times to remember we’re still in the U.S., with the huge Mexican cultural influence in the area. The border wall remains a constant, though here it’s just weird sections of wall with massive gaps in between, and one notable example in the middle of nowhere, well into the U.S., and you could walk from one end to the other in about two minutes. It’s also interesting to note that 17 cities and 3 counties here passed resolutions opposing the wall.

Impressive, isn’t it? Yeah, well, this is literally the entire section of wall, and it’s a few miles inland from the border.

In spite of how wonderfully quiet this past month-plus has been, there has been some excitement. Some good, some…well…not so great.

The good is, we have such lovely neighbors to our right, and our conversations with them have made us feel that sense of belonging RVers are so great at imparting. With so little time to get to know people in this nomadic life, everyone gets right down to the friendliness without any of the small talk relationships usually start with, and it makes you feel like you’re hanging out with the kind of family you can stand being with over dinner and the holidays.

The not-so-great part has been expected, but is still not so great. Our sweet Ruthie has a new reality, and we now own a large box of doggie tinkle pads, which are helping us all cope with her process of aging. Dignity intact!

A huge change in our touring will come when we head south on Feb. 1, as we start our bounce along the Gulf Coast, heading east for the next three months. And, without wishing a single day of that time away, we’ve got a VERY exciting finale in the works! We’ll let you guess what that might be.

Wrapped In Donna’s Loving Embrace

Seven months of busy travel had us longing for some time in one place, doing nothing. That, and we need to wait out winter a bit, since our return date to Orlando is May 14 and most of the country is freezing its whatsits off right now. Victoria Palms in Donna, Texas would be our first stop, for three (!!) whole weeks, and it made the ideal spot, with next to nothing that would tempt us away from “home.”

Here’s the short version of the blog:
Weeks 1-3: Did nothing.

For the longer version, keep reading.

Wasting three hours in a post office parking lot, because we only had a one-hour drive between campgrounds and check-in isn’t until 3pm.

We were given a free one-year Thousand Trails membership with Encore Resorts when we purchased Fati, and our membership was coming to an end. Donna and Harlingen Texas each have Thousand Trails Encore Resorts, so we headed on down to the state’s Southwestern corner, where we’d spend five weeks (including a week split between South Padre Island and Brownsville, not in the Thousand Trails system) relaxing, cleaning, and writing.

Laundry day! Clean sheets! Clean rugs! Clean dog bedding!!

We did pop out for a hike at Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park where, if you’ve been following us on Facebook, you know we weren’t allowed on the tram with a dog (in spite of being told dogs are allowed everywhere) and we finally, finally saw Javelina. Eleven, in total.

They DO exist! We knew it all along.

We also paid a visit to Estero Llano Grande State Park for some high-level bird-watching, having so enjoyed our time watching the Sandhill Cranes in Willcox, Arizona. But no water means no birds, and this area of Texas was having a bit of a dry spell.

“Where the heck IS everything?”

“Where the heck IS everything?”

To make the trip worthwhile, we stopped at the wildly popular Nana’s Taqueria, (as recommended by everyone and their brother) not far from the park. This is a local hot-spot, but it’s tucked away just enough that you won’t find it if you’re not specifically looking for it.

Nana’s courtyard feels like a plaza in Mexico.

We agreed to split a Nana’s Sampler of two steak tacos, one chalupa, and one ground beef loncha, while Simon ordered a Bohemia beer. There were seven Mexican beers on the menu, and we only knew what the Corona was like, so Susan asked our server which ones were not too heavy, and not dark. The server wasn’t sure, but said she’d ask the bartender, so Susan said, “Thank you! Just have them surprise me.”

There is a beer bottle missing from this photo because it’s too ashamed of itself to show its face.

Our server returned with chips, salsa, the Bohemia, and a Michelob Ultra.

Now, we have a rule in our house: if you’re going to drink, drink good. In restaurants, choose something representative of the place you’re in, and, ideally, opt for something locally made.

Only once in the last four decades has Susan endured a mainstream beer, and that’s when we were in Georgia. The day had been long and taxing, and when we asked our server at the BBQ joint which craft beers they had on tap, she said, “We got Bud, and we got Bud Lite. In bottles.”

With nowhere to go but up at Nana’s, we dove into our shared meal. There’s a reason this place is so popular, from the salsa’s fresh-from-the-garden flavors to the hearty chunks of steak and silky-smooth crema that topped it all off.

Chalupa on the left, loncha in the middle, steak tacos on the right.

We gobbled like puercos (pigs), and when we were done we decided we weren’t done. Simon ordered the Tacos La Patrona, featuring three corn tortillas topped with fajita meat, queso panela, avocado, and chicharonne (deep-fried pork rinds).

Normally, Susan avoids pork rinds. Some things should not be eaten. But these…holy mother of gawd, they were SO delicious! None of that awful pig-in-a-barnyard taste, just a subtle flavor that made us feel like we were in someone’s abuela’s kitchen, eating food made by loving hands.

We’d scarfed down two of the three before we remembered to take a photo. Then Simon scarfed down the last one.

We’d had no breakfast that morning, and didn’t bother with dinner that night. We’d really only eaten the equivalent of one entrée each, but some food fills the soul as much as the belly, and nothing else was needed.

As our second week came to an end, an Arctic blast descended on the country, including southwestern Texas, and the bone-chilling cold made sure we spent three days tucked up in Fati, trying to keep warm.

We did venture out into the freeze to pick up some hot tamales from Delia’s Tamales in San Juan, Texas, not too far away. Everyone around here says Delia’s are the best, so how could we say no? You can only order them by the half-dozen or dozen, so we got three half-dozens (pork, beef, and spicy chicken in green sauce), and made them last for four meals each. A gigantic to-go cup of Horchata was enough for two. Score!

Yes, I’m wearing a robe but no, it isn’t morning or bedtime. It’s just freezing, and this is one of about four layers.

We’ve been enjoying the quiet time at “home,” doing a lot of writing (Susan’s writing a children’s book, Simon’s finishing the Africa book), so much so that we transferred our booking at a campground in Harlingen (22 miles away) and we’re staying another 11 days at Victoria Palms.

So our next blog might have more food in it, since there’s one more place we’ve been told we have to try, but really, it’s going to be, Week 3-5: Did nothing.

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!

Missions, Caverns, And A Whole Lotta Food

Our itinerary had been thrown into chaos compliments of Ruthie’s turbo-charged backside, but as things settled down for her, we ventured out again to pick up on the highlights. Some of our plans had to be scrapped, some fell through due to a major college football bowl game that had most of downtown San Antonio in worse chaos than Ruthie’s gut, but there was still plenty to enjoy, if our stamina allowed.

Ruthie gets a lot of love when we venture out. She’s incredibly patient and gentle with children.

Mission San José was known as “The Queen of Missions” for its larger-than-average size, and indeed, the church does cut an imposing figure over the huge courtyard outside. Simon and I both thought a mission was a just church; instead, it’s typically a community with living quarters, trades, agricultural work, and a church. But the mistake is an easy one to make, since the goal of forming the “community” was to convert native peoples to Catholicism, which would then generate new taxes for the King of Spain.

Conversion was the native peoples’ path to safety from the very people who were making them unsafe. Their diets would change, their spiritual lives would change, their clothing and housing would change. And the names they were given at birth? Yeah, those changed, too. The timeless dilemma: what would you do to keep your children and the people you love safe?

We were part of a guided tour, but Ruthie was getting so much attention we backed off a bit. Even the ranger was (fondly) distracted by her.

Inside the church.

This area formerly housed the missionaries and lay people who ensured the communities’ regimented schedule of toil and thrice-daily prayer were upheld.

This is one-third of a working family’s “apartment.” Up to 15 people lived and slept in each apartment, spaces so small they wouldn’t even qualify as a “tiny home” today.

Apartments from the outside. They run the full length of three sides of the compound. The structure out front is a communal oven.

We’d been given a reservation at a downtown hot-spot’s outdoor patio (where dogs are allowed) for lunch the next day, but when we arrived, we were told they weren’t seating anyone outside. The line to get in was, in our estimation, more than an hour long, which just wasn’t going to work, especially since we had plans for the afternoon.

This is about one-quarter of the line waiting to get in.

Instead, we returned to the Pearl area and grabbed a quick taco lunch.

In 1960, four students from a nearby college “discovered” what is now Natural Bridge Caverns, and Simon joined a guided tour that afternoon while Susan kept an eye on Ruthie. Kennels were available, but in her still-delicate condition we didn’t want to leave her.

The two flat slabs that form a bridge above the cavern’s entryway were the inspiration for its name.

10,000-year-old stone tools, projectile points, and a pre-historic cooking hearth were discovered in the cavern when the entrance was being excavated. How cool is that?

Ponds formed in the lower level of the canyon, with incredibly clear water due to filtration by the surrounding limestone, and the lack of pollution and debris.

You can see the smooth, dark walkway in the center of this photo, which gives you an idea of size.

We were glad we only had a taco for lunch when we reached Backyard on Broadway that evening. Boasting the most enormous outdoor seating area we’d seen at any restaurant, anywhere, we grabbed a picnic table away from a group gathering and a load of excited children, and were rewarded with a quiet meal. It was incredible how little the sound traveled.

This is about one-eigtth of the outdoor space.

Simon ordered Hummus Spread with veggies to share, and the Viva Las Tejas sandwich (two beef patties, two cheeses, bell peppers, onions, jalapenos, and spicy sauce), which he devoured. Our server also recommended the Sweet Potato Fries, which we both devoured.

Susan went for the Not Your Father’s BBQ (pulled pork sandwich), and managed about half of it, minus the bun. Damn you, tempting Sweet Potato Fries!

Two Bro’s BBQ Market was our lunch stop the next day, and we’re glad it came as a recommendation, because A) we never would have found it otherwise and 2) we might not have chosen it due to its rather rustic location. It turned out to be one of those “locals” spots that no one wants to reveal so that tourists don’t mob it.

When a meat joint has a skull on their buffet table, you know they’re confident in their beef.

This guy is going to make sure Simon gets all the right stuff.

“What should we try?” Simon asked the manager, and he came away carrying a tray loaded with smoked jalapeno poppers wrapped in bacon; BBQ baked beans; Texas-sized bread slices; a massive Big Bro Sandwich piled high with smoked brisket, smoked pulled pork, and an entire sausage, topped with pickles and coleslaw; and a pint of “Cheesy Chop,” made up of chopped smoked brisket and mac & cheese. Lord help us!

Good God!

Drinks were an informal affair. Simply choose one and push the dispenser button on a Home Depot five-gallon jug. And yes, that most Southern of drinks, Kool-Aid, was an option.

I may have been bundled up a bit, with a shirt, two sweaters, and Puffy Coat. Don’t judge me!

Straight away, we knew we were beaten. After a generous sampling of the obscenely-large sandwich, Simon pulled out a half of the sausage, made it into a smaller sandwich, and we saved the rest for later.

So, that white part at the top of the sausage isn’t the sausage. It’s the graphic on Simon’s sweatshirt. Every time I see this photo I think, “What’s that…?” so I thought I’d mention it.

We ate as much as we could of the rest of it, but it was like mice had nibbled on it. That meal ended up making two more meals the next day, and our microwave still smells like a smoker, more than a week later.

The building at the very back and the one on the left are where the goodness happens. You can smell the meat smokers even when they’re not doing their jobs.

Stuffed to the gills, a long, slow walk around the nature retreat of Phil Hardberger Park Conservancy was in order, where, we were told, we’d find the Land Bridge and Skywalk. The park’s trails reminded us of Kensington Metropark, a favorite place for getting away from it all when we lived in Michigan.

It may have been a bit chilly.

Ruthie engaged in her favorite activity (sniffing).

The Skywalk goes on for a long, long way. We only did part of it, since Ruthie really can’t do much hiking and she’d already walked a bit too far to reach it.

We had been booked in for a meal at Breakaway Brewing Company, but we were all food-ed out. Instead, we popped by to sample some of the brewpub’s beers, and ended up having a nice chat with the bartenders. A warm, homey feeling ended the day.

Our bartender was adorable, and knew her beers well. Great choices!

Twice we’d made attempts to visit Historic Market Square in San Antonio (originally a gift from the King of Spain in 1730, and former home of the “Chili Queens” who served up that comforting dish in days gone by), but the chaos of Christmas week made parking impossible. Determined to give it one more try, we headed into town, and finally succeeded.

Note the person walking into the shop, to give you an idea of size.

What a fun place, filled with Latin sounds, bright colors, every tourist souvenir you could imagine, lots of umbrella drinks, and a general air of Christmas cheer! We were so glad we made the effort. Take a little stroll with us:

Strollin’ through the market.

Those allergy symptoms Susan had were no longer acting like allergies, and when Simon came down with them we knew we were in head cold territory; the unwitting victims of an unwanted gift. Annoying, yes, but considering all the other cr@p going around, not the worst thing in the world.

We knew we needed a mental and physical break at this point anyway, and our upcoming five weeks in the Donna, Harlingen, and South Padre Island areas of extreme southwestern Texas were arriving just at the right time.

I DO Believe! I DO Believe!

Simon (whispering): Javelina! There’s one walking right out into the park!

Susan (looking): Why would you lie to me like tha…..Ohhhhhhhhhh!! OHHHHHHHHH!

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog to announce that Texas gave us a wonderful, unexpected sighting of eleven javelina at the Bentsen-Rio Grand State Park bird refuge in the southwestern corner of the state. It then gave us six more rooting around in a ditch along the road.

Clap three times if you believe javelina exist, because we do (clap, clap clap)!

We’ve been looking for them nearly every day for four months and in three states. Texas comes through!

The End.

Saying Goodbye To The Chihuahuan Desert

We’d been in North America’s largest desert for weeks, and in eight other deserts for the past six months. Cactus and pronghorn and the swirling dance of dust devils had been our near-constant companions. Our next destination would take us into the plains, then to the Gulf coast, so a final farewell to the arid wilderness was on our dance card.

The things you see in the desert when you haven’t got your gun…

Ninety percent of the Chihuahuan Desert is in Mexico, but it also extends from Alamogordo, New Mexico to just beyond Alpine, Texas in the U.S.. Like a gateway to its northbound entry or southbound exit, the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center was just up the road from our Alpine campground, so we paid a good-bye visit.

Really, this was the kind of place we should have been to months ago. All of our questions about “What’s THAT” would have been answered. Even so, we spent a happy hour wandering the pathways pointing at plants and remembering where we saw them in our travels.

Ocotillo is used for building fences in the western U.S. in the same way thorny brush is used in places we visited in Africa. Fascinating.

We knew most of the big cactuses and several types of agaves, but the Cactus Museum offered a trip down Memory Lane for Susan, whose parents were Master Gardeners and kept quite a few indoor cactuses over the years.

Ruthie had to wait outside the museum, and she wasn’t happy about it. At all.

Davis Mountains State Park in the town of Fort Davis was not far away, so Simon pointed Nippy in that direction the next day, for a low-key last-look at Texas’s mountainous landscape.

Primarily a spot for hiking and camping, this little state park also had two bird blinds, one of which was in the interpretive center. Here, we saw birds we’d never seen before, though we didn’t see the main draw for visitors, which is the elusive Montezuma quail. Apparently, we were so captivated by what bird life we did see that neither of us thought to take a photo.

Throughout our trip, we’d both been fascinated by the varying geology we were passing (you’ve guessed that if you’ve been following our blogs), and today there was a Ranger talk specific to the volcanic mountains we were in, so he joined the group while Susan continued to bird-watch and keep an eye on Ruthie.

As with all of the southwest, the Alpine area has its share of fossils, this time imprinted in limestone.

This metamorphic rock has been molded and shaped by volcanic activity into a little work of art.

We then drove up the Davis Mountain to see some of the features the ranger spoke about, and to get a good view of the surrounding ranges.

While we were in Fort Davis, a wander around Fort Davis National Historic Site was in order. The compound, established in 1854, wasn’t strictly a military outpost. It was also strategically placed to help protect the mail route and emigrants traveling through this part of Texas.

Several original buildings constructed from hand-made bricks are now in ruins, but many have been restored.

Officers’ homes.

Enlisted persons’ barracks.

Somebody fancy lived here.

A small museum told the area’s story, including the role of the “Buffalo Soldiers” who, among their other duties, were assigned to deal with Apache and Comanche tribes that were not amused by having their hunting grounds overtaken.

Road-weariness was catching up with us, so the next day we stayed local and did a tour of Alpine’s gorgeous murals.

Susan has fond childhood memories of sitting on her Papa’s lap watching the TV show Bonanza, and her favorite character was Hoss. Who knew he came from tiny Alpine?


With our evening free, we freshened up and put on real clothes for an elegant dinner at The Century Bar & Grill in the historic Holland Hotel, built in 1928. Knowing we had our pup with us, they reserved a private room for us, but someone arrived before we did and snuck in, so instead we had our own table in the hotel lobby.

It’s a big, comfy lobby.

We started with the Alfredo Spinach Ravioli, which was so creamy and delicious we could easily have made it our entire meal.

While we were still making “Yummy” noises about the pasta, our entrees arrived. Simon opted for the Cajun Blackened Redfish served with vegetables, smashed potatoes, and house-made remoulade. He declared it one of the best pieces of fish he’d had in forever; nicely spicy without being overpowering, and oh, so succulent.

Let the devouring begin!

Unable to share in the delights of that spicy dish, which would have been her first choice, Susan went for the pork chops, knowing full well it would become three meals instead of one, since it was huge, with two chops and a mountain of potato. Indeed, the leftovers fed both of us the next day.

Someone wasn’t talking to us after she offered to eat anything we couldn’t finish, but was given NOTHING. Unthinkable!

Finally, we had time to spare and were in an area where we could enjoy Dark Sky at our leisure. Alpine is known for it and we were blessed with a cloudless night, so we headed out after dinner with a view of the Milky Way on our minds. The full moon that shone like a beacon was both beautiful and our undoing. It was so bright, nary a star could be seen. We stood along the roadside in light so effective we could see sad tears rolling down each other’s cheeks (not really).

There would be other chances, and with Christmas fast approaching our moods remained festive in this surprising little town that had captured our hearts.

Welcome To Don’t Mess With Texas!

With its hidden state-border crossing sign and slightly aggressive motto, Texas loomed large in our front windshield as we left New Mexico behind for what will be nearly two months in the Lone Star State, waiting out winter.

You have to be right up on this sign before you can make out what it is.

It quickly got a bit less peevish, and this would be an ongoing theme that took us by surprise. We experienced so much kindness and generosity in our first week in Texas.

Everything is bigger in Texas, and that includes distances. We try to limit our driving in Fati to 200 miles or less per day, and it was 271 miles to our next campground, so we boondocked at a handy pull-out off I-10 in Van Horn, just a few yards off the highway. There is a long strip of road running parallel to the interstate where trucks and RVs can rest overnight. This was our view:

Simon and Ruthie having a discussion about where she was going to take a comfort break that evening, with no dog park in sight.

We pushed on to Alpine the next day, and while the name of this little town should have been a hint, we somehow didn’t expect to be surrounded by mountain ranges. Texas is flat, right?

Well, right, but not Northwestern Texas. Alpine is flanked by the Davis and Glass Mountains, and sits at 4,462 feet above sea level. Not exactly the Rockies, but pretty impressive for cattle country.

Volcanic much?

We saw roadkill not far from this sign that had us wondering if our theory that javelina are a lie was wrong. But it was practically the size of a bus, which (fake) javelina are not. We later found out it was a feral pig.

We didn’t expect so many mule deer just wandering around town.

The reason for our four-day stop in Alpine’s peaceful Lost Alaskan RV Park was Big Bend National Park, located in the Chisos Mountains 72 miles to the south. Our base kept us on track for easy access to US-90, without putting extra miles on Fati.

On our way in to the park we stopped at the entry sign, where a biker was taking a photo of another couple. He offered to take our picture, too, and then some genius happened. Ruthie looks away when anyone points a camera in her direction, but this guy stamped his feet over and over, prompting several little woof-etts from her, and produced photos that look like she’s smiling. Brilliant!

Big Bend launched straight into its prehistoric past, being a location where a great deal of fossilized diversity was discovered. A little exhibit and walking trail tell its 130-million-year story, from the time it was a sea to the time when volcanos shaped the land before woodlands took over; from the monstrous sea creature uncovered here to gigantic dinosaurs, Native peoples, spats with Mexico, and the eventual creation of a National Park.

The landscape here is so changeable.

“Simon, NO! Don’t jump!”
This former mudflat was the site of some important fossil discoveries. Rhinos and camels once roamed the land. So did T-Rex.

One of its claims to fame was the 35-foot-wing-spanned Quetzalcoatlus northropi, the largest flying creature discovered so far, among other dinosaurs that have not yet been found elsewhere.

The pale bones flying just below the ceiling are so long it’s hard to get them into one shot. The near end is its head.

Coming from Florida, we were impressed by the park’s other reptilian claim to fame, clocking in at nearly 50-feet. Deinosuchus riograndens is a dinosaur-munching alligator big enough to take down giant herbivores that waded too close to its massive maw.

We had our picnic near a life-sized metal cutout of the gator.

Just to give a little perspective of the gator’s size. No dogs were harmed in the shooting of this photo.

Geologically, Big Bend is partially the result of the mother of all ka-blooeys. Visitors can drive into and hike all around the Chisos Basin, with an overlook smack in the remnants from an ancient volcano.

If you’ve been geology-ing along with us, you’ll know this is a volcanic plug.

Looking back at the volcanic bowl from a road outside the basin.

Breaking free from a larger continent, subsequent land-mass collisions that raised the land upward, the formation of Cretaceous Sea, and other complicated science-y stuff also contributed to the area’s geological face, and we did feel as if we were in some sort of strange jumble of landscapes; as if the planet had grabbed handfuls of topography from around the country and flung them willy-nilly into Big Bend and the surrounding area.

The wedge between the two mountains behind us is known as “The Window,” and it looks beyond the park into Mexico.

On the way back to Fati we detoured into Terlingua, a mining town turned ghost town. Very little is left here of the original structures, beyond a few crumbling buildings and a cemetery with a few old graves mixed in with the new.

The big draw for tourists is the Starlight Theatre bar. We were going to pop in and be like the cool kids, but it wasn’t open yet. Simon was unceremoniously ordered to back out the door when he stuck his head in to find out when the pleasure of swilling one of their tourist-priced ales could begin.

Fair enough, we’re happy to comply, but also…really? Politeness is free, we’d been looking forward to visiting, and we had a little bit of cash burning a hole in our pockets. We decided not to be cool kids that day.

You can keep your fancy Day-Glo trucks and $14 Margaritas. Don’t Mess With Venesses.

To confirm how right we were with our unreasonably bad attitudes, the Universe rewarded us with mule deer in the campground, not far from Fati, when we returned that evening. A day or so later karma rewarded us with a very sick dog. The two aren’t connected, but maybe we’ll be a bit more patient with our beer money next time.