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…

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: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCP5dY0TcznDGkOY8BQUkpQg

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

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…!

What We Learned During Our Twelfth Month On The Road

Today marks one full year (plus two days) since we locked the door to our house in Florida for a year-long adventure in an RV. Here’s what we learned during the past month:

Humidity = sweat, and when you’re covered in sweat for three days because you don’t have sewer hookups so you can’t dump a gray tank full of shower water, air conditioning cannot penetrate the sweaty build-up. When you do have full hookups again and you take a shower, that layer of pure, unadulterated evil is wiped away, and you are once again kissed by the cooling breath of your sweet, sweet A/C. This is what bliss is made of.

But you’re in Florida now, so that feeling doesn’t last long.

At 50 weeks into a 52-week trip, Simon JUST discovered his laptop has a built-in editing program. All those videos he’s done that could use editing, but our expensive editing program is back on his computer at home? They could have been glorious viewing comparable to the stuff of Spielberg and Scorsese.

To be fair, he’s only had the laptop for a few months, but still.

We prefer not to be camped near unhappy tiny-humans who wile away their entire three-day vacation screaming things like, “I don’t WANT the sand washed off my feet!” and “I don’t WANT to go inside now!” Usually,we love kids. Adore them, even. We have discovered, however, we always love 55+ campgrounds where the only whines are spelled “wine,” and it’s a pleasure to hear your neighbors suggest you join them for some.

When you hit I-75, an interstate you know so well you could drive it blind, tears will flow. When you remember your final four days of this grand, exciting, confounding, eye-opening adventure will be spent at Walt Disney World’s Fort Wilderness Campground, happiness will be restored.

We’ve learned we could happily live in the mountains if not for the snow. We could happily live in the desert if not for the sand storms. We would be thrilled to live along the Gulf coast if not for the hurricanes. There is so much we love about each state we’ve visited, but always there is “one thing” that doesn’t make them a strong contender for a move away from Florida. Florida has that “one thing” (two really; horrible humidity and…well…politics) that makes us want to move. Everything else – literally everything else – makes us want to stay. And we didn’t know that before this month, and this trip.

It’s true. Home is where the heart is. Over the course of a year, we came to feel that Fati is our home, and everywhere we have visited now holds a special place in our hearts. Connection, appreciation of differences, and a deeper understanding of yourself; these are the priceless gift of travel. We will treasure these lessons forever.

Thank you for making this journey with us!

Welcome Home!


When we hit Interstate 75 heading south, the tears began. Our life-changing adventure was coming to an end, and that southward turn felt like a gut-punch. Then we remembered our next – and final – campground was Fort Wilderness at Walt Disney World, and we would soon be hearing that most Disney of greetings, “Welcome home.”


Walt Disney World has been a big part of our personal and professional lives for decades, first separately and then together. Although we’ve written extensively about the U.S., Europe, and cruising, Orlando has been our stock in trade with our books, through 29 editions of the Brit Guide to Orlando, three editions of The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World, two editions of Walt Disney World Hacks, Hidden Magic Trivia, Hidden Magic Planner, 111 Places in Orlando You Must Not Miss, and reams of articles for newspapers, magazines, and online companies. It felt fitting that we would end our journey at the place that made our travels possible.


Once upon a time, pets and cars were not allowed inside the campground loops areas. Now, the entire resort (with the exception of buildings and the pool) is dog friendly, and our enormous Premium Meadow site had room for Nippy, with plenty to spare. With trees on three sides – but also an open view of the sky – we had loads of privacy and flawless internet reception through Starlink.

Look at all that room!

But wait…there’s more! You could throw a party back here.

We had the option to go into the theme parks during our stay, but instead, chose to spend all of our time at Fort Wilderness. For 17 years, we had a house right behind Magic Kingdom, just across a small lake, and we would occasionally bicycle to Fort Wilderness for exercise. When we thought we might someday take a cross-country trip in an RV, we cycled over and spent a lot of time looking at the rigs that were camping at the Fort, dreaming of the day we might be able to do the same. Now, that dream had come true.

There are 28 “loops” in the campground, around which campsites branch off like spokes. Plenty of privacy, but also open enough at the front if you want to chat with other campers.

Everywhere you look there is natural beauty. It’s definitely Disney-designed, but we really appreciate the thought that goes into keeping campers happy and comfortable.

Plus, there’s wildlife! Wild turkeys, armadillos, squirrels, even deer, as well as two very mischievous Chipmunks!

This little guy (or gal) was looking for grubs. Armadillos are just so weird and wonky!

After a long drive to reach Lake Buena Vista, we spent our first evening chilling out at the rig, grabbing dinner from onsite Trail’s End Restaurant, and watching the Disney movie, Bedknobs and Broomsticks. The next morning we ventured out on foot, exploring the trails, the watercraft rental area, and the Chip ‘N’ Dale Campfire Sing-A-Long pavilion, where we’d return that evening to see the show.

None of us are used to the heat and humidity anymore. Ruthie has come to appreciate our mini fan.


Cast Member Jeremy from New Orleans asked us if we had exciting plans for the day when we passed him on our way to the pavilion. That kicked off a 15-minute chat, including the surprising revelation that he knows Young Son, who has been his bartender in Galaxy’s Edge a few times. We say it all the time and we’ll say it again: Cast Members are the true “Disney magic” in this wonderful theme park playground, and they have that “special something” about them; call it the “Disney Difference.” We ended our conversation feeling like we’ve made a new friend.

With Ruthie tucked up in her wagon, we returned to the pavilion for the 8 p.m. show, which is a cute, family-friendly sing-song with characters Chip and Dale, and the chance to purchase S’mores and hot dogs for roasting over a campfire. Adorable, and just the sort of thing that gets you into the Disney spirit.


Ruthie enjoyed the show, too.

We then headed down to the beach for a view of Magic Kingdom’s Happily Ever After fireworks at 9 p.m. The prime view of the fireworks is from the park’s Main Street U.S.A., but over the years we’ve come to appreciate varied perspectives, which all add something different to guests’ viewing, and Fort Wilderness is certainly one of those places.

That blue-ish glow to the left of the burst is the smaller fireworks directly behind Cinderella Castle. This gives you an idea of how far away the big bursts really are when they’re launched.



The next day we took a drive around our old stomping grounds outside of Walt Disney World to see what has changed in the last year (answer: a LOT. It’s Orlando. Things change monthly). We returned to Fati so that Susan could do a podcast interview, then we headed over to the Sing-A-Long pavilion again for Movies Under the Stars. The evening’s movie was Disney’s animated Tarzan, which neither of us had seen in years.


It made for a nostalgic end to the day, and helped us think about something other than the next morning’s visit to Ruthie’s vet. We knew we had some hard questions to ask, and we weren’t entirely sure we’d like the answers. In the end, the answer was, No, it’s not time to “make that call” yet. We were given a clear idea of what we’d see when the time does come to say good-bye, but that we won’t know when that will be until Ruthie shows us she can’t keep going. “She won’t want get up. She won’t want to eat. And her breathing will suddenly be twice this bad.”

She did come home with medication to help ease her advanced osteoarthritis, so that should make her more comfortable, but walks are out for her for the duration, and beyond that it’s “wait and see.” Could be a week, could be a year.

She looks great for a 97-year-old!

The Electrical Water Pageant is one of those magical little “extras” long-time Disney fans seek out, and we were eager to see it that evening, for one last time. The weather had other ideas. Although the rain kept us inside the rig, we were content with our forested view as our thoughts were on returning to our “sticks and bricks” house the next day.

It’s surprising how conflicted we are about being ready for a rest, being excited to be home again, wondering how we’ll cope with staying in one place every day, and feeling truly, truly sad this Year on the Road has come to an end. We can’t bear the thought that we won’t travel like this again, so we will. What that will look like remains an exciting mystery.

Thank you for coming along with us on this incredible journey, and here’s to the next one!

Enter The Jungle


When is a campground only 29 miles away from your previous location but a million miles away from harsh reality? When it’s The Hideaway Retreat in Navarre, Florida, an oasis of magnolia trees, white sand beach, and the blue, blue, blue of the ocean.


Okay, so maybe it’s on the Santa Rosa Sound, not the ocean, but the effect is the same. A self-proclaimed “shabby chic” retreat that offers rare shade in the Sunshine State, the Hideaway scared us at first for its close-together trees, then proved to be far more straightforward than we imagined, and a gem of a place we’ll return to if we ever get the chance.




When you live in an RV, every noise matters. We know all of our noises, from the occasional hum of the fridge as it tries to freeze everything solid to the gentle click of the light switches and the metal “pop” as the slides or the jacks settle in during cold weather. But the muffled thumping we kept hearing eluded us. What the hell was it?

This isn’t the source of the thumping noise. It’s a squirrel (clinging to the sawed-off part of the trunk) that swore at us for a full five minutes because we were parked so close to its tree. We eventually came to an agreement, and he/she moved on.

It drove us to distraction until we asked one of the staff and they told us it was testing that takes place at the Hurlburt Air Force Base Special Operations Command’s training grounds, just across the Sound. They’re blowing things up, but don’t worry; after a while you won’t hear it anymore. Which was (partly) true. It was simply one of those background noises that makes RVers (okay, us) wonder if something on their rig is eager to meet a mobile mechanic and will cost many, many hard-earned dollars.

The strip of land at the far side of the Sound is the training grounds. It looks far in the photo, but it’s not, really.

That problem solved, Simon had never seen the movie The Truman Show, but was aware Seaside, Florida, not far away, was the setting for the fictional town of Seahaven, so we had a drive along the coast the next day with that town as our goal. When we arrived, we couldn’t escape the feeling that it was very much like the formerly-Disney-owned town of Celebration, which some say looks like a Normal Rockwell painting and others say is more along the lines of The Stepford Wives.

Row after row of condos and single-family homes, and nearly all of them were painted white.

This is a single family home. And it isn’t even the biggest along the shoreline in this area.

Unfair movie comparisons aside, Seaside clearly has money. It also has a lot of community amenities, including an intriguing area featuring permanent kiosks and food trucks that would have been perfect for lunch.

But we’d already eaten, having stopped at Beach Camp Brewpub, not realizing Seaside was so close. Still, Simon had a huge bowl of gumbo and a beer, Susan went for a cup of Brunswick Stew and iced tea, and we split sides of cheese grits and collard greens, all of which were delicious. Simon being Simon, Sticky Toffee Bread Pudding rounded off a fine meal.

Thick and rich and scarfable!

Trio of deliciousness!
Yes, yes, yes! But more caramel sauce, please.

The next day we had hiking and a boat tour on our radar, for a bit of exercise and the chance to get out on the water. Arcadia Mill has a three-quarter-mile-long, dog-friendly boardwalk through what was once antebellum Florida’s first water-powered industrial complex. Very little remains of that logging endeavor, other than a few ruins of retaining walls, but it’s a gorgeous walk through the forest, with peaceful streams running languidly across our path. True balm for the soul.

Venomous snakes, bears, slippery boardwalks, and 24-hour surveillance. This should be fun!


Why do we love views like this one so much? Perfection!

We started the adventure with a little picnic of sandwiches, carrots, and fruit, then did the full loop, with Ruthie making the trek in her wagon.


After consulting her vet about the more advanced laryngeal paralysis our pup is experiencing, walks are now out of the question for her, but she seems to appreciate getting around comfortably when the path isn’t too bumpy.

Who’s a beautiful girl? YOU ARE!

The boat tour? Well, that didn’t really work out. Simon wanted to “drop by” and find out more about it, but when we arrived it was someone’s house. No one came out when we pulled into the driveway. It all got very awkward, with shades of our horrible coffee debacle in Leiter, Wyoming, so we backed out and agreed we’d better call first.

While we couldn’t go boating (renting is cost-prohibitive here), we did take time to head down to the Destin marina for a view of the famous Crab Island. It was once a real “island” in the North Channel, but much of it washed away, and now it’s a massive sand bar with four-foot-deep water, making it an ideal spot for boaters who want to chill out or party.

A tiny, tiny portion of the “island.”

We could see it well from the marina, but had an even better view as we crossed over the William T. Marler Bridge (Highway 98). It was jam-packed on that sunny Friday afternoon, with weather in the high 80s, and we imagine it’s shoulder-to-shoulder and boat-to-boat in high summer.


Those with a keen eye will have noticed the floating tiki huts. During busy times, mobile food and drink boats (not you, alcohol) putter out to the island and offer their wares. This little shaved ice and ice cream boat was just coming back to the mainland for refills.


But possibly the best thing we did in Navarre was hang out near the beach at our campground, eating ice cream, having a drink, and watching through our binoculars as boats went by. Only a few times during this trip have we just kicked back and acted like real campers. We could get used to it.


A Year On The Road in The Independent, Pt 7

Regular blog readers will know our grand year-long RV adventure is being serialized in the UK’s Independent newspaper, and the latest instalment is now online.

It covers the northern part of our Arizona travels, and you can find it on this link:

https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/north-america/usa/great-american-road-trip-arizona-b2533875.html

The majestic Grand Canyon

We Are Absolutely Not Going Anywhere


Simon: Let’s go to Milton as our first week in Florida. There’s nothing nearby to tempt us away from the campground, and we can push through the work we need to get done so we can enjoy our final stops.
Susan: Perfect. If I can count on that, I’ll fill up the fridge and plan for all our meals at home.
Simon: You can count on it.
Also Simon (first full day at campground): Let’s do a loop around East Bay and down to the coast today and visit Pensacola tomorrow! YAY! GO, GO, GO!!!

The man just can’t. But our thoughts are starting to focus on our return home and the major decisions we’ll be facing once we’re back, so we agreed to two days exploring, and the rest of the time in the rig getting a jump on preparations for summer’s onslaught.

With a view like this, why leave?


If you have other things to do, here’s the short version: We pretty much did nothing, other than two short excursions. For the longer version, read on.

Resting scowl-face!

When we checked in at Avalon Landing RV Park, we were offered an upgrade to a water site for $30 ($4.28 a night), and while we weren’t quite sure we wanted the extra fee, we agreed, and it was a decision that really paid off. Birds swooping and diving, mullet jumping, people fishing from the bridge; absolute viewing perfection from inside the rig while we worked, and from outside with our pre-dinner drinks.


We spent the first day “at home” getting laundry, shopping, and a little bit of work done, then set out for a loop around the bay the next day. When we reached the Gulf, we both had a little catch in our breath, seeing the wonderfully familiar blue of the water. Florida, in our opinion, has the most beautiful ocean water in the country (well, around the country, really), with its deep blues and bright blues that are even more radiant against the Panhandle’s superb white-sand beaches.



The next day we drove south, then turned west along the single road through Gulf Islands National Seashore, which we had first encountered ‘way back in Mississippi. Little dune-ettes – tiny by Lake Michigan standards – stretched the full length, with the occasional peek at the sea on one side, and the East Bay on the other. A gentle day, yes, but we felt the full impact of being so close to the end of our adventure.


Next up was Pensacola, with its pretty downtown balconies reminiscent of New Orleans, and an up-close (-ish) view of Captain America, an off-shore support vessel that helps install and decommission things like drilling rigs and wind farms. The ship was just paying a visit, and its home port is Pascagoula, Mississippi.



A historical marker at Palafox Pier, where the ship is anchored, recalls a darker time. Pensacola’s history of importing enslaved Africans is long, dating back to the mid-1500s. First the Spanish, then the English, shipped human “cargo” to the area, presumably landing at or near what is now the pier. It also recalls the people who escaped enslavement and hid out in Pensacola’s relative remoteness. Their ancestors, the sign indicates, helped shape the character of the city.


Why is this marker important? Because it (and others like it, specifically in St. Augustine, Florida) counters the history we were taught in school, that slavery began in Virginia in the mid-1600s. St. Augustine saw its first slaves in the early 1500s. These markers are so easy to overlook, but we’ve been surprised at how much they’ve inspired us to learn more about things we didn’t know, or thought we knew.

The rest of our time was spent working, putting “decisions” in motion, and enjoying our gorgeous view. We’ll have one more beach destination, two more short moves, and then a very special finale to what has been a mind-expanding trip.

The Beaver, The Beach, And The Bygone Brave


How do you burn through five hours when you’ve only got a 90-minute drive between campgrounds, you have to leave the first one at 11 a.m., you can’t check in at the second one until 4 p.m., and you have no idea where to find a place big enough to park a 36-foot rig and its tow car? You stop at a massive Buc-Ee’s, that’s how!

We were pretty tired of Buc-Ee’s sandwiches, but salad is always a good choice, so we gassed up Fati, grabbed two Cobb Salads, sat in the parking lot for a very long time (with a couple dozen other RVers), and on the way out we took a photo of Buc-Ee’s “No (trucks)” signs we’d seen when we stopped on our way to Tallahassee ahead of the storm. At that time, there were about 20 signs crammed into a long row just outside the parking lot, which read like, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no……” and made us laugh. Some of them got knocked down in the wind, so the joke wasn’t quite as funny anymore.


This was not for our salads and tea. It’s for 3/4 of a tank of gas.

Imagine 20 of these, just a foot or two apart. Is it just us, or is that funny?

Over the course of the week, we took several drives along the Gulf and its bays, taking in the magnificent (expensive) homes between Point Clear and Daphne, and Fairhope’s lovely little downtown. One of the stoppers for us is the hurricane risk. And that’s a big stopper, right up there with snow. And dust storms.

Our campground was south of Mobile, but we took a drive to the city and were surprised, once again, by the giant houses, many of which were just a street or two away from very modest homes. There is a lot to like about Mobile. Pretty parks, lots of history, and an interesting downtown with lots of personality. If Savannah and New Orleans had a baby, it would be Mobile.


We felt pretty special when we came upon a park that had just that very day re-started its fountain after a long refurbishment. A couple of representatives were walking around asking people how they liked it, so we assured them it was a mighty fine fountain indeed.

We grabbed lunch from an Irish pub that had come highly recommended, and laid our tablecloth down on a grubby bench (the only seating in an otherwise beautiful park) for a picnic. Here is my “social media” face from our al fresco lunch.


This is how I really felt about that bench.


This is Simon eating a Shrimp Po’Boy that’s as big as his head (yes, he ate it all).


And this is a Live Oak in the park that waves its hands in the air like it just don’t care, but is also so old it has to balance itself a bit by holding on to the sidewalk.



At the risk of sounding like we’re on some cemetery kick lately, we did visit the Confederate Rest Cemetery for its historical value. It is unquestionably right and fitting to remember your glorious dead (each one of them some mother’s son), and to keep their sacrifice in mind, and the cemetery certainly does that.


We did stare in mild disbelief as we read the monument put up by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which reads:

Forever now, among the immortal dead, whose dust belongs to glory’s dreamland, sleeps the fair Confederacy. Right principles can never die. No cause for which the brave have bled in virtue’s name, for which the true have kept the faith, for which the dead have died in holy martyrdom, was ever lost.


Ummm….so much to unpack about that, isn’t there, starting with exactly what those “right principles” were all about.

On the back, it reads:

Furled in our conquered banner, but its folds, rich in immortal memories, bore no stain save the blood of her matchless heroes.

The monument went up in 1941. 1941! We have big feelings about that, but will leave you to your conclusions.


We’d been passing billboards for Lambert’s Cafe – and the actual restaurant itself – a few times, and decided to drop by to see what all the “throwed rolls” fuss was about. And yes, indeed, they do throw hot rolls at diners. Want one? Just put your hand up when the roll guy (or gal) comes by, and he (or she, or they) will whip one at you. Brilliant!

Hot rolls! Who wants hot rolls!

The area’s best attraction, however, was our campground. Gulf State Park is ginormous. Its hugeness is part of its charm, though, because it offers the largest amount of space between sites that we have seen on this trip. And, like Biloxi Bay, it feels like traditional camping, with pine trees, 28 miles of well-used walking and biking trails, and campfires around us each night. We could get used to this!




There are also a lot of activities, making it feel resort-like rather than just a campground. Simon loves live music, and one of the events was a free outdoor concert, so we packed up our chairs, poured a couple of G&Ts into our travel mugs, loaded up Ruthie, and spent a thoroughly enjoyable hour listening to a musician who plays Gordon Lightfoot music, having been a good friend of that artist. He also told us the real stories behind each of Lightfoot’s songs, many of them quite heart-wrenching. There may also have been tears when he sang Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, a tragedy that happened in Susan’s home state of Michigan.



We had to move sites part-way through our visit, but the 50 yards it took to get to the second site was child’s play. Yes, we had to pack up the rig as we normally would (with a few exceptions, like not putting away our stuff in the bathroom, and bringing Starlink into the kitchen area rather than boxing it up), but we had a corner lot, which meant even more privacy, and also a view of the main road through the campground, which allowed for exceptional rig-watching.

Our second site. Look at all that room!

Now that we’re in the final month of our Grand Adventure, we’re doing a lot of rig-watching. We’re ready to stop for a while, but not ready to stop forever, so we’re eying smaller rigs we could be comfortable in for a few months at a time. We’re not sure we’re ready to trade in Fati yet, though. Decisions, decisions!

Riding The Storm Out


There are times when getting from Point A to Point B is a functional undertaking, and the Interstate gets you there quickly. Then there are times when the scenery is so appealing, the slow roll along a small road is worth the effort. Our trip from Waveland to Biloxi was one such drive, and we ended up taking the road less traveled three times during our stay, twice with great pleasure and once as a torturous, screaming nightmare.

Highway 90, our old friend from previous drives, gave us a non-stop view of the Gulf of Mexico as we made our way to Biloxi in Fati, and, for a change, we planned ahead and had sandwiches ready for a beachside lunch.


With our windows open and a glorious sea-salt breeze blowing through the rig, we soaked up the bliss even as we ruled the Gulf coast out as a place we could live. One thing we’d hoped to discover during our Year on the Road was a place we could be happy settling down when we’re ready to leave Florida. We’d come so close a few times, but hadn’t yet found just the right fit.

Biloxi Bay RV Resort and Marina was certainly the right fit for the next week, situated right on the bay, with mature pine trees that give it the feel of a genuine “camping” experience. There’s something about pine trees that makes a campground feel…I dunno…cozy, I guess.


Our first day trip took us out to Davis Bayou for a hike along the trails, and while the man at the Visitor Center recommended two trails we could take Ruthie on, they proved to be hard going and didn’t lead to a big pay-off at the end (like a lake, or some other scenic “Wow!”).


Our little girl’s harness used to fit her. Now she’s shrinking.

As we were heading out of the park in Nippy after our walk, we detoured down a small road just beyond the Visitor Center and found a big inlet with kayakers and boats and guys fishing with rods and with nets, and a Blue Heron named Reggie. Score!




We chatted with the fishermen about their catches, how long they’d been fishing the inlet (forever), and any dining we shouldn’t miss while we were in the area. One of them mentioned TatoNuts, and the exchange between him and his cousin went like this:

Him: TatoNuts has the best donuts. They’re like no other donuts.

Cousin: That’s because they’re made with potatoes.

Him: No, they’re not.

Cousin: Yes, they are. That’s why they’re TatoNuts. It’s the “tato” part of TatoNuts.

So, of course, we got some. The line to get in was out the door, and while only a few of their donuts were made with ‘tatoes, we couldn’t taste the ‘tato in the nuts we bought, but still agreed they were yummy, made even better by the fact the owners seem to be Disney fans, if the photos on the wall were anything to go by.



We spent the next day at home, eager to see the event the whole country was talking about. We were forecast to have an 89% solar eclipse view, with just 3% cloud cover. What we got was a zero percent view with 100% cloud cover and pouring-down rain.


But it didn’t dampen our spirits. We turned on the TV and watched the coverage from all over the country, and were thrilled each time a massive cheer went up from those who did get a great view. We take our joy where we can find it!


But the weather wasn’t done with us yet. A massive, dangerous storm was rolling our way, with a forecast of tornadoes, golf-ball sized hail, and wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour or more. We’ve ridden out big storms before, but with the threat of flooding and tornadoes, we made a snap decision to get out of harm’s way, which was 300 miles and two states east, in Tallahassee, Florida.


The extent of the storm’s reach meant we couldn’t get out of the way quickly enough in Fati. We’ve already described on our Facebook page the awfulness of leaving her – our home and our friend – so I won’t go over it again. We spent two nights in a hotel, got sandwiches and salads at Buc-Ee’s twice, and the reunion with Fati was sweet when we returned and found her totally undamaged.

After five visits to Buc Ee’s, what hasn’t he tried yet?

The next day dawned bright, so we visited Mississippi State Sandhill Crane Wildlife Preserve and did a one-mile hike. We didn’t see any Sandhill Cranes, but we have them in our yard in Orlando, so it wasn’t a loss. We did see tiny Spring flowers starting to bloom, and were reminded of the start of this big adventure, when those same flowers were our roadside companions.

The visitor center had a few bird displays, so we didn’t strike out completely.

As we drove back along Highway 90 toward Biloxi, the eastbound lane was funneled down to one lane with traffic cones, and every turn-off for several miles was blocked by police cars and barriers. Police and sheriffs from neighboring towns drove up and down the cordoned-off lanes. No one was getting off that road, and traffic was slowed to a crawl or less. What in the living hell was going on?


Our hour-long conversation progressed along the lines of A) This looks like they’re trying to find someone. Human trafficking, maybe? Or drug dealers? B) Is there a terrible accident ahead? Can’t be that, since the traffic cones and barriers were set up well in advance, and there are miles of it. C) Is this…an event? Why all the firetrucks and ambulances and police? Maybe a protest? What day is this? It is an anniversary of some terrible thing? D) It’s got to be a protest of some kind. Every single person we’ve seen for miles has been Black, and roughly the same age. What the hell has Biloxi done to them?



It was none of that. When we returned to Fati and looked it up on the news, we discovered it was Black Spring Break. Black Spring Break (a.k.a. Black Beach) draws Black college students from all over Mississippi to the Gulfport/Biloxi area, for the chance to have a fabulous few days of fun while also remembering the state’s dark days of segregation, and subsequent desegregation of Harrison County’s beaches spurred by the 1959-1963 “wade-ins” that took place right where Black Spring Break unfolded in front of us.


Why the massive amount of law enforcement and emergency medical services? In 2023, a shooter injured five people during the event, including a police officer. This year was not going to see a repeat of that violence. What we saw was thousands of college kids enjoying a gorgeous day at the beach. And while the roadblocks slowed us down immensely, we were thrilled to have seen it once we knew what it was, and what it meant.

During the rest of our stay in Biloxi, we poodled around with no particular plan, other than paying a visit to the local institution where everyone goes for barbeque, even though it’s freaky and jam-packed and it looks like it hasn’t had a good clean since Hector was a pup. Longer, even. Like, maybe, never.

Oh my lord gawd sweet baby Jesus!

The Shed is the sort of place Susan doesn’t even want to drive past. The kind of place where the likelihood of food poisoning appears to be high. But travel makes people brave, so in we went.


We were the only ones wearing masks (of course we were!), so we got suspicious looks, but who were these people to judge us? They stuck dollar bills to the ceiling with plastic forks, and most of the floor inside is just gravel, so nuh-uh! They don’t get to judge!



We split half of a Combo Platter of smoked turkey, bbq ribs, sweet potato casserole, and collard greens (with the odd but apparently obligatory slices of thick white bread on the side), and saved the rest for later. Every single bit was fantastic. Fall-off-the-bone ribs, moist and meaty turkey, the kind of sweet potato deliciousness you wish you could recreate at home, and collard greens that make your eyes roll back in your head and your mouth make “yummy” sounds.


It was all going so well until an employee brought out the bread pudding Simon forgot to grab at the pick-up window, and when we said how scrummy it all was, she said, “I wouldn’t know. I’ve never eaten here.”

It’s not what you want to hear when you’re sitting at a restaurant that appears not to put the slightest emphasis on hygiene, but since the number of days it takes to suffer from food poisoning has already passed as I type this, I’m just going to say she’s really missing out.