Some surprises along the way…

Six things that have surprised us along the way so far, less than three weeks into our 52-week adventure:

The quality of the roads, especially in Texas.

Most of our 1,500 miles of travel so far have been on state and county roads across rural Texas and Louisiana, but even in the major cities along the state’s perimeter the thoroughfares have been pothole-free with wide shoulders neatly mowed – and speckled with early wildflowers.

Dallasites wouldn’t recognize I-35 at its origin near the border. We felt like we were driving on a ribbon of satin on the portion around Laredo.

Even the tiniest farm-to-market roads are smooth and regular – truly a joy to drive on.

The range of gas prices

It pays to price shop. Along the edges of Texas from about Del Rio to the Louisiana border, we saw a price range from $2.04 in Port Lavaca to $2.59 in Sabine Pass.

That’s more than a $10-spread on 20 gallons. And we’ll be using a lot of 20-gallons.

We almost ran out of gas in one long, sparsely populated stretch across southwestern Louisiana. We limped into Kaplan with the red warning light on and gladly pumped a few gallons at $2.61 even as we suspected more reasonable prices down the road. True enough: We filled up a few miles further at a more modest $2.14 – and were stunned to see another station selling gas at whopping $2.68 less than a mile from that one.

How little time there is to read

Dallas Morning News subscriber and former Airstream traveler Eulaine Hall of Dallas warned me about this last fall when I wrote a column inviting readers to recommend place-specific books for me to read along our perimeter trip. I suspected she was right when I read her lengthy and lovely email, including site recommendations from her “memory book of favorite places,” but I underestimated how right she was.

We’ve been on the road more than two weeks and I’ve progressed barely 20 more pages into William Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways: A Journey into America. I started it before we left Dallas and am loving it, but it was more than a week into our trip before I found barely an hour for some quiet reading time.

Too many maps to study, birds to identify, bike trails to explore, beaches to comb, sunsets to watch, gourmet campsite meals to create and savor. I need to work on this.

 

Our Wonder Washer

It turns out this plug-in device was one of our best purchases in prepping for the trip.

It’s so simple: You pour in a gallon of water, a bit of soap and a small load of light laundry. The motor in the base automatically turns the top canister this way and that way for whatever time period you set. Then you toss the soapy water (biodegradable!) and add fresh to rinse. Hang to dry.

The Wonder Washer (about $60) is great for light shirts, underwear, dish towels, socks, etc. We can even do our sheets if we like – one at a time – enabling us to go weeks without visiting a laundry mat. Joy! Rapture!

How solidly bikes travel on front

Attentive readers of this blog may be weary of our bike-transporting travails. But this is a major deal for us, and I’m happy to report that – so far – the front-of-the-Xterra option (sans seats and cover) has exceeded our expectations.

Our beloved bikes are as stable as a bolted door and we’ve found a way to minimize to almost nothing the driver’s visibility impairment. Most surprisingly of all, the Bug Juice quotient has been – so far – nonexistent. I didn’t even need to clean the car’s windshield until we were more than 1,000 miles into our trip.

Perhaps this will change as the seasons shift and we enter other parts of the country. But for the time being, we are more than satisfied with this transport strategy – and much relieved.

Lack of mosquitos

Speaking of bugs – and I feel like I’m inviting trouble here – we have been pleasantly surprised by the lack of insects so far, including, for the most part, the dreaded mosquitos.

Mosquitos are generally drawn to Georges and me like bees to honey and I’m mildly allergic. But we didn’t have to break out the Deet until last week when we hit Sea Rim State Park on the Gulf just shy of the Louisiana border.

We cut our planned two-day stay at Sea Rim in half when the mosquitos that seemed non-existent on the beach one evening swarmed in full force the next morning. But other than that – with liberal use of repellant and showering every now and then using the surprisingly sweet-smelling made-for-dogs flea-and-tick soap – we seem to be faring well on this front.

At least for now.

Who knows what Florida holds….

37 thoughts on “Some surprises along the way…

  1. You might want to download the GasBuddy app. Very helpful for cheapskate like us who hate getting gouged on gas.
    We are enjoying your posts. Looked at Casita trailers two weeks ago.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Your note about poor and/or intermittent wifi service got me thinking. We have T-Mobile, and they have a device which plugs into the diagnostic plug under your dashboard in the car and it’s a mobile hotspot. Whenever you are running the car, you have service. It also can display the condition of your battery and other info on your car. Costs $10 a month and if you sign up for auto billing they will credit you $10 a month.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks, John, for this great info. We had no idea. We might have to check that out.

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  2. I’ve signed on to travel with you and I’m delighted in so many ways. To travel the Blue Highways and really see our wonderful USA is so enriching. Thanks for sharing the wonder of it all as well as the fun travel tips. Who knew about the little washing machine to carry in your xterra! Safe travels.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Naomi. So glad you’re along for the ride!

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  3. Gas: Yeah the Casita gets my Xterra down to 11-12-13-14 mpg depending on speed, uphill and altitude. And I found that the warning light goes on with still 2-3+gallons left. (I tested this years ago with a one gallon gas can ( for the generator) in reserve, but made it 25-30 miles without running out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Ken. Good to know! We’ve just surpassed the 2,000-mile mark on this adventure….

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  4. Enjoying traveling with you by print. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. So glad you’re enjoying!

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  5. HIYA! just saw the piece in the NEWS from yesterday and hope y’all haven’t passed Grande Isle.
    It’s a birding paradise and they’re coming in NOW. Go to YUMS and look for LEOTA (who gives
    tours in her golf cart. Look for the houses with wooden planks that are vertical—that family speaks French! Speckled trout should be biting TOO.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Janelle! We are in Vacherie west of New Orleans visiting a friend for a couple of days. Haven’t made it to Grand Isle yet. Hope to!

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  6. Almost impossible to believe this is the refined lady that spoke to our downtown Rotary club a few years ago.Larry

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Larry. Good to hear from you.

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  7. Marianne Pruitt March 19, 2018 — 7:38 pm

    If you haven’t read Queen of the Road by Doreen Orion…YOU MUST READ IT!!! 22,000 miles by an amazingly funny couple ….it is laugh-out-loud funny….fun trip!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love this idea. Thank you, Marianne!

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  8. Great to hear you two are finding your rhythm and enjoying your adventure! Your lack of book-time speaks volumes about how well you’re filling your days. Nissan should sponsor your trip, with all the positive Xterra posts (I hope I didn’t just jinx you!).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Bill. Good to hear from you! We have loved our Xterra from Day One. So sad they’re no longer being made…. 😢

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  9. Found your story in a post in the FB Casita group, We love our 1996 16′ Casita. We also love thrift store shopping, so we don’t worry about not having enough clothing, or ruining clothes while camping.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the heads up re the FB Casita group post. Love it! We too enjoy thrift store shopping – but for everything we buy, we have to let go of something to make room…. 😊

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  10. K and G- we are so so enjoying the posts from the perimeter! As you can imagine – it reminds us of the amazing 5-month trip we had in our 35ft motorhome years ago when our now grown children were small. Thanks for your open sharing – we wonder if we should try another similar trip again – but – for now will enjoy your trip vicariously. Ka and LL.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So great to hear from you, Ka! Yes, hearing tales of your trip helped inspire G and me in crafting this adventure. I feel as though we share a special bond. Glad you’re following the blog. Please enjoy the ride!

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  11. I just read your piece in The Dallas Morning News and decided to follow your trip. My husband and I have talked about doing something similar after we retire.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad to hear from you. Glad you’re thinking of doing something similar. We highly recommend it!

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  12. Hi, I read your post in the Dallas Morning News today and decided to follow your journey! My husband talks about doing a long RV trip and we might in a few years. I’m enjoying reading your blog.

    I’m curious about your trailer and how you picked it. I would love to see some pictures from inside.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome aboard, Pam! So glad to know of your interest. I’ve posted some pictures on Instagram if you’d like to check them out there. Or I can email you some separately. The Casita trailers are made by a family-owned company located in Rice, Texas, just 40 miles south of Dallas. We love the trailers for their compact portability and comfort – complete with toilet, shower, sinks, two-burner stove, small fridge, etc. Still, they are small and not for tall people – neither of us is over 5’6”. When/if this one wears out we will definitely buy another. …

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  13. Headed East, must over night at Fairhope,AL .The east Bay side of Mobile.This is a delightful spot especially on weekends when some sort of festival is usually happening especially at Spring time.

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    1. Thx. Perhaps we’ll head there this weekend. Approaching NOLA now to visit friends….

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  14. Just signed on. Love your ideas. My wife and I traveled 80,000 plus miles in motorhome towed ,Jeep Cherokee, some of the best 8 years of our lives.
    I will be following your blog, Safe travels ! down the Road

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    1. So glad you’ve joined us. And that you have good experiences to share!

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  15. Hooray For The Wonder Washer!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Ok you’ve lost me with the flea and tick soap? Are you bathing with it, does it help repel bugs?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the question, Rodney! A former colleague of mine years ago told me that as a young Boy Scout he would bathe using anti-flea soap made for dogs as a way to help ward off fleas and ticks when the troop went camping in East Texas. We started doing the same whenever we went camping in the pineywoods or the Hill Country to ward off chiggers. Now I rub some of it over me at the end of every other shower. Not sure how effective it is and I worry a bit about the chemicals on my skin (hence the only every-other-day application) but I’ll take every bit of help I can get on this front.

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  17. Love the blog. Can taste Georges’ food even from here. Let us know if you need anything here at base camp.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad! Will do. We are sipping coffee this morning on the banks of the Atchafalaya River in southern Louisiana, having been awakened by the rasp of a red-winged blackbird. Hope you enjoyed your travels….

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  18. Roger L. Nelson March 19, 2018 — 7:30 am

    We had the same bug-free experience in Costa Rica-the tropics. Don’t understand be bug free in a part of the world that should be dominated by bugs. Be thankful!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes indeed, very thankful! (And worried about Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, etc. And not to overthink this: Also Michigan, Wisconsin in the summer!)

      Like

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