LOCATION:  Airport Comfort Inn in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
WEATHER:  Hot and humid.  95

We have a convoluted route due to using some refunded Covid-related tickets.  Our friends took us to the McAllen Airport (about 10 miles from our house) and we caught a 7:00 AM flight to Houston.  From there, we flew here to Fort Lauderdale.  I happily watched the new Downton Abbey movie.

We are staying the night here, as I wanted to make sure we had a buffer with no tight connections. 

Our hotel is near the airport and also near the cruise ship docks, where we will catch a cruise in 2023.  Good to check it out.

After we got settled, I went online and thought it strange that we had not received an email from the airline saying “It is time to check in”.  So, I went to the airline’s page (TAP Portuguese Airlines) and logged in.  When I clicked on “check-in”,  I got this message in big bold orange letters:  YOUR JOURNEYS ARE NOT AVAILABLE.  Panic!!!!!!!  Of course, there were not any instructions of what to do.  So, we found TAP’s phone number, and miraculously got an agent.  She was helpful, albeit very slow, and hesitantly said things looked ok.  Before we could finish, the customer service survey recording came on and cut us off.  Aargh.  So, I phoned again.  This new lady said her computer wasn’t working very well, so we waited and waited, after I explained things once again.  I asked her why I couldn’t check-in.  She didn’t know, but offered to check us in.  After a very long wait, she said she couldn’t, as we were on another airline!  She said I would have to call Jet Blue to check in.  I tried Jet Blue’s number and got a message that I would be on hold for 40 minutes.  Aargh again!  They did offer a messaging service.  So, I tried that, but a robot answered with just a link to the JetBLue website.  I tried checking in there, but it did not recognize our confirmation number.  More panic.  Finally, I just typed our flight number and name, and YAY it was there!  I think we are checked in and ready for tomorrow’s flight, but will not be absolutely sure until we get to the airport.  We are still not sure (and the agents couldn’t tell us) whether we go to the JetBlue or TAP desk at the airport. 

After that 2-hour horror episode, we rewarded ourselves with a beer. This royal poinciana tree was on our way – so tropical. 

And, as luck would have it, George found the Three Sons Brewpub about 25 steps from our hotel’s door step.  It looked closed and the posted hours showed it closed on Tuesdays.  We were really disappointed, and there didn’t seem to be much else around.  We tried the front door anyway, and indeed, it WAS open!  A very friendly atmosphere, great beer, and many many taps. 

We returned to the room to watch the evening news (no PBS), then walked back to the brewpub for dinner.  It has a surprisingly gourmet menu for a brewpub.  And, it was trivia night!  Here I am concentrating on the question….

We did miserably at trivia, but it was fun.  We shared these two appetizers that were superb:

Scallop crudo:  Fresh U-10 diver scallops, blood orange gastrique, finger lime gremolata, pickled watermelon, micro cilantro, and pickled jalapenos

Lamb sliders:  Free-range ground lamb with smoked paprika, buttered challah bun, tzatziki sauce, feta chedese, lettuce, and tomato. Served with plantain chips.

Back to the room for an early sleep.  We will see what the next two days bring.  We are scheduled (maybe?) to fly from here to JFK in New York, then to Lisbon, and then on to Toulouse.  All with long layovers.  We will be tired travelers by then!!! 

Last day before our Europe trip

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Need I say more?  Hot again – 100

I have so many “to-do” lists I’m working through! 

I turned off the refrigerator in Joy and defrosted it.  Wow!  My freezer seems to be double the size it was when it was covered in ice!

With no food left in the house or Joy, we went out to a Mexican seafood restaurant we like  for lunch.  As usual, we were the only non-Spanish speaking people there.  When we walked in, these musicians were serenading the customers.  I always think this is a touristy thing, but these were all Latino locals, just enjoying music with their food.

Before we even ordered, the waitress brought us some complimentary seafood soup, tortilla chips, and a variety of salsas.

Using a coupon, I had a ceviche tostado.  George had an order of 3 tostados that were topped with ceviche, octopus, shrimp, and avocado slices.  Everything was really good.  I’m so glad that I can speak Spanish so we feel comfortable going to places like this.

George played one last game of pool in the clubhouse while I finished my “to-do” items.

DINNER:  Pizza.  I picked up a mushroom/spinach one at a pizza place and took it to our friends’ house.  They baked a cauliflower crust pizza and we shared the two.  Somehow, lots of beer and wine got consumed, too.  Nice evening.  No dishes!  Leftover slices will be breakfast on the plane tomorrow.

Counting down the days….

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Repeat, repeat….Sunny.  High 100

We invited a couple over for Sunday brunch and Bloody Marys – using the horseradish vodka we had found at a distillery in Michigan.  I made an eggbake last night, and only had to bake it this morning.  George made his famous cheesy grits.  All good!

I re-packed my suitcase for the Europe trip.  I realized that I should put the items I will use first on top.  Everything still fits!

George played pool, then watched golf.  I fretted……worrying about the trip and all the arrangements.  I am Nervous Nelly.

DINNER:  Trader Joe’s kitchari over a  baked sweet potato.  I jazzed up the kitchari with the remaining refrigerator items -onions, garlic, and frozen peas. 

Christmas at the mall?

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Same old….Sunny.  High 100

I did water aerobics again.  The pool water is like bath water, so not very refreshing.  There were several ladies there, and we chatted a lot. 

George is on a committee that is trying to get high-speed, fiber optic internet in our conmunity.  The head of the community asked me to edit some information he will be sending to the community.  It was fun to hone my English skills!

We took one of the couples that we are doing the Canal du Midi trip with to the airport.  They will fly to Paris, then wind down to the canal in southern France.

The McAllen airport is next to the mall, so we decided to stop there at a bar that has about 100 beers on tap.  We could not believe the mall parking lot……It was like Christmas!  We drove around and around untill we could find a slot, then had to walk quite a ways to the mall entrance.  What is going on?  Then, inside the mall, it was chock-a-block people.  They weren’t just walking around, either….I saw many shops doing a land-office business.  Again, just like Christmas! It could be a refuge from the heat, but everyone was out spending money!

We arrived at the bar/restaurant, to find it also packed.  Normally when we are there during the late afternoon, it is practically empty.  We found a place at the bar and ordered our drinks.

We enjoyed a very nicely prepared “Spicy Tuna Stack” appetizer- a layer of raw tuna, marinated cucumbers, edamame beans, all topped with avocado and nori strips.  Around it was a spicy wasabi/ginger sauce. 

After our happy hour, we walked back through the mall to get to our car.  We saw this 15-year-old celebrating her “quinceanero” – a sort of “coming-out” 15th birthday celebration that is common here and in Mexico.  She is a beautiful girl with a teeny tiny waist!

DINNER:  We were careful to not eat a lot of the ahi tuna  and brought that home for dinner.  I made Zaru Soba:  Boil and drain Japaneses soba noodles (buckwheat noodles).  Chill in cold water, and drain again.   Make a sauce with soy sauce, ginger, wasabi, and rice vinegar.  Put the tuna pieces on a plate, then dip your noodles in the sauce and slurp up with the tuna.  Side was sauteed Asian vegetables.  Not too much left in the refrigerator!

BOOK:  “The Recipe Box” by Sandra Lee.  Pretty sappy.  A romance, struggling single mother raising a rebellious teenager.  Lots of references to food, including some recipes (the book’s saving grace).  2 stars out of 5

More get-togethers in Retama Village

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Still hot.  High 100

I did water aerobics again this morning.  My arm muscles are sore!  They need a tune-up!

While I was doing that, George got his “fix” by going to Home Depot.  He has quite a few chores to do around the house and yard before we go.

When we do our camping road trips, we often stay in Harvest Host sites.  Harvest Hosts is a network of farms, wineries, breweries, museums, and golf courses where members can camp for free for one night.  In return, it is expected that the campers spend some money at the Harvest Host site.  That is never a problem for us – wine, beer, organic fruits and veg, fresh meat, etc.  So, it ends up being a win-win.  Several Harvest Host owners told us that Harvest Host campers kept them afloat during the worst of Covid.   Since we do so many Harvest Host stays, we were selected to do a usability study for their planned, revised website.  We did a Zoom call where they had me navigate through screens, and asked for my input.  It was interesting…..and I get $75 for my efforts!

George played a rigorous game of ping pong while I did wifi work in the clubhouse.

Then, happy hour with friends here in Retama Village.  They live in a port home – a fairly small house with a gigantic tall open garage/outdoor kitchen area for their RV and car.

By 5:00, a nice breeze was blowing and we were in the shade, so we were able to sit outside.  Rain had been predicted.  The skies darkened, and everyone got excited.  Then, the clouds just drifted away.  Another day without rain!

DINNER:  Breakfast!  George made a pancake for himself.  We don’t have any syrup or jam to put on the pancake, so I made him a sweet sauce by mashing up a peach and mixing in a little Triple Sec.  He said it was good.  I had scrambled eggs with mushrooms and green peppers.  All good

Hitting our favorite stops in the Rio Grande Valley

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Another hot one.  102

I did water aerobics with four other ladies this morning.  Even though it is not a rigorous routine, my arm muscles, unused to this type of exercise, are feeling it. 

Today’s highlight was lunch with one of our favorite couples in Retama Village.  We like to go camping together around Texas.  We ate at Roosevelt’s, a small restaurant famous for its many craft beer taps that has an amazingly good chef, too.  George and I shared the day’s special, chicken quesadillas.

In the afternoon, George played a game of pool in the clubhouse while I did some internet work.  We are taking a cruise out of Buenos Aires next February, and I am trying to find a housesitting assignment somewhere in South America before or after the cruise.

DINNER:  This turned out remarkably yummy, and it hit the spot on a hot evening…….Spaghetti with smoked salmon.  Cook the pasta (any kind) as per package instructions.  Top with pieces of smoked salmon, diced red onion, and dollops of goat cheese.  Side was a lettuce and tomato salad. 

BOOK:   “Iron Lake” by William Kent Drueger.  This book had been highly recommended to me, but I found it a bit hard to get through until the end.  It is a story of a half white/half Native American in a north Minnesota town who is trying to solve a murder.  The backdrop are many stories from the Native Americans and insights into reservation life.  3 stars out of 5

Watch out, Border Patrol!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Even hotter today.  High 101; Weatherman says “feel” is 115

I enjoyed a water aerobics class in the morning with two other ladies.  The water in the pool is a bit too warm, but it was still a good way to get in some exercise. 

It is too hot for me to walk, so I lazily (with the A/C on fulll blast) drove to the clubhouse for swimming.  Afterwards, as I was backing out of the parking lot, I almost hit some Border Patrol agents patrolling our community on their bikes.  Oops!

George played a lively game of ping pong at the clubhouse. 

The highlight of the day was Wine Wednesday at Loretto’s Bistro, our favorite nice restaurant in the Valley.  We went with our friends Rob (British) and Irene (German) who just returned from a trip to Alaska and are leaving for a safari in Kenya soon.  It was fun to swap travel stories. 

We shared a “butcher’s block” of different meats, baguette slices, roasted shishito peppers, and condiments, along with a half-price bottle of excellent wine.  (Bottles are half off on Wednesdays!)  Our friends are friends with the owner who stopped by to chat with us.  Very nice. 

DINNER:  Leftover pork chop with sides of sweet potato and mixed vegetables.  The count-down for emptying the freezer and refrigerator is on! 

Preparing for our France canal trip

LOCATION:  In our tiny house (casita) in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Another scorcher.  High 100

We did some yard work before it got too hot.  I’m afraid that some of our plants will not make it through this hot weather.  We will just have to wait and see.

We picked up our friends at the nearby McAllen airport.  It took them about 2 days to fly from Anchorage to here.  Flight delays, long layovers, lack of flight crew.  It makes me worry about our upcoming flights to France.

We unpacked Joy (our Airstream) and got things put away in the house.  I did a trial run of packing my suitcase for the trip.  Yay!  Everything fit and I even have extra space.  Normally, a small carry-on is all I need for a trip, but this trip’s packing is a bit of a challenge – 1) casual, warm-weather clothes for the canal boat trip and week in Nice, 2) then dressy clothes for the Rhine River cruise, 3) then casual clothes for  possibly cool housesitting assignments in England, and 4) finally dressy clothes again for cruise home. 

In yesterday’s post, I described the different kinds of housing here in our community.  This is a photo of our casita.  Normally, we would have lots of flowering plants and flower pots, but since we are here for only 8 more days, we don’t have anything growing.

In the late afternoon, two of the couples going on the France Canal du Midi boat trip came over for drinks and to discuss final plans.  One of the ladies kindly designed us T-shirts.  The logo is so clever….showing 2020 and 2021 scheduled but canceled trips (Covid) and finally this 2022 one.

DINNER:  Baked potato with Boursin cheese and smoked salmon. 

A little bit about our winter residence

LOCATION:  In our tiny house (still hot) in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  I don’t even want to talk about it!  Miserable hot – 99

We did a few things in the yard and in the house before it got too hot.  Yay!  In the afternoon, the A/C men came and fixed the A/C.      Thank goodness!   It will take a while to cool the house down, so we are still spending most of our time in Joy.   We are house and dog-sitting today for our friends whose travel plans were changed, and they needed someone to care for Trix until they return tomorrow.  Their house is nice and cool, so we hung out some with their dog.  A win-win!  

I have so much to do to get ready for the trip, but don’t want to do stuff in the 100-degree house! 

For those of you who are new readers, I will describe Retama Village, a 55+ “active/young” community where we spend 3-5 months per year where the weather in the winter is very nice. 

Retama Village is located in Mission, Texas, right on the Rio Grande River.  The wall is about 1/2 mile from our house. 

There are about 150 homes, and it is still growing.  Construction on twelve new ones started while we were away this summer.  There is a nice combo of types of houses…

1) This is how it started — very small coach houses (12 X 20) with RV hook-ups in the driveway.  Most of the people who have these use them for craft room, guest room, laundry, man cave, etc while they “live” in their big motor home.
2) In another section are slightly larger coach houses (12 x 24).  Same as the smaller version

3) Deluxe coach houses.   This is what we first lived in.  They are built like a regular house – central air and heat, full kitchen and bath, dedicated bedroom, and living/dining area.  They are 12 x 40 and also have full RV hook-ups in the driveway.  This is a mix…..we and several others “lived” in the in the coach house hile using the RV as a guest house.  Others  live in their big motor homes and use the deluxe coach house as an extra living room/guest room.  This is one under construction……

4) Casitas – Little houses. This is what we live in now. They are similar to the deluxe coach houses except bigger. Ours is 780 square feet with a screened in back porch and an outdoor kitchen. The casitas come with full RV hook-ups. People who live in casitas live in the casitas, and use their RV as guest houses. This is one that was just built….

5) Cottages  – this is a new concept.  They are about 800 square feet and are built to share a commons area.  These do not have RV hook-ups.
6) Port homes  — These vary in size and have a HUGE roof “port” where they store their RVs, out of the sun. 
7) Regular houses.  They vary from about 1000 – 2000 square feet.  Most  of these residents at one time had an RV, and lived in a coach house or casita until they quit RVing, but wanted to stay in Retama. 

For more photos and descriptions, go to

It is interesting to see how people (like us) move from type to type.  Our HOA fees cover lawn maintenance, so we don’t have to worry when we are away.  We have a nice clubhouse with lots of activities and a swimming pool where I do water aerobics. 

We have a lot of undocumented people run through our community at night.  However, we feel quite safe as they don’t stop – we are just on their path.  Border Patrol are here quite a bit. 

DINNER:  Smoked weiners and salads.  We will be turning off our refrigerator when we leave in 9 days, so I am trying to use up everything.  Quite a challenge! 

Summary, Summer 2022 Road Trip

We are now back from our summer trip.  We left in mid-April and returned mid-August – 124 days and 14,000 miles. Wow! The plan was to spend most of the summer in Michigan where it is cool.  We were there last summer, bouncing from place to place.  We found the areas that we liked the best and returned there this summer at a more leisurely pace.  Listed below are all the campgrounds and Harvest Host sites where we stayed.  You can scroll back on the blog to look at reviews of the campgrounds and activities we did at each. 

Even though we were headed to Michigan, which is north and east of our winter place in south Texas, we went north and west first – to Big Bend.  From there we headed slowly to Wisconsin where we took the SS Badger ferry across Lake Michigan to Michigan.  We spent about 2 months in the northern part of Michigan’s lower peninsula, then crossed the Mackinaw Bridge to spend about 1 month in the Upper Peninsula.  From there we headed west to Minnesota where we used to live.  We spent time there visiting our daughter and friends.  After Minnesota, we made a bee-line back down to Mission, Texas. 

In Texas, we live in a tiny house in an RV community.  We usually spend about 4-5 months here each year, in winter.  This summer, we returned earlier than usual as we will be going to Europe in about 10 days.  This is a twice-postponed trip, due to Covid.  It looks like this year we will make it! 

Here are 3 maps – 1) our stops in lower peninsula, Michigan, 2) our route in the Upper Peninsula, and 3) the route from Michigan back to Texas.  I have also attached the list of all of our stops along the way.  I hope that you find all or some of this helpful. 

Michigan was great!  It rarely got above 80 degrees during the days, and cooled down to the 50s-60s at night, great for campfires and for sleeping with open windows.  Only one day with bugs.  Michigan is becoming quite popular, and many of the campground reservations were made back in October.  Crazy! 


Day #
1.  From Retama Village (our winter home)  in Mission, TX  to Casa Blanca International State Park.  Laredo, TX
2. Marathon RV and Motel –  Marathon, TX – excellent (night sky).  Want to return
3. Paisano RV Park.  Terlingua, TX.  Probably best RV park in town
4. Paisano RV Park – good for base to visit Big Bend National Park
5. Lajitas RV Resort.  Lajtas, TX.  Upscale.  Very nice
6. Lajitas RV.  Good for base to visit Big Bend Ranch State Park
7. Lajitas RV.  Restaurant/bar in golf/hotel area
8. Lost Alaskan RV Park.  Alpine, TX.  Great for relaxing after Big Bend
9. Lost Alaskan RV Park.  Good restaurants and bars in Alpine.  Fun town
10. Harvest Host site in Fort Stockton.  Next to wonderful winery/restaurant
11. Horseshow Bend Winery (Harvest Host).  Iowa Park, TX – outside of Wichita Falls. 
12. Core4 Brewery  (Harvest Host).  Downtown Oklahoma City, OK.  GREAT location
13. Hillsboro Cove at Marion Reservoir – ACOE park.  Kansas
14. Hillsboro Cove
15. Z&M Twisted Vines Winery (Harvest Host) – Lawence, KS.  Just so-so
16. Rock Creek at Perry Lake ACOE – near Topeka
17. Rock Creek
18. Distillery (get name) (Harvest Host) – Osceola, Iowa – very good
19. Cherry Glen at Saylorville Dam ACOE – near Des Moines, Iowa
20. Stone Cliff Winery (Harvests Host) in Dubuque, IA – very good
21. Chain O Lakes State Park.  Fox Lake, IL – very good (visited Meades)
22. Chain O Lakes
23. Chain O Lakes
24. SS Badger Ferry from Manitowac, WI to Ludington, MI.  Overnight in Ludington ferry parking. 
25. Holiday Park.  Traverse City, MI.  Former Airstream park.  Great location.  Nearby bus. 
26 – 33 – Holiday Park.  Would return here
34.  Brengan Brothers Winery (Harvest Host) near Sutton Bay, MI.  Wonderful – among the vineyards
35. Northern Blessing Alpaca Farm (Harvest Host) near Elk Rapids, MI.  Great experience!
36 – 42 Bluffs at Manistee Lake RV and Motorhome Resort.  Manistee, MI.  Wonderful!!!  Similar to Retama Village.  Will return.  Stay longer?
43.  Harvest Village Century Farm (Harvest Host) near Cadillac, MI.  Beautiful owners
44 – 73 Indigo Bluffs RV Park and Resort.  Base for a month in Empire, MI
74. 6 Mile Lake Campground , East Jordan, MI – bit of paradise.  Just 3 sites on a lake
75. 6 Mile Lake
76. 6 ile Lake
77. Campers Cove.  Alpena, MI  Fishermen and family.  Bit crowded.  Better sites on lake
78. Campers Cove
79. Campers Cove
80. Campers Cove
81. Alpine Brewery (Harvest Host).  Alpena, MI
82. Northland  Brewerey (Harvest Host) .  Indian River, MI. Woodsy. 
83. Waterway’s RV Park – Cheboyan, MI.  Could have stayed longer
84. Lake Michigan at St. Ignace National Forest Service.  Not on lake, as imagined.  Now in UP
85. Gourd Barn. (Harvest Host) Moran, MI.  Delightful!
86. Woodland Park.  Grand Marais, MI.  Worth getting lakeside site
87. Woodland Park
88. Woodland Park
89. KOA Muninsing.  Muninsing, MI.  Not bad for a KOA
90. Farquar Metza Municipal CG.  Gwinn, MI.  Very rural.
91. Farquar Metza
92. Rippling Rivers RV Park.  Marquette.  Superb, but expensive
93. Rippling Rivers
94. Rippling Rivers
95. Rippling Rivers
96. Houghton County Historical Museum.  Lake Linden.  Great
97. City of Hancock Municipal Campground.  Hancock, MI.  Worth a lake-side site
98. City of Hancock
99. City of Hancock
100. Big Snow Resort (Harvest Host).  Wakefield, MI Convenient
101. Island View Fish Camp (Harvest Host).  Mercer, WI – fun!
102. Apostle Islands RV Park.  Bayfield, WI.  Nice
103. Bark & Beavers Campground.  Port Wing, WI  – not good
104. Lakeside Basin RV and Marina.  Duluth, MN – great.  Near drawbridge and Canal Street
105. Lakeside Basin
106. Lakeside Basin
107. Gull Lake Army Corp of Engineers, near Brainerd, MN.  Very nice
108. With friends near Battle Lake, MN
109. Lebanon Hills RV Park.  Minneapolis.  Great location for metro area
110. Lebanon Hills
111. Nelson Landing RV Park.  Nelson, WI.  Great location for Mississippi River trips
112. Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo.  Byron, MN.  Great base for visiting Rochester.  County park
113. Oxbow Park
114. Oxbow Park
115. Oxbow Park
116. Oxbow Park
117. Oxbow Park
118. Oxbow Park
119. Winterset City Park, Winterset, Iowa – heading south.  Off Interstate 35
120. Riverside Campground at John Redmond ACOE Reservoir, Eastern Kansas
121. Eufala State Park – Eastern Oklahoma.  Only good if get lakeside site
122. Ranch Vintage Trailer Park, Ennis, TX – Destination glamping.  WOW!
123. Range Vintage Trailer Park
124. Retama Village, Mission, TX – HOME!