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Couple to share what they learned traveling across America

By Staff | Feb 18, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Keven Ann Willey and Georges Badoux

For many people, the dream of hitting the road post-retirement remains just that: a dream. But Keven Ann Willey and Georges Badoux made it happen, spending a whole year traversing the perimeter of the United States, living in a pulled 17-foot Texas-made Casita trailer.

The fourth of six weekly presenters in this season’s BIG ARTS Talking Points series, the retired journalist and chef will share their journey on Feb. 25 at 4 p.m. at the Strauss Theater.

“We talk about our two passions, food and travel,” Willey said. “And we hope to inspire people to be more adventurous in both of those areas.”

Less than four weeks after retiring as vice president and editorial page editor of The Dallas Morning News, Willey and Badoux set out on their travel adventure heading east along the coast, a trip that included a stop in Sanibel in 2018.

Willey’s 38-year journalism career included a nine-year stint on the Pulitzer Prize Board, serving as co-chair during the centennial of the prizes. Badoux has opened eight award-winning restaurants in Belgium, Los Angeles and Tucson. In the Casita, Badoux turned the Casita’s two-burner gas stove into a miniature gourmet kitchen, wowing friends – old and new – invited to share a meal with them.

Willey blogged throughout their travels during their year on the edges of America and says the experiences were almost universally positive. One Detroit-area encounter remains emblematic of the kindness of strangers. The couple met a friendly man in the laundromat who warned them away from spending the night in a nearby parking lot. Instead, he guided them to a different safer neighborhood. Sipping coffee in the Casita in the parking lot the next morning, Willey was surprised to see their new friend appear to check on them. He wanted to make sure his hometown treated them properly.

No year on the road – or at home – is without hiccups. One of the biggest for Willey and Badoux happened at the border in Maine as they were attempting to enter Canada. Asked to declare any weapons, they dutifully reported a small pepper spray they had purchased months earlier as bear spray after the canister they thought they had packed in Dallas went missing.

But a search by Canadian authorities uncovered the missing pepper spray in addition to the declared canister. Worse, the border agent then declared them in violation of Canadian law, impounded their trailer and slapped on a $500 fine.

“Told we had violated international weapons laws, we were stunned, it was a horrible experience,” Willey said. “We will now be subject to physical searches for six years when entering Canada.”

The couple appealed the fine, but the appeal – months later – was rejected. The only other recourse was to take the issue to court – in Canada. They added that they “decided to close the door on it.”

Tickets are $20.

For tickets, visit www.BIGARTS.org, call 239-395-0900 or visit the box office, at 900 Dunlop Road, Sanibel. The evening of the lecture, tickets will be sold beginning at 3 p.m. at the Strauss Theatre.

The Sanibel & Captiva Trust Company is the company sponsor for Talking Points.

The Strauss Theatre is at 2200 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel.