Sometimes getting from Point A to Point B over long distances cannot be avoided, even in this full-time RVing lifestyle. Many full-timers call this “making miles.” Perhaps there is a special event with a specific date, or you are chasing good weather. At the beginning of August, ready to escape the heat of the Deep South, I planned to drive through six states in five days. Destination: the cooler temperatures of Wisconsin.
I love RV conventions; I learn so much from other people. Last year at the RVing Women convention in Oklahoma, my new friend Kathy told me about Harvest Hosts. Through HH, museums, farms, wineries, and other agri-businesses allow self-contained RVs to spend the night, for free.
Here are some of the types of properties listed on the HH website:
Fruit & vegetable farms, berry farms, cider mills, orchards, U-pick operations, organic farms, flower & herb gardens, lavender farms, farm markets, goat and cow dairies, creameries producing cheeses and ice creams and maple sugar farms, historic open-air museums, aviation museums, alpaca & buffalo ranches, wildlife rescue facilities, farm museums, oil museums, a brewery museum, a dinosaur museum and don’t forget the alligator ranch.
Membership is $44 per year. (I bought the three-year membership and saved $12.) The website is very helpful in planning a trip and even maps a route for you.
Generally businesses ask for at least 24 hours advanced notice, and each is different in terms of space available and amenities offered. Most offer nothing more than a place to park – no hookups, hence the “self contained RV” requirement. Details for each host are available on the website. In return for an overnight stay, HH asks that you express your thanks by purchasing the business’s products. Oh, okay – twist my arm into buying some wine!
Mapping the route from Charleston, South Carolina, to Eau Claire Wisconsin, I discovered on the HH website that I could stay each night at an HH property.
When making miles and already paying for fuel, it is comforting to spend the nights for free.
With plans to leave on a Monday, I telephoned all four properties on the Saturday before. Unfortunately the farm owner in Asheville, North Carolina was going to be out of town, so I stayed at a Passport America park in North Carolina for $24 that night.
KENTUCKY, AND THE CAUTIONARY TALE
The next day I stayed in Versailles, Kentucky at The Wildside Winery, just outside Lexington in horse country.
The owner, Neil, was friendly and kind. I did some wine tasting and bought a few bottles. Neil told me the dogs could run around unleashed on the property as long as I kept an eye on them. He welcomed me to pick blackberries, requesting that anything over a quart be split with the winery. He cautioned about my choice of parking in the grass near a creek, but I assured him all would be well. Here is my beautiful parking place, right next to the gravel surface. Keep this in mind.
The next day, while pulling out, Nellie got stuck. I unhooked the toad, then tried rocking the rig back-and-forth, but that just made the ruts in the mud worse.
Bless Neil’s heart, he came out with ropes and boards and tried to help, but it was time to call AAA. And thank goodness for them! A huge rig with a hoist/winch arrived, a cable was run 200 feet from the road, and Nellie was pulled backwards out of the muck. (I didn’t get any photos of that, as I was inside steering at the time.)
Just look at the mess I left on Neil’s property!
He took it all in stride, assuring me he could fill it in and inviting me back the next time I passed through Kentucky. Please buy lots and lots of wine from the Wildside Winery! I know I will.
The morals of this story: 1) Listen to the property owner about where to park; 2) Park on gravel or concrete/asphault if available; and 3) Invest in roadside assistance for your rig!
The following evening found me in the cornfields of Indiana at the Simmons Winery and 450 North Brewing Company in Columbus.
As the sun went down I went into the restaurant and had dinner and two hard ciders: the pineapple habanero, and the berry. Both were delicious.
My last night on the road was spent at the Vintage Wings and Wheels Museum in Poplar Grove, Illinois.
Judy, the manager, made arrangements for me to have a personal tour of the museum before spending the night.
The museum and grounds are situated on an active runway, and many of the pilots live in the adjacent housing community. Judy and her husband dropped by later that evening in the golf cart with the dogs to say hello. The grounds are beautiful, and as the sun set I had a lovely view of the museum as I sat outside, sipping a glass of wine.
What a great first experience using Harvest Hosts! I plan to overnight at Harvest Hosts properties on an upcoming trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, and again exclusively from Austin, Texas to Saint Augustine, Florida.
Here’s a tip: HH has a great referral program. If someone becomes a member and mentions you as the referral, you will both get a free month of membership.