After a number of delays, we finally embarked on our ambitious Winter 21/22 road trip! We left on December 17th and headed SOUTH! As we discussed travel plans, one important priority was to keep the primary driver happy! To accomplish this, our strategy included several key elements.
We decided to limit our travel distance each day to approximately 300 miles. Averaging around 50 miles per hour driving time (with stops for fuel factored in), this calculates to around 6 hours on the road. The plan was to rise each morning at 6am and fortify ourselves with coffee and a decent breakfast and leave each site by 8am at the latest. With the shorter days this time of year, we could reach our nightly destinations mid-afternoon and have time to relax, stretch our legs and explore our surroundings a bit.
Our second key requirement is limiting the number of consecutive days devoted to just driving choose interesting destinations along the way to hang out for several days to a week and rest. Our initial stretch of driving will be the longest simply because its winter in the North Country and we wanted to get somewhere warm fast!
Our final major strategic goal involved our overnight stays during our “travel” days. We’ve been members of Harvest Host since 2016 and, while we’ve used this exceptional service on occasion, we have not really taken as much advantage as we could have. This trip I’ve made it a priority to elect to stay in as many Harvest Host sites as possible – and choose different types of venues.
Harvest Host is a membership program designed for Rvers looking for unique overnight stays while traveling from place to place across the country. Under new management since 2018, the site has grown to include over 2,965 locations nationwide. Initially, the venues were predominately wineries. Now, the locales have expanded to include businesses such as breweries, distilleries, farms, museums, restaurants and other roadside attractions. For an additional fee, members also have access to a number of golf courses throughout the country.
The rules are simple and there is a Code of Conduct outlined on the website that members are required to follow. In most cases, stays must be limited to one night only and requests to stay should be arranged at least 24 hours in advance. RV units must be self-contained – no tents or pop-up trailers permitted. Sites are usually free (unless substantial hook-ups are provided) and the Code of Conduct encourages visitors to support the host by making a purchase – bottle of wine, fresh produce – whatever the venue offers!
Members have access to a robust online search engine to find locations along their route. Each location includes descriptions of the site, maximum rig size and any amenities included with the site. Most locations require that Rvers boondock but some do offer electric hook-up and/or water. Included with the site descriptions are reviews from fellow Rvers to help when deciding if a particular venue will meet your needs. The Harvest Host site now offers online “request-a-stay” in most cases with approvals coming back from the hosts via email fairly quickly. In some cases, a host is not set up with the online request system in which case overnight stays are arranged via phone.
As we embarked on our trip this winter, we would be traveling five straight days (4 nights) until we stopped for an extended stay at a campground near New Orleans. Three of these four nights I found Harvest Host sites along our route that were spaced about 300 miles apart. And, in keeping with my goal, they represented 3 different types of venues!
Stone Lake Winery
Our first destination fit within our 300-mile driving range. Stone Lake Winery sits outside of Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania and was a short drive off I-33 in northeastern PA. The host, Scott, met us upon our arrival and escorted us to our parking site in a large field adjacent to a cute white chapel. While not the site of the actual winery, this is their bed and breakfast location as well as a place where they hold private venues in the large barn on the property. The night we stayed Scott was setting up for a local business’ holiday party. It was a peaceful, country atmosphere and being native Pennsylvanians we were more than at home in this familiar-looking territory! Scott was an excellent host and we enjoyed a bottle of their pinot noir that evening!!
Shenandoah Heritage Market
The Shenandoah Heritage Market was a very convenient stop just off Interstate 81 near Harrisonburg, Virginia. I would describe this venue as an indoor/outdoor farmers market complete with local shops offering food, crafts, antiques, toys and much more. In the warmer months, the outdoor portion features local produce and farm products. I apologize for the cell phone photographs as they did not upload nicely – but I did not take my camera out while at this stop. After backing up into the designated RV area, we ventured into the market to get something to eat and browse the shops. We had fun chatting with the model train club members who had a nice electric train exhibit set up as you enter the market. Our son was a Lionel train set fanatic in his elementary school years and had an extensive display set up in our basement. We are therefore always drawn to these shows.
We also talked with a very nice gentleman who was at the market shopping with his wife. He noticed our Airstream and came over to ask about our travels. He and his wife are contemplating RV travel when they retire and we were happy to share with him our thoughts. If you found my blog online and are reading this, I wish you both lots of luck in your research regarding the RV lifestyle! Maybe we’ll see you on the road someday!
Even though this venue was adjacent to I-81, we spent a peaceful and surprisingly quiet night in the parking lot.
McMillan Horse Farm
Our final Harvest Host spot on this leg of our journey was near Mosheim, Tennessee and had the added bonus of offering full-hookups for a fee. After three days on the road with minimal water in our fresh water tank, it was a welcome treat to take showers, enjoy shore power and dump our gray and black water tanks. This locale is definitely a “work-in-progress” but the host was friendly, it was a short drive off the interstate and there was ample space to stretch our legs and take a walk.
Below our campsite, there are a series of ponds where the owners raise catfish. We explored these ponds before settling down for the night. After dark, another RVer from Oregon came rolling in and set up beside us. They were traveling in a brand new Oliver travel trailer. They had just picked it up at the Oliver factory in western Tennessee. Their previous RV had been an Airstream that had not held up to the salt air of the Pacific coast where they live. I wish them luck with the Oliver – they are impressive trailers and have a good reputation for quality.
Our winter 21/22 trip is off to a good start – looking forward to discovering what’s around the next corner!!