Posted October 19, 2023 – Narrated by Carmen
When passing through, some places are too beautiful to leave …
so, sometimes we stay.
Thanks to Harvest Hosts – a membership club for complimentary overnight camping based on a European model – RV travel is experiencing a resurgence of hospitality not seen since the bygone era of the American Auto Park of the 1920’s-to-50’s.
Some think history repeats itself and others say it rhymes. I’m keen on the idea that Time is a vehicle and The Past is its service station.
So, “Does time change vehicles? Or do vehicles change the times?
And many find the nomadic life is more normalized than recent generations have experienced. The full-time mobile lifestyle is gaining new respect as a public service.
That’s why safe, legal and beautiful RV parking is in high demand.
Only a decade ago, a long day’s drive usually ended with a tight squeeze into an over-lit, chain-link fenced, roadside RV park with a cheap base-gravel pad and rusty outdated hook-ups – and, it would cost you a motel sized bill.
Today’s self-reliant RVers want fresh air in a quiet, spacious, scenic area – a place to relax, watch a sunset, have a bite to eat, take a walk, enjoy some stargazing, and go to bed – no hook-ups or amenties necessary.
Harvest Hosts, modeled on the ancient system of mutually beneficial commerce, is like a secret portal to adventure.
We stock our pantry, produce bin, and liquor cabinet directly from the people who cultivate our food and drink.
In turn, they reward us with an area where we can grab a good night’s sleep without actually having to wake at the crack of dawn to attend harvest – unless we are invited to lend a hand.
Harvest Host’s user-friendly website – with an ever-increasing list of more than 5,000 hosting locations at farms, vineyards, breweries, distilleries, attractions, and golf courses – has kept our full-time travel lifestyle on course for eight years.
We drop potential locations into our RV Life Trip-Wizard program, and check for availability as we journey along at our own pace. So far we’ve been guests at 138 Harvest Hosts locations.
Living in Beauty is an active lifestyle, and we need our rest.
Harvest Hosts supports our simple mission to immerse in beautiful new-to-us, no-hassle, secure outdoor locations.
Our hosts are working people, so they understand the need for R&R.
Sometimes they will scoop us about farmer’s markets, festivals and happenings in the area – like in West Monroe when we pulled up just in time for a big ol’ Cajun harvest fair. Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Harvest Host’s is many things.
It’s a sanctuary on national holidays when it’s impossible to get a site reservation in a public park.
And, after Labor Day – in regions where campgrounds close for the season – Harvest Hosts is a refuge.
Meet-ups with friends who live nearby is always more fun at Harvest Hosts destination-restaurants and fine wineries.
Bottom line, Harvest Hosts is how we roll. Here are some recent favorites from 2022-23.
Dru Bru – Cle Elum, Washington
We’d never heard of Cle Elum, but we were proud to spend the night in this gorgeous valley nestled into the heart of the Cascades.
After a scenic drive with stops at roadside farm stands …
we pulled into Dru Bru where our host and the food truck served up a meal fit for the Gods: pizza and beer.
And we took advantage of their free overflow parking area reserved for Harvest Host members.
Beauty and The Beast enjoyed a mountain view and safe, legal parking while we dined only a few yards away …
and the sunset was on the house.
That’s how it works. Harvest Host’s is a way to promote polite commerce where each party – the host and the guest – enjoy economic rewards. Written reviews are encouraged to help others understand more about your experience.
And, next morning, it was only a short trip to Roslyn, an old coal town established in the late 1800’s.
Generations of filmmakers weave Roslyn into their stories.
Hey! Here’s a hard-earned Living In Beauty Travel Tip: Visiting the Cascades and Roslyn is much easier, far less expensive and infinitely safer than over-landing to Alaska 😂
Copper Belt Wines – Baker City, Oregon
In easy post-Labor-Day traffic, we drove south on Highway 84 along the Historic Oregon Trail …
following the winding historic country road in the Snake River AVA region …
to the doorstep of Copper Belt Wines.
Winemaker, Travis Cook, showed us to our campsite.
After settling in, Travis poured tastings of his excellent European-style wines.
As Travis packed up our purchase he advised us to enjoy the stars (this is a dark sky area) then bid us good night, closed up, and drove away leaving us alone to savor the soft rosy sunset and his 2021 Tempranillo.
We watched the plume of dust follow his truck over one hill and then the next. There’s room for several RV’s and we hadn’t planned to be all alone, but this felt good – real good – and could even be criminally fun. Fortunately Travis hadn’t seen this:
Before commencing with nefarious activities, we sat down to supper.
And that’s when we noticed the sound of our chewing. We laughed and our chuckles echoed away-way way into the distance. The intense silence heightened our senses and we began to hear new things like the gentle thrum of air combing through the feathers of starlings winging overhead.
Well, that did it. Jim pulled out his drone.
While I took glamour shots of wine,
and danced with my shadow
and belted out Bohemian Rhapsody to Cow in yonder pasture.
An evening in Paris could not have rendered more memories than the sweet paradise we encountered on that magical October night, all alone with not a care in the world on the Oregon Trail.
GoodMills Family Winery – Lodi, California
Being the sole campers at a Harvest Host is not uncommon, especially in the Fall and Winter.
The kind owner of GoodMills Family Winery, closed the tasting room early to attend a seasonal concert at a neighboring vineyard. Still, she let us buy some wine and invited us to enjoy the pleasures of the garden. So, left to enjoy the grounds as the distant music echoed through the vines …
and the super-moon, all puffed up like a silk pillow on a green velvet chaise lounge, appeared from behind the mountains …
(Sigh) All I’m sayin’ is, it’s all good at GoodMills.
Bandera Brewery – Bandera, Texas
🎶 As we drove down the streets of Bandera
as we drove into Bandera one day … 🎶
The afternoon sun blazed off the pavement in the hosted parking beside Bandera Brewery.
Jim stabled the livestock and we bellied up to the bar for a coupl’a tanks of suds.
The parking was level, well lighted, and we could relax in the beer garden while keeping an eye on the rig – a responsibility we take as seriously as card playing.
Not all Harvest Hosts look like a movie set. Some are just a mall parking lot. But after a long, hard drive through Texas, a lighted asphalt lot is a fine place to park the rig and comb ‘er over for signs of damage.
Jim had the tender, juicy ribs …
and I ordered a “surprise me” vegetarian platter. Those lip-smackin’ flavors made us want to kidnap the cook.
Bandera Brewery. We recommend it. Great food, free movies, top-notch brew, happen’ town …
Just don’t play cards with the cat.
Panels Up Solar – Laurel, Mississippi
Mississippi is our home-away-from-home where everyone tells us, “You must go see Laurel!” So, at last, we dropped by for a visit.
Our hosts, Stacy and Justin Ford, at Panels Up Solar generously opened their secure and lighted yard for our overnight stay, no business transaction required.
After meeting the Fords and viewing their facility we can vouch for their knowledge, professionalism and expertise in custom RV solar installation, and we were also impressed with their enthusiasm for Laurel, The City Beautiful.
The Fords acted as concierge, offering recommendations and even providing a tour guide.
They advised us not to use our bikes on the half-mile highway distance to town (too dangerous). So, we unhitched, lowered stabilizers, and went adventuring in lovely, shady, artistic and relaxing Laurel.
Mountain Cove Vineyards – Lovington, Virginia
There is a road you’ve always pictured in your mind.
You’ve never seen it but you know it’s there, somewhere.
The winding country road leads to a hidden vineyard nestled in a pristine valley with a babbling brook and clover-scented air.
You find a place in the field and make camp.
You can only stay for one day and one night.
Every moment counts, yet haste has been banished from this valley. So you sit for a while and watch a grasshopper sway on a stem of hay.
Up the hill, at the end of the road, there is a winemaker who knows the valley and its stories. He makes the oldest wine in the land.
You walk up the road and buy as much wine as you are able to hold in your arms and carry down the hill.
Back at camp, you open a bottle of the wine and nose the herbal bouquet.
You take a sip. The wine rolls slowly over your tongue and you taste the magical valley and the brook and the joy of the road.
Golden Grove Farm & Brew – Pelzer, South Carolina
Whenever we say “beer,” Computer, our GPS, responds, “Say a command!” It’s an adorable glitch, but on this hot July day in South Carolina we were not amused. Computer had jerked us around all day and now she was throwing shade again, leading us to a fork in the road. We had the choice of a low bridge …
or what looked like an overgrown private drive. Both roads bent into the unknown like a magician holding out two fists, challenging us to pick the one holding a coin.
We shunned the bridge and plunged into the dense overhanging South Carolina scrub. Within moments we came upon an intriguing settlement of craft brew infrastructure bordering a major freeway. What’s this? A hippie oasis hiding in plain sight.
Like much of South Carolina, Golden Grove Farm and Brew is not to be taken at face value.
Golden Grove is a treasure trove of surprises and contradictions. After we settled in under the giant billboard we discovered we were parked at the entrance to a beautiful, well maintained 18 hole private disc course.
Hundreds of personalized mugs dangle from an assortment of hooks serving as testimony to this beloved neighborhood establishment.
The cold, craft brew,
and crispy, spicy chicken wings,
were delivered with the usual understated excellence we encounter throughout the south – like it ain’t no big thing, except you never had it so good.
That quality pairs with what I call “the southern conundrum.” A tendency to neither facilitate nor disregard the past, trusting that things of no practical use will, eventually, decompose.
Miraculously, that night, the skeeters were off duty. But as the sky turned cobalt the lightening bugs presented a dazzling show to the powerful music of pond frogs who drowned out the highway racket. As we enjoyed the evening, Jim and I had a heart-to-heart and agreed that we said some harsh things to computer today. Tomorrow, we’ll apologize, maybe even get her that new update and a cold beer. Then, we went inside and fell into a deep, forgiving South Carolina slumber.
Hodges Vineyards and Winery – Camp Hill, Alabama
Is it heaven or is it Hodges?
Camp Hill in Tallapoosa County, Alabama offers the finest Harvest Host accommodations we have ever experienced.
Green and manicured as neatly as a golf course, Hodges Vineyards and Winery is a wonderful way to immerse into the beautiful Alabama countryside.
The wine is made from old family recipes in the Alabama tradition. We were delighted with the fruitiness and bought several bottles for gifts and are saving some for Thanksgiving dinner.
The sites are on concrete slabs, in the vines, with full hook-ups.
The first night is on the house. But RVers inclined to stay longer may request to do so for a fee according to availability.
With such friendly hosts, beautiful surroundings, and a wine shop next door, I wouldn’t mind staying at Hodges for a month.
They don’t call it Camp Hill for nothing.
As we approach the holidays, Jim and I are focusing on The Good – the people, things and places that are making life even better – and the mobile lifestyle is high on our list.
100 years ago at the dawn of The Great American Road Trip, travelers did not have the vast network of roads and public lands we enjoy today.
Now, with more efficient RV’s and Harvest Hosts there’s no place like Home, Home On The Road.
Here is an animated map of these Harvest Host Locations