Trip Report: Michigan via Harvest Hosts

So there was this one time my 8-year-old kid and I spent a Friday night sleeping in a van outside a winery.

I suppose I should probably back up a couple of steps. Sometime readers know of our adventures in Roxanne, the Class B RV we bought last year to travel around the country as a family. We’ve probably had about a dozen trips so far. Figuring out the best places to park overnight is part of the adventure, yet your own comfortable bed is always with you. In driving to the Midwest to see family, we’ve stopped in RV parks, Wal-Mart parking lots and a turnpike travel plaza. We’ve stayed in campgrounds and even in driveways.

But the winery thing is new.

I discovered Harvest Hosts by reading a blog post by a fellow Winnebago owner. Drivers pay a small annual fee to join and get access to a network of wineries across the country. The winery offers you a place to park your RV for the night, with no hookups or access to any kind of bathroom facilities overnight, for free. The only expectation is that you buy something. Your host is running a business, after all. We decided to sign up as members just to keep our options open while traveling.

The Grand Rapids Half Marathon was my fifth and final half marathon of 2017. We decided to drive out, as we often do. I discovered that a winery in Lake Milton, Ohio is a member of Harvest Hosts and sits roughly between where we live and Grand Rapids. (It’s also just a couple of miles away from the RV park we used on our last trip.)

You don’t book a Harvest Hosts stay online. You call and talk to a person. So, a couple months ago, I reached Jen. She manages the facility. She said she’d be glad to have us, and that they’d have live music playing on the Friday night we would be there.

“Is this an appropriate place to bring an 8-year-old,” I asked?

“Sure,” she said, “As long as you don’t mind her running around and enjoying herself while you relax and drink wine.”

I signed up on the spot, and put the address on our calendar.

XY and I set out on Friday morning, with Lindy flying into Michigan to meet us the next day. We had an unhurried departure and a beautiful fall drive. It was mid-afternoon when we pulled into the Halliday’s parking lot. With a golf course (same owners) on one side and Lake Milton on the other, there wasn’t a lot of evidence of winemaking going on. We scoped out the bar and the gift shop — which has cards and board games available to borrow — and settled down at a table until Jen could talk to us.

Despite planning a rehearsal dinner that evening and a 5K run on the property the next day while trying to leave for home, Jen welcomed us with warm hospitality and told us the rules: where to park, no outside food or drink at the picnic tables, the hours of the facility and such. Live music would be over by 10. She thanked us for visiting and said good night.

We walked along the lake, skipped stones on the water and XY did cartwheels for a long time. A couple of other families and some young couples stopped in. We drank frose and cherry soda while playing cards and watching the sunset. A pretty and peaceful place.

A winery in the middle of Ohio isn’t a vegan paradise. (In fact, a flyer on the bar was advertising a wild game weekend the following week.) So we repaired back to Roxanne for another episode of the world’s most boring cooking show. I’ve gotten pretty good at preparing meals that take up little space and soil few dishes, sometimes using only hot water. The evening’s dinner was one of them:

Alan’s easy RV noodle dinner for 1

¼ block extra-firm tofu, diced

1 package vegan ramen noodles (we like Koyo)

1 cup baby spinach

1 cup boiling water

  1. Place tofu in a heat-safe mug or bowl.
  2. Break ramen noodles into mug or bowl. Add seasoning packet.
  3. Add spinach.
  4. Add hot water. Stir. Wait 3-5 minutes.
  5. Eat.

After dinner, we sauntered back to the bar/ballroom. It was packed, with a bottle of wine or two or three at almost every table. Most everyone seemed to know each other, especially the group having its rehearsal dinner. We heard a decent cover band play a few songs and watched a few people dancing. Then time for bed.

Our spot at the edge of the parking lot was far enough away that we didn’t hear any music, and the cars leaving at the end of the night didn’t stir us. We slept well and hit the road early the next day after waiting a little while to defog the windows.

Rested and ready, we were on our way to Michigan for the race and a family weekend.

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