Friday morning, we left Naples, Florida with the intention of driving to the state’s panhandle and staying at a Yogi Bear park in Madison. Along the way, we encountered heavy traffic, as the snowbirds moved north. Spring breakers were headed south, resulting in miles of vehicles sitting still on I-75.
A lot of those people on the other side had just driven straight through from Michigan. That is not our idea of fun.
Along the way, Diana looked on the Harvest Hosts website to see if there were any farms or wineries in the area. For those of you not familiar with this, Harvest Hosts is a U.S./Canada-wide network of wineries and farms who allow people to spend the night on their property in their RV’s. In exchange, it is customary to support their business by purchasing their goods. I selected our one year membership (normally $44) as a door prize at the RV-Dreams 2014 Fall Rally, and Diana selected our GoVino wine glasses for her prize, which brought about a few good laughs! Anyway, Diana found Golden Acres Ranch, just about 1/2 hour past Madison in Monticello, Florida. She called to see if they had room, and they did! We pulled in just before dark and got set up for the night.
There was a big ol’ full moon rising above the live oak trees. The ranch was absolutely beautiful, and the sounds of the animals was a welcome change from the highway noise. We were a good 10 miles off of I-10, so we didn’t hear any traffic. What we did hear was guinea fowl, bullfrogs and Great Pyranees barking in the distance. What a welcome change. Before turning in, we purchased some farm fresh eggs, homemade Mayhaw jelly, a bar of locally made lavender soap, and a jar of Tupelo honey. Even with all of the interesting sounds from the livestock and the frogs, we slept extremely well.
Click here to listen to the sounds on Diana’s short YouTube video. Enjoy the candles on our table. 🙂
In the morning, we ate some of the eggs we purchased, then we toured the ranch with Bobbie Golden. She and her husband Fred started the ranch as an encore career, and have quite a lot on their plate!
Here is a photo of Bobbie with one of her Tennessee Fainting goats. These goats stiffen when startled, which makes them appear to faint. They make great pets! This beauty has blue eyes.
They are adorable!
Here is Diana holding one of the baby goats. That made her day!
They also have sheep on the ranch. We learned that sheep tails go down and goat tails stick up.
There were several guinea chickens running about, and they could really move! Bobbie and Fred also have several Great Pyranees dogs to guard the livestock.
They are beautiful dogs, and remind us of our male Golden Retriever, Dakota, who passed in 2004.
These three were born last fall. And they loved Diana. 🙂
What a great place to park for the night! Be sure to check out their website to understand the uniqueness of the Mayhaw trees and pond, and to learn about the upcoming Mayhaw festival being held at the ranch in May.
Part of the Harvest Host experience is boondocking. For those of you not familiar with this concept, boondocking is when you park without hookups…no water, sewer or electric. Some RVers have generators to produce electricity and some have solar panels on their roofs. RV’s have large fresh water holding tanks and sewer tanks. Depending on your set-up and how miserly you are dictates how long you can boondock. We don’t have solar or a generator, so we are limited to how long we can stretch our house battery. Many of our lights are 12 volt, along with two exhaust fans, and our water pump. Our stove runs on propane, as does our water heater, furnace and refrigerator. We lit candles in the evening and used battery powered lanterns, so our battery was still full when we left. Just in case, we unplugged the truck from the trailer, so as to not run down the truck batteries.
Once we left the ranch, we decided to take a different route, in order to avoid the interstate traffic. We took a route that Diana’s dad used to rave about, and one we never had a chance to try. We drove north from Monticello on US-19 to US-84 and west to US-231. On 19 and 84, this is what the road looked like:
Wow. Barely a car in sight, and four lane divided highway the entire way….all posted at 65 mph outside of the few towns we encountered.
We ended up for the night at one of our favorite stopover campgrounds on the Michigan/Florida route: Deer Run RV Park just north of Troy, Alabama.
It is a beautiful setting, and the campsites are spacious.
We ended up with a very nice pull through site that allowed us to stay hooked up to the truck.
So, what started out being a hectic drive up I-75 ended up being one of the most relaxing experiences we have ever had. Many thanks to Bobbie and Fred Golden, two of the most delightful people we have ever met. And thanks to Don and Kim Greene of Harvest Hosts for donating the membership to RV-Dreams! We will definitely be renewing it!