Tag Archives: Harvest Hosts

Something Old, Something New

Florida to Michigan – April, 2023 – Written by Jim

There is something to be said about an old pair of slippers. From the moment you slide them on your feet, they just feel cozy. Such was our choice of routes north this spring through Alabama, Nashville, western Kentucky and Indiana. It’s a path we have beaten often, as it isn’t quite as busy or mountainous as Interstate 75. Comfortable, no pressure…just head north along I-65/US-31 without too much effort.

With that being said, we are always in search of something new. Rolling along a well-worn path, the sights have a tendancy to look the same. We know all too well that we miss really cool stuff in our everyday lives if we don’t keep our eyes open and look for it. So off we went, searching for change amongst the familiar vistas we knew so well.

One of our first stops was a place we’ve stayed at often: Golden Acres Ranch in Monticello, Florida. This is a Harvest Hosts stop that we hadn’t been to in a few years. Bobbie and Fred Golden have a farm where they raise chickens, guinea fowl and Tennessee fainting goats. They also make mayhaw jelly, which has become a staple in our pantry. With our new rig having solar, we were excited to be off grid for the night to see how it performed.

We’re happy to say that we still had over 13 volts in the batteries when we hooked up in the morning, even after a couple of cycles of the furnace, the fridge running full blast and two cups of coffee run through our drip coffeemaker.

It was a very relaxing place to kick back for the night. Bobbie took us on a farm tour in her golf cart, showing us all they had going on in their little slice of paradise. There is something to be said about a woman well into her 80’s who is planting a slew of new mayhaw trees that won’t be producing for a few years. 🙂

Further up the road, we made a familiar stop in Troy, Alabama at Deer Run RV Park. Troy has always been somewhat of a resupply depot for us, as they have both a Walmart and Publix, along with a Lowe’s store. We did walk Troy University’s campus one time and perused their bookstore, but we’ve never found much more than that in this now familiar place. That’s not to say we won’t in the future, though. I did have a fun interaction at a propane refill station when an elderly gentleman pulled up to refill his tanks. Turns out he boils peanuts at local events, along with making rocking chairs with an odd curve in the upper part of the back. Two of them grace the porch of the dealer. With a sly grin, he said “I used my wife as a model for it.” Take from that what you will.

Another familiar stop for us is Cullman, Alabama. Again, this can be more of a stopover for us, but we made it a two night stay in search of something more. Turns out, it was a good choice. We plugged several interesting places into our GPS and headed out for the day.

Our first stop was the Clarkson covered bridge, just west of Cullman. It’s been there since the 1920’s, and it definitely has some sagging going on.

That didn’t stop us from crossing it though. :). The property also has a millpond and grist mill. It was absolutely beautiful, especially being dressed in spring foliage.

Next up was to a childhood hero’s birthplace and museum: Jesse Owens. I ran track in junior high and I was always fascinated with Jesse’s story of his multiple gold medals at the 1936 Olympics, which made Adolf Hitler very unhappy. My dad took me to the Detroit Auto Show in my early teens, as he knew that Lincoln Mercury had a number of sports stars that would be there. One of them was Jesse Owens. I bypassed Al Kaline, Alex Karras, Geordie Howe and several others to be face-to-face with Jesse. I was laser focused on seeing him. What an honor to meet a living legend!

This time, we had to settle for a cutout of him as he passed away several years ago. I was surprised to find out that he was the director of minority personnel at Ford Motor Company from 1942 to 1945, just a few miles from where I grew up. The museum was interesting, as was the movie in the theater.

They even offered a chance to best Jesse’s 26 foot, 8-1/4 inch world record long jump. I missed it by about 17 feet. 🙂 We also learned that the museum is a Harvest Hosts site, offering a quiet place to spend a night in the Alabama countryside. We’ll remember that for the future.

From there, we went to check out a couple of antique stores. The first was more of a “mall” that had old and new mixed together, We spent a little while there and then headed to a store called Southern Accents Architectural Antiques in downtown Cullman. What a find!

This business deals with unique building supplies out of old buildings throughout the eastern U.S. Everything from doorknobs, to hinges, windows, doors, light fixtures…you name it, they probably have it. They even offer you a soft drink out of an old Coke ice chest to drink while you are browsing.

From that point on, we had to make some adjustments, due to weather. We even passed a brand new warehouse that had been hit by a tornado a few weeks earlier.

Photo, courtesy Yahoo News

Traveling through these areas in the spring and fall definitely require keeping an eye on the forecast. We also passed two multi-billion dollar EV battery plants under construction, and became aware of several more going up throughout the Midwest.

Photo courtesy of Korean Joon Ang Daily

Whether you are a critic or cheerleader of electric vehicles, there’s no denying that they are coming soon…in a big way.

We are now back in Michigan with our new rig fitting nicely into it’s summer home. More on that next time. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Recharging in Florida

After leaving Nashville, we headed south to Melbourne Beach, Florida to spend the next few months.  We knew that once we were done working at Amazon, we would need to recharge, relax and get warm.  On all three counts, we were correct!  In hindsight, we were glad that we left Kentucky when we did, as the weather turned much colder after we left (it is 15 degrees in Campbellsville as I write this, as compared to 72 degrees here in Melbourne Beach).  We’ve toughed out a winter in Michigan and know what it takes to do it. Even if it was just until Christmas, we really didn’t  want to do that again.  On top of that, Diana’s back is better, so we are both very happy about that.

On the way down, we logged our very first ‘Wallydocking’ experience in Cullman, Alabama. 

For those of you unfamiliar with this term, here is what it is all about:  If you’ve ever driven by a Walmart, you’ve probably seen RV’s and trucks parked out at the far end of the lot.  Where local ordinance allows, Walmart allows people to park overnight.  It’s best to check with the store manager, and it is only proper to buy your groceries from them in return.  We popped out our bedroom slide room (it only extends 21 inches) and slept just fine.  The best part for us is that we didn’t have to pay a campground fee that night, since we were just traveling through.  We had plenty of water for our showers, our furnace kept us warm, and Diana was even able to bake blueberry muffins in the oven!  Although we had overnighted off-grid at several Harvest Hosts locations in the past, this one stop really hooked us on the idea of boondocking more in the future.  Many of our fulltime RVing friends spend significant amounts of time off-grid in beautiful locations in the western U.S., and we would like the capability to be able to do that.  More on that later in the post. 

Later in the trip, we returned to Golden Acres Ranch, a Harvest Hosts location in the panhandle of Florida that we have visited twice in the past.  We loaded up on their Mayhaw and blueberry jelly, as we had run out about three months ago of our purchase from the previous visit.  While we were there, a couple of their goats gave birth…one to twins!

They were adorable…standing up to nurse and falling back down, as their wobbly legs wouldn’t support them.  😃

It’s always good to see their Great Pyrenees dogs that roam the property and protect the livestock. They remind us so much of our Golden Retriever, Dakota. We are convinced he must have had some of this breed in his bloodline.

We also used our Passport America membership and saved 50% on four nights worth of camping at two locations on our way down. Those were both full hookup sites spaced between our Walmart and Harvest Hosts sites, so our battery was able to be recharged and our tanks were able to be dumped. While staying at our last location just south of Ocala, we visited with Diana’s brother and also our niece and her family.

We arrived back at Melbourne Beach Mobile Park on December 11.  Instead of fighting Orlando traffic, we tried something a little different.  

We went north 15 miles to Silver Springs, then straight east to I-95 near Ormond Beach, then south to Melbourne Beach.  Except for a little traffic near Daytona Beach, the route was a breeze.  It definitely beat going through Orlando!

Oh, it is so good to be back in Melbourne Beach! The wild and wonderful Atlantic Ocean on the east side of the park…

…and the peaceful Indian River Lagoon on the west side.

It’s a great place to catch not only sunrises and moonrises, but also sunsets and moonsets.   😃 This was the full moon rising over the Atlantic the other evening.

So I spoke earlier about doing more boondocking (camping without being connected to electricity, water, or sewer) this year.  Let me go into a bit more detail on that.  Our rig is currently set up as it came from the factory, meaning the off-grid electrical system consists of one 12 volt deep cycle battery powering most of the lights, the water pump, and the furnace blower.  All of our light bulbs are incandescent or fluorescent. When off-grid, the refrigerator can run off propane, as can the water heater.  Our fresh and waste water tanks generally last a few days without any conservation efforts.  In essence, we wouldn’t really need to do anything different if we were alternating between boondocking and full hookups.  But, as many of our fulltime RV friends have done, we want to enable ourselves to stay off-grid a bit longer.  Our first thought was that we would be limited by our tanks as to how long we could boondock, but there is nothing saying we couldn’t go service our tanks at a dump station and head right back to our same boondocking campsite.  That makes our limiting factor electrical. First and foremost are replacing those incandescent bulbs.  We bought 10 pack of T-10 LED 12 volt bulbs for $20 at Amazon.  We also replaced the bulb in our 120 volt lamp near our recliners. On top of that, we bought a Kill-o-watt 120 volt meter and a Bayite 12 volt multimeter to allow us to do an energy audit to see just what our needs are.  Our battery is the same one that came with the rig when we purchased it in 2011, so it is definitely near the end of its lifespan.  The energy audit will allow us to figure out how big of a battery bank we want to get.  After that, we want to string some days together off the grid before we decide what future upgrades we want to make.  We would like to run our computer, charge our iPhones and iPads, and maybe watch a little TV.  Not a lot more than we currently are able to do, but enough to warrant some sort of upgrade. We also purchased an Oxygenics shower head to conserve water.

We plan on doing a bit of traveling after we leave here, so we are also using this time to do some maintenance.  I definitely want to pull all the wheels off on our vehicles and check the brakes and bearings.  The fifth wheel also hasn’t been waxed in a while, so I’ve started on that.

Look at that shine!  We use Meguiar’s Marine/RV Fiberglas Restoration System.  With our rig being a little older, the oxidation remover really does the trick on the dull, chalky look.  The secret is to work in the shade, as direct sunlight tends to leave an uneven finish.

Besides…we have other things we want to be doing in the direct sunlight.  😎

So that’s a little review of our trip to Florida and a peek into what we have planned the next few months.  Diana has been busy mailing Christmas cards, and I have put up lights and other Christmas decorations. As they say, “Home is where you hang your lights!” Wishing all of you Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and an adventurous New Year! 


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Summer Crush Vineyard and Winery


UPDATE:  Endless Summer’s name has been changed to Summer Crush Vineyard and Winery.  Same owners, new name.  www.summercrushwine.com. 

Our first night out from Melbourne Beach was a quick 43 miles south to Endless Summer Vineyard and Winery, on the west side of Fort Pierce. This winery is part of the Harvest Hosts program, of which we are members.  As participants, various farm markets, wineries and even a few museums allow us to stay overnight in our RV in exchange for patronizing their business.

We pulled in on Sunday about 1 PM, right when their Sunday Wine Down music event was about to start.  Bad timing on our part, but the owner’s son Allen was very courteous and showed us to our spot. This photo was taken Monday morning and doesn’t show the cars that were arriving for the event, as we were pulling in with our 5th wheel.

What a nice place to park! There are no hookups (common with most Harvest Hosts), so we had to conserve our water and power, which we did just fine with. We do not have a generator or solar panels, but rely on the equipment that comes standard with most RV’s. We cook with our propane stove, use the propane setting on the refrigerator and water heater, and use the 12 volt lights that are powered by the battery. (If you do this, disconnect your power plug from your tow vehicle, so you don’t drain the truck battery.) We also supplement with battery powered lanterns and candles. We do not have TV, but entertain ourselves with our iPads, books, board games, etc. We have plenty of water to take showers and wash dishes for a two night stay.

After setting up, we quickly changed clothes and went over to the event.

Endless Summer started out as a landscape nursery in the 1970’s.  When the housing market dried up in 2008, Gary and Susan Roberts decided to pursue growing and making muscadine wine on a portion of their property.  And to take it one step further, they decided to celebrate Gary’s love of surfing and incorporate the nearby beach culture into their facility…instead of going upscale.  In other words…a reflection of who they are and what they enjoy. That was a brilliant move!  The landscape business, Gary Roberts Nursery and Landscape, has rebounded and is doing very well also under their other son Bud’s guidance.

They built a large pavilion, which incorporates Gary’s collection of classic surfboards.  (We took this photo after the show.) The events held here every Sunday have become such a hit, they’ve put two additions onto the facility.  A third addition is planned in the near future. Each Sunday highlights a different local charity. We were happy to support Girls on the Run by buying raffle tickets for some nice prizes.

Adjacent to the pavilion is the tasting room.  Here is Briana modeling a bottle of Webejammin, a semi-sweet white muscadine table wine.  All of their wines sport fun names and colorful labels like this. They sell spots at their tasting bar every half hour, and the person pouring explains each wine to the entire group all at once.  Briana was very entertaining!

Back out at the pavilion, Ryan Owens was heating things up.  The group recently added a sax player to the trio of guitar, fiddle and bongos.They were fantastic!  Each Sunday Wine Down event features a different band.

A few folks were sitting out on the dock in the pond….

….while others were playing Jenga on the lawn.

There were  two different food vendors at the event.  This one featured chicken wings.

Diana spotted the motorcycle parking, complete with kick stand pads.  Nice touch!  The property also has a Frisbee golf course incorporated into it.

Here’s Gary photo bombing our selfie!  He and his wife are super hosts, and they have carved themselves a unique niche with their business.  We wish them all the best, and we will certainly be back in the future!  If you are ever near Fort Pierce, make it a point to check out Endless Summer….especially if it is a Sunday.  You will be glad you did!

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Harvest Hosts

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!