On our way from Indiana to St. Louis, MO on Saturday we needed an overnight stay to avoid a really long drive and also to give our moochdocking hosts time to get their weekend started and be ready for our arrival. So, we decided to use our Harvest Host membership. What is Harvest Host you ask? It is a network of Wineries, Farms and agri-tourism sites that allow RV’ers a free overnight stay. A couple of caveats to this is that you have no electricity, water or sewer hookups. You basically just park in a designated area, like the far end of a parking lot- pretty much like urban boondocking. We paid a $40 yearly fee for this and felt that with one or two stays we would make it worthwhile. When you do use the Harvest Host camping there is an expectation, or hope that you will support the business whose property you are inhabiting. Wineries, no problem, you can buy wine, restaurants you eat at, farms, you buy their goods. It helps everyone, we get a place to stay and they get a little more business.
This was our first HH experience. We chose Carlyle, Illinois at Bretz Wildlife Lodge and Winery because it was sort of on the way. We wanted to get there early so that hopefully we could do some volunteer work for them, but after arriving and speaking with the staff, they just didn’t have anything for us. We never got to meet the owner, but she passed on that message. I can see that happening since it didn’t seem to really be a winery, just a restaurant. I don’t know where the winery part comes in, maybe they just sell wine from someone local who makes it? They do sell bottles there. So, anyway with that short of a stay we missed out on volunteering in Illinois- does volunteering to volunteer count?
We did get there early and it was hotter than heck and we had no power, so of course we went to Walmart to see if we could find a battery operated fan or a 12V powered. We picked up a 12v fan that we could plug into the camper, but it really didn’t help much. There was a nice breeze though, so all the windows were opened and it wasn’t horrible, but we couldn’t really just hang out in the camper. The parking lot was big, but really just a gravel lot with no shade. We had a good view of the corn fields around us and that was no surprise because as soon as we left O’Bannon State Park in Indiana we started seeing huge farms that all had corn growing. I have never seen so much corn!
What to do on a hot day, but go find an indoor space to stay cool. We went through the downtown area and found a restaurant/bar and had a cold beer. Not much happening there so we decided to go for a drive to the lake. Carlyle lake is the biggest lake in Illinois? It looked like a boaters paradise and from our trip to Walmart we know this provides a lot of business for the area shops and restaurants because there were tons of water and boating items for sale. We didn’t do too much exploring of the lake, instead since we were almost out of gas in the truck we stopped for another drink. After that it was late enough to go back to Bretz and have some dinner. We had a prime rib dinner shared between the two of us before we went to the camper, pulled out our chairs and watched the corn grow while enjoying the slight breeze.
A little wine was consumed and time went by quickly. There was a wedding earlier in the day, so the parking lot seemed busy and we could hear the band playing. The music sounded like a good mix of old rock n roll and somehow I convinced Kat to go back with me to check it out. There was a great patio with a large area to enjoy the band. Too bad we didn’t know about this when we went to dinner or we would have sat outside while eating. It was a really nice evening with good weather and good music.
The breeze continued through the evening and the smell of the cornfields was really nice. It was so much cooler than the daytime and we slept well. I really enjoyed that quick overnight stay and we will definitely try to use the Harvest Host camping again, but we will try not to get there too early and have to sit in a gravel lot, or any lot for that matter. Pack up was easy since we didn’t have to hook anything up, so we left about an hour earlier than we planned. A quick breakfast at McDonalds and a fillup with gas and we were on our way.
For some reason I really enjoyed that overnight stay. I hope I don’t forget that smell or feeling of the wonderful breeze.
Next stop St. Louis!