Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Harvest Hosts-a-palooza!

wineries 3

I mentioned in my last post that we changed up our travel plans in order to avoid the crush of humanity that would be flowing into Cooperstown, NY for the annual induction ceremony of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Instead, we decided to stay in the Finger Lakes region and try out our Harvest Hosts membership.

Harvest Hosts is a program that allows self-contained RVs to overnight at unique properties, including wineries, breweries, distilleries, farms, museums, and so on. The membership costs $44 per year and there are hundreds of hosts across the country and Canada. For adventurous RVers, it's another great resource in our planning toolkit.

We joined Harvest Hosts the minute we hit the road in 2014 and never once took advantage of our membership. There are a lot of great places in the west that are hosts, but at the time, we had not honed our boondocking chops and mostly opted for the security of full hook-ups. After we got our solar and became experienced boondockers, we found places that we preferred or that were more convenient for us. In our second year, we didn't renew our membership.

Once we decided to travel on the east coast, however, where boondocking opportunities are few and far between, Harvest Hosts became more attractive. So we re-upped and started planning.

Our first stop was Chateau Lafayette Reneau, a beautiful winery on the hillside of Seneca Lake just a few miles from Watkins Glen. We arrived around noon and settled in to a gorgeous view. In return for the opportunity to stay at a Harvest Host location, members are encouraged to visit the gift store, tasting room, café, etc. and support the business with a purchase. So, in a way, we were required to purchase wine. Tough life, right? And, it isn't unusual to be allowed to stay for a second night so we happily extended our stay in such a beautiful setting.

We had a wonderful view, albeit tilted, at the Chateau Lafayette Reneau winery.

Parking a big rig on a hillside, though, can be a challenge. When we arrived, we had driven up on blocks and put Scoopy's rear end into into a bit of a depression in order to try and level somewhat but we were still pitched forward quite a bit. In order to protect our front windshield from the torque of extreme leveling, we just lived with it. Even now I can't tell you with any certainty if all these factors contributed to what happened next, but it's possible.

You can see that we compensated for the downward slope by backing up to an equal down slope.

When we were leaving, I pulled out of our spot before Scoopy's airbags had completely filled. In doing so, I took off bits and pieces of the top layer of rubber on her two front tires. The fact that I am pretty sure both gauges registered more than 100 psi is beside the point, Scoopy was on such a forward incline, she just didn't raise up enough to clear the tires. I didn't even go far, literally a few feet, but it was enough to ruin the tires.

Looking like little pieces of carbon, our tire treads were shredded!

This was a costly mistake. If we accept that RV tires age out at around 7 years, we're about 2.5 years early on replacing the front tires. Also, since we couldn't drive anywhere, the tire guys had to come to us with two big ass tires and replace them onsite. On the other hand, we were at a winery, which helped mitigate the suck factor somewhat. So while Scoopy was being worked on, Steven and I sat on the terrace with a glass of wine, occasionally waving at the guy and giving him a thumbs up. I'm sure he thought we were nuts. A couple of hours and $1,325 later, we went on our merry way to our next Harvest Host location about 40 miles away.

wineries 1
Man at work.

Chouters at play.

Almost there…

Mickey was super friendly and super efficient. Thank you for making this as painless as possible!

Next up was Climbing Bines, a hops farm and brewery on the other side of Seneca Lake where we were tucked in between the silos and had a lovely, quiet evening. Again, we visited the brewery and enjoyed walking the grounds and hops fields. Since many of the host locations in the Finger Lakes region are just a few miles apart, we were able to scout out our next location before moving the rig. We had selected an Amish farm and visited with the wonderful hosts, but a heavy rain overnight caused us to rethink that decision. We didn't want to get stuck or cause damage to their lawn. (Speaking of getting stuck at a Harvest Host location, here is a cautionary tale from our friend Tammy at The Lady Is A Tramp.)

IMG_2045  IMG_7183
My quilting friends would have loved this Amish store, it had a ton of beautiful ones on display.

IMG_7145  IMG_8493

We really were hidden away between these siloes at Climbing Bine brewery.

With the Amish Farm out of the picture, for our third Harvest Host stop, we chose White Springs Winery near Geneva. The parking lot was paved and mostly level and the view was beautiful. We were invited to sit outside on the terrace even after the winery had closed for the day. Again, we stayed two nights and after hours, we were the only ones there. This is what I love about Harvest Hosts.

IMG_2036  IMG_2039
Our little slice of heavenly parking space and Steven samples the offerings at White Springs winery.

It’s hard to believe we had this place all to our selves in the evenings. What a view!

We certainly didn't exhaust all the possibilities in the area, but we figured it was time to move further down the road and get closer to our next stop in Swanzey, New Hampshire were we had made reservations for a week. We chose our fourth Harvest Host, Bowman Orchards just north of Schenectady, NY. Here we visited the farm store, the bakery, the orchards and watched the antics of an especially entertaining goat, just one of the many farm animals on the property. It was a busy place with lots of family activities, but again, once the business was closed, we had the place all to ourselves. Amazing!

wineries 4
Evening light on the little store at Bowman Orchards.

wineries 2  wineries 5
Plenty of animals to see. That goat was giving Steven the hairy eyeball.

A beautiful evening at Bowman Orchards.

We both thoroughly enjoyed our Harvest Host stays and anytime we're in an area that offers a cluster of hosts such as the Finger Lakes Region, we'll make sure our membership is up-to-date! Other than the whole tire debacle, which had nothing to do with the host, we had a fantastic experience.

UP NEXT: Broke down on the side of the road. :(


  1. Harvest Hosts sounds like a great alternative to the more expensive parks. I didn't realize it was more than wineries either. Ron is not a wine drinker & I'm not a beer drinker. We could certainly compromise and alternate our visits. Yes, the views are amazing!

    1. There really is something for everyone in HH. It's a great option, I think, and offers something a little different!

  2. Sure sorry about your tires . Around our house here in Idaho that would be called a VERN moment . Vern from Boise Id.

    1. I may be wrong, but looking back, I think it's my biggest mistake on the road. Certainly the most expensive, but hey, you can't take it with you, amiright? As always, good to hear from you, Vern!

  3. Tires OUCH! I see you made it to Climbing Bines, we boondocked for a few days behind them near the quarry. So many great places around there to explore, and the beer at the CB was pretty ok too. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    1. I love areas where there are several hosts. If you're going to hop around, it's nice not to have to go too far. :)

  4. I feel your windshield cautionary steps!!! We've lost count. But after fiberglass work at the old factory site in Coburg, OR we have fared much better! One tip we learned was to always have a window open during slides, leveling and airing, both at arrival and departure. I don't much like the topic of your next entry!!

  5. Most Harvest Hosts locations are great. We've stayed at a couple of them multiple times in Florida..Golden Acres Ranch and Summer Crush Winery. Both are absolutely wonderful. Two others down there...not so much. I'll leave them unnamed. We do always ask if we can stay two nights, as HH encourages only one night. Same with jacks and slides. We've found the hosts themselves are fine with all of the above. :)

    1. I love the comment section on the HH site where folks who have stayed previously write reviews. It helps avoid places like you mentioned. :)

  6. Such gorgeous spots!! I know the hosts loved getting those aerial pics as well. Our house has an alarm that buzzes until the air has filled to a certain point and I always found it so annoying. Now I'm glad we have it! At least you were in a lovely spot to keep an eye on the work :-)))) We enjoyed our two HH stops our first year and really need to re-up when we head east again.

    1. Scoopy also has an alarm that buzzes, but it stops at a certain point well before 100 psi. It was all just a cluster. :)

  7. Finger Lakes area of NY was a perfect place to use HH. We have not joined yet but totally would if that area was on our route! Sorry to hear about the tires, and hope that stays at the top of the oops list! At least you had an awesome location to be while the fixing was happening! Could have been way worse!

    1. That's our motto, right? "It could have been way worse!" I agree with you!

  8. We've debated about joining Harvest Hosts for several years -- but now I know that when we head to the Finger Lakes region, we're definitely signing up. The places look gorgeous! So cool to have the aerial views along with your reviews. Big "ouch" on your tire saga -- I think we all have to do something like that. For us, it was a boulder. It's a rite of passage. :-))

    1. Another place we probably should have looked into using HH was in Michigan. Lots of wineries there. We just didn't think of it. In any case, once you try it, you start looking for more! And I remember your boulder saga. That really interrupted your travels.