Nov 1st – 15th 2018: CT, MA, NY, OH, MI, & Shipshewana, IN
Our whirlwind journey began after we sold our house, and picked up our new trailer on Nov 1st. First, we headed for CT to say goodbye to family, spending about a week there. It was quite the story all in all…. considering we had lots of work to do to set the new rig up properly. As mentioned in the “Backstory”, we’d been forced to literally dump everything from the old trailer to the new – in utter chaos and dishevelment.
In an effort to evade early winter storms, we felt pressured to leave CT as soon as possible, despite not being fully unpacked and organized yet. Our journey began in earnest when we wound our way back north to the Mass Pike, and then hit the NY Thruway, headed west. (The cats had a few things to say about this new lifestyle… their songs from the back seat told us that they weren’t exactly happy about time on the road.) Thankfully, our departure coincided with a beautiful sunny day – it felt absolutely grand to finally hit the road “for real”, putting the past behind us at long last!
As part of my early research into the RV Lifestyle, I had discovered a really great RV program called, “Harvest Hosts”. For a small annual fee, you can become a member and get access to “free” overnight RV parking without hook-ups. The member facilities include all kinds of farms, vineyards, orchards, restaurants, and museums – all places you might be likely to visit anyway. You are obligated to purchase something from the host in return for staying at their establishment, but it’s a win-win situation because of the symbiotic relationship. We highly recommend it for anyone doing the RV lifestyle! It’s a great way to hopscotch across country without having to do overnights in Walmarts or random parking lots… or having to pay full price for one night of hookups in a designated campground.
Our first overnight stop was in Geneva, NY, at White Springs Winery. Suffice it to say, it was a great spot, the staff was very friendly, and we had the place to ourselves for a very quiet and relaxing night. Immediately we felt like we’d done very well by joining Harvest Hosts. We also chose this location because it was close to David’s cousin’s house, and we were able to visit with her family over a nice home-cooked meal. It felt SO strange to be in a real house! The place felt HUGE – and made us realize how long it had been since we’d been in a home without wheels – six months!
Next stop was in Geneva, OH – how could we not stop at another Harvest Host, when the towns and the names were a near match? The Winery at Spring Hill turned out to be another great place. They were having a special event that evening — David got a real kick out of seeing a ceramics class dig into painting their Christmas trees. It brought back fond childhood memories of one of his mom’s creative projects. In the morning we hit the road again, ready to make the long drive to Michigan, for more family visits and for further trailer modifications.
Although it was already feeling like winter in Michigan, with overnight temperatures in the low 20’s, it was a relief to be in one place for a little while. We were happy to be able to slow down long enough to get our feet back under us. As luck would have it, my parents’ rental house was empty at the time, and we were able to park the trailer there, instead of clogging up their own driveway. It was really nice to be able to walk next door for visiting, and then “come home” to our trailer so we could continue our projects and unpacking. Not to mention, it gave the cats time to settle in to their new world too.
After only five days in MI, we had already encountered all kinds of foul weather – including sleet, snow, and below freezing temps. We knew that we needed to make a break for it, despite not having everything as finished as we’d hoped – and unfortunately forcing us to skip some well-intended visits with family and friends.
The biggest project was rigging up a solution for hiding the litterbox, which meant doing it while we had access to some of my father’s tools. David had been forced to sell most of his tools in our estate sale – between not having room for them, and also because of contamination being too great a risk. He was able to craft an ingenious “tunnel” into the kitchen island, under-sink cabinet, so it would be hidden, but easily accessible – for the cats and for cleaning. There were further small modifications to be made to the trailer, but those would have to wait, because there was another winter storm in the forecast.
On Nov 15th, we headed out – just as the snow set in. We got a bit of a late start, with the snow coming down hard already – but we managed to skirt the worst of it – making it south of Grand Rapids before it got too bad. Our plan was to drive to Shipshewana, IN – the hotbed of RV manufacturing, for some warrantied repairs. Right out of the gate we’d had some minor problems with the weather-stripping flapping loose on our slides. Plus, we’d accidently knocked our TV antenna off on a low hanging branch over the driveway.
Shipshewana turned out to be a nice surprise. We got there at dusk, and the repair shop allowed us to camp at their facility. The fun part being that their campground was all decorated for Christmas – it was opening night for a festival of lights. We watched as dozens of cars and Amish wagons came through to enjoy the holiday display. It was really neat to watch the snow fall, and listen to the clip-clop of all the Amish buggies going up and down the streets out front.
The next morning, we dropped off our rig for the repairs and went into town to explore. We had a nice breakfast at an Amish diner, and killed some time at a local hardware. It was fun people watching… mostly Amish of course. It really made you think about the simplicity of life, and how much things have changed. Kind of mind-boggling to have such a snapshot of “times gone by”, amidst a juxtaposition of such things as an Amish guy using a Coke machine. Eventually the repair shop made their fixes, and got us back on the road again by mid-afternoon. Off we went into the Great Unknown at last!
All in all, and most importantly, it was wonderful to have gotten the chance to spend a little time with friends and family in both CT & MI, before heading off into this “Brave New World” of being environmental refugees: obligated to adapt to a life of full-time RV-ing, in search of better health.