16. Illinois – The First Night

We loved driving through Illinois because of the beautiful countryside. I’ve flown into Chicago Midway a couple times, but never had a chance to tour the rest of the state. Get off rt70 and drive the County roads, they’re terrific!

All of Illinois looked like this…

Our first night in Illinois was a Wednesday, and we lucked into an empty campground. We could only stay one night because a big reunion was taking over the whole park the next day.

It was graduation weekend at the local high school and I guess it is a tradition for the visiting grandparents to take over this particular campground for the event. We spoke to some of these folks as they were coming in Thursday morning. They were so excited! Talking to strangers in RV parks is a new favorite past-time…

We were going to move on from Illinois the next morning, but travel had to wait for a series of tornadoes moving North from Texas and Oklahoma through Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska. So we rolled down the road to a spot where we could wait out the weather.

Meanwhile, it seems Illinois is carpeted by these beautiful yellow wildflowers. I understand they can be a nuisance to farms, but the butterweed sure was pretty.

15. Indiana (Hard Fail)

After an unplanned but wonderful visit to Ohio, we are truly heading West. Indiana is the first State on this trip that I’ve never visited before. 

One of the things we’ve learned to expect is that the amount of fun we are able to have on a ride is directly related to the road conditions. If the roads are nice we can go about anywhere and any distance, but if the roads are bad…

… anyway, Indiana is falling apart. I couldn’t say why West Virginia and Ohio were so nice and just over the border into Indiana was so bad, but it was like passing through a curtain and it never got better. Indianapolis is a fright and I’m just glad we made it through without breaking down. I will never go back to Indiana if I can help it. Hard fail.

We felt lucky to find Summit Lake. Summit Lake State Park has several camping areas and they’re all nice. Seemed like they just put down new gravel, which was tricky to drive and park on because it was so loose. Off the gravel was boggy and wet. Parking and leveling was a surprising fiddle. Really pretty though.

14. Ohio – Unplanned Delight

The trip from Summersville, WV to Syracuse, OH was our first real climbing test, with marked grades of 6% throughout that hilly part of the country. We continued happily traversing this beautiful landscape as we had South and North Carolina (of course, the elevation was never more than 3000′ asl).

Driving 100 miles, stopping to walk the dog or refuel or have a snack, and then driving another 100 miles has turned out to be a relaxed and easy pace. There were days we covered more than 300 miles, but it is more fun to rove the country using smaller steps.

Parked up at a sweet little campground just over the bridge from West Virginia. We spent the night in the famous Ohio River Valley and no one else was around this particular weeknight.

If you’re driving through Ohio, the Columbus Museum of Art is worth a side trip. Beautiful building and diverse, engaging collection.

We saw some of our favorites, and some surprises, too. Very nice!

Kindra and I had a nice date going around Columbus. So much has changed since I visited in high school and college!

We particularly enjoyed Upper Cup Coffee on Parsons Ave.

13. I really wanted this to be post # 15…

Kindra and I were married on May 1st of 2004. This year’s May Day was a very special anniversary for us and a great moment for us to reminisce and count our blessings.

When we were first dating, back in 2001 and 2002, we enjoyed visiting the wineries around Monticello in the Orange Country wine growing region of Virginia. As the population of Northern Va grew it became a longer and longer drive in the newly congested traffic… so we stopped going – but we have many fond memories.

For this year, we wanted to visit and stay over at a Harvest Host winery for all of the benefits of that system but also out of nostalgia for our early dating days. We chose the Kirkwood Winery and Distillery just outside of Summersville, WV.

I was telling the story as I prepared to write this post and unconsciously said “so that is what we did for our honeymoon…” obviously meaning anniversary, but what a sweet slip of the tongue! Kirkwood was perfect as a quietly romantic place to mark year 15.
They did a great job with the shop. Kirkwood is very photogenic!

Frank and Elizabeth Dix have done a terrific job taking a somewhat neglected historic winery and bringing it back to life. We enjoyed the tour Frank gave and Elizabeth’s wine and whiskey tasting. Good thing we weren’t driving that day! (We bought a case!)

Parked up at Kirkwood behind new buds on the vines facing the valley road.
View from our parking spot across the valley road

Kirkwood is in a beautiful valley and we visited on a perfect day.

We had the valley and the hillside to ourselves. The walk out among the vines was so pretty.

12. Pro ℞e Nata Brewery

On our way out of Richmond, our first destination was Crozet, VA. We enjoyed a nice stop just past Charlottesville and a good shakedown test for our first driving day in three weeks.

The Pro ℞e Nata Brewery is a project started by a local dentist who told me; “This is my mid-life crisis!”

John was very nice and made us welcome on a day when they were otherwise closed to the public.

His team working the warehouse helped us get set up and even sold us some beer.

Everything was *very* good.

Harvest host guests receive a coaster for their dash and a map of the desirable places to park.
Parked up behind the brewery
Right off the highway exit. Easy to find and plenty of room.
Somewhat still under construction. What they’ve already accomplished is terrific.
Playground for the kids!
Of course there is an axe-throwing range
The brewery is ready for your electric vehicle!
They have started a 9-unit shipping container structure in the back for more vendor/store/catering/whatever space. Even in this early stage it looks really cool.

11. Virginia Museum of Fine Art

Whenever we visit Richmond, we try to make time to visit the VMFA. The permanent collections are terrific, and it is a very well curated gallery, but there are visiting exhibits that change every year and always a few surprises, as well. This trip was no exception and we had a lot of fun!

There is a lovely cafe that looks out over a live pond
with beautiful fish and a glass “reed” sculpture.
The view from our cafe table out over the museum campus

The building itself is beautiful. I have my favorite rooms, for sure. We plan our route through the museum to make sure we don’t miss them.

Strangely specific max for this gallery… so… since I stopped
and pondered this sign for a moment, does that make it art?

10 Virginia (Family, flowers & fun!)

One of the best parts of being #homewith is the flexibility. We had planned on a few days in Richmond, but a bomb cyclone, new projects coming in, and another bomb cyclone led to our stay extending three weeks. What a wonderful thing to be able to visit and get work done and make the most of what would otherwise have been frustrating weather delays.

River loves visiting Grandma Janet!
(She also loves sniffing each of Bradley’s flowers)

Much respect to Bradley for all the landscaping work he has done in recent years… and we were just on time to see everything in full Spring bloom. It was beautiful and fragrant and the fruit of a lot of work.

A wonderful addition to the backyard! The burbles bubble up to the screened in porch. It made us want little brooks and waterfalls, too!

09 Greensboro, North Carolina

We left Lexington after a lazy morning and arrived at Grove Winery just outside of Greensboro, NC in time to set up, put on a collared shirt, and enjoy the afternoon wine tasting.

We had considered staying at nearby Lake Reidsville campground, but it was crowded with RVs and a bit further off our route. After the tasting, the crew working Grove Winery went home and we had the entire vineyard to ourselves. So nice.

Parked up at Grove Winery in North Carolina

Grove is a neat place for the wines alone, but they are also a venue for music and touring acts and other community events.

There is a party terrace outside the wine house, and a soundstage next to the pond.

08 Lexington South Carolina

On the trip up from Florida to Virginia, we planned two stops.

The strategy was to avoid I95, so we drove from the Steinhatchee area on County roads up past Augusta towards Lexington which is just outside Columbia, SC.

The roads we followed through farm country in Georgia and South Carolina were beautiful and we didn’t see a single other car until we were almost to Augusta. That night we met Shannon Mercer of Mercer House Estate Winery. He is a nice guy who made us feel welcome. We arrived too late to participate in a tasting, but Shannon helped us park up and it was a lovely place to stay.

07 Harvest Hosts

Where do we park?

In the first two weeks of living #homewith, we have visited friends and family and toured areas for the first time by staying overnight at wineries.

A day or two before we would arrive in the area, we call ahead to the wineries shown in the system and ask if there is availability to stay. So far, the answer has been yes and we’ve had a terrific experience.

Instead of staying at an RV camp arranged like a parking lot, or going for an expensive RV resort (which we plan to do occasionally just to enjoy the amenities), we found that the winery option is easy, pretty, offers a solo-boondocking experience, and is free!