Well, we’ve completed our first full week on the road. We’ve stayed with family, at 3 Harvest Host locations (we’re at our 4th tonight), and with 3 Boondockers Welcome hosts. All of these are lovely options, depending on what you’re looking for. In case I haven’t explained Harvest Hosts (and I could just tell you to ask the Google, but I’ll put my spin on it), here we go.
Harvest Host is a little club that you pay an annual fee for and become a member. Once you’re a member (and you have the option to add on the Golf Courses option for a small fee, which I did, and am very thankful for it b/c that’s where we lodged for our impromptu Adrian, MI visit), you have access to a bevy of businesses (that run the gamut from vineyards (they’re the OG…..where the ‘Harvest’ part of Harvest Hosts comes from) to breweries, to farms, to random stores, etc. that allow you to park your RV/Camper Van on their premises, provided you are fully self-contained, meaning you are able to poop and shower in your own vehicle. The idea is one of reciprocity, where you procure yourself a quasi-boondocking experience – a safe place to stay that’s not a traditional campground but you’re also not in bumfuck, and the business gains an extra patron; usually it’s a 1-night maximum.
Boondockers Welcome are individuals who kindly let you park on their private property, and the number of nights allowed varies. There are pros and cons for each.
Let’s start with HH.
Pro: You get to sample wares from places you might not have ended up otherwise. I would not have necessarily gone out of my way to have a flight at Copper City Brewing or a wine slushie at D&D Smith Winery, or a G&T at Woodlawn Golf Club (jeez, this makes me seem like a total lush, but I swear the Naltrexone is working…..seriously, these are basically the only drinks I’ve had in about 3 months, and the whole point of the Naltrexone is to be able to enjoy a drink or two and be able to stop there and not fixate on booze all the damn time, which it DOES!), but being that those were the locations along my route where I stayed, I got to enjoy these things. Not to mention that some of them had lovely scenery to accompany said beverages.
Con: You are expected to spend money at these places, and sometimes that can get pricey.
Pro: You can be as social (or anti-social) as you’d like. As you can imagine, every HH location I’ve been to, I’ve been as hermit-y as possible, because I’ve generally just gotten done driving quite a ways, it’s forking hot, and I’m tired. Not that I ever need those excuses, but they’re just an added layer to my overall personality. So in general, my preference is to put in my order and then be left the fork alone. That being said, since Gatsby is along for the ride and it’s too hot for him to be in the van and has to accompany everywhere, I’m sometimes forced into more interaction than would be my preference, simply because he is such a conversation starter. I mean, I can’t really blame anyone….have you seen the kid?! Total showstopper.
Pro: it’s kind of like cruising, but not. Let me explain. One of the (many) reasons I love cruising is because not only do I only have to unpack once, but you go to sleep and then wake up in a new place the next morning. You kind of get to ‘try it on.’ On one cruise, I went to Mallorca, and my impression was that while I had a lovely day, that one was about all I needed to spend there. However when I went to Northern Ireland, I realized I needed weeks upon weeks more there. So BW can be kind of like that not only with location, but also with the folks who are kind enough to let you crash on their property.
Out of my three experiences to date, I’ve had one that I quite enjoyed the location and would love to go back. The hosts were lovely and welcoming, even after Gatsby was a total dick and tried to throat punch their dog.
I’ve had one that (while I realize was a passthrough because I was desperate to dine at the last remaining Hot N’ Now in the world – don’t worry, I’ll talk about that later), was not my favorite location, and I also struggled with the social aspect of that experience. I will simply say that it’s somewhat off-putting to be grilled on if ‘I’d been converted to a Bernie Sanders lover,’ simply because I’ve recently moved to Vermont, within the first few minutes of conversation. I’m sure they’re nice folks, it was just was more interaction than I was feeling up for.
The 3rd was at a location that I could have cared less about, it just happened to be at the proper stopping point for the evening, but the host, Jim, and his sister, Margie (oooh, I hope I’ve spelled that correctly; that’s how I put her in my phone, anyway) were Ah-MAZ-Ing. Location be damned, I’d go where they are just to hang out more, and in that vein, they’re both moving to AZ, so guess who I’ll be staying with when I go out there?! (It’s them). You know how you just click with some people? That was us. Margie was astute enough to ask if I wanted some solitude because I’d just gotten off the road (which I totally appreciated, but I was actually enjoying myself so much that I was happy to grab a lawn chair and just keep going). The vibe was fantastic, and it just felt like we’d all known each other for ages. We all sat and shot the shit for over 4 hours, and if you know me, you know what a rarity that is. Also, Gatsby loved them immediately, too! As in, when Jim went inside to get liquid refreshments, Gatsby stood sentry waiting for him to come back, and when Margie went in to use the bathroom, GATSBY LEFT ME AND WENT INSIDE WITH HER! IYKYK. It was a big moment. So anyway, that’s what I mean about the cruise ship comparison.
Con: you can end up in a Groundhog’s Day sitch, which can make the experience feel awkward and endless. Not everyone picks up on social cueing, subtle or not.
Pro: You’re not obligated to spend money, which, with gas prices as they are, is a major perk.
Okay, now that you’re in the know for how I’m spending my evenings and my money, let’s fill you in on the Days past. I’m going to start with yesterday because it’s the most recent, and therefore the one I remember most clearly.
That would be Day….fuck. This is going to happen all the time. I will digress here and say that the days have been passing with a very surreal and dreamlike quality. I wonder if I’ve dreamt things or if they actually happened, and things just feel quite fleeting. I’m not entirely sure how to explain it, but it feels like I̶'̶v̶e̶ ̶h̶a̶d̶ ̶a̶ ̶f̶e̶w̶ ̶s̶h̶r̶o̶o̶m̶s̶ a̶n̶d̶ ̶s̶p̶a̶c̶e̶d̶ ̶o̶u̶t̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶f̶r̶o̶n̶t̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶a̶ ̶S̶a̶l̶v̶a̶d̶o̶r̶ ̶D̶a̶l̶i̶ ̶p̶a̶i̶n̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ there’s no before or after, there’s just now. Which, for me, is a weird, weird feeling. I tend to generally both mull over the past with quite a bit of gusto, and also plan for future events with the same vigor. Even when doing yoga or meditating, or anything that’s supposed to require you to be present, I struggle. With this adventure turning out the way it is, especially with the absolute overhaul of the OG plan, I find I just kind of drift through it. I’m not sure I explained that very well, but I hope you got a smidgey of what I meant. It’s really neat. I’m just here.
Okay, let me try again. Yesterday was Day 8. I made an early morning departure from my overnight and went to find a little shaded park somewhere to get in a workout/have coffee/shower/etc. The park I found happened to be the boat launch for Cary Lake. There was a sign that said you needed some variety of pass, but since I wasn’t actually launching a boat or planning to stay long, I was hoping if someone official came around, they’d cut me some slack. Whilst there was nobody else in there, it did managed to take me three tries to park Hecate. First off, I stupidly parked myself in the sun. So we rearranged, and I got started with my workout. I was maybe 6 minutes into it when Gatsby started losing his mind over something, and I looked over to see him gazing longingly at a nearby snapping turtle. So I schlepped all our shit and the van over to the far side of the lot. I’m here to tell you that not 10 minutes later, that turtle had joined us! I swear, that mother forker was stalking my dog. It just so happens that I have a hiking trowel that is usually used for digging a poop hole in the woods, but I say tomato/tomato; I used it to escort Shredder’s nemesis down to the water. Can’t have him taking the nose off my boy. So I finished up moving the bod, and had just put water on for coffee, when wouldn’t you know some DNR guys came rolling up. Luckily, they were two delightful gents who indeed okayed my presence and went on their merry way.
I was purposely dawdling because I needed to be in Sturgis, MI for 10 o’clock. What’s in Sturgis, MI, you ask? The last remaining Hot N’ Now in the WORLD. Unless you are from the Midwest, and possibly more specifically, Michigan, you may not know about Hot N’ Now. And my apologies, because you are seriously missing out. They (were) a chain around Michigan that for some reason all shut down until the only one still in operation is in Sturgis. Now I am not, in general, a fan of fast food. But Jiminy Cricket, these are the absolute BEST burgers and fries. EVER. Like, at 10 o’clock when they opened, I was there, and I thought about getting out to take a picture of the joint, followed by meandering over to a nearby park to both photograph for you readers what these fine delicacies look like, and try and savor every bite, but I was just so excited that I could do none of the above. I was, instead, the first car in line, and shoved that food in my gaping piehole so fast, you would’ve thought I had just gotten released from a POW camp. You know how some things you enjoy as a kid, only to have them later and life and be disappointed? This was not one of those occasions. It was EVERYTHING. No lie, I’m probably going to go to Sturgis on my way back home and do it all again.
After I was satiated, it was time to get on the road for a more substantial drive than we’d had the last few days. Would you believe that I (once again) forgot to batten the hatches? I’m not sure if this marks the 3rd or 4th time since Hecate’s inaugural run, but it was one of those numbers. However, in a fortuitous turn of events, when I pulled over to fix my foible, there was a sign indicating that we were nearby the Indiana Dunes National Park. So we made a slight detour, and the boy was able to dunk both his toes and his head into his first Great Lake (that’d be Lake Michigan). We eventually made it to the aforementioned BW site for the night to enjoy our evening with Jim and Margie.
Working backwards….Day 7. We left our BW hosts at Clark Lake (we were lucky on Day 6 and DID end up at the lake - fantastic way to end the balls-hot Solstice) pretty early and headed to Jackson, MI.
I have some fond memories of Jackson. My Great Grandma (Grandma GG) lived there, and my Grandma would take us up there pretty frequently to visit. GG’s house was a child’s dream (and probably a grown up’s nightmare)….each room was painted brightly in a variety of colors. I particularly remember the avocado green room, and the hot pink room, where GG kept a little music box that had a ballet dancer that would spin around when you opened it. She was spectacularly beautiful and I pined to be her. I think she had a bright yellow room, too, but I can’t be as certain of that one. GG made the hands-down most delicious homemade noodles I have ever tasted in my life. Much like the Hot N’ Now delicacies, I’m sure they’d be just as good as I remember; unfortunately, GG is not here to make them anymore.
Grandma and my mother would also take us to the Cascades in Jackson every summer. The Cascades is a man-made waterfall-ish scenario that at night, gets illuminated with colored lights, and there is often a live band and some fireworks that accompany the event. It was really quite magical as a child, and my sister and I would play mini-golf nearby, and play at a little playground (that somehow still exists today, and our favorite was the blue dolphin) and have ice cream before wearing ourselves out running up and down the hills of the Cascades. I was a little bummed to find that the Cascades were lacking water. I mean, I knew they weren’t going to be lit up, but it was a kick in the pants that they weren’t even really filled, let alone running. Le sigh. G and I still had a nice walk, and met a fellow Navy Veteran who happens to walk with dog treats in his pocket, regardless of the fact that he has no dog. That’s my kind of people.
Jackson is also home to the biggest and yummiest ice creams known to man at a place called The Parlour, and I was dying to go there too, but they didn’t open until noon and we were sometime around the 8 o’clock hour. I know, I also thought it was a brilliant time for a sundae. This sting was made slightly better by the plan to swing by The Chocolate Vault (it’s a shop that makes phenomenal chocolate frogs stuffed with nuts and caramel, and used to call Tecumseh, MI home, but, according to the Google, is now located in Horton, MI), so we once again found a shady park to plop in. I really needed to make some headway on my current library loan, After Anna, since it’s due back in three days, so I thought that and breakfast sounded like fine activities for the morning.
When we eventually made it to Horton, I learned that The Chocolate Vault now operates out of someone’s home, and you can only order online. That’s the pits! I know what I’ll be getting myself for Christmas.
So we continued on to our overnight, where I was in full underboob/kneepit sweat mode (I can’t even begin to tell you what that’ll do to a gal’s mood) and just generally not feeling interactive, but the host did have some cool old cars to show me, and I do like cool old cars.
Since yesterday was Day 8, then today must be Day 9. Look at me, making some progress. It was largely uneventful. I trained a client, had coffee with Jim, took a long luxurious shower in which I both let the water run the entire time AND washed my hair (I know, man; twice in one week. Who AM I?!), and set off toward WI (one of the few states I haven’t been too before!). My goals here in WI were to get my AC fixed (that happens Monday) and sample both cheese curds and a Juicy Lucy.
I have already ticked one of those boxes. We stopped off at the pet-friendly The Rock Bar & Grille in Beloit, WI, which BTW, has been named the worst city to live in in Wisconsin. I’m not sure why. I thought it looked really cute, and it’s got the Rock River running through it. What’s not to like? There I had the cheese curds. They were delish, but they’ve got about a 3-minute shelf life. Gatsby, that dear sweet love, got complimented on both his looks and his manners, which is every mum’s dream.
Now we’re overnighting at a Co-Op, and will abscond to Devil’s Lake State Park on the morrow. Speaking of tomorrow, the red strip on my shitter’s refill indicates that will be the day I learn to change the cartridge, provided I’ve had enough fiber today and didn’t eat too many cheese curds. I’ll keep you posted. Cheerio, my friends!