3 losses +1 argument + 1 muddy dog = 1st Harvest Host experience

Hi, Girlfriends and Guy friends.

Rolling again

June 1st, 2017.  It was exciting to be back on the road after our 3-month stay at the Voyager RV Resort (located in Tucson, AZ).  

I was behind the wheel for the first leg of our trip to Deming, N.M., and luckily the 208-mile drive was uneventful.   

St. Clair Winery was our destination and to be our first Harvest Host experience.  

(Harvest Hosts are a very cool program that allows RVers to stay free for one overnight at farms, museums, wineries, airports and other businesses.  We pay an annual fee of $35 for the benefit of staying in these unique settings.  Parking your RV without electric hook-up or sewer hook-up is referred to as “Boondocking” or “Dry Camping”. When you see RVers parked in Walmart for the night, you have witnessed Boondocking.)     

Back to my story

Tall skinny Cypress trees lined the road that led to the Winery, and I wondered if they had done that on purpose- because it felt like we were entering a French or Italian village.  We pulled into the large parking area and went inside to check in.  

By 2 pm we had eaten lunch AND completed our list of “What-to-do-when-you-arrive-at-a-new-place-in-your-RV.”  Yes, we have an arrival/departure checklist that we are anal about following.  

We sauntered back towards the building to enjoy a wine tasting.  (Correction, I was going to taste, John doesn’t drink alcohol.)  

 Hatch Green Chile’ wine?

Teri, an employee behind the counter, described the selections I sipped.  I chose 3 different wines to purchase, my favorite being a Hatch green chile-infused white.  (Yes! Deliciousness. You have to experience it to believe it.)    

We paid $120+ for the half case (so much for free camping, right?) and strolled outside to enjoy the fenced garden.  It may sound silly, but I kicked my sandals off to feel the grass.  As much as I enjoyed the desert beauty of Tucson, my feet had a new appreciation for the soft green stuff.  

 Unexpected loss #1

Around 5 pm, we were on our way to a recommended restaurant, The Adobe Deli, when my sister Julie called on the phone.  

She had bad news to share.  My favorite Uncle had died.  

I couldn’t believe it.  The prior week Uncle Ed and I spoke on the phone.  And now he was gone?

I was in shock.  

Luckily, we were still in the car and had not entered The Adobe Deli.  (It would have been a wasted experience.)  John and I left the parking lot and chose to grab bags of comfort food from Taco Bell.  I cried and cried over the loss of my beloved Uncle.

 Unexpected loss #2

The next morning, we were up at 6 am figuring to leave at 8 am to drive 300 miles to Santa Fe.

My personal barista (a.k.a John) brought coffee to me as I sat in my lawn chair on the gravel parking lot.  Together we stared at the horizon knowing the sun would pop up any moment, and talked about my Uncle.

About every third sentence, I would burst into tears and my nose turned snotty, so John goes back into the coach and comes out with a tissue for me- which only makes me cry harder because he is so kind and tender.

Luckily, we were the only overnight guests at the Winery, and I was free to howl and process my pain as loudly as I wanted.     

Locked In and LOSS OF TIME

After one hour, three cups of coffee and several kleenexes, we walked over to check the closed gate which would be our exit.

Unfortunately….we found the entrance/exit gate locked.  

Uh oh.  

The Winery didn’t open till 10 am and we wanted to leave by 8 am.  

Hmm…no problem…

Unleashed Penny and I, took a short-cut across the soft grass of the massive front yard heading towards the employee parking area and processing plant.   An old wire fence separated these two areas but I figured there HAD to be an opening somewhere that I could squeeze through.    

There it was!

I carefully climbed through (not snagging my scarf), leaving Penny to guard my barbed-wire re-entry spot.    

After about 15 minutes of searching, I found an employee who promised to unlock the main gate for us and headed back towards the yard where I left Penny.   

1 wet dog

As I approached my re-entry portal, I noticed the automatic sprinkler system spurting inside the yard.  

Uh-oh again.  

There was Penny, mud-splattered, and happily awaiting my return.  I successfully squeezed back inside the barbed fence avoiding the auto-sprinklers reach, torn clothing, or her muddy paws.  

I instructed Penny to run to the coach…

But nooooo…  

My dog detoured to harass a poor baby robin floundering under a tree.  I sprinted through the sprinkler-soaked sod/mud, to scold Penny, but instead, was horrified to witness several large robins squawking and dive-bombing my dog in their attempt to protect the young baby bird.    

Scenes from Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” whizzed through my mind.  (And…my crazy brain already envisioned the trip to an emergency Vet for Penny’s pecked out eyeballs.)

Luckily we escaped without blood loss, and Penny and I headed to the coach for a quick outdoor bathing session.   

Emotions got the best of me…

Meanwhile, back at the coach, John is waiting for us.  

He, of course, is completely oblivious to the traumatic/frustrating 30 minutes I’ve endured. 

I quickly grab all the dog washing stuff together and proceed to spot wash Penny’s muddy paws with our shower nozzle located in one of our outside bays.  When I was done, John asked a logical/innocent question of why I didn’t wash Penny’s ENTIRE body but instead washed JUST her legs?

My emotional floodgate broke open.  I lashed out in high pitched estrogen style:  

(with SNARKY voice):

“Um-because-we-are-running-late-and-someone-had-to-find-the-gatekeeper-climb-through-barbed-wire-avoiding-snagging-cute-scarf-spurting-sprinkler-pecking-bird-trauma-quickly-wash-dog-paws-and-don’t-you-feel-sorry-for-me-cuz-my-favorite-Uncle-died .”

For added effect, I stormed off.    

2 minutes later, (when my senses reappeared amidst the estrogen storm) I ran to John to apologize.  Gracious as always, he laughed and stated “I forgive you” and tenderly pulled me into his arms.  

My snotty nose marked his shirt.   

Now, back to the story…

By now it’s 7:30 a.m.  No problem.  All we have to do is hook-up the jeep,  pull in the slides, and drive off…

Unless of course we experience the unexpected loss #3.


It’s too complicated (boring) to go into the details, but let’s just say a routine hook-up of the jeep to the coach became an hour and a half of head scratching and erratic maneuvers.

And the reason?

I had DROPPED the frickin’ 10 amp fuse into the engine block and we could not retrieve it. (SEE HOW TINY IT IS?!)

Oh, and since the Jeep dealer supplied us with ONLY ONE FUSE, we had no other alternative but to drive without the system setup.

And THEN…when we did our brake light test, it seems we were void of a brake light or blinker on the left rear of the Jeep.

Ugh, deep sigh, and double grrrr…

What time frame?

Now it’s 9:00 a.m. Yes, we were 1 hour behind “schedule”…

Wait.. Schedule?  What?  

What difference did it make? We faced no deadlines, there were no meetings we’d be late to.  

In fact, now we were free to rearrange our travel to join my family in St. Louis for my Uncle’s funeral.

We drove off, leaving all forgiven SNARKY COMMENTS in that parking lot.  

8 Life Lessons learned

17 hours earlier we had entered the St. Clair Winery gates.  Our first Harvest Host experience has memories that I never would have imagined!  Life is that way.  We never know what each day will bring, right?  Here’s what I learned in that very short amount of time.     

  • Feeling frustrated usually means a lesson is about to be taught to me.   
  • Being teachable is a choice.     
  • Apologizing for snarky remarks is always healthy.
  • Being forgiven for said snarky remark will help me be humble in the future.  
  • My Patience grade that day landed as a solid C+ (need more practice here for sure.)
  • My Communication abilities weighed in at  B+ (hopefully improving.)
  • My (our) Problem solving ranked a solid A. (Mainly because lack of that FRICKIN’ DROPPED FUSE left us with few alternatives!)
  • And most of all…Losing a favorite Uncle hurts. Because losing love hurts.

I blame my brother Paul, Part I

Hi, Girlfriends and Guy friends.

I pretty much blame my brother, Paul, for our RV purchase and here’s how it happened.

It was the day-after-Thanksgiving in 2014.

You know, Black Friday, when Americans dutifully drag their hung-over-turkey-stuffed-too-much-pie selves out of bed in order to feed the cyber-addiction of I-must-be-first-in-line-at-4am-to-beat-the-crowd-and-save-10%-off-this-electronic-device-shopping.

But not John and I (insert snobby face here). We aren’t Black Friday shoppers. We are Black Friday loungers who choose to linger over good coffee till late morning. We pride ourselves on what we have saved, and haughtily judge those who cannot contain their shopping mania.

Camping World, here we come

But this 2014 Black Friday was going to prove to be different. John and I gave up our cozy fireplace, comfy pj’s, and coffee shop, to join my siblings at the Camping World parking lot in DeForest, Wisconsin. 

My brother Paul and my brother-in-law Dan had it in their minds to travel the country with my sister and sister-in-law in an RV.

They were going to share an RV and spend time visiting their adult children and grandchildren, vacationing together (like they had frequently done in their younger years).

Just tagging along

Paul had researched this RV idea for a few months, but this would be the first time he and his wife Jane, and Dan and his wife (my sister) Julie, were going to actually STEP INSIDE an RV.

John and I knew this outing would be entertaining.

Now mind you, John and I were tent campers. We poo-pooed all those big honking RV’ers who pulled in our campgrounds. We frequently referred to “those people” as sissies.   

John and I considered “upscaling” our camping experience to a pop-up camper.  But that was a big “maybe”.


As we walked across the parking lot I chuckled- noting Paul’s checkbook jammed into his jeans back pocket.  He was super serious about this!

Then, it happened.

We stepped into a Diesel Pusher.

It was a 2009 Berkshire by Forest River.

I gasped!

My judgemental jaw dropped as my preconceived notions about ‘glampers’ flew out the oversized windshield!

The 6 of us spent 2 hours gleefully galavanting between RV’s, photographing massive beauties, and imagining what life in a rolling hotel suite would be like.

My sister-in-law Jane particularly liked the ones with the curvy couches.

My sister Julie could be heard calling out from the kitchens about the nifty storage nooks she had found. My brother-in-law Dan liked the bunk bed models- perfect for taking some of the grandchildren on trips.

None of us had data or knowledge about engine size, storage capacities, safety ratings or other semi-important stuff.

And frankly, during that first Camping World experience, we didn’t care. We were too busy swooning over the full-size fridges and swivel front seats.

Eating Humble Pie

Before we left Camping World, John and I dutifully sauntered over to look at those darn pop-ups.

Begrudgingly, we stepped inside.


It was like comparing an old VW Bug to a Lexus. We quickly exited…laughing out loud at ourselves, surprised by the swift rush of our newly found addiction into this RV world.

The Dream begins here…

Eventually, my foursome family fizzled on their RV purchase plans- but John and I were set on fire with dreams of owning an RV.

We got home and began dreaming of the RV lifestyle.  We were hooked, and wanted to buy one!

Read I Blame it on my brother Paul, Part II, to see what we ended up with.

In conclusion, I’d like to shout out a super-sized THANK YOU to my brother Paul. His 2014 Black Friday shopping plans paved the way to the adventure we now live.

How about you?  Do you have a shopping experience similar to ours?  Please share your story with me in the comments below.  I love to hear from my readers (and honestly hope you become a subscriber.)