Harvest Hosting our Way West

After five months of eastward movement we turned back towards the West with the ultimate goal of reaching home in Arizona by the end of April. We’re taking our time. And we are using this part of the journey to explore new places using our Harvest Host membership. We’ve mentioned Harvest Host in the past, and this post will highlight three very cool locations.

Harvest Host is a membership program that provides overnight locations for self-contained RVers at wineries, breweries, farms, museum, and other sites. Harvest Host now has over 2000 hosts in the network, and they are adding more every day. We’d never be able to enjoy them all, but we’ve found a few good ones!

For example, after leaving Georgia we stopped for a night at Golden Acres Ranch in Monticello, Florida. At the ranch we were introduced to their friendly herd of Tennessee Fainting Goats and a number of other farm animals including sheep, chickens, guinea hens, and the sweetest pregnant dog, Honey.

We shopped the cute country store, checked out the garden, fed the goats, and chatted with fellow RVers who were also parked in the large pastures. 

A few days later, while continuing our traverse westward, we stopped for the night at Gulf Coast Gator Ranch in Moss Point, MS. Yes, we parked right next to Boudreaux’s enclosure, home of the 13 foot alligator. It was a bit disconcerting until we learned he was “friendly” and blind.

Because we were there after-hours, we were given private access to the property and strolled the gator grounds on our own. The ranch holds 60 adult gators in the main pond and another 20-30 juveniles in tanks.

At one time they had several hundred but many were washed away during Hurricane Katrina. The goal now is to build the population to about 100. Once a true farm for alligators, the facility now focuses on conservation and education. 

The next morning we joined Captain Tim (aka In-Tim-i-Gator) for a tour of the property via airboat. We spotted a few alligators and drew them closer with marshmallows.

Tim also took us on a fast, wild ride in the swamp on the airboat. What a thrill! This Harvest Host location was probably the most unique one to date. 

But then we stopped at the International Petroleum Museum, aka The Rig Museum in Morgan City, LA. The facility is a tribute to the offshore oil and gas industry and its impact on the world.

“Mr. Charlie” is the first offshore drilling rig that was transportable, submersible, and self-sufficient, allowing it to drill more than 200 oil wells along the Gulf Coast between 1954 and 1986. Mr. Charlie was the first moveable rig and has been preserved for training and educational purposes. 

We were lucky enough to get a personal tour of Mr. Charlie by Virgil Allen, the museum’s founder. While telling us about the history of the museum it was apparent that Mr. Allen was a visionary when he lobbied to save the rig when it was slated for scrap. Now The Rig Museum is an educational place where Harvest Hosters like us can expand our horizons. 

We’re headed for Lafayette, LA, the heart of Cajun country and can’t wait to share our experiences in the next post.

Georgia’s Golden Isles

Here on the southeast Georgia coast there’s a way of life that was new to us and utterly enchanting. We spent the week based at Blythe Island Regional Park in Brunswick, which is the gateway to the fabled Golden Isles. Consisting of barrier islands, pristine marshland, miles of beaches, and historic landmarks, the Golden Isles provided us plenty to explore.

The campground was conveniently located and had everything we needed to explore the area. Not only can you access the intercostal waterway from the park, but you can play with bunnies which are everywhere! Apparently the park is also a refuge for domestic-looking rabbits of all colors. 

We met our RV-ing friends Bill and Sandy on Jekyll Island and hit the over 20 miles of bike trails to explore the historic isle on two wheels. Bill and Sandy just happened to be staying nearby so it was a perfect opportunity to reunite after meeting at the Tampa RV Show in January. And they like to bike too!

Jekyll Island’s history goes back over 3500 years.  Most notably the Jekyll Island Club, built in the late 1890s, had membership which included the Rockefellers, Morgans, Pulitzers, Goodyears, and Vanderbilts. Jekyll Island was purchased by the State of Georgia in 1947 and is now a popular area for vacationers.

Of course we visited a number of other historic sites on the island, including the historic Jekyll Island Club. We just pedaled past but it was fun to see the “other half” playing croquet in their traditional whites. 

Driftwood Beach, on the north side of Jekyll, is a highlight for many. We marveled at the gnarled and weathered trees that have been sculpted by the sea. Not surprisingly, it’s a popular place for photo shoots.

We also checked out the 1740s Horton House, one of the original structures built by the British out of tabby. Amazingly it’s still standing. 

We loved Jekyll so much that we’ve booked a week at the Jekyll Island Campground for next spring. One day was just not enough time to soak this place in.

We also visited St. Simon Island while in the Brunswick area. The largest of the barrier islands, St. Simon features beautiful live oak lanes, Spanish moss, plenty of shopping, dining, and more history. When you visit you have to search for the 20 tree spirits, carved trees located around the island.

After a stroll along the waterfront, we drove out to Fort Frederica National Monument. Here lies the ruins of the 1733 town built to defend the Georiga, a fledgling colony, against Spanish attack from Florida.  They are still excavating the site, finding artifacts beneath the soil that tell the story of the fort’s history. 

Georgia’s Golden Isles hold a fascination for many, us included. We can’t wait to return. In the meantime, we are finally heading west, after five months on the road. We’ve got some fun stops ahead of us before we land back in Arizona in late April. 

St. Augustine

We found a new favorite place in Florida. Well. . . another favorite place 🙂 We were told St. Augustine was a great city and now we know why. In fact, we ended up spending a few extra days than originally planned.

Our first stay was at the Bryn Mawr Ocean Resort, just south of St. Augustine and right on Butler Beach. The park was not our favorite, but it didn’t matter because we were right on the beach and were able to take advantage of some beautiful weather. The beaches were wide and uncrowded and perfect for running and biking.

In between beach time, we went into St. Augustine and wandered the nation’s oldest city. Founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers, the city went from Spanish to British and back to Spanish control until it was ceded to the United States in 1819. The history here is deeper than we could have ever explored during our time. The Old Town Trolley tour we took gave us a good overview.

We also enjoyed wandering the old, narrow streets, one day in the sunshine and another day in the rain. Even Bob and Mia enjoyed window shopping and Bob got a new shirt!

After a few days at Bryn Mawr we moved up the beach to the incredible Anastasia State Park. We were lucky to score three days here, where people book campsites up to a year in advance. With a robust turtle habitat and the occasional snake next to the campsite, we settled in for a fun weekend. The park’s beach goes on forever and we got lucky with three gloriously sunny days which we spent on the beach, in the park, and at the campsite.

On Saturday mornings, adjacent to the park, the Old City Farmers Market is held. We walked to the market without thinking that if we bought fresh stuff we’d have to carry it back. It was only about a mile walk, and Steve just added it to his workout records!

The centerpiece of St. Augustine is the impressive Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. The oldest masonry fort in the United States dates back to 1672 when it was first constructed by the Spanish out of the local coquina quarried from the land that is now Anastasia State Park. The seashell-based stone has stood the test of time.

We wandered the grounds from bottom to top and absorbed the history as best we could. Through two Spanish periods, a British occupation, the Civil War, and now hoards of tourists, the fort has protected St. Augustine from invaders, served as a military prison for members of various Native American tribes, and been a popular tourist destination. 

Just when we thought our time in St. Augustine was coming to an end, we learned of a vacancy at the North Beach Camp Resort where we could stay for two more days. The site, the premier site in the campground, put us facing the Intercoastal Waterway with views of fishing boats, dolphins, and great sunsets. It was only two days, but we enjoyed a little extra time in this beautiful area.

We’re now heading north and have more adventures planned. Stay tuned!