Harvest Hosts #2: We Could Get Used to This
As is apparently our new habit, Saturday night we stayed at another winery through Harvest Hosts. It’s really a treat to be able to do this, and we’ve decided we want to take advantage of our membership as much as we can. It makes for a really nice week to spend Monday through Friday at a state or national campground, then hit the road over the weekend and spend 1 night exploring a new city and winery through Harvest Hosts. Then once Sunday rolls around, we can set up shop again somewhere new to settle in for the week. This way, even though we are both working from home, we have a nice week/weekend flow, which provides some needed stability and predictability.
We packed up our previous home in the Bloomington, Indiana area and drove West to Olney, Illinois, home of the White Squirrels, for our new 1-night adventure.
The winery we stayed at was Fox Creek Vineyards. When we called the man we spokewith gave us a heads up that “the roads around here aren’t any better than they need to be.” We laughed off this little tidbit, but he was not joking. The road in was filled with potholes, I drove about 5 miles an hour. Not going to lie – this place is kind of in the middle of nowhere. But hey, that’s how we like it, anyway. We persevered, and arrived in the early afternoon.
When we turned into the driveway, we found ourselves perched at the top of a hill, with a little sign in front of us that said “follow drive, winery ahead” before small and winding road dropped off out of sight beyond view. Now, when you are driving a 37-foot monstrosity, the last thing you want to do is get yourself into a tight spot that you can’t get out of. Kelly and I had a little radio-conference from our separate cars and decided he should drive ahead first to scope it out.
To do this, Kelly had to swing around to the left of me in the car. As he pulled out and around and began to make his way around, he noticed something was not quite right. Turns out the grass just to the side of the drive was hiding a huge squishy pile of mud, just waiting for some poor unsuspecting soul to uncover it (cue: Kelly).
He very quickly became good and stuck. Despite pushing and pulling and swearing and ok, I might have kicked the car, it was clear that we were not getting out of there without a hand. Luckily for us, we happened to be on what is essentially a working farm. In a shockingly quick rescue, the owner of the vineyard himself, the 80-year-old Gordon Schnepper, who honestly could not be any nicer or kinder, came riding into view like a knight in shining armor on his golf-cart. He took a look at our predicament and deemed it tractor-worthy. Sure enough, about 5 minutes later he came back over the hill driving a giant tractor. He hooked up a tow-chain to the car and pulled us out like it was the easiest thing in the world. This man is 80 years old and he lives on a farm, he knows what he is doing. I was impressed. Life-saver.
Thankful and grateful, we followed him down to the winery, where we were easily able to park the RV and set up shop. Then Gordon continued to make our day and we got started with our wine tasting!
So many great wines to try! I especially enjoyed the Deer Farm Red, which was very earthy and flavorful. Kelly was a fan of the Hearthside 1, a bit sweeter red. And we both fell in love with the Peach Wine. We took home a bottle of each. (This habit is getting expensive!!! But, worth it.)
When chatting with Gordon he mentioned in passing that he used to work for a company that made cheese, and was quite familiar with cheesemaking himself. He happened to have some of his favorite brand of cheese in the back, and was nice enough to bring it out and let us sample it.
Goot Essa Mountain Valley Sharp Cheddar – made by the Amish of Pennsylvania. Absolutely phenomenal. We tried very hard to be polite and not scarf down all of it.
We explored the grounds a bit, and walked back up towards the old barn, which we discovered was FULL OF KITTIES. To say Kelly was happy would be an understatement. It was like his little personal heaven.
As he walked up they just came out and surrounded him. I had to drag him away (…eventually, I’m not that cruel-hearted).
Then we set out to poke around Olney, Illinois, which we found to be an interesting little town. Southern Illinois in general has a definite character to it. Lots of small-town cuteness and charm, but we have noticed a LOT of run-down and dilapidated homes and buildings in the area. This could be remnants of the 2008 crash and downturn. Or maybe even earlier changes in the farming economy played a part. Either way, it is a bit sad to see it in disrepair, but also a fascinating little slice of a different kind of life. In one of the neighborhoods we spotted this great old RV in the yard.
Another Saturday, another successful winery!
We then packed up the next day and set off for Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge just outside of Carbondale, Illinois, where we will sit tight for the week and get some work done!