After my first attempt at slow travel, I wasn’t sure I’d be posting another one for a long while. With COVID and stay-at-home orders, my big plans for slow travel trip #2 went sideways. Finally, two months later than planned—at the beginning of June instead of the beginning of April—and not in the direction of the original plan, I embarked on my second attempt at slow travel.
Like last time, weather played a big factor. Instead of cold, this time it was the heat. I wasn’t able to do the trip exactly as I’d hoped, though temperatures would’ve been in the sweet spot had I been able to travel in April. Due to the weather, I ended up planning, re-planning and even coming up with alternate plans each time because of the weather. It was definitely a lot more planning work than usual. Luckily, trip planning is something I enjoy so I didn’t mind the double (or, even, triple) hours I spent figuring out the 10-day trip.
Day 1: Let’s Begin with Hypocrisy
After three days in Hohenwald for my rig’s regular visit to the mother nest, it was time to truly start my road trip. That first day I left Hohenwald at 7 a.m. and arrived in Hutchison, Kansas at 9 p.m. Do the math. Yes, I was on the road for 14 hours, stopping only for fuel every three to four hours.
Even as I drove, I imagined writing this, knowing I’d be ‘fessing up to the hypocrisy of titling this post slow travel then right out of the gate doing anything but. Had the weather been cooler, I would’ve broken that section into two or three days, staying at Harvest Hosts wineries along the way. I even had a few picked out (Plan A) while I debated my tolerance of heat and humidity without the benefit of AC or shade.
Plans Tossed Aside Last Minute
Up until the very last minute I told myself that I’d be okay. I thought with the heat, three nights would be hard but I decided I could put up with it for a single night. So, Plan A was to stop at a Harvest Hosts winery in Oronogo, Missouri. (If you aren’t familiar with Harvest Hosts, I’ll explain the program at the end.) As required, the day before. I called the winery to see if they’d have room for me. They did.
The winery closed at 6 p.m. so I planned to arrive at 5 p.m. I wanted to get there as late as possible to give myself the least number of hours without AC before sunset. But the balancing act was arriving to patronize the winery. But with sunset at 9 p.m., it would mean about five hours of battling heat (high 80s) and humidity.
Before I went to sleep that night, I starting doubting the wisdom of my plan. I looked at other options for the zillionth time since I started planning this slow travel trip back in March. And—talk about great timing—a different Harvest Host, a museum, I really wanted to visit had just opened back up again after COVID shut down. Literally, the day before.
In my mind, if they’d opened, they were going to be the stop after the winery but with the heat, I made the decision to just go straight to the museum. Meaning I turned two travel days into one. At least, I’d arrive at the museum about the time the sun was setting so the heat wouldn’t be nearly as much of an issue.
So, that’s how I ended up a hypocrite early on in my slow travel road trip with a 14-hour travel day on Day 1.
Harvest Host Stops and Adventures
Over the last couple of years, I’ve made quite a few Harvest Hosts stops and loved all of them. The three I made on this trip did not disappoint. In fact, there is so much I want to share about a visit to the only salt mine tour in the US, a railroad museum and a distillery that the adventures require a post of their own. Therefore, stay tuned next week for my adventures 650 feet below the earth’s surface, up eight floors up overlooking the world largest working rail yard and at a distillery where the needed grain is all grown within a 30-mile radius.
Shortest Drive Day Ever
After I finished the salt mine tour on Day 2, I hopped in the van and drove 19 miles east to my next stop, Spring Lake RV Resort. With near-100-degree cloudless days, I knew I needed hook-ups. I stayed three nights.
The original plan was two nights but, again, because of weather, it made more sense to do three nights as the plan after leaving Spring Lake was to do two consecutive nights at other Harvest Hosts without hook ups. Mother Nature cooperated a little because for exactly two nights, there was a predicted 15-degree break in the weather. Kind of perfect.
Day 5: Driving to the Next Stop
My next stop, a six-hour drive, to North Platte, Nebraska. Because of the expected very hot day, I left Spring Lake at noon, check-out time. Like at the salt museum, I wanted to arrive as late as possible to the North Platte Harvest Hosts boondocking spot. Same logic as before. I wanted the least number of sunny hours after I arrived.
Weird Weather and Second Unplanned Event
About an hour from North Platte, it started raining. Then it really started raining. So much, so fast I slowed to about 50 mph. A few cars even pulled off to the shoulder. Then—and this baffles me to no end—at 90 degrees outside, it starts hailing.
At first my brain couldn’t comprehend it and I thought it was rocks. But, of course, where would a bunch of rocks hitting the van come from? The hail hit so hard, I was sure I’d end up with hail dents on the van’s roof, a cracked windshield or broken solar panels.
Fortunately, none of that happened. It lasted less than a half hour. I arrived at the rail yards in North Platte and to another empty parking lot. I got settled, took the cat out for a little walk and photographed the outside of the place.
Then more weather craziness. In the middle of the night, the wind started. It turned out, there was wind advisory with 35 – 45 mph wind and gusts up to 60 mph. I was convinced Mother Nature was gunning for my solar panels. First hail, then wind. I half expected I’d find my solar panels in the parking lot the next day. Or the vent covers gone. Or—and I know this is going to sound dramatic—that the whole trailer would just tip over. That’s how much it was rocking.
I talked to another RVer the next day who was also in the same wind. And, he actually Googled how strong does wind have to be to tip over a trailer. That’s how nervous he was. So, I wasn’t being as dramatic as it sounds. The answer, in case you are wondering, has a lot of variables but a general figure is 100 mph wind will blow over a trailer.
Third Unplanned Event
The next morning, after a couple of hours at the rail yard museum (which I’ll tell you all about next week), my plan was to truly have a short driving day by going just four miles across town and to spend the night at a Harvest Hosts brewery. I haven’t overnighted at a brewery yet and I was excited to add that to my 2020 list of firsts.
The wind advisory was in effect until 9 p.m. and it blew so hard I wasn’t comfortable driving in it, even just four miles. In the end, I never made it to the brewery. The wind, as predicted, stopped at 9 p.m. but that was also the time the brewery closed. I stayed overnight at the rail yards a second night and left early the next morning.
Up to day seven, I experienced several unplanned events. But none of them made me nervous as to whether I’d have a place to park each night. But driving from North Platte to Sidney, Nebraska, I will admit to an unsettled feeling.
The plan was to stay at the Cabela’s RV Campground. Why would that make me nervous? Because they don’t take reservations. It’s first come, first serve. And the manager told me it is a popular overnight place, conveniently located just off of I-80. It fills almost every night. His advice was to arrive early.
Pause for a Question: How do you handle first come, first serve places? I am curious. You know how I handle them? I avoid them. I’ve found some great county parks with a few spots but haven’t put them on my list for fear of arriving to find no availability.
My one small strategy of arriving early paid off. Since my driving day was only two hours, even with a stop at the grocery store, I arrived at Cabela’s at noon. And, much to my relief, there were tons of spaces.
I took one with electric only as it was $10 less than full hookups. One minor unplanned event was that their bathhouse and laundry room was closed due to COVID. Unfortunately (though not tragic), I’d selected the place because they had a laundry room. And you already know how I feel about taking showers in my wet bath. Oh well.
I stayed two nights. But it felt longer since I arrived early and didn’t leave two days later until about 1 p.m. so I got a full 48 hours there.
One interesting note, in case you are ever in the area. Sidney is actually home of Cabela’s World Headquarters. So, in addition to a Cabela’s store and the RV campground, you’ll also see a big office building. Cabela’s headquarters have been in Sidney since 1963, two years after Richard Cabela began the company in Chappelle, just 30 minutes east, in 1961.
Day 9 and Adventure #3
Day number nine was another short driving day, only 90 minutes. I crossed into Wyoming and stopped in a small community called Pine Bluffs for my last Harvest Hosts stop. Again, you’ll get the details of the stop next week.
Driving Day #10
After a nice overnight in Pine Bluffs next to giant grain silos (feature image) and a morning walk with the cat, we were on the road again. The last short driving day to arrive to our final destination in southeast Wyoming with plans to visit friends and family throughout the state.
I included this section last time so I thought I would again for those who are interested. It’s the overnight camping cost breakdown for the 10-day slow travel road trip:
- $86.40 Spring Lake RV Campground, Halstead, Kansas.
- $11.84 Cabela’s RV Campground, Sidney, Nebraska. (The cost represents actual cash I paid. The total cost was $61.84, but I had a $50 gift card.)
- $81.01 for 2 museum entry fees and distillery cocktails at my “free” Harvest Hosts overnight places. (Please note the amount would’ve been more than $30 less but I purchased a bottle of vodka and a jar of Bloody Mary mix at the distillery as a gift.)
Harvest Hosts, In Brief
Just in case you have no idea what I’m talking about when I say I stayed overnight at a Harvest Hosts for free, let me tell you in a sentence. Harvest Hosts is a membership program where members can overnight at fantastic wineries, breweries, distilleries, museums, farms, orchards and other adventure businesses with the assumption that members will support the business with a purchase.
Although, once you make a purchase, you may not see a true cost savings, the experiences are unbeatable. I cannot say enough good things about the fun I’ve had so far.
If you are interested in a Harvest Hosts membership and want 15% off, HERE is some information. See the banner along the top for the coupon code to use at checkout.
So, except for that first day, I think I did a pretty good job at my slow travel road trip. I gave myself a grade of a C+ on my first attempt and I feel pretty confident to say I improved on this second attempt. Even though I’m not a spontaneous person, I felt like I handled the “unplanned events” with a minimal amount of fear and stress which, I’ll be honest, is kind of unlike me.
I give myself a B for this slow travel road trip. There’s still room for improvement and not just because of that first long driving day. All my adventures were Harvest Hosts stops and one of the things I envisioned about slow travel was stopping for road side attractions. On this trip, I did none.
Plus, by giving myself a B, it still leaves me the challenge of a future A+ slow travel road trip.
Links to Posts Referenced Above:
To see products recently purchased by readers or to browse and shop at Amazon, follow either of these links. Huge thanks for your support.
- Thermacell MR450X Insect Mosquito Repeller Bundle
- Thermacell Mosquito Repellent Refills
- First Aid Only Sting Relief Swab
Affiliate Link Disclosure. As a result of being an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Even though your trip did not go exactly as planned … I look forward to your adventures in next weeks post.
Be well. Love, Marie
Love that huge train station in North Platte. Whenever we are close, we stop there. Our 1st time it was a nothing but a wooden platform to watch the trains coming from East and West. We drove across train tracks to get there which was a bit scary cause there were moving trains all around us and many with no drivers. Next time we were there, they were constructing that 3 story Visitors Center. Very impressive. Last time they had retired railroad employees explaining to us what was going on. Well worth the time and effort to get there.
Wow that’s awesome. Next week, I’ll post about the experience of seeing it. But, they still have a retired rail work talk to folks on he top floor. It’s all volunteers. That would’ve been neat to see it back when it was a wooden platform. Thanks for sharing.
We love first come, first serve (FCFS) campgrounds or at least campgrounds which offer a portion of their sites as FCFS. Since we typically like to spend at least a week or more at our stops, we have the flexibility to arrive at locations whatever day of the week we want. Accordingly, we plan our travel days for Sunday, Monday or Tuesday. We will usually call ahead to determine from someone in the know (i.e., a Forest Service Ranger, or a camp host, etc.) how early the campground will fill up. This way, when we arrive (always early — morning works best) on one of those days, chances are very strong we will find an empty site, especially ones without hookups. The good part for us is, once we have a site, we can usually stay at least a week, and, in some cases, as much as 16 days at Forest Service campgrounds. Unlike places which take reservations for the whole campground, we don’t have to worry if every site in the place will be reserved for Friday and Saturday night. We are currently at a FCFS Forest Service campground in West Yellowstone where we arrived at about 10AM on a Monday and had our choice of about 6 sites. We snagged one with electric and have been here for almost 2 weeks. Perfection!
As an aside, I guess I missed the fact you had solar panels. We find that on warm nights (not oppressively HOT ones) if we have no plug-in, we can obtain a level of comfort by running our ($20 Walmart) box fan through an inverter in conjunction with our two MaxxAir ceiling fans for hours. The fans hardly use any power and our 200 watts of solar will easily top off our two batteries by noon — if not earlier — the next day.
Thanks for the comment Peter. I’m so glad to hear from someone not afraid of first come first serve. Your strategy definitely sounds like it helps you increase your odds of getting a spot. And the fact that you got one this time of year near Yellowstone says a lot. I hear the area is packed. Okay, you took away some of my fear and maybe–just maybe–I’ll give first come first serve a try. Thank you!