Safe places to park overnight are a priority when traveling in an RV. There are networks for overnight stays at low cost where you can enjoy unique experiences. Harvest Hosts offers its members overnight parking at wineries, farms, breweries, museums, and golf courses. Faithful Parking specializes in parking at churches for a small donation.
In the past month, I’ve stayed at an alpaca farm (and held a baby alpaca), a brewery, a golf course, a museum about Anabaptists, a shrine in Ohio, and a desert homestead, all through Harvest Hosts. Typically, no electricity, water, or sewer connections are provided, so you need to be self-sufficient in those areas.
The idea is that in exchange for a safe and quiet night of parking guests patronize a small business by purchasing an item or service, or, in the case of Faithful Parking, guests make a modest donation to the church. This can be very economical or you can end up spending a lot of money. Most places offer enticing wares (including books in church bookstores). I don’t golf, so I purchased a T-shirt at the golf course. I did some Christmas shopping at the museum and the alpaca farm. A beer flight dinner was my purchase at the brewery. I picked up some prayer cards at the Shrine. At other places, I’ve purchased fresh produce, cheese, honey, and wine.
What I like most about these networks is getting a glimpse into very different lives. At Heritage Farm Suri Alpacas in Indiana, I met a baby alpaca born only a few hours before I arrived. Mama Alpaca was not really into the whole nursing thing, so the owners had to milk her and bottle feed the baby at first. By the next day, things were settling down. Alpacas are beautiful and comical with large expressive eyes and ears. This was one of my favorite Harvest Hosts stays. They offered beautiful items woven from alpaca wool as well as the wool itself.
The Green Valley Golf Club was a humbling stay. The spot for parking was right next to an intersection. I’m a light sleeper and had the windows open, plus I’d had a bit too much coffee while driving. I woke up grumpy. Then I saw the beautiful sunrise and noticed a memorial I hadn’t taken time to look at when I arrived. The manager explained that he built it to honor local vets. He serves on the board of the Zanesville Veterans Appreciation Foundation. Among other services to local veterans, the foundation raises money for the Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. for senior veterans to visit at no cost the memorials honoring the sacrifices of veterans. I was grateful to purchase a shirt supporting the foundation.
I didn’t take any pictures at Point Labaddie Brewery, because I arrived late and exhausted due to rain and traffic. It was peaceful and quiet in the field by the brewery. Inside, happy guests enjoyed the beer dinner hosted by the microbrewery and a local restaurant, The Tilted Skillet. The meal was excellent and creative. Each course used beer in the recipe and was paired with a flavorful craft beer. I had a delightful evening with two young couples who were there to celebrate birthdays. The brewery hosts many events in this community. My favorite beer was Imperial Stout, with complex dark chocolate and coffee notes to it.
Recently, I also stayed at the Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics in Ohio and the Menno-Hof Museum in Shipshewana, Indiana. Both were pilgrimage destinations in themselves. I’ll write more about them in separate posts. Staying under the trees on the expansive Shrine lawn and near a field of corn in the back of the parking lot at MennoHoff was restful. Both nights the stars were brilliant and a nice breeze kept it cool inside the Airstream despite warmer than expected weather.
Another beautiful farm stop in a completely different environment is Our Desert Homestead in Rancho Rio, New Mexico. Here, you can see desert vistas, looking down at the lights of Albuquerque. You may even spot balloons drifting from the Balloon Fiesta at the right time of year. After a wonderful weekend at the Balloon Fiesta which I will post about soon, I made my way up into the hills on a dirt road to this scenic site, the home of a family of five devoted to low-impact living. I enjoyed fresh eggs from the chickens they keep. It looks like it would be a great place for tent camping as well. They have several sites with fire pits and picnic tables. The stars at night are amazing and you can hear coyotes (kept out of the homestead by fencing and two friendly rescue dogs).
These overnight hospitality sites are more than just a convenience, but a way to connect with others. Some hosts and fellow travelers have become friends and even followed my blog. Others wanted to learn more about what inspires me to live on the road full time. I see my stays here as part of my ministry, sometimes giving others an opportunity to be charitable to me, as at my very first Harvest Hosts stay at Cartersville Country Winery in South Carolina. It was near Christmas, and I helped the the hosts decorate their barn for a charity fundraiser. They kindly gave me a bottle of wine after learning about Tin Can Pilgrim and would not let me purchase it as the quid pro quo for the stay. Allowing others to express generosity can witness Christ’s love as much as being generous oneself.
Cartersville Country Winery, 571 Lamar Highway, Timmonsville, SC 29161 (843) 992-8555 cartersvillecountrywinery.com
Green Valley Golf Club, 4420 Dresden Rd., Zanesville, OH 43701 (740) 452-7105 greenvalleygc.com
Heritage Farm Suri Alpacas, 4175 N. 1200 W, Flora, IN 46929 (765) 860-1220 ourheritagefarm.com
Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics, 2291 Saint Johns Road, Maria Stein, OH 45860 (419) 925-4532 mariasteinshrine.org
Menno-Hof, 510 South Van Buren Street (State Road 5), Shipshewana, IN 46565 (260) 768-4117 mennohof.org
Our Desert Homestead, 228 18th St., SW, Rio Rancho, NM 87124 (936) 215-9528 facebook.com/OurDesertHomestead
Point Labaddie Brewery at 1029 Thiebes Road, Labaddie, MO 63055 firstname.lastname@example.org pointlabaddiebrewery.com