One day this past summer a man stopped by our site to talk about the bus. I wasn’t around, but when I got back he was telling Corrinne about something called Harvest Hosts. It’s a clever idea, wineries, farms, other people with land provide free camping in exchange for you spending some money at their store or whatever they have. We looked into it a few years ago when first launched, but it was mostly wineries at the time and neither of us drink, so it didn’t make sense for us.
That day last summer though he assured us that the service had grown considerably and there was a wide range of options, not just wineries. We didn’t do anything about it just then (we take what I like to call an Amish approach to things—we like to think about them for a long time before we actually do anything), but as we plotted a route the rest of the way down the Erie Canal, past New York City, along the New Jersey coast and beyond, there were quite a few places with nowhere to camp. Normally we’d get a hotel, but that’s expensive and we don’t enjoy it, so we decided hey, lets try out Harvest Hosts.
We signed up and booked a night at an apple farm about halfway between St. Johnsville and where we were headed in New Jersey. It turned out to be a great experience. The kids got to see what a real working farm is like (well, orchard in this case), we stayed for free, and we loaded up on apple cider, fresh cheese, and other treats. In the end we spent about as much as a hotel, but it was a much more enjoyable experience.
Apparently every place is very different, but this farm we were more or less alone in a big open field. Having just been to the Baseball Hall of Fame, the kids wanted to play, and what better place than an empty farm field?
One catch about Harvest Hosts is that you can only stay 24 hours. So the next morning, after we went back for more fruit, veggies, and cheese, we hit the road again, bound for New Jersey.
You might be wondering why we didn’t stop off in New York City. We talked about it, but in the end decided that right now isn’t a great time to be in New York. Crime is pretty high, particularly in the outer boroughs from what I hear. And yes, I have traveled through sketchy parts of India and Thailand where people were blowing up buses and trains and never worried about that. I still wouldn’t. But American cities right now, especially New York, are too chaotic and unpredictable to be safe1. Besides, we’re just not city people anymore. I’d make exceptions for Paris, Bangkok, and a handful of others, but by and large I don’t enjoy cities these days.
We drove right on by New York City, catching a view of the Manhattan skyline from the turnpike before pointing ourselves south to a place called Cheesequake, New Jersey. We spent the night there. Between the five of us we didn’t take a single photo of the place, which tells you more than I can with words.
The next morning we hit the road again, headed south down the New Jersey shoreline for the Cape May area. Cape May is a major birding area and I would like to have stopped for a while, but I had picked up a cold and wasn’t feeling that great, and then it started to rain.
We stayed at another farm, this one a sheep dairy farm. This time we exercised a little more restraint and bought plenty of cheese, but not enough to fund a night in a hotel. We also discovered a downside of Harvest Hosts — when the weather pins you down, there’s not much to do but sit in your rig and read and play games. It was only for an afternoon, so it wasn’t too bad.
The next morning we were up bright and early to catch the Henlopen Ferry to Delaware.
I’ll never stop enjoying putting the bus on ferries. There’s something about sitting at the table in the bus and looking out to see the ocean that makes me happy. For a moment it’s a boat. And then we were ashore again, still headed south, bound for Chincoteague, wild horses, and some warm beach days.
This is not me watching the news (I haven’t done that in 25 years). Our decision was based on reports from friends currently living in New York City. ↩