The sun is setting over over the rolling, vibrant farmland of western Virginia. It’s a stunner: pockets of clouds illuminate against a deepening sky, bold rays filter through tree branches, and the leaves on the grape vines shine brilliant green in the dying light.
My camper van, with me inside it, are tucked in a grassy knoll behind Whitebarrel Winery’s warehouse. Lines of staked grape vines radiate out in two directions, and a dozen oak barrels lay stoutly against one of the exterior walls of the warehouse.
At the farm next door a rooster crows every few minutes and a donkey wanders a spacious paddock. An older man, who I take to be the owner of the farm, has been doing chores outside since I arrived. Every once in awhile he looks over at the vineyard, and at my van, and goes back to work.
I find myself in this scene of rural domesticity thanks to Harvest Hosts, a membership based camping service. For $44 a year, I gain access to a list of vineyards, farms, museums and breweries who welcome self-contained campers like Hobbes.
Over the past four months, west of the Mississippi, I’ve used Harvest Hosts rarely. The West abounds with free camping and I didn’t need to seek alternative options. But now, in the East, the landscape has changed. Public land is hard to find and affordable camping a challenge.
Yesterday I contacted Whitebarrel Winery asking for permission to stay for a night on my way through the area. They readily agreed, and I arrived hours ago to their Tasting Room. I stretched my limbs after a long day of working and travel before entering and introducing myself to the manager. He welcomed me with a smile, told me where to park for the night, and helped me pick a glass of wine.
With a tall pour in my hand I made my way to the patio, drinking a delightful glass of viognier as I looked over hills and spring-green farms. When the Tasting Room closed for the day I drove back to my grassy knoll and settled in for the night.
The sun has gone down completely, leaving in it’s wake an indigo sky. The soft chirping of birds gives way to the night sounds of peepers and crickets. I breathe in deeply, content and grateful for my own little corner of Virginia…at least for tonight.
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