We got a later than usual start on on our annual escape from winter. If the weather broadcasters were to be believed, after several days of really cold weather we were going to find ourselves trapped in a “Day After Tomorrow” type polar vortex. (I am a huge fan of cheesey disaster/action films. DAT is one of my favorites. You should watch it.) Freezing temperatures at home prevented us from loading the RV until we could turn on the heat in the rig and fire up the refrigerator exactly two days before our departure. We loaded everything that wouldn’t freeze the week before; then we spent two frenetic days loading food, cleaning products, beverages, water and all that jazz. Just like people, the RV has a hard time getting motivated to deal with cold weather. On the first day of awakening from it’s early winter slumber it took a half hour to get the engine to crank into life. The challlenge in extreme weather for an RV is two fold; keeping the interior warm without burning through all your propane, and making sure the water tanks and lines don’t freeze. There’s lots of ways to accomplish this when you are stationary but when you’re traveling through it’s trickier. Still, we manage. Fortunately I have a good background in weatherization. Finally after a few false starts, we were on the road.
Our first driving day was short. We stopped in Portland Ohio just south of Cincinnati. The campground we chose is owned by the Family Motorcoach Association (FMCA). Members may stay for free. The campground is a glorified parking lot, but it offeres the holy trinity for all RVers—50 amp electric, water and sewer hookups. Big RVs like ours are self contained, but having hookups are very nice on 18 degree days and single digit nights. Hooking up anything involving water running through uninsulated hoses is a bad idea in cold weather, so we just plugged in and enjoyed the luxury of lights and TV. There were two other RVs parked with us. Both were driven by full timers who had come to Cincinnati for medical treatment. We hunkered down for the night under our electric blanket. In the morning Red Dog and I stumbled through grass that was crunchy with frost. It was a clear sunny morning and the frosty grass sparkled. I suppose it might have been pretty but I was too busy urging Red Dog to poop so I could get back to warmth. Red Dog was unaffected by the cold and having a grand time snuffling around while I regretted not getting a cup of coffee to take outside with me. Mission accomplished, we made a beeline for the coach, warmth and coffee (for me). The RV grumbled some but started after a couple tries and we were off.
We headed south with the Polar Vortex in hot pursuit (cold pursuit?), to another Portland in Tennessee. On the way we made our usual stop at the Blue Beacon Truck Wash. This year the workers were singing while they scrubbed the road salt off our coach. Sparkling clean, we headed to Portland. We are members of an organization called Harvest Host. Members have access to a database of businesses, wineries, farms, museums, golf courses and other attractions where free overnight parking is available. For through travelers this is a great option. Stopping at a campground for one night is a hassle and expensive, so most people overnight at truck stops or someplace like Cracker Barrel or Walmart. Harvest Host options are more pleasant. Last season we stopped at Abbott Farms in New York. We rolled into Portland to park at the Sumner Crest Winery. Not only did they have lots of wine, they also had 50 amp service for visitors—one leg of the trinity.
We were welcomed to the winery by Miss Karen, who tended the bar. Tastings are free and we sprung for a plate of local cheese, crackers and fruit. The winery was started by two brothers in 1997. One brother was an old car buff and vintage cars figure prominently on wine labels and in the tasting room. There were all the usual offerings of whites and reds varying from dry to sweet. There were lots of old-fashioned sweet wines too like blackberry, blueberry and strawberry. In the hour or two we were there, several people came in and bought strawberry wine, so it’s obviously popular stuff. Miss Karen suggested that it be mixed with champagne, dry white or seltzer. We thought about getting a bottle, but we were told the sweet wines don’t last long after they are opened. I couldn’t imagine drinking something like that in a hurry, so we satisfied ourselves with a couple bottles of the regular stuff. Some of these wines are 20% alcohol—a drink to “keep granny happy,” so we were glad it was a short walk back to the RV. The TV news of the evening was entirely the Polar Vortex Show, but it lost a little of its drama in southern Tennessee. It’s hard for a Yankee to get excited about double digits when places north are double digits below zero. Still it was a cold frosty night. In the morning it was another chilly poop call for the dogs. The engine rumbled to life and we headed down the road. Soon the unmistakable Saturn missile loomed on the horizon and we crossed into Alabama.