The hubbub of Houston and it’s sprawling reach took us over an hour to drive out of. We had enjoyed 5 nights just north of Houston and now it was time to get out into the Texas countryside. Our next destination was Big Bend National Park. We looked at the distances to be covered, keeping in mind stops for pup walks, people walks, and gas fill ups, and planned our next 3 days of driving. Three days! Albeit not full days of driving, but still, Texas is a huge state to drive across.
Our first one-night stopover was in Vanderpool, TX and the second was in Fort Stockton, TX. Vanderpool was a new experience for us. It was to be our first time dry camping, which meant that we would not be in an RV park hooked up to water, electricity and sewer. We had chosen a secluded winery that participates with an organization called Harvest Hosts. Many wineries, breweries and golf courses across the country participate, offering a free overnight stay for RV’ers, and in return, the RV’ers enjoy their properties, purchase their products and/or play a round of golf.
We chose Lost Maples Winery. This winery is seemingly out in the middle of nowhere, although there are a couple of tiny towns nearby, and I do mean TINY. My best guesstimate is that the property is about 10 acres, surrounded by high fencing and located right on the Sabrinal River, a river thats water is absolutely crystal clear. Our host, Chris, instructed us to park on the grass next to the first row of vines, and invited us to go into the building to say hello and sign in.
Next to the building was a large covered patio area with chairs and tables, in front of the building was a small pond next to a large tree and a few more chairs and tables, and right in front of the door to the building was a small porch. Inside was a bar with a couple of tables. The wines were lined up behind the bar. It was small and cozy, and much to our surprise, buzzing with activity. A friendly couple at one of the tables commented on Alice and Charlie who they had noticed were trying to wait patiently on the porch while we figuring things out.
We checked in with Chris and then went to set up the RV and get some cheese and crackers. The winery serves wine, not food, so we happily supplied our own snacks. We settled onto the porch with the dogs, gave them some treats, and selected a wine and port to sample. A couple of hours later we had enjoyed getting to know Cara and Chris, eaten all our snacks and finished a bottle of merlot. As 6 pm approached, the winery was closed up for the night, and we made our way back to the RV with another bottle each of wine and port.
It was completely quiet and peaceful. We closed the gate that led to our side of the vineyard and walked around with the dogs running off leash for the first time in a long time. What a treat for all of us. The sun sank slowly behind the hills and the light faded into deep darkness. There was no cell service or Wi-Fi, and so we settled in for a quiet evening. I loved that we were away from everything and all people.
In the morning we had our coffee and simply drove away. There was no unhooking procedure, no re-hooking the jeep for towing, and very little to put away. It was all very clean and simple. We drove for a full hour through the hill country, not seeing a single car for the first 45 minutes, and then eventually seeing only 3 cars in the following 30 minutes until we hit the interstate.
After about 4 1/2 hours of driving on the mostly flat, straight interstate highway, we rolled into Fort Stockton where we stocked up on supplies, walked the dogs, had an easy evening and then the next morning set out towards Big Bend National Park area. We had no idea the drama that would unfold on what was supposed to be a quick 2 ½ hour drive. But that is another story for another blog posting.
The moral of this blog posting is that thanks to Harvest Hosts, an overnight stay at Lost Maples Winery was the best!