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  • Highcastle March 25, 2017

    If you happen to have an extra 80 million dollars laying around, buying the Castello Di Amorosa winery might be a good investment. If you don’t, spend the $50 each person for a tour and reserve tasting. It’s a good second place, perhaps.

    Private wine cellar

     

    This is the place you want to be in the time of a zombie apocalypse. First, and most obviously, you have WINE. They have lots of places to store. Even though the 2007 and 2008 (or was it 2012/2013?) batches were “trashed” because the owner didn’t like the product, they still have them all corked and ready to go in a pinch. So if you need to take a break from zombies, you can forget some snobby tendencies and drink that Cabernet if you are *forced* to. There are private areas with locks, but in times of desperation locks can be broken! Our guide did tell us that during the wildfires that some winery staff took refuge here.

    Then, you have food. They host events monthly along with a dining area suited for meals. Better. Also? A drawbridge and bars to keep the zombies out. If they get in, you can use the iron maiden they have laying around, just in case.

    Run to the hills!

     

    But if you aren’t in a zombie apocalypse, it is still a pretty neat place. Their wine is pretty good, too. The owner also owns V Sattui. To say it is “sprawling” is an understatement. It’s 121,000 square feet with 107 rooms with four separate levels underground and four levels above. It was built with the intention of making it as close to a 13th century Italian castle as possible. That meant handmade bricks, pavement stones, built by hand. All murals are hand-painted. This is not the Disney-ation of a castle, for sure.

    The tour is informative and as people who previously worked on Saturdays at a winery about 20 years ago, we geeked out for a bit. We asked questions from our previous lives even though the memory of winemaking was a bit cobwebby.

    Courtyard

    The tasting was a bit confusing and hurried. The group was large-ish and you have about 25 wines to choose from. Everyone with exception of one couple decided to do the Reserve experience so that meant more wines per person. The glasses were recycled which meant mixing of reds and white and if you decided to share with your partner, a lot of handprints, lip prints and mixing/matching. No bread in front of us and the chocolates were trombone wah waaaaaahhhhh. It would have been better if they changed out glasses or rinsed them out between each wine. Also, one tour guide with that many people doing so many tastings? While our guide was excellent, it was a big ask.

    Private tasting area

    At the end of the tasting, our guide also mentioned the wine club. Okay, so truth time. You mention a club to us, we will probably want in, particularly when membership means “just buy some wine.” Of course, in the tastings, we found we liked the most expensive wines. The club (for full-time travelers) could be good or bad. You have a discount. It can be sent anywhere. If you are more local or happen to be in the area at the time, you also can attend the monthly events. Gotta admit – Halloween in a 121,000 square foot castle with wine does not sound like a bad deal.

    We ended up buying a dozen bottles, a corkholder (just what every RVer needs!) and a rooster wine stopper/pourer. We argued with ourselves between the rooster (we like roosters, met one at our house once!) and gargoyle (we like gargoyles, never met one!). We chose poorly, as the rooster looks like he’s vomiting blood. For a gargoyle that would be cool. For a rooster it’s a little off-putting.

    That bottle is $3000. We didn’t buy it.

     

    We’d go back just the view the grounds and the castle. But the wine isn’t bad either.

    Details: Castello Di Amorosa

  • Mum’s the word! March 25, 2017

    amyfarah2We decided to take the plunge in September 2014, after a fateful visit from our friends Chloe and Brendan. They came to us after visiting the Hershey RV show, telling us of their plans to live in an RV, us secretly saying “Y’all are crazy” and then being secretly persuaded…little by little. We waved goodbye, said again “Y’all are crazy” and started thinking. And thinking. And talking. A lot. The next day, I wrote Chloe a note “Oh, nothing important to tell you. Great to see you. Oh, and we just decided to sell everything and live in a motorhome. In other news, we’re thinking of starting an herb garden. Mum’s the word!” Chloe wrote back, without skipping a beat, “So tell me more about this herb garden.” This is why we’re friends.

    And so it began. What started in September 2014 became a reality in December 2015. Time flew. And once in a while the four of us get together, grill our grillables and talk about that crazy weekend. We may take in a cheesy tourist-trap event because, heck, we can.

    People who we meet have three reactions:
    1) “That takes some guts!”
    2) “Wow, that’s…interesting.”
    3) “But you’re so young!”

    So let’s dissect these three reactions, shall we?

    Guts. If you can buy a house, move or get married, you can do it. People do it every day, although buying the house, moving and planning the wedding are more “mainstream” human beings are capable of doing these things. Perhaps the reaction comes from the notion of getting rid of stuff you’ve accumulated over the years. In 15+ years of a realationship, there was a lot. It is easier than you’d think. Just like home ownership or marriage, there are days where it’s difficult. Then there are other days, when you’re not even paying attention, where there’s a sense of contentment and ease. However, like owning a house or getting married, know yourself. It may or may not be for you.

    Interesting. Insert the judgey tone here, along with the background music of dueling banjos. Some of this is due to ignorance as to what the choice means. Our nephew told his schoolfriends that we were buying a motorhome “and they’re not even poor!”. It means something else in many people’s minds. Others have their snobby hats on and don’t even realize that motorhomes can cost more than many people’s houses, although sometimes they don’t. In our case, our motorhome cost as much as that house we sold. Either way, the only thing to do in this situation is to try to educate to the ignorance or just plain shake your head and ignore it.

    Young. This is a part of people’s ignorance as well. Even among those who RV, there is a thinking that you can only be retired if you full-time in a motorhome. For some fellow RVers, they can’t seem to get over this fact and we are sometimes treated in a less-than-a-polite manner than if we were 20 years older (perhaps they think we didn’t earn the right to do it?).  Finding other youngins and finding other RVers who enjoy all types of people has been paramount to us enjoying our stays.

    Despite everyone’s reaction, right or wrong, yes, it was a big leap of faith to live full-time in a motorhome. We prepared by moving into an apartment first (1300 square feet, one floor) and once we moved in, there were waves of “ohmygodohmygod we made a huge mistake”. Even the most prepared can have those waves. You hope that it comes in the form of waves versus all the time. We found that some blogs and Facebook groups romanticized the thought of living full time in an RV. Like everything else, it isn’t all sunshine, unicorns and puppies. There are ways you can prepare for it, but like marriage, there’s no way to know how it will be until you take the plunge.

    The best piece of advice we have is don’t do it all alone. You don’t have to find people just like yourself but surround yourself with a village of RVers who are there for you. We had each other as a couple, sure, but we also had Chloe and Brendan who have been friends for 20+ years and are our age, also full-timing it, and they were there for our first five months of full-timing. We found neighbors who went out of their way to help us through the “oh crap!” moments without being asked. We re-found friends who are our age who also decided to full-time, without either of us knowing we both were doing it. We even bought the same RV make and model in the same year (oh, hai, Kidds!). In your travels, you’ll also get to see friends and family who you haven’t seen in a long time because now you happen to be on the road. When you happen to stay in a touristy destination (like we did in Orlando), they come to you. There were dinners, brunches, drinks and weight gain, all in the name of friendship. It’s what we must bear, I guess *dramatic sigh*.

    So with young, interesting guts, move forward but go in with eyes wide open and a village who can help you.

  • Park it March 20, 2017

    Let’s just recap our last thirteen months.

    States: 13
    Pennsylvania
    Virginia
    North Carolina
    South Carolina
    Florida
    Georgia
    Alabama
    Tennessee
    Arkansas
    Missouri
    Kansas
    Colorado
    Utah
    Nevada
    California

    Campgrounds: 20

    Some of these states were pass-throughs, but we found neat little parks that if the circumstance ever warranted, we’d stay there again. Others, not so much.

     

    campground

    To make sure our extended stays were as positive as possible, we did our research. We mainly use RV Park Reviews and Google. Read the reviews carefully, because they are very subjective. For example, if you like to have campgrounds being remote from the world, but someone rates a park 5 stars because it is close to everything, you have different needs and standards.

    There are also some basic questions we now ask when we stay at a campground for more than a couple of days:

    1. We have a 45′ Class A + tow. Can your park handle big rigs with wide turns? We always press on is the “big rig friendly” claim almost all parks make. Some do not consider the drive to and from the spot they state is big-rig friendly, or low-hanging branches that can scratch your coach.  A reputable park will tell you when you ask the first time “There are some turns but we have a good escort to get you to your spot”.
    2. Really? Really really? It sounds silly, but for the safety of your coach and your stress level, ask again. Stress again the size of your coach and that it is a Class A (if you have one). Handling a fifth wheel has some maneuverability – Class As are less forgiving.
    3. How is your cell service? This is something we didn’t think to ask until we were completely without cell service. Then, after a tiring day of driving, we had to transfer our service over to skype and spend time on that rather than relaxing.
    4. What is our spot number? With the campground map and Google Earth, you’ll be able to understand if the spot makes sense for you. It also stops the “bait and switch” some parks will try to pull, guaranteeing you the super premium deluxe super spot and then give you the “wah waahhhhh” spot.
    5. Does this spot have any known issues with satellite ? Does the satellite need to be located somewhere specific on the coach to get a signal? Again, we didn’t think to ask this until we were completely without signal. We were told that one spot had great service, until we arrived, got set up, and nothing. Only after questioning were we told that the sattalite will only work if it is in the very front of the coach.
    6. Can you see and/or hear fireworks from this location at all? Dog owners, beware! There are a lot of parks that forget to tell you about the fireworks. We were shocked at how many insist they are dog-friendly but then have fireworks that sound like firebombs overhead, even at times shaking our very sturdy coach. We were also shocked how dog owners would give these parks high reviews. For our dog Piper, it was traumatic.
    7. You say you’re “pet-friendly”. Where are dogs allowed to go and where can they relieve themselves? An important question. There are campgrounds who claim they are “pet-friendly” but don’t allow dogs to walk (even on leashes) on any of the grounds! This means you’d have to carry Fido to the approved area. I don’t know dogs who listen to reason and rules and sees grass as “a place to go”. You can argue with the campground as to the definition of pet-friendly or you can just take your business (and the dogs’ business, as it were) elsewhere.

    There are other criteria you may have, like close to shopping or civilization, or just the opposite. We like paved and grassy in comparison to gravel (doggie paws don’t like gravel and they equate “grass” with “a place to go potty”, so lack of grass is difficult). We like civilization to be close-by (10-15 minutes) and like access to bike trails. We have our top 5 but if you were to ask if we’ve yet visited the perfect place – that’s still down the road and we’ve yet to stay there yet.