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  • Writer's pictureRobert Gidley

So much for heated mattress pads!

Sat, Feb 26, 2022

Today’s journey involves a bit of explanation.

There’s an outfit called “Harvest Hosts” and they run a website (which you can visit if you click on the link). They have partnered up with farms, breweries, and wineries to let RV people camp there for free. The rules are:

· One night only (no living at the winery!)

· You need to buy something (suggested amount: $20)

There’s generally no hook-ups (remember, it’s not what you think; it’s power and water). The idea is it lets the farms get a bit of extra income and lets us RV’ers see the world for cheap(er).

Our mission today: boondocking! That’s what it’s called when you’re not connected to power, water, or sewage. Harvey becomes a self-contained life-support unit. Will we survive? Read on! (Although if we were dead, we wouldn’t be hovering over a Ouija board writing this!)

11:45 am

We shove off—and it’s only taken three hours to lug everything we think we need out to Harvey and put it away. We think this is about 15 minutes faster than last time. Pretty soon, we’ll be rolling out after only two and a half hours of prep!

A quick stop for gas at CostCo (9.5 miles per gallon—yeesh!) and we lay in a course for La Conner, which is north-ish of us about 60 miles.

1:20 pm

Since no ferries were involved, it didn’t take that long to get here! We pull into a little (16 acre) farm. The area where we park has a devastating view of the Cascade mountains

You don’t get a view like this at a Motel 6, bucko!

We settle in and have lunch, and run into our first boondocker quandry. The microwave needs electricity. (Gini wants us to have hot apple cider with lunch, because “obviously, we’re at a farm, Robert!”) So we figure out that we need to run the generator to heat up the cider. This will not be the last time the generator is run.

After lunch, we wander out to chat with the proprietor, Margy. Along the way, we get the unmistakable smell of all natural fertilizer (or “manure” as we City folk call it).

During the season, they grow apples, blueberries, cherries, lettuce, squash, garlic, beets, string beans, and probably a bunch more stuff (we kind of got overwhelmed…). They have a produce stand where they sell this stuff, but right now there’s no stuff to sell, because it’s winter and the stuff they sell doesn’t grow in the winter.

They have some canned goods to sell us, though. Gini is excited about the pickled beets with garlic, although Robert points out that they have a can date of “9/12/2020” so she seems to be about the only person in the last year and a half who’s excited about it.

Gini and our stash of goods!

5:45 pm

While it’s certainly lovely to have wine with our chicken tostadas (with locally sourced pickled jalapeños!), it is less lovely when somebody spills it. (And it’s not Mr. Clumsy, for a change!). It’s surprising how effectively red wine gets everywhere and how well it turns everything red. We’re just lucky that most of our décor is red, so it mostly matches…

We begin to convert the table into half a bed (the couch converts to the other half). Today that involves screwing in one of the table supports. It’s always something.

6:00 pm

Gini says that she wants to make sure that the controls for the heated mattress pads are both on her side this time.

“That’ll be easy,” replies Robert, “Since there’s no point in plugging them in, you can curl up with them!”

“What do you mean, ‘no point,’?” asks Gini.

“Heated mattress pads need electricity. We don’t have any beyond what runs the lights and the water pump,” says Robert.

Well, so much for heated mattress pads!” declares Gini indignantly.

It’s beginning to sink in how used we are to electricity. And how many things we use it for.

7:00 pm

Robert has gotten the VCR hooked up to the TV set! It only took 15 minutes—and two minutes of serious swearing—for him to connect a coaxial cable to the back of the VCR (above his head at a right angle partially blocked by power cables), but it works!

Time to watch Harvey while sitting in Harvey, only this time we can hear Jimmie Stewart’s drawl and really enjoy the show!

7:15 pm

Bam! After a warning beep a few minutes earlier (“What was that?” asks Gini, “Probably nothing,” replies Robert confidently) all the power suddenly goes out. We fumble about in the dark, and finally one of us finds the generator starter switch and turns it on.

For the rest of the movie, the drill is:

· Watch Harvey until the lights go out.

· Run the generator

· The TV set now comes on with very loud static (because we can never find the remote in time), but once we push “Play” on the VCR, it gets quiet and we can resume watching Harvey.

· Run the generator for 15 minutes to fully charge the batteries while watching Harvey

· Watch Harvey for another 15 minutes before the batteries die

· If we wait too long, then the generator doesn’t have enough electricity to start

· So then we have to start the car (which, apparently, is using a different battery?), and run it for a few minutes to charge up the generator battery enough so it can start.

· Repeat

We’re beginning to wonder if boondocking is really for us.

“Or maybe our batteries are broken,” Robert cheerfully suggests.

Sunday, Feb 27, 2022

7:00 am

There was a gale warning overnight, but Robert slept through it. Gini reports it was blowing and raining like crazy and she heard every bit of it. We peer out at the Cascades and they seem to be in the same place they were yesterday and Harvey hasn’t moved either. Yay!

We run the generator to make coffee.

7:30 am

Gini declares she wants to play a game. Robert, who plays Words With Friends every day (typically about 10 games at once) picks (surprise!) Scrabble. Guess who won?

Robert graciously about to play a 36 point word

8:45 am

Last night Gini put her clothes for today on top of the garbage box (we hope someday to upgrade to a can, but the garbage box is the correct size and very lightweight!).

She is surprised that the lid collapsed and they ended up in the garbage.

“Even my bra smells like garbage!” she declares. Fortunately she has stowed extra clothes.

Robert wisely keeps his mouth shut.

9:30 am

We pull out of La Conner Gardens (the name of the farm—did we forget to mention that?), but first we stop by to chat with Margy.

“I’ve been thinking about your string beans all night,” Gini tells Margy, which we’re guessing is probably the first time anybody said this to Margy. We add two jars of pickled string beans to our larder and lumber out.

10:00 am

We didn’t want to keep turning the generator on to make breakfast, so instead we lay a course for La Conner—a cute touristy town that also has a thriving fishing industry (salmon). We have breakfast at the Calico Cupboard, which has delicious food (and lots of it!) and then waddle out to peer at what La Conner has to offer.

Gini looks out over a row of gill net fishing boats at La Conner

It’s early in the tourist season here (a lot of places only opened for the first time in the last week). There are a lot of gallery-type stores where art is for sale. We buy some Gees and the occasional Gaw.

Finally we end up at the Museum of Northwest Art (or “MONA” as the staff call it). They have just opened (yesterday) and installed an exhibition (so new that half of the installation is still uninstalled). Lots of interesting pieces commenting on the current state of the environment (not good).

1:30 pm

Whew! All that wandering and shopping is exhausting. We finally clamber back into Harvey and lay in a course for home!

2:15 pm

But first, you the taxpayer are funding the disposal of our blackwater tank! There’s a rest area near the Darrington exit on I-5 that has places to empty our poop tanks for free!

It’s marginally less trouble than the last time (largely because Gini brought a kneeling gadget that gardeners use which saves a ton of wear on Robert’s knees). But in the time we manage to empty our tanks, three other RVs have gone through one of the other lanes…

“One thing about Harvey,” Gini declares, “Is it makes home seem like a palace!”

3:15 pm

We pull into our home port and Frankie the cat greets us with, “Where’s my dinner!”

Home again.

Gini & Robert Harvey’s staff

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There is (or used to be) a public bathroom on the main street of LaConner called "One Moore Outhouse" which was built by Bud Moore, the owner of One More Store, also on main street. I lined my (young) family up in front of the sign and took a photograph which then hung in our bathroom at home for a decade or so. I wonder if that important civic edifice is still there?

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