The long road to Kansas

We had our longest string yet of travel days without breaks heading from Alpine, Texas to Kansas City to visit Matt’s family.  Our Harvest Hosts membership really came in handy for this portion of our journey.  Matt and I decided to trade off driving days and give each other rest days to make this stretch easier on both of us.  

Day 1:

Heading from Alpine to Brownfield, TX, the landscape changed from rolling hillsides and rock formations to flat landscape as far as we could see.  We went through fields of solar panels, oil pump rigs, and cotton!  I never knew they grew so much cotton out here.  Holding tanks and natural gas facilities dotted the horizon as we traveled through this vast area, seemingly devoid of trees.  The only trees we saw were at picnic areas, parks, and private residences.  The roads started out in fairly nice condition, but with each town we rolled through, the roads got progressively worse on our way to our first destination.

Oswald Vineyard

Hiding among the endless cotton fields is the 43-acre Oswald Vineyard.  The Oswald family owns and operates the winery, and has some interesting grape varietals that we have not heard of before.  Moscato is their most common varietal, but they also grow Roussane, a French white wine that has the deep, buttery notes you’ve come to expect from Chardonnay without the heavy oak tannins. The wine is fermented in “neutral” barrels that have already been used to minimize the high tannins you get from fresh oak barrels.  For the reds, they have two Italian varietals: Montepulciano and Aglianico, the latter of which is a bit more robust.  They are both dry, full-bodied red wines, and were well balanced.  

One of the surprise bonuses of this stop was that they had electrical hookups for $15.  We have not seen electrical hookups at a Harvest Host before, so this was great, especially because it was still hot enough to need air conditioning.  We didn’t have to run the generator, which we try to avoid when possible since it is loud and stinky.  The only issue I had while there was getting stung by a wasp.  There was wasps everywhere with all that fermenting wine!  The host did give me some lavender oil to put on my sting, and that helped a ton, which I was thankful for.  Before the sun set, we climbed up a pavilion in the middle of the vineyard next to us and enjoyed a great view of the surrounding area.  The night ended with a spectacular sunset and our stay was the best kind: quiet and uneventful.  I would recommend this vineyard if you are passing through.  

Day 2:

On day two of our travels to Kansas City, It was Matt’s turn to drive to our next destination: Iowa Park, TX.  Iowa Park is just southwest of Wichita Falls, TX near the Oklahoma border.  The landscape did get more interesting with rolling hills and trees to break up the monotony, and the surrounding fields of cotton gave way to cattle land and wind farms.  Thankfully, after battling a crosswind for most of our trip, not only did we get to enjoy a tailwind for the last 20 miles, but also enjoyed the relief of a recently repaved road.  It was heavenly after traveling on terribly rough roads for most of of the day.  Two days down and two to go!

Horseshoe Bend Cellars Vineyard & Winery

We arrived late in the afternoon at Horseshoe Bend and were greeted by the owner, Scott.  Being their only Harvest Host member for the evening, we pulled up next to the tree line on their property to shelter from the strong afternoon winds, which didn’t look to be letting up for at least another day.  That made for a more restful sleep, for sure!  This vineyard was hosting a large dinner party that evening, so we stayed out of their hair and instead dealt with some “fun” mechanical issues on the trailer. 🤨 

Later on, they invited us in for a wine tasting and we learned that Scott and his family took over the winery from another owner.  The whole family was really convivial and we had a relaxing time trying a lot of interesting wines and exchanging stories.  We were thankful for a place to tuck in for the night, and would recommend this host if you are traveling near Wichita Falls, TX.

Day 3:

I got the fun leg of the trip…driving through Oklahoma! 😂 Matt often talks about how bad the roads are in Oklahoma, and how the toll roads are seemingly worse than the non-toll roads, which begs the question of how your toll money is getting used.  Although the roads aren’t as bad as California’s, according to this highway ranking system, they still aren’t great by any means.  That being said, we did see lots of road construction and newly repaved sections while passing through, so at least some of the roads are improving!  The weather was sunny but very windy, so between the wind, the tolls and the unpredictable road conditions, it made for a very long day.  Furthermore, we saw only ONE rest stop in all our travels through Oklahoma and the sign specifically stated that the stop had NO facilities. 😐

Pecan Creek Winery

After a stressful day of driving, we were thankful to arrive at Pecan Creek Winery.  They have some grapevines on site, but most are located on other acreage, just FYI.  The owner’s residence is right next door, so we backed into their generous driveway, and had yet another opportunity to hook up to electric for $10.  The winds were still going strong when we arrived, so not having to mess with the generator when it was cold and blustery outside was a relief.  

The owners have an interesting story.  The husband, who we did not get the opportunity to meet, used to be in the medical equipment business, then became a pastor and then expanded his winemaking business. We met his wife Joan, who kept us in stitches most of the time with her honest candor.  The two of them have lived all over the country, and have picked up several awards for their wines over the years.  I even had a Merlot that I liked, and that has never happened before!  Although the roads are narrow and bumpy getting there, I think you will have an enjoyable stay with this host.  

Day 4:

Matt drove the final leg of our journey from Muskogee, OK to just north of Kansas City, our final stop for the next three weeks. Yay!  The last bit of roads we traveled on in Oklahoma nearly shook us to pieces, so we were relieved when we were immediately greeted by nicer roads and a rest stop just across the Missouri state line. 😂 I guess the state of Missouri prefers that you stay a little while.

We arrived safe and sound at the Clay County Crows Creek Campground in Smithville, MO, about 45 minutes north of central Kansas City.  Our first impressions are that this is a well kept, very BIG park system all around the Smithville Lake and that it is beautiful.  I will share more about our stay later on after taking a break for 3 weeks.  Much love to you all, and I hope you have a nice Thanksgiving holiday. 🍁🦃

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