#Vanlife Diary: Day 30

Our short stay in Chicago has come to an end, and it’s time for us to be moving on once again. Today’s entry covers our trip to a winery in Hayfield, Iowa, with a quick stopover in Madison, Wisconsin to break things up a bit. We stayed at the winery for a few days, and it will have its own post coming soon. Meanwhile, let’s wrap up this latest section of our #vanlife adventure!

Jen from The Places We Live cuts purple grapes off the vine at a vineyard in Iowa.

Part One, Sub Two

I tend to have names and labels for everything. That summer in 2013 when I used practically all of my vacation days within the three months of summer became known as “Vacation Summer”. That time I bought the “52 Weekends in Oregon” card set and insisted on visiting ALL of them, was named “All of Oregon!”. This current adventure across the country in Darla is “#Vanlife”, and this particular portion (Florida to California) is Part One.

Up until now, our actual “van life” experience has been pretty limited. Sure, we’re putting miles behind us (4,000 to be exact) and occasionally sleep on the mattress we have set out in the van, but the key word there was “occasionally”. We have spent the majority of our time sleeping comfortably in homes while we house sit. That changes today. I think we are now heading into Part One, Sub Two: Actually Van Lifing It.

Chicago to Madison

#Vanlife The Places We Live. Map of the USA highlight our route from Florida to Chicago, then Chicago to Madison, Wisconsin.

We didn’t want to leave our beautiful home and cuddle buddy in Chicago, so we shuffled our feet a little bit. I’m not sure how often we “lost track of time” yesterday, but I know it was far more often than necessary. We didn’t end up hitting the road until nearly 5:00PM! We stopped at a dollar store and a Goodwill on our way out of town to grab our Level One cooking supplies (once again, naming everything). Level One is the bare minimum: 2 plates, 2 bowls, 2 spoons, 2 forks, 2 knives, oven mitt, sauce pan, tongs, and paper towels. Hopefully that will be enough to hold us over for a little while.

Once all of that was sorted, we drove the 147 miles (237 km) to Madison, Wisconsin. It was dark when we arrived at our reserved HipCamp, where we parked in the driveway of a horse farm and fell immediately and deeply asleep. When we woke up, the car was surrounded by chickens and ducks. I’m sure they were friendly (I’m usually a big fan of poultry), but it is hard to assume such a thing when they appeared to be so purposefully charging right at us. I may or may not have run to the bathroom, then jumped back in the car screaming, “Drive! Drive!”

Pictured: The farm’s true owners

Madison, Wisconsin

I remember “Josh’s Worming in Wisconsin” adventure of 2012. He went to Madison for a scientific conference (focusing on nematode worms) and spent the majority of our phone time raving about the city. So, it didn’t come as much of a surprise when Josh insisted that we drive the extra half hour to downtown Madison to explore. It also didn’t come as a surprise that he was right — it was lovely.

We drove through the big and beautiful campus of the University of Wisconsin, visited the capitol building, and walked the shores of the lake. Madison is a small city, but it seemed to be full of life. I felt immediately at home there even though I had never been there before. There was just something really welcoming and comfortable about it.

Madison to Hayfield

After our quick tour of Madison, we were back on the road again. This time, it was the final 250 mile (402 km) leg to Hayfield, Iowa. The majority of the drive was on the freeway, so it wasn’t particularly exciting. We had a great time continuing to listen to The Shining on Audible (Link Below. “Get it. It’s Amazing” – Jen Lowry). It got to the part where the spooky stuff started happening. “Unmask!”

The Places We Live #Vanlife. Map of the USA highlighting our trip from Florida to Madison, Wisconsin. Then from Madison to Hayfield, Iowa.

Once we finally left the freeway, it was back to what has become a common theme of our American road trip: farms and open fields. It was beautiful and peaceful. The flat plains of the Midwest were starting to make more and more of an appearance with fewer and fewer hills. Corn fields and cattle were more plentiful as well.

99 Bottles Winery and Vineyard

We’ll be spending the next two nights here at 99 Bottles Winery and Vineyard in Hayfield, Iowa. It is located on the only hill for miles and houses a small vineyard, a few steers, and a well-kept area for camping. We’re parked at the very top of the hill next to an “outhouse” with hot showers and flower decorations around the mirrors. I have a feeling we are going to like it here a lot.

Jen from The Places We Live sits on a camping chair in front of a fire pit and Darla the camper van.

We’re meeting the hosts shortly to do a wine tasting and discuss the terms of our stay, since we were offered the opportunity to camp in exchange for work instead of cash. The farm is beautiful, the hosts seem really friendly, and I have always wanted to experience life on a vineyard. How could I possibly pass up an opportunity like this?!


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