Mexico Day 4 – More Zoo & Wine

This might be getting a bit repetitive, but it’s not getting old for us! This is so wonderful being able to get such a close-up interaction with the zoo animals and their caregivers.

Today we spent time with the Yellow Parrots, Pumas, Spider Monkeys, and Macaws. We helped to feed them and helped to clean their habitat — things that the keepers do every day. We also gave them enrichment toys – things that help to keep them curious and stimulated – not just bored & locked in a cage.

See the cart that Arturo (picture above) is pulling along the trail as we walk from exhibit to exhibit? They use carts (usually pulled by bicycles) to move tools and supplies around the zoo as they need them. In the states we would have the luxury of being supplied with motorized carts/trucks of some sort.

One of the groundskeepers emptying the trash receptacles in the morning

Arturo got one of the staff here at the zoo to take our wheel off and get the flat tire fixed and reinstalled. Service on-the-spot and only $300 pesos ($15 US) – Hooray!

Our flat tire got fixed by one of the staff

Later in the day we got to share some time with a new (3 month old) lion cub “Carlotta”. She’s very playful so she had to be watched very closely by both Stephanie and Antonio (keepers) because the wooden fence isn’t that tall and she can jump easily and quickly.

Keeper Carlos talked to us about the 4 different types of reptiles and introduced us to a few of the residents of the habitat he manages. Some were so uncomfortable they left the room or refused to come in to begin with, but most of us stayed and enjoyed Carlos’ informative presentation.

Late afternoon we all carpooled to L.A. Cetto Winery. We got a great tour of the operation led by our tour guide Adrian. He shared with us that this winery was started in 1928 here in Guadalupe Valley and it is the largest winery in all of Mexico. They manage and harvest about 3000 acres, having about 250 seasonal employees in the fields. The grapes are all hand picked and they produce over 1 million cases of wine annually. The (2) rooms of stainless steel fermenting tanks hold over 3 million liters of wine at a time. After fermentation the wine is transferred to the oak barrels where it stays for just a few and up to 65 years!

After the tour we all went up to the outdoor patio for the wine tasting and Tapas made by our own crew. Our caravan leader Ed Dennis graduated in culinary art from a Paris school years ago so he asked for volunteers from our group that could help him prepare our afternoon feast – It was fabulous!

There’s more to come …. we’re all heading out to a local Mexican restaurant tonight and tomorrow morning we will all say goodbye to our new friends at Zoologico Parque del Nino Guadalupe Valley and head further south on the Baja Penninsula to La Jolla Beach Campground.

C’Mon Along!

Mexico Day Three

Day three (Saturday February 15th) started out another beautiful sunny wonderful day in paradise. After breakfast in the coach – Kathy with her oatmeal and me with my scrambled eggs with mushrooms, onion, and a little potato mixed in – we headed on over with the others to the pavilion in the center of the zoo. Here we met with zoo biologists and keepers where we divided into four groups of 12 and then headed out for our “up close and personal” tours of the Zoologico Parque del Nino Guadalupe.

Our tour group leaders (biologists, keepers, veterinarian, director)

This zoo was started dozens of years ago by the owner of the Jersey Dairy Company. He and his family created, managed, and funded the zoo. In recent times, this man passed away and as a result just this year the zoo no longer gets any funding from him or his family. The zoo is now a not-for-profit organization and relies on admission prices and donations to stay afloat. It became very clear to us during our tours that the employees of the zoo (11 employees total) are working here because of their love for the animals. This .. in many ways is their family.

The Escapees RV Club Chapter 8 “Mexican Connection” came here last year and again this year to not only be entertained but also to help out both physically and financially through our admission fees and our auction that will be held here later this week.

Antonio – Our tour guide for the day – 32 year old Zoo Biologist

Remember, you can click on any of the thumbnails below to see a larger image.

Antonio led us on a very informative tour and it became clear very quickly that he and his co-workers care very much for the animals. Nearly all of the animals here arrived from the government. Many have been confiscated at ports of entry or have owned by individuals as family pets and then have been abandoned or given up when they became too big and no longer manageable (or affordable) to keep as pets.

The government has no means to care for them so they come here to Zoologico Parque del Nino Guadalupe. Although the government gives them to the zoo to take care of for an undetermined time (during investigation and litigation) they do not give the zoo any funds to care for the animals. In some cases, the zoo may take care of these animals for years but the government can always come back and take them away.

Other animals are given to the zoo as gifts – which was the case with the 40+ peacocks that they have. These were a gift from a priest.

One of three swimming pools

The “Zoo” is much more than a place to see animals. The Guadalupe Valley is generally an area of very poor families. When the zoo was started, the owners wanted it to be a place where local families could come and learn, play, eat, and enjoy family time together.

In fact, up until very recently all it cost for admission for a whole family was a Jersey Dairy Milk bottle cap. The children could provide a day of fun for the whole family just by saving their bottle cap from their milk at school and presenting it at the front gate to the zoo.

There are three swimming pools, a pond with paddle boats and lots of shaded picnic tables. Families are encouraged to bring their picnic baskets and enjoy the day together.

After our tour of the zoo we had the rest of the day to ourselves. Some went into town right away while others took care of chores at home. We evidently picked up a nail or screw as we got close to the zoo on Friday because by the time we pulled in to our parking spot our “toad” had a flat tire.


But not to worry – I’m sure there’s a tire shop in town somewhere and we don’t need to drive anywhere anytime soon – there are others here that we can carpool with to any of the local attractions.

Although Guadalupe Valley is very poor, it is rich with vineyards and wineries. But these vineyards and wineries are not owned by local people nor do they employ local people. You’d think that the local economy would be lifted by these wineries, but they are owned and operated by companies from Tijuana or Mexico City and they bring in their employees from out of the area. Go figure.

We finished off the day with a visit to Baron Balche’ Winery where we had a tour, a wine tasting, and dinner. What a wonderful cap to a fantastic day!

Be sure to click on the thumbnail pictures above so you can see more of the detail. You can see in one of the pictures the rough rock walls encompassing the cellars.

Each of the large stainless steel tanks hold 7500 liters of wine – there were about 40 of these huge tanks. There were HUNDREDS of White Oak barrels. The barrels come from French Oak or American White Oak and there are two sizes of barrels – either 300 or 600 liters.

There is NO heat or A/C in the cellars – they are literally dug out of a whole in the ground. It’s a constant 55 degrees and very humid – water drips down the walls so they have fans blowing to keep the air moving so mildew doesn’t form.

It’s been another busy educational, fun, and rewarding day. Now off to bed because “Tomorrow’s Another Day”

Thanks for riding along – we hope you can make it with us to Day 4!

Mexico Day Two

We (Group 1) left Potrero Park at 7:30 a.m. Our group is the Parking Group so we need to head out before any of the other groups so we can be in place at the next location far enough ahead so we can be set up and ready to Park all the other rigs coming in behind us. There are 3 other groups consisting of 5 or 6 rigs each.

Since we all have our FMM cards already, we COULD have been swept right through the border crossing. But Kathy and I weren’t so lucky.

The official stopped us, checked our registrations, looked in a couple cabinets, and then greeted us with “Happy Valentine’s Day”

We moved on through the gates and all 6 rigs in Group One stayed in touch on our CB radios as we traveled the next 50 or so miles down to Zoologico Parque del Nino in Guadalupe Baja California Mexico.

Once we arrived, our fearless Group One (parking group) leaders Jim and Connie gave us our instructions along with our bright orange safety vests and flags. We we’re now official parking team members!

Our official uniforms

We then spent the next couple hours greeting and parking rigs as each subsequent group rolled in.

We we’re the first rig in so we got the prime spot in the corner closest to the wolves and the lion!

Right up front closest to the action

After we got all the rigs parked, we all wandered over to Ed & Kassandra’s (Our Trip Leaders) rig to pick up our new Baja jackets and get an update on the schedule for the coming days. Ed talked a little about the history of the Baja Jacket and his design for the logo embroidered onto the front.

Right after the afternoon meeting we moved on into the zoo where we were gifted with a beautiful Valentines Dinner prepared by the park owners daughter who is also a recently graduated chef! The meal was a delicious dish of Mexican Lasagna with green salad and refried beans served with fresh sangria or a unique cucumber/lemon drink and topped off with Red Velvet cupcakes.

And another special treat of the night was a gift from Malcolm Russ – one of our own who, as it turns out is a retired professional musician and vocalist who has played in national orchestras as well as smaller venues all over the country. He took requests, while also giving us some great love songs to bring the evening to a close.

Day three brings us a personal guided tour of the zoo with a close-up look at the animals with led by one of the two zoo biologists.

Stand by for more!

Familiar Faces in New Places

It’s been a wonderful two weeks since we left our (new) good friends at Rancho Verde RV Park in Camp Verde, AZ.

After spending 6 months there living and working side by side with these folks, they became more than just “other RV’ers” and we’ll certainly miss them and look forward to when we are out in AZ again and can renew those friendships.

But, it was time to head east (and north) so we can see friends and family in Ohio and then on to Michigan for our summer workamping gig.

The trip so far has been uneventful (with regard to problems) and that’s a good thing.  The coach has performed flawlessly and we are hoping that we have now addressed all the issues there and that we’ll have smooth sailing for the foreseeable future.  We know that something will happen eventually, but treating her kindly (gentle driving and regular scheduled maintenance) will hopefully serve us well as we continue this new journey in our lives.

By “Uneventful” I meant that the parks we stopped at along the way were, for the most part very nice parks, the roads were smooth, there were no traffic jams.

We stayed 3 nights at the Escapees “Rainbow Plantation” in Summerdale, AL and one of those nights we decided to take advantage of their invite to dinner.  There were 140 of us in the clubhouse for lasagna dinner that night and one of the name tags caught my eye.

The name “Don Phelps” sounded familiar and so during dinner I studied his face trying to figure out if I knew this man.

After dinner I was nearly 100% sure this was “the guy” and so I approached him, asked if he used to live in Michigan, and if he

Don (from Xerox) and Elaine Phelps at the table next to us.

had served as a Field Service Manager at Xerox in the Detroit area.  Yes, this was the guy I had worked with at Xerox when I was there in the ’70’s !

After visiting the historic railroad museum in Foley, AL the next day and driving down to the beach in Gulf Shores, AL to see the ocean we then packed up and moved on east to Pensacola, FL where we took in the National Naval Museum and what a treat that was.  Not only did we get a free guided tour, but the Blue Angels had just returned to the base and we got to see them in action during their practice flights – super impressive!

After the museum, we drove a little further east and checked in at Eagle’s Landing RV Park at Holt, FL just a little west of Crestview.  That night we met my sister Marilynn and brother-in-law Rick at a nearby Cracker Barrel for dinner.  They live in Jacksonville and were traveling from

Herb, Marilynn, Rick, and Kathy

home to Pensacola for a Florida Dental Association mission work trip and so we were able to hook up along the way.

We stayed another night at Eagle’s Landing and spent most of the day Thursday with Dave and Robyn who live at Crestview, FL.  Dave and I have been friends since about 4th or 5th grade.  He lived a few blocks north of me in Redford Township, MI and once we were old enough to ride our bikes off our block, we met and have been life-long friends since.

Dave and Robyn

Dave and Robyn took us on down to Destin, FL where we boarded an excursion boat and went through the harbor and out to the gulf where we spotted dozens of bottle-nose dolphins.  Then enjoyed each other’s company some more at a great local seafood restaurant.

Here’s a few pictures of the harbor and our search for dolphins.

Friday we left Eagles Landing and drove to Jacksonville, FL where we checked into Fleetwood RV Park, spent a quiet night and then Ed & Sandy drove up from Orlando on Saturday and the four of us spent the day together at the Jacksonville Zoo.

Ed and I met in 1962 when our family moved in across the street from Ed in Redford Township (a suburb of Detroit).  We still talk almost weekly.

By the way, all three of us are ham radio operators.  We all took the same class back in the late 60’s and our original call signs issued by the FCC were WB8BHK, WB8BHL, and WB8BHY.

The Jacksonville Zoo is beautiful .. they have a lot of boardwalks that are suspended above the animal pens so you can really see a lot.   Here’s a video playlist of some of the zoo and then there’s a slideshow of more of the animals.

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After seeing everyone in FL, we headed up I-95 through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and now we’re in Tennessee at the Escapee’s Raccoon Valley RV Park.

We’ll probably stay here a couple days, work our way up into Kentucky for Thursday nights stay, and then back in Mount Gilead on Friday.

It’s been a long trip (I’ll tell you how many miles when we’re done), but it’s been a great adventure, we’ve met a lot of wonderful people, and we’re excited about what’s to come.


The Oklahoma City Zoo

After the gardens, we headed on back to check in with Ethan at Freightliner.  “A few more hours” he told us, as they are replacing the belt tensioner as well (in addition to the water pump) and the mounting bolts are giving them some problem in coming out due to the fact that this is a “northern” coach and there’s quite a bit of rust on the mounting hardware.

So ……. we headed on over to one of Kathy’s favorite places – the zoo.  The Detroit Zoo is where we had our first chaperoned date (her folks were the chaperons) back in 1971.  It allowed us to get to know one another a little.  She still likes checking out the zoo whenever we’re in a new town for more than a day or so.

It was a beautiful sunny & breezy, 70+ degree day.  We walked and saw as much as we could, although not hitting the entire zoo.  Kathy’s favorite part was watching all the little kids feeding romaine lettuce to the giraffe.

My favorite part was the frozen lemonade on our way to the parking lot.

So off we went (about 3pm) to Barnes & Noble so I could some free wifi for a bit to upload these pictures.  Then back to Freightliner by 4pm to check on the coach repair progress.