Baja Wine and Whales Tour – Day 1-2

Thanks Don and Kim…

I was lucky to even get on this tour.  I stopped by the Harvest Hosts booth in the big tent at Quartzsite.  I talked to both Don and Kim who are really wonderful people and world travelers.  Don mentioned that both trips had already sold out but if I was still interested to send him an email and he would let me know.  I got a reply within 2 days and they said it was a go.  I was elated!!!

Harvest Host Wine and Whales Tour

A little about Harvest Hosts before I continue.  Harvest Hosts is a unique way to stay at wineries, farms and orchards overnight without any cost.  You pay a very small membership fee and you are entitled to stay at any of the locations that are in the Harvest Host system.  I joined a couple of years ago and really enjoyed my stays at their member locations.

All of the wineries that we will stay at in Mexico are part of the Harvest Host members and anyone who is a member can enjoy the wineries just as we did.  If you are not yet a member please click on this link and it will take you to their website where you can read all about them.

Met up at county park for our first Happy Hour

The tour actually started at the Portrero County Park just north of the border town of Tecate.  We all met there and got acquainted with each other during a Happy Hour.  This shows all our rigs parked just prior to our leaving and heading to the border.

There were 11 people in 6 rigs.  The farthest from home was John and Pam who were from Missouri.  It took me a while to remember all their names but everyone in the group was very friendly.

Off to Mexico

There was rain in the forecast and so we all decided to leave the Potrero County Park about 9:00.  We were all ready and anxious to get going.  Here we are crossing the border into Mexico at Tecate.  There was hardly anything to crossing into Mexico.  The Mexican people are very friendly and eagerly welcome you into their country.

Later we found out it is much easier crossing into Mexico then coming back into the US from Mexico.

First winery and wine tasting

We traveled about 54 miles through beautiful mountainous countryside to our first stop at the Casa Pedro Domecq Winery in the Valle de Guadalupe.  This would be our first winery tour.  We were greeted with open arms and were given a grand tour of their winery. 

Our guide took us through the winery explaining the processes they went through to create their wines.  Then we went into the “Cava” which was their wine cellar.  The cellar was dug into the side of the hill and is completely underground.  There were many kegs and bottles there as you can see.

This hallway was very long and filled with many many bottles.

Some old wine producing tools.

Anybody ready to stomp some grapes into wine?

Second winery and more wine tasting

After the tour we did some wine tasting and many of us purchased some of their wines.  Then we proceeded on to L A Cetto, our next winery, which was directly across the highway down a long two  mile dirt road.  Since it had already rained that day the road was very muddy, but that wasn’t going to stop us.

This is the largest winery in Mexico.  They have many visitors that are bused in off of the cruise ships landing in Ensenada.

This gazebo was created from grape stems.  They use this area for outdoor weddings as well.

We even had our own private wine tasting room.  They were wonderful hosts.

Last winery of the day and guess what – more wine tasting

Our last stop for the day was to be Dona Lupe which is an organic winery that was just down the road from L A Cetto.  It was only a 1/2 mile down the road and we all were ready to walk to it.  But we were hit with a huge downpour before we even began.  We were lucky we hadn’t started out as we would have gotten soaked.  Steve and Karli offered to drive all 11 of us in the VW Rialta.  It was fun and here we all are minus Steve who was driving.  Thanks Steve and Karli.

Lots of good stuff here plus great pizza

They had a wonderful selection of preserves, sauces, and breads as well as some great wine.  More wine tasting!  Don and Kim, the hosts of our tour, provided super pizzas for dinner.  He we all are chowing down.

I bought a nice wine glass, some HOT hot sauce and a delicious loaf of jalapeno cheese bread.  Uuuum goood!  Steve drove us back to our rigs where we spent the night in the L A Cetto parking lot.  It rained almost all night but I was nice a comfy!

RV Show

Lots to see at the big tent

I decided to go down to the RV Show at the big tent and leave my wallet at home and take my camera instead. It was certainly a lot cheaper that way but also a lot of fun. Here are some of the pics I took.  If you enter the tent from the south side you are greeted by the Michelin Man.

Everyone likes FREE camping

Once inside the tent don’t forget to stop by and say hello to Don and Kim Greene.  They are the nicest people you will ever meet and they run Harvest Hosts where you can camp overnight for free at many wineries, orchards and farms.  Just click on the link below to be taken to their site for more information.

 Harvest Hosts Affiliate Banner

Right now they are running two tours of wineries in Mexico and in the Fall they will be running a 23 day RV trip to the wineries in France.  In the works is also an RV tour of the wineries in New Zealand.

Here is a pic of Don Greene posing in front of his booth.

If you get hungry

This is the soup lady where you can get easy to fix packaged soups.  I bought them from her last year and they were really great.

When lunch time rolls around you might want to stop off at J T’s Louisiana BBQ.  They have both beef and pork sandwhiches for only $4.  They are soooo goood.

This BBQ is operated by JT and his family.  Here you can see them cooking up that delicious BBQ in the back.

And then top that all of with an ice cream cone.

We all could use extra money

If you are looking for a great job next winter check out the Amazon booth.  They will sign you up for a job at three different fullfillment centers.  I signed up here last year and worked at the Fernly, NV center.  It was a good job that gave me some extra spending money.

While walking through the tent I ran into Clay and Tami who I worked with last winter at Amazon.  In fact I saw quite a few co-workers while walking the tent.

Lots of other stuff as well

This guy takes laying down at the job quite literally.  He is selling bedding.

Need a hat?

Checkout these butts!  HA!

Old guys rule!

If you have any pains you might want to stop off at this booth.

Maybe you just need to clean your RV.

No need to be in any hurry.  We all have plenty of time.

Finally you might even hit the jack pot!  Great name for a toilet.

Another free night at a winery

Traveling into Texas I was headed to Lubbock and checked with Harvest Hosts and sure enough they had a winery there called CapRock Winery.  I called ahead and spoke to Charles, explaining that I was a Harvest Host member and checking to see if there was any overnight camping available.  Sure enough they had space and he explained where I should park.

Be sure to click and then click again to enlarge all photos.

Crossing from New Mexico into Texas.

The entrance to Caprock Winery.  It was very impressive.

They had huge doors to the entrance of the winery and tasting room.  I didn’t get there until 4:00 so missed out on the tour but did enjoy a great glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.  I also purchased a bottle for later consumption.

It was a very busy day for them but they were extremely nice in accommodating me.  I met Charles and he said to park anywhere I would like to in back of the building.  It was a very level site and there was nothing around except large farms.  I had the whole place to myself.  On my way out I closed and locked the gate.

Not bad for a free overnight camping spot.  If you too are looking for free overnight camping at great wineries, orchards, or farms check out Harvest Hosts. Tell them Jim sent you and they will give you an extra month.

Tip: If staying overnight here, don’t park too close to the building as they have compressors that kick on automatically throughout the night.  Other then that it was very quiet.

Free Overnight Camping at Tularos Vineyards

During my travels I am always looking for ways to cut costs.  One of the best ways is to not have to pay for overnight camping.  RV campgrounds can get very expensive and when you are on a fixed income from Uncle Sam it is difficult finding really good inexpensive campgrounds.

There are several ways you can conserve but the one I found that is really great is Harvest Hosts.  I have an annual membership ($30) and they supply me with the details of orchards, wineries, ranches, and farms where I can spend one night at no cost.  I have even started to schedule them on my “Streets and Trips” software.

Last night I spent the night at a winery in Tularosa, NM.  I called ahead to make sure they can accommodate me, then when I show up I always check in to see where they want me to park.  I was greeted by the owner of the winery and he made me feel right at home.  I tasted several wines and decided on two that I liked very much.  By the way you are not obligated to purchase any of the products while staying at these locations, but I was out of wine and decided I wanted something a little better then the cheaper wines I usually purchase.  HA!

Be sure to click and then click again to enlarge all photos.

Tularosa Vineyards is located north of the village of Tularosa, NM off Highway 54.

This is a pic of the winery against a gorgeous New Mexico sky.

The “grapes of wrath” growing in the field.  Some of the grapes were actually descended from grapes the Spaniards brought over to this country in the 1600’s.

I was parked next to a small pecan orchard.  My view was out to the Chihuahuan desert.  It was level, extremely quiet, and very scenic.

As always, the sunset was fabulous!!!  That is normal for New Mexico.

My hosts were very gracious.  I spoke with David Wickham the owner who started Tularoas Vineyards 22 years ago.  It was very interesting to hear his story about the history of his vineyard.  I also met his son Chris Wickham who is now the active winemaker.  I felt as though I knew them for many years.  Plus the wine was absolutely fabulous!!!!!  If you haven’t yet tried this method of finding free overnight campsites you might want to check it out by clicking on the Harvest Host banner below.

Harvest Hosts Affiliate Banner

back at belle starr’s silverado ranch

I was due to be interviewed on 4/2 for membership in the Benson Elks lodge.  So after leaving Deming I went back to Belle Starr’s Silverado Ranch to help her out as I had promised.  I was the only RV staying there.  She has also got a new caretaker that will help with the animals and cleanup.  She does not live on the property but Belle told me that she will be moving onto the ranch shortly.  It will be good once she begins living here as Belle is now all by herself.

When I arrived I had a nice long talk with Belle.  She mentioned that she had worked out arrangements for a “real” cowboy to move onto the ranch and take over the care of the horses and mules.  He was to be moving on to the property on Thursday and I would be able to meet him.  Unfortunately he never called or showed up.  She was very disappointed to say the least.

While there I helped reinforce the chicken coop because the baby chicks kept getting out.  They need to gain a little more weight so they couldn’t get through the tiny openings.

I also walked around the stables and petted the horses and mules.  They are lonely for people and they are so friendly.  Here is a pic of one of the miniature horses.  They are so cute and really small.  They only come up to my waist.  This one was very stand-offish and wouldn’t come near the fence.

Her is one of the miniature mules.  They are so cute and really friendly.  They just loved to be petted.

Belle also had many dogs and cats.  This guy was a big shaggy dog that is so loving.  He would lay under my RV to get out of the hot sun.

I also got a fountain going for Belle.  A family of 7 kids had constructed it for Belle when they were visiting the ranch last year.

The night before I left I had to take a pic of the beautiful sunset.

The next day I left to drive to Benson to join the Elks Lodge.  Before I left I snapped this pic of some of the horses.  As I was driving away they all came over to see me off.  They are so dear.

If any of you are in the Bisbee, AZ or Douglas, AZ area please stop in and say hi to Belle Starr and maybe give her a hand in any way that you can.  She does not expect much but is so thankful for anything that you might do to help.  It will give you a most wonderful feeling knowing that you helped her.  It is also a great place for the kids who would like to see the ranch animals.  You can find her blog at It is an experience that you will never forget.

nothing but wind – rodeo, nm

After Belle Starr’s Ranch I headed to one of the Harvest Hosts sites where I was able to stay free for the night.  If you haven’t checked out Harvest Hosts yet you might want to look into their program.  They have wineries, vineyards, farms, and orchards throughout the country where you can stay free for one 24 hour period.  Your cost is $30 per year and with that you are provided with the names of 243 different locations.  Their locations are spread throughout the entire country including some in Mexico as well.  This year they are expanding to Canada.

I have only used their service once since joining but I have scheduled 25 stops in my travels this year to spend the night.  That is 25 days I won’t have to pay a dime to spend the night.  Of course they do encourage purchasing some of the hosts products such as wine, fruit and vegetables, etc. but that is not required.  The cost of $30 annually is minimal when you think that you will be saving that much your first or second night if you were to stay at a commercial campground.

The best thing about Harvest Hosts is that you get to stay in interesting places instead of hunkering down in a Walmart parking lot or even worse a Flying J or Pilot.  I have stayed at truck stops where I couldn’t sleep most of the night because either the next RV had their generator running all night (not sure why) or the 18 wheelers were running their diesel engines all night.

The place I stayed was convenient to I-10, provided a level spot, a picnic table and I was able to park under a large tree for plenty of shade.  They also had a store that had their own freshly bottled cider and delicious homemade apple pies and apple crisp.  I purchased an apple crisp and a qt of cider and it was very yummy.  The hosts were extremely friendly and made me feel right at home.

If you decide to sign up for a membership give my name Jim Melvin as a reference and both you and I will receive an extra month.

The next day I crossed into New Mexico and immediately headed south at I-80 to a little town called Rodeo.  My first stop was the Chiricahua Desert Museum.  If you don’t like snakes I would suggest staying away from this museum.  But if you want to see a large collection of live snakes, many of them poisonous, then this is a neat spot.  They had many different types of rattlesnakes some small and some rather large.  I even had one that rattled at me when I walked past it’s glass enclosure.  They also have a nice botanical cactus garden you can walk through.

After I finished with the museum I headed to Rusty’s RV Ranch just north of Rodeo off hwy I-80.  The ranch was run by a family who were very friendly.  I was only staying 2 nights so couldn’t qualify for the 50% campclub discount but she did give me 25% off since I was an Escapees member.

She told me about lots of hiking and birding areas and I was all ready to head out the next morning to explore these areas.  But then I awoke to this.

Be sure to click and then click again to enlarge all photos.

The winds were blowing something fierce.  I looked up the weather for Rodeo, NM and it said winds blowing 27 mph and gusts in the 50 mph range.  My RV was a rockin’ and rollin’ all day.  I had made big plans for the day but forget it.  I wound up staying inside all day.  I did get these pics from inside looking out.   I had all the windows shut and locked but it still didn’t prevent sand from getting into my rig.

I had good plans for my time in Rodeo, NM but just like they say an RV’er schedule is sometimes made in jello.  You just have to go with the flow.

Belle Starr’s Silverado Ranch

On advice from my friends Ed and Carol, I dropped in at Belle Starr’s Silverado Ranch for a few days.  She has a 40 acre ranch located only 10 miles from Bisbee with lots of mules, horses, chickens, geese, roosters, a peacock and lots of historic buildings.  She offered free dry camping if you were willing to help around the ranch.

Be sure to click and then click again to enlarge all photos.

I pulled in and told Belle that I was there to work and let me know what she needed done.  I started off by removing about 100′ of chicken wire from the top of her fence in the front of the yard.  While doing that I felt a slight nudge and turned around and the miniature mules were all around me.

I finished that project the first day I was there.  The next day Peter and Bea arrived and camped near me.  Peter is a carpenter which Belle needed badly.  The same day Chuck and LeaRae arrived.  Peter Chuck and myself worked on a old house where the roof was sagging.  Here is a pic of Chuck and Peter carrying wood to prop up the roof.  This pic was taken by LeaRea, Chuck’s wife.  You can also see their blog here.  You can see that the roof was sagging on the left front corner.

It took 2 days to complete that project but it came out looking pretty good.  In the meantime Merrill had been rebuilding a mail box and both he and I had to move a Clydesdale horse from its corral where it was all by itself to the corral with the miniature mules.  We had to move the fencing all around and Merrill moved the horse.  It was huge but he said he had grown up on a ranch and he knew what he was doing.  I was glad he moved it and not me.  That was a really big horse.

Chuck, LeaRae and I moved the baby chicks and the mother hen from Belle’s back porch to a pen where they would be safe from any hawks that might want to have them for lunch.

Here is some pics of the birds, chickens, roosters, and geese Belle has adopted.

There is a house on Belle’s property that is modeled just like the house the “Original Belle Starr” lived in back in the 1800’s.  The pics didn’t come out great but you can get the idea.

Later that evening we all got together with Belle and had a potluck.  It was a great time and we all shared a lot of good information about places we had been and things we’ve seen.

I left the next day but told Belle that I will be back sometime after the 1st of April.  I have to be in Benson to be initiated into the Elks club so I will fit it into my schedule to visit and work a few more days.  You get a lot of satisfaction when working for someone like Belle and it is great fun too.