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Hogs On the High Seas Western Caribbean

By Nancy Paganelli

Party at the Malecon

Something’s cooking on the Sea of Cortez

Puerto Penasco, Mexico, Nov. 6–9—The aroma of roasting shrimp wafted through the rooms at the Playa Bonita. It wasn’t coming from the restaurant or the patio where hundreds of bikers were gathering for drinks and snacks. Dave Shutiva and Mark Chavez were busy skewering the large, freshly caught shrimp and searing them on the little portable gas barbecue that Mark had managed to stuff into his saddlebags when he left New Mexico. The two men were busy on the patio of the designated “party” room while the rest of us were talking, drinking, and eating inside. As the smoke rose over the surrounding rooms people were gathering and looking up. “Hey, they’re having a barbecue up there!” And we certainly were! The eighth Rocky Point Rally party had begun!

As has been the tradition for the past several years, my New Mexico friends, whose ranks now include four couples, had traveled to my Phoenix home, parked their trucks and trailers in my backyard and pulled the bikes off the trailers, and we all headed out for the 2008 Rocky Point Rally. The 200-mile ride through Arizona towards Mexico, which ends on the shores of the Sea of Cortez, usually takes less than six hours. Unfortunately, just before Ajo, Arizona, we encountered a very long line of bikers, cars, and trucks which were stopped to make way for emergency vehicles; three bikes were down ahead. Fortunately, helicopters were able to land in the desert area and fly the injured bikers away. The ambulance drivers were able to relate to us that, thankfully, all three would survive their injuries. With much relief, we continued on and crossed the border a short while later.

Though the numbers were apparently down for 2008, somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 bikers from all over the U.S.A. as well as many parts of Mexico had decided that giving up the yearly bike ride to Rocky Point was not an option. Lyman Scherer, Al Corte, and Oscar Palacio, the American and Mexican founders and coordinators of the rally, have tried many avenues to make this event one of a kind and the best international motorcycle rally offered. Each previous year the number of bikers has soared from about 400 in 2001 to more than 10,000, prompting Scherer and Palacio to search for other venues to accommodate the rising numbers. However, none of the changes could drag the bikers away from the place they loved best—the Malecon, the actual “Rocky Point” where all the little shops draw the crowds of tourists, and the restaurants and bars overlook the beautiful Sea of Cortez. Therefore, this year, many of the rally events returned to the Malecon for the Saturday activities. Crowds of people lined the very minimal road that passes through the Malecon and cheered as courageous bikers did burnouts for their amusement. There were also other amusing activities with several women succumbing to the chants of “Show us your special upper body parts” and then being rewarded by beaded necklaces. A multitude of people dotted the skyline overlooking the street taking up every nook and cranny available that would hold a body. It was packed! With all of the drinking, eating, laughing and cheering of the crowd, and the roaring of the burnouts, no one can deny that this is a very popular hangout during the rally.

Meanwhile, on the Malecon Plaza, Rally sponsor Andy Schampa of Never Stop Riding riding gear, and Susie Golden, rally volunteer coordinator, directed the Bike Show, while Al Corte and Lyman Scherer worked the Bike Games. Twenty bikes were entered in nine classes for the Peoples Choice Bike Show, with the Best of Show being won by Sonoran Marcos Hernandez, who won both the Custom Chopper and Custom Cruiser classes with his Big Dog Chopper.

Two events that have been consistent for several years are the Mystery Poker Run and the Rolling the Dice Resort Ride. This year only 60 bikers took a chance on the Mystery Poker Run, which starts in Arizona and ends at the Playa Bonita. No money is collected until the end of the ride when riders turn in their card and pay $10 to see if they are in the running for a two-night stay at the Playa Bonita anytime during the next year.

Fifty bikers paid the $10 to do the Rolling the Dice Resort Ride, which also had terrific prizes of overnight stays at local resort hotels. But the best part of just doing the ride is the stop at the Mayan Palace, where a breakfast buffet is included for the riders. The buffet, overflowing with trays of fruit, eggs, potatoes, pastries, juices, and more, stretches a good 25 feet and is adjacent to an enormous swimming pool on one side and the ocean beaches on the other. This is a spectacular brunch and more than worth the nominal cost of the ride.

This year Glenda Omat won third place in the Rolling the Dice event and took first place in the Mystery Poker Run. Omat, who says she is not really an avid rider, but rather a great passenger with her husband Spud Despres, comes from Ocean Shores, Washington, but spends the winters in Arizona. They have attended the Rocky Point Rally for the past three years along with six other snowbird couples from Washington State. First place winner of Rolling the Dice was Jeanette Paul from Ajo, and second place went to Bob Host of Glendale.

The culmination of the Saturday events is the annual parade ride, where bikers line up by the Black Dog Bar and the Red Cross. Children line the entire route waiting for the bikers to toss candy and school items. Bikers are welcomed by these friendly people and they show it for this final town event.

Friday night there was music at the Paradise Beach Sand Bar by the band High-n-Tight and the Cellphone Cowboy played at Hacienda Las Fuentes. Though these events were sponsored by the Rally, they were not as well attended as the Saturday night concert on the beach. Mogollon (pronounced Mug-ee-own), a very popular band from Overgaard, Arizona, put on a spectacular concert right down on the beach between the Sea of Cortez and the Playa Bonita Resort. Chairs were set up, but many just sat in the sand to hear this fantastic group entertain. Even though the truck with all their gear had been stuck in the sand getting to the stage, and even though the sound system gave them a problem, these four musicians blasted away with their hits and the crowd went crazy. Of all the feedback about the rally, the beach concert was by far the biggest hit of this year (even with the small charge of $10), and topped anything from any previous years. In between electrical short-outs and in between well deserved shots of tequila for the band and the audience, this was one fine evening for all and a happy ending to the three-day event. Scherer and Palacio definitely have a venue for years to come if they can continue to get these fine entertainers and improve the beach setup.

Most bikers try to leave as early as possible on Sunday morning because crossing the border back to the U.S.A. is a much more involved experience. This year is the last year that passports were not required; a birth certificate or two forms of identification, one with a photo, would get you home. It would be wise to investigate the requirements for crossing the border long before next year’s event on November 5–8, 2009. Exiting the border in a timely manner is mandatory when sitting atop a motorcycle and last year lines were specially set up to handle the bikers separately from other vehicles. However, this year when Susie Golden was headed home she happened upon a total mess, with bikes interspersed with RVs and cars. Anyone who knows Susie knows that she takes care of business and that is just what she did! After speaking to the border patrol, she personally escorted about 80 bikers up to the front to cross over. Then she returned to get over 200 more, only to be stopped by several Mexican police with a machine gun on the top of their truck. They didn’t speak English and Susie didn’t speak Spanish but believe me, after dealing with Susie all but one got back into their vehicle and took off, leaving a trail of dust! The one who was left was able to finally understand what was going on, thanks to a bilingual person who had seen Susie’s dilemma. He then started directing the bikes to a single line and Susie hightailed it back to the U.S., where a quick call to Lyman and Oscar got the message back to the border to “let the bikes through!”

It is always comforting to have your wheels back on American soil. Just about four miles north of the border is the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and some of our group took a short ride through this peaceful and beautiful park before heading up to Phoenix. This is a good spot to stop, rest, and reflect on the past few days of fun. The wind wasn’t cooperating on the return trip and all bikers had to fight it the entire length of the ride, along with a sudden shot of golf ball-sized hail that our group thankfully missed! All in all it is the friends that one meets and holds onto from the camaraderie of motorcycling. Next year we’ll do the same thing over again, as will so many others.

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