Finding a new balance
International event adjusts to the times
Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, Nov. 5–8—Great riding; laid back, relaxing atmosphere; romantic ambiance with gorgeous sunsets over the Sea of Cortez; ocean waves gently kissing the sandy beach shores; nothing could be more fun than a trip south of the border to Rocky Point, Mexico, to celebrate the ninth year of the Rocky Point Rally.
However, there was a point in early 2009 when it looked like the rally would be canceled. People were wary of traveling to Mexico due to the H1N1 flu scare and stories of drug-related violence. Neither of these scares implicated Puerto Peñasco, but nonetheless, the fear hung in the air like an ominous cloud. The economy was another factor, as many of the thousands of bikers who had been to the rally in previous years simply did not have the extra money to travel anywhere. This was also the first year that Americans needed a passport to assure a quick entry back into the United States. Furthermore, the U.S. part of the partnership for the rally, Lyman Scherer, had decided to bow out, leaving all the organizing to Oscar Palacio and the Rocky Point Convention and Visitors Bureau. But in August, the announcement was made that the rally was up and running.
With so many obstacles it is a wonder that the rally took place; but the ride to the Sea of Cortez, slightly over 200 miles from the Phoenix area, is a memorable experience full of fun and adventure. For many riders who have faithfully attended this international event for the past eight years, missing the ninth year was not an option. Over 3,000 bikers from the U.S. and from Tijuana, Mexicali, and Sonora, Mexico, enjoyed incredible weather and bike activities for the three days of the event. “We expected the number of bikes to come down because of the many circumstances, but I believe the extra effort and the fact that more local people got involved gave us good results,” said Oscar Palacio. “Our main purpose was to keep the event going and not to stop it.”
To provide an incentive for riders, the rally events kept costs down as much as possible. All rides were free as long as the event cards were available. The only cost to attend the rally, other than room and food, was registration, which consisted of a donation of $15 for Mexican charities. Included in the registration packet was a coupon book worth over $250 in specials from supporting businesses, with money off for T-shirts, drinks, food, lodging and entertainment. It was impossible to use all of the discounts, but it was definitely a money-saving idea. The colorful pin for this year gave pin collectors everything they look for—the name of the event and the year number. Cup holders, lighters, stickers and other little goodies were also tucked into the registration bag. One of the most interesting was a flier containing a map of Rocky Point and three pages of Spanish words, phrases, directions and questions, all with pronunciations and English translations.
Once again, my New Mexico friends Mark, Laura, J.C. and Mona drove their truck and trailer to my house in Peoria. This has been a tradition for most of the nine years of the rally, however, Dave and Sylvia were absent for the first time in nine years. After a breakfast at the Good Egg, we headed for the border. The six-hour ride through beautiful desert scenery is especially pleasant now that part of the road south (85) has been expanded to four lanes. In past years, we needed to make a stop in Ajo to pick up our Mexican insurance. This year, all of us had ordered the mandatory Mexican insurance on the internet, and had simply printed out the required paperwork.
We decided to participate in the Mystery Poker Run to Rocky Point, which had its first stop at Flores Chevron Gas Station in Why, Arizona. This year’s mystery run provided some humor, as the Mexicans handled all of the card punching rather than the usual American volunteers. Susie Golden, who has been one of the lead American volunteers for most of the nine rallies, was the only remaining English-speaking volunteer. The language barrier between most bikers and the Mexican volunteers lead to some misunderstandings on the game’s procedures, but Golden made a few frantic phone calls and got things straightened out. I had a straight—2,3,4,5,6—but alas, it wasn’t good enough tocollect a prize. The winner was Eddie Cooper who won three nights at the Playa Bonita, $200 in cash and a dinner for two at a couple of local restaurants.
The Rolling the Dice Resort Ride is a tour of the remarkable resorts and fun spots that have added to the ambiance of Rocky Point. Starting at Chango’s Rocky Point Bar and Grill, the 60-mile ride visits the Mayan Palace and Penasco Del Sol Hotel, then returns to Playa Bonita. At each stop players roll dice and add up the scores to see who rolls the highest number. This year four people ended up with the same score; therefore, a deciding roll had to be thrown. At picture time, Donna Woltman from Mesa, Arizona, Andrea Henderson from Tempe, Arizona, and our riding companion, Mark Chavez from Albuquerque, New Mexico, tried to outroll each other, but Donna Woltman hit the high mark and won the great prize of three nights at the Sonoran Sky Resort, breakfast for two every day at Ocean View Restaurant and $200 in cash.
Early Saturday morning, a thick chilly fog had filled the air, limiting vision to about a foot in front of your face, but a few hours later the sun broke through and the day was gorgeous. This was the big day down at the Malecon. Initially, fences were placed across the street entering the Malecon, the actual point of Rocky Point, trying to keep cars out, and allowing only motorcycles to enter and reach the parking area along the seaside. Barry Caraway set up a Cyclerides.com burn-out pit in the center of the market, and those who enjoy turning money into black smoke disintegrated their tires. Bikers hung off of the balconies or from the tops of restaurants watching the hundreds of bikers ride through the most popular section of Puerto Peñasco.
On the Malecon Plaza, Susie had gathered her three faithful American volunteers, Lietta Briest, Billy Diaz and Jim Brennan, who came to her rescue all the way from New Bridge, Montana. Their mission was to gather entries into the bike show sponsored by Arizona’s Law Tigers. The Mexicans wanted it to be free, but knowing what a disaster that could be to a bike show, Susie charged $10 to enter, and then returned the money to the winners. With few participants—all but two categories only had one entry—most bikes received a trophy and their ten bucks! Susie then took the remaining money down to the firemen who were washing bikes and put it in their fund.
The usual parade at the end of Saturday’s activities got off to a rocky start, as there was some confusion about the route, which had been changed this year to travel near some of the charities. At one point, several of us made the wrong turn and were on our way riding out of town, when a police truck roared up to us and stopped traffic so we could turn around and return to the actual route of the parade. Kids and families lined the streets, running after candy and trinkets thrown by the bikers. The smiles and laughter made it all worthwhile. The parade ended at El Catorce restaurant, where riders partied, danced and played games.
Earlier on Saturday, Laura and Mona bought fresh shrimp and fish from the Malecon fish markets for our feast to celebrate my birthday in the evening. Mark had stuffed his small barbecue, tongs and charcoal into J.C.’s bike pack—no small task—to continue the tradition of cooking fresh shrimp and fish on their room’s balcony at the Playa Bonita Resort. Mark skewered and cooked the seafood while we all tried to find a way to sit in the room and eat off tiny paper plates. These are the memories that make us laugh and appreciate the friendships built throughout the years.
On the beach in front of Playa Bonita Resort, the High n’ Tight Band had set up their instruments for the evening entertainment. Some people danced in the sand, had dinner on the patio or just sat and listened to the music. It was a perfect ending to three days of fun, sun, riding and friendships, both new and old. Come Sunday morning, we packed the bikes and headed for what used to be a horrible wait at the border. This year the police helped bikers form a separate line to make the border crossing. Most bikers commented that they waited 20 minutes or less, a far cry from the miserable hours of past years.
The10th anniversary of the rally is being planned already. Mexico is anxious to improve from this year’s experience in order to put on the best international event possible in celebration of 10 great years of motorcycling fun over the border down Mexico way. (www.rockypointrally.com)