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Rocky Point Rally

By Nancy Paganelli

Ten years; my, how time flies! It seems like yesterday that this writer was asked to ride down for the first Rocky Point Rally in 2001. Through the years, the Rocky Point Rally has drawn thousands of motorcyclists from the United States and Mexico, introducing many newcomers to the enchanting ambiance of the Sea of Cortez, the warm, sandy beaches and the magnificent, luminous sunsets.

As with many adventures and quests for paradise, there are often obstacles that present challenges, especially when traveling into another country. Looking back to 2001, riders had understandable concerns about leaving the borders of the United States in the wake of the devastating attacks of 9/11. In 2002, local Mexican fishermen in Puerto Penasco, upset over a strict government enforcement affecting their shrimping businesses, staged a human chain blockade across the main highway connecting Arizona and Mexico, preventing hundreds of tourists from returning to the United States. In 2009, the H1N1 Flu scare and the poor economy threatened to end the Rocky Point Rally. Now in 2010, media coverage of drug problems in some Mexican cities put fear into many bikers; that, along with the still-slumping economy, kept many motorcyclists home this year.

Somehow the persistence, tenacity and perseverance of two people—Oscar Palacio, owner of the Playa Bonita Resort on the Sea of Cortez, and Susie “Cowgirl” Golden, special needs teacher in the Deer Valley School District near Phoenix, both avid motorcyclists for many years—plus a handful of loyal, hard-working American volunteers, pulled off the nearly impossible: A successful, fun-filled rally, on a smaller scale but still filled with the romance and camaraderie of adventurous, like-minded people wanting to laugh and enjoy life.

Usually at this time of year, a group of dear friends from New Mexico have trailered their Harleys to my house, and spent the night. Then we’d all ride to the Good Egg, where we’d have breakfast, laugh, catch up and plan our route to Rocky Point. This year it didn’t happen. Though they didn’t want to miss the fun we have always had, the media-stoked fear about gang-related violence in Mexico was enough to keep them away. Left to riding by myself, I too might have given in to fear instead of taking the ride that I most love through the scenic countryside of the Sonoran desert of Arizona and Mexico and on to the beaches of Puerto Penasco. Not wanting me to ride the 200 miles alone, my good friend Jim Anderson agreed to ride down with me provided he could just spend his time there reading and relaxing. The deal was made!

The adventure begins with the Mystery Poker Run and a first stop at Sells Shell Gas Station in Sells, Arizona (if you were riding from Tucson), or Love’s Gas Station in Gila Bend (for those coming from Phoenix, California, or points north). A poker run card was $10 and you also received a Mystery Poker Run pin. Players pick their own favorite numbers between 1 and 52 at each stop, and hope that their numbers, randomly assigned to a card, will create a winning poker hand.

Stop two is in Why, Arizona, at the ever-loyal to Rocky Point Rally travelers Flores & Son’s Service Station. For 10 years this writer has wondered why the town of Why was named “Why,” so I finally looked it up. Two major highways, State Routes 85 and 86, originally merged there in a “Y” intersection. Arizona law requires all city names to have at least three letters, so the town founders responded accordingly.

Crossing the border at Lukeville into Mexico has not been a problem for most riders. At the very first rally, my bags were searched, but that was the only time in 10 years. About two miles after entering the border town of Sonoyta, bikers are directed into Vasquez Liquor Store for the third poker run stop. Mexican children love this stop because most people stay for awhile to rest and rehydrate with a favorite beverage. The children love to look at the wonderful machines that these gringos ride into their country.

Now in Mexico, visitors notice the changes from America, especially the signage. Though many have been removed, there are still “topes” or huge bumps in the road to slow down vehicles. Hitting one of those topes too fast can bring some hurt to you and your motorcycle. Signs like “Obedezca Las Senales” (obey the signs), “Respete Limite De Velocidad” (obey the speed limit), “Despacio” (slow), and “Curva Peligroso” (dangerous curve) don’t seem to register with some motorcyclists once they hit the 60-mile stretch heading to Puerto Penasco. Slower riders are soon left in the dust by those anxious to get to the beach. The stretch is relatively uninhabited, and normally no police sit behind the saguaro cacti with radar guns.

The fourth poker run stop is the Barclin Circle K, just a few short miles from Rocky Point, and the last stop is the Playa Bonita Resort. Card numbers were revealed and awards presented Saturday night at the Playa Bonita. This year’s ecstatic winner, Manny Kitagana, won a beautiful, custom-made ironwood eagle sculpture with the 10th Anniversary logo, as well as a two-night stay at the Playa Bonita, dinner for two at a local restaurant and 2,500 pesos (about $200 US). For obvious reasons, award money this year was given in the Mexican currency to spend while south of the border.

Bikers could register for the charity donation at the Playa Bonita. With the $10 donation (everything was just $10 for the 10th anniversary), one received a 10th-anniversary pin and a bag full of coupons for discounts at many of the businesses and activities in town. Anniversary T-shirts were in such demand that they eventually ran out of every size except small!

With the downsizing of the rally came the downsizing of events. Many activities were returned to El Malecon, the rocky point that juts out into the Sea of Cortez. This tourist area, with its quaint little shops and plethora of seafood eating establishments, remains the favorite spot for bikers to congregate, drink, eat, play and throw beads to women who occasionally will fulfill the requests for a flash of flesh. The one-way street, usually cordoned off to allow bikes only, is a great place to view the bikes as they ride single file, sometimes stopping to do burnouts. Many people at this year’s rally spent money and time in local hangouts and were impressed by the welcome they received from the Mexican people and businesses.

c Shrimp boats and jet skiers were the backdrop for the People’s Choice Bike Show which was held on the Plaza. This year the trophies were outstanding and the prizes for winners were certainly worth polishing up the chrome for entry. Marco Dominguez, a bike and car painter based in Las Vegas, won trophies for his Pink Floyd tribute bike. He said, “I grew up with Pink Floyd music—it’s my favorite band. I got references from books and magazines and album covers and I did all the painting myself.” Dominguez won in the Best Paint category and was the People’s choice for Best of Show.

The Pirate Boat Ride, aboard the picaresque Rey del Mar, was free to the first 100 people showing their $10 charity arm band. Long ago, pirates actually sailed in the Sea of Cortez, stealing gold that was mined in the Ajo/Puerto Penasco area. Now, the Pirate Boat takes people on a cruise, making sure there are plenty of margaritas, mixed drinks, and beer to capture tourist gold.

Rodeo Drive is one of the most pristine shopping streets in Rocky Point, with shops lining both sides of the street for about a city block. Shop owners, who were anxious to have the bikers visit their street and take part in the Charity Dice Roll, were ready with beverages to serve. Music filled the street and police blocked the area for “bikes only.” Sadly, only a few people found Rodeo Drive, which isn’t too far from the Playa Bonita. The winner of the Dice Roll, Sandy Cashmore, received a custom-made 10th Anniver­sary stained glass plaque.

The X-rated Walking Poker Run took place Friday night on Calle 13 where many bars featuring exotic dancers are located. The pin for this event was a pair of enormous boobs. Two hundred pins sold immediately but more than 200 riders took the walk. Inside each of the risqué clubs, a couple of volunteers sat with a deck of cards. My friend Jim Anderson was recruited by rally organizer Susie Golden for this, and gave me this account: “Susie greeted me at the rally by thanking me for agreeing to man a stop on the walking ‘TD’ Bar Poker Run. I found the bar I was to man and walked up some rickety steps, through a beaded curtain and into a very, shall we say, ‘unusual’ place, and I have not led a sheltered life! I remembered the lecture my commanding officer gave me about the temptations we would encounter when we went into town for the first time. ‘The boys walk in; the men walk by,’ he told us. Colonel, I walked in! As I walked up the steps, I wondered what a guy my age was doing here. I answered my own question—having fun! And I did! Tim Carney and I shared the duty; we set up the cards at the bar and sat innocently with our backs to the stage and poles… Ahem. We had lots of laughs as the hundreds of riders came through to get their cards. The event was a success and we had a great time.” Miguel Gonzales won this event and received 1,500 pesos (about $120 US), a second custom-made 10th Anniversary ironwood eagle sculpture and free breakfast for two at a local restaurant.

Two escorted rides, one to the Pinacate Visitor Center, and an escorted tour to El Golfo Santa Clara on the New Coastal Highway, were offered this year. According to Oscar Palacio, the El Golfo ride was successful, but no one showed up for the Visitor’s Center ride at El Pinacate.

The end of the Saturday events is always the parade, which starts at the Black Dog Saloon. The local children and adults line the streets awaiting the bikers, who throw candy and toys as they pass by. This is one of the favorite parts of the rally for the local people. Despite the lower attendance, this year’s contributions to the seven charities it benefits, raised from the proceeds of wrist band purchases and liquor and food sales on El Malecon, came to about $10,000.

Live music was constant on the Playa Bonita patio, featuring the rock band, The Fires. The Playa Bonita patio, overlooking the beach and Sea of Cortez, is perhaps the best place to spend leisure time when not doing the other activities. This year the Playa Bonita girls gave away gallons of tequila as they offered shots to anyone enjoying the music or visiting with friends. These beautiful young women have a routine that is hilarious. When a man—mostly it’s the men, very few women—decide they will accept the free shot, one girl pours the shot, one will pour the tequila into the opened mouth—similar to a baby bird opening its beak for a worm—then one of the other girls will frantically blow a whistle into the ear of the participant while another girl proceeds to shake the guy’s head back and forth. The look on the faces of the victims is what cracks people up. One of these guys, Mike Taylor from Phoenix, told this writer, “I couldn’t breathe because the fumes were in my throat, but after the fumes left my throat I was OK. Whistle? What whistle? I didn’t hear it!” Many a biker took the free shot and the results on their faces were always the same.

The favorite food on the Playa Bonita patio has to be the fish tacos, a specialty served Friday afternoon for $1.50 each. Fresh lime squeezed on top puckers your mouth but you just want more. The patio is also where the fun experienced by all is evidenced on the laughing faces. That is what makes this a fantastic trip. The laughter, the playfulness of people, the chance to do nothing but relax. No vendors except those selling Mexican gifts from the beach. They don’t come onto the patio, but line the beach below, tempting people to come and take a look and get a great deal. Toy men hanging from parachutes fly through the sky, and the scene prior to the setting of the sun is spectacular.

Sunday morning many bikers pack up and head home. some returning to the USA through Lukeville, some to Baja, Mexicali, some to Southern California, and still others returning south to Hermosillo, Guaymas and other parts of Mexico through the Caborca highway. Our crossing at the border was a piece of cake. Lines of bikers formed to the right of the cars and the border patrol men and women had us make two lines, shut off the bikes and park. One agent walked down the center checking passports and then motioning those in front to continue on to the USA. It took less than 20 minutes from our position in the line. Estimates from the border count put the attendance this year at spproximately 2,400—about a thousand less than in 2009.

Plans are being made now for 2011. Susie Golden still plans to do what she can to help Oscar Palacio gradually work towards taking over the entire event. One thing in the plan for next year is to bring back the toy run, with bikers bringing one toy with them for personal distribution to the children. Dates for next year will return to November 10 through 13, which will include the Veteran’s Day holiday, allowing more people to attend without taking off so much time from work. Check the website (www.rockypointrally.com). This rally will continue.

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