Seduced by Sonora
Sea of Cortez frames a growing event
Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, Nov. 8–11—Living in Arizona, where the desert scenes lack the beauty and the sound of water, I marvel at the fact that I can jump on a motorcycle, take a leisurely ride south through the Arizona desert, and within six hours not only cross into another country but find myself relaxing on a sandy beach with the Sea of Cortez lapping on the shores. For the past seven years, my friends Dave and Sylvia Shutiva have traveled from their home in Grants, New Mexico, parked their truck and trailer at my house, and we have taken the ride through Arizona to the Rocky Point Rally. This year we were joined by six more riders from Santa Fe and Albuquerque—Mona, J.C., Mark, Laura, A.P., and Nicole—all anxious to cross the border and enjoy the ambiance of the event.
Mountains jut up in the distance paralleling both sides of Highway 85 heading south through Gila Bend and Ajo. (If you don’t have Mexican insurance, which is a must before entering Mexico, Ajo is the place to find it.) Mysterious rock formations and saguaro cacti meld together to form the desert terrain, and then suddenly you are in Why. I have never figured out why it’s called Why, but Why, Arizona, is home to Flores Chevron gas station where the first card for the poker run to Rocky Point is drawn. Owner Carmen Flores has been a staunch supporter of the rally and riders welcome the chance to get gas, coffee or snacks and then head on toward the border. Within minutes organ pipe cacti line both sides of the road as riders enter Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. This is one of the most spectacular parts of the ride through the Sonoran desert just before crossing the border at Lukeville.
Crossing the border is easy on the way into Mexico from the United States. Some are randomly stopped, but for the bikers it has not presented a major problem. However, this is the last year that U.S. citizens will not be required to have a passport. Even if the law has not gone into effect by early 2008 as scheduled, bikers would do themselves and the border patrol a favor by having a passport, which is easily scanned so that the return into the United States is quick and painless.
From here, the 60-mile ride to Puerto Peñasco is another great ride with a good open road. Road signs are in metric, so riders need to brush up on the conversion so as not to disrespect Mexican laws. If the police ever did patrol this stretch there would be a few who would soon learn the Mexican speed limits!
Just before arriving in Puerto Peñasco, the motorcyclists were directed into the Desert Oasis Resort to register for the rally. Registration has presented a problem since the beginning days of the rally in 2001. Many riders do not seem to understand that it takes tons of work and money to put together an event with activities and entertainment. This rally is also a charity rally, with the main registration money going directly to the several Mexican charities, and not to the financing of the rally itself. Therefore, two separate fees were collected: a $10 registration donation for the charities, and a separate $15 ticket for the nighttime entertainment. This apparently confused many bikers who did not purchase entertainment tickets and then showed up expecting to get in with the charity donation armband. Further discontent resulted after technical difficulties delayed the Party on the Point, and unexpected bike parking problems arose.
Each year the rally coordinators, Lyman Scherer from the United States and Oscar Palacio from Mexico, have tried different activities to accommodate the growing numbers of motorcyclists traveling into the rather small town of Puerto Peñasco. There were difficulties preparing for rally entertainment in the small area of the Malecon to support thousands of motorcycles. A suitable venue located in a large, empty, paved area just off the Point next to the Peñasco Del Sol Hotel became the new destination for the rally.
Once through the registration process, our group headed for the Playa Bonita Resort hotel, which would be our home for the next four days. This was the destination for the first Rocky Point Rally and to me it is really the home of the rally. Oscar Palacio, owner, motorcyclist, and co-coordinator of the rally since its inception, devotes his time and energy to assure safety and fun at his beachfront oasis. With nightly music by Punto Coma on the outside patio overlooking the Sea of Cortez, bikers dine, drink, dance, laugh, and fall in love (sometimes) while having a relaxing few days away from home. Friday is Party at the Playa and one of the traditions that remain is the serving of delicious batter-fried fish tacos, which are made and served right on the patio.
Those arriving on Thursday were invited to a Welcome Party at Hacienda Las Fuentes hosted by
Larry and Brad Large. Live music, eating, drinking, and dancing started the celebration for the coming days.
This year U.S. rally coordinator Scherer partnered up with Al Corte of Outback Productions to assist in planning and producing the entertainment for the rally. Corte was able to secure Rare Earth in concert, as well as High ’n’ Tight Band, Carvin Jones Band, and The Banned for the weekend entertainment.
On Friday morning riders took the Cinco Estrellas Resort Ride to play the Rollin’ the Dice Game. Those who were smart and in the know began the 42-mile ride by heading to the Mayan Palace first. The Mayan Palace put on a totally free breakfast buffet that was elegantly displayed on tables that stretched along a section of the gigantic swimming pool, adjacent to the beachfront. Umbrella-covered tables dotted the entire patio area and bikers were invited to enjoy the free breakfast, bask in the sun, and take in the ocean air. The Mayan is luxury at
its finest—an experience not to miss and possibly the only one of the five resorts that some bikers visited. An international airport is in the process of being built nearby and will soon be available to travelers.
Saturday at the Party on the Point was the Biker Rodeo and the People’s Choice Bike Show, sponsored by RideNow. Eight men and one woman, all riding XR200 dirt bikes, competed in the plank ride, slow race, and the burrito bite trying to win the prize—a Yamaha TT50. This is a game of skill, as each rider must complete the tasks solo. Adam Lohse, a state champion motorcycle racer, won the event for the third time. This young man, just 17 years old, along with his 23-year-old brother (who also competed and lost to Adam.), took over the family business when their dad was injured. To show support for Adam, the whole family, including grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends, cheered him on in the event. Many of his family ride with the Southern Arizona Harley Riders.
Bike show entries included custom trikes, choppers, cruisers, Indians, and rat bikes, but the one that took the show as the People’s Choice was a little 5150 mini- chopper made by Kiker. The little gas-powered bike was ridden into the show by 7-year-old Karla Simpson of Tucson. It turns out that Karla and her dad Carlos have been attending the Rocky Point Rally since 2004 and Karla has entered her bike in other shows as well. As a matter of fact she has won other shows and is quite proud of her trophies. At first her dad put training wheels on the bike, but now she rides on two wheels. Her dad rides a Road King and according to him it is Karla who is always saying, “Let’s ride, dad!”
Saturday afternoon bikers staged for the traditional parade through Peñasco. Most of the town turns out for this event and kids scramble to grab candy and toys thrown by the bikers. It’s obvious that the bikers are welcomed guests in Peñasco. Saturday night the rally wrapped up with High ’n’ Tight and Rare Earth, who entertained a packed crowd of bikers and locals.
Crossing back into the United States was one of the problems from last year that was addressed with vigor this year. Long lines of motorcycles, RVs and cars intermixed last year, in some cases requiring motorcyclists to sit for many hours. This year flashing signs indicated three separate lanes, with one especially designated for motorcycles. Mexican police reportedly patrolled the lanes and blocked other vehicles from entering the motorcycle lane, which helped shorten the sitting and waiting time to return to the U.S.
Palacio noted that each year, as the rally grows, they are met with new challenges and mistakes are made. “We hope that we learn from our experiences and improve for the next year. In my opinion we had to make a change from the events from years before because the Malecon area was too small and getting too crowded. It was taking a couple hours to get in and then get out of that part of Peñasco. We informed the businesses that they would have to provide their own security as we did not have any rally events there this year. The main reason that we wanted to move the event to the Point is the expectation that the event is going to keep growing and growing in future years and we needed a larger piece of property to adequately accommodate the growing number of bikers.”
Evaluating successes, failures, complaints and “thumbs up” comments will be the job of Scherer, Corte, Palacio, and the city managers and businesses. It becomes a yearly learning process as motorcyclists discover the excitement of an international event. “The rally is a great escape for motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world and 2007 was another chapter in the history of the event,” stated Corte. “Bikers came from all parts of the globe to enjoy the ambience and camaraderie that the rally offers. We look forward to 2008 and invite everyone back to a bigger and better Rocky Point Rally!” www.rockypointrally.com