Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mex., Nov. 8–11—Now in its 18th year, the Rocky Point Rally might be called just another get-together for avid bikers. There is, however one thing that separates this rally from all those others—the location. Rocky Point (a.k.a. Puerto Peñasco) is located south of the border on the north end of the Sea of Cortez.
My wife Mary and I started our trip south from Mesa, Arizona, just outside Phoenix. On Thursday morning we made our way to the small city of Maricopa, where we picked up AZ-238 and said goodbye to any highways with more than two lanes. The traffic I expected, along with the frequent smokeys, turned out to be non-existent. We rolled southwest to Gila Bend where we found ourselves on AZ-8 for a few miles before turning south on AZ-85. If you consider the speed limit signs to be just suggestions you’ll like 85. The thing to remember on the way south is to buy gas when given the opportunity. We left Maricopa with a full tank, then filled it again in Ajo. From there to Rocky Point is about 100 miles. The distances between gas stops aren’t extreme; just remember there isn’t a convenience store on every corner. Once across the border it was about 65 miles to our destination, and again, there isn’t much in the way of gas or food between the border towns of Lukeville/Sonoyta and Rocky Point.
The Rocky Point Rally was started in 2001 by local businessman Oscar Palacio Soto and a group of friends after they rode to Laughlin, Nevada, for that event. Once home, they decided that what Laughlin could do they could do better.
The organizers agreed from the start that bikers coming to their new rally would be encouraged to register, and that the registration funds would be used to help support the Red Cross and other local charities. What was then a new rally is now a well-established and successful event, with nearly 10,000 attendees in 2018.
In order to get as many riders to register as possible, rally staff makes the process easy. As Mary and I rolled into the outskirts of Rocky Point we saw signs along the right shoulder: “Registration—1.5 miles.” Next we saw Barclin’s Pemex and a giant inflated Tiger head—the logo for the Law Tigers firm, one of the rally’s major sponsors. And if you somehow miss the Pemex station, there are also registration tents scattered throughout the event all weekend.
A stop at registration provides more than an opportunity to sign up. It’s also a chance to fill the tank, get a bite to eat, and buy Mexican insurance—if you haven’t already—from Sanborn’s Insurance, another rally sponsor. The cost to register is a very reasonable $25, and each goodie bag comes with a ticket for a free beverage (yes, free beer), a free burrito and much more.
Because Rocky Point has become a popular tourist stop there is no shortage of hotel and motel rooms. Locations and prices vary, from small hotels downtown to new high-rise buildings on the beach. We pulled out of Barclin’s Pemex and headed south toward downtown before turning west to our hotel, Playa Bonita, situated on the west side of the bay. One look at the beach in front of the hotel and we realized right away exactly why the area has become so popular as a tourist stop.
Once in our room it was time to take stock and plan out the next few days. The goodie bag included a pocket map/event list. Friday was the first full day of rally events, starting with a desert ride to the Biosphere Reserve, also a poker run and a ride on a pirate ship. Mary and I choses option number three, the Pirate Boat Cruise, free to anyone who registered.
Downtown Rocky Point wraps around the harbor, which is filled with what looks like a thousand commercial fishing boats and a few excursion ships. Late Friday morning we boarded what looked like something from Pirates of the Caribbean… along with roughly 50 fellow bikers and at least two locals, the captain, and Captain Morgan. Once we were all aboard it was out into the bay for a one-hour cruise that stretched to almost two. The boat ride is a gas all by itself, with inexpensive beverages, chances to meet new friends, and some great tunes coming from the speakers.
Before leaving the U.S., local friends told us we had to have dinner at Casa Del Capitan, on the southeast edge of downtown high on a hill. Looking west from the outdoor tables we could easily see the harbor, and a little closer in, the point of land known as Old Port.
There’s only one way in and one way out of Old Port, which means that it’s a slow go getting in and out. But once parked, the area is an entertaining sea of people, bikes, vendors, bars and music. There are blue uniforms with badges, but their presence didn’t put a damper on the guy doing a burnout, or the 300 Harley riders testing their new pipes.
Saturday morning came early, but luckily there were no crack-of-dawn events we wanted to attend. The bike parade, a big part of the rally, didn’t start until almost noon. When I arrived about 11:30 a.m., the bikes were already lining up at the Red Cross building on Freemont with a row of parade goers stretched back at least a block.
The Bling Divas club was chosen to lead the parade for 2018. And behind them came over 100 motorcycles of every description from adventure touring rigs to your typical bagger, with a few side-by-sides thrown in for good measure.
Next on Saturday’s agenda was the bike show, held in Old Port on the huge concrete patio overlooking the bay. This time I played it smart by showing up early and parking at the tail end of the main drag to facilitate an easy exit later.
Like most bike shows this one included customs of every description. A little different than most shows was the relatively large number of Softails (not the new ones) dressed to the nines. Most were sporting l-o-n-g fishtail pipes, bright spoked wheels and killer paint jobs detailed with tasteful airbrush images, gold leaf and pinstriping.
A good bike show needs music. During the Rocky Point Bike Show, viewers, judges and participants all enjoyed the live rock and roll of Mogollon, just one of the great bands that played all over the city during the rally. The rest of the evening offered more options than we could count, including food and drink specials at a variety or restaurants and bars. And all of it was accompanied by music, of course.
The first big item on the schedule for Sunday was the Blessing of the Bikes from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., followed by another chance to take a cruise on the pirate boat, and a whole series of smaller events at various restaurants.
For us, it was time to turn the old bagger north and say goodbye to a great little Mexican city that’s host to one very successful motorcycle rally that’s just different enough from all the others to make a trip south of the border on two wheels almost mandatory.