by Douglas Chasar
Phoenix, Arizona has a riding season of more than nine months, and if you're tolerant to cold, I've heard the riding season stretches out to something like thirteen. For those of us who prefer the Arizona climate when it leans toward the warm side, south is the only direction to travel when the air holds a chill. Because of this, my interest piques when learning about the second annual Rocky Point Rally. Since my wife, Wendy, has been urging me to take her to Mexico for some time, this road trip is a no-brainer.

A few people have warned me about problems traveling south of the border, so I'm a little tentative about taking my bike to Mexico. Event coordinators and the folks riding with us, however, assure Mexico does not necessarily live up to its bad reputation. As it turns out, Mexico seems to get only negative press. According to rally officials, Mexican locals are more than happy to have U.S. citizens in their country spending money and supporting the local economy, and they will do what they can to keep us safe and happy.

All trepidation aside, after a few weeks of planning, we find ourselves geared up and ready to head down to Rocky Point. As luck would have it though, the forecast calls for rain over the weekend: It seems inclement weather is more accurately predicted by my riding schedule than anything else. We dress in layers and head out under a leaden sky.

My bike needs gas and air; my camera needs film and batteries. At the last minute I consider participating in the poker run figuring we'll be riding past every stop anyhow, so we might as well try to win some money along the way. It begins to drizzle on our way out. We stop at a number of gas stations with air pumps out of order. Planning to meet our riding companions, Dan, Freddie and Mark, in Gila Bend by mid-morning, we're now running late. I end up rushing around on rain slick roads for several minutes, before deciding to slow down and take it easy. Despite the fact that time is short, we're taking a vacation, not the time to get stressed and agitated. That's what work is for, right? Besides, laying down the bike and risking injury is no way to start a long weekend.

After taking a deep breath and getting my wits about me, I decide to head out to the first stop for the poker run, Arrowhead Harley-Davidson, hitting every gas station along the way trying to find air for my tires. We have no luck finding a functioning pump, and when we finally make it to Arrowhead H-D we're 20 minutes too late. The group for the poker run has already left; perhaps we can catch up with them at the next stop. That seems reasonable, but I still need and ask if it would be a problem for the service department. The receptionist tells me no problem at all and directs me toward to the rear of the building.

Up to this point I haven't mentioned that I am riding a Honda Valkyrie, but this fact explains the looks on the faces asking as I roll in, what the f#@k are you doing bringing a Honda into a Harley shop? I explain I need air and was told to bring my bike to the service department. After another moment of cold silence, someone walks back to get an air hose. A few people gather around the metric aberration with the Flat-6 engine and begin making friendly comments about how quiet and smooth the Valkyrie is rumored to be. I give my assurance the rumors are true, and leave with a few cautions to ride safe. It seems it isn't true what they say about Harley mechanics after all.

Leaving Arrowhead H-D, the sky overhead remains gray, but the small amount of rain that had fallen already begins to dry. The next stop for the poker run is at a restaurant off the Litchfield exit of I-10. Making it there in no time, we're told we could register for the run only at the first stop. There goes my first attempt at a poker run. I can only hope the rest of the trip turns out better than the beginning.

We ride west on I-10 toward Buckeye until we reach SR85 where we head south to Gila Bend. We had been down this route a few weeks earlier on our way to a friend's house near Yuma. At the time cirrus and cumulus clouds marched across the sky dappling the landscape and mountainsides with golden light, but now only a solid sheet of gray hovers overhead. Despite our earlier setbacks, we make it to Gila Bend ahead of time. Waiting for our riding companions to arrive, Wendy and I stroll around the parking lot, admiring the other bikes. The count must have reached over a hundred.

We finally locate our group and discuss riding plans as we fuel up. It's about 60 miles from Gila Bend to Ajo where we need to get insurance for our bikes while in Mexico. Another 20 miles brings us to the border where we'll top off our tanks. We agree to a leisurely pace of about 65mph, and head for Rocky Point with Freddie and Dan ahead and Mark trailing in the support truck, carrying extra gas, luggage and food.

Outside Gila Bend, the clouds break. The warm sun is a pleasant change from the chill of the overcast morning. A few clouds linger, and at one point we catch some rain. Immediately I realize I would normally be chilled to the bone after riding through rain under virtually sunless sky in November. Heading south, though, the temperature rises as the elevation drops. Near the border, we stop to fill our tanks then spend a few minutes soaking up the sun.

Crossing into Mexico occurs without incident. We are not questioned, searched or harassed in any way. The only indications we have reached another country are the signs in Spanish and the roads measured in kilometers. Within the town of Sonoyta pedestrians and vendors crowd the streets. A little run down and worn, the town seems like any other you might find in the States. Clearly marked roads point the direction and one or two turns within town take us on our way.

Hitting the main highway, the lure of the beach spurs us on pushing nearly 80mph. Rocky Point is only 65 miles or so from the boarder, so we make it under an hour. Along the way, the roads are well paved though perhaps not as smooth as some newer highways in the U.S. We only hit a small stretch of dirt road as we approach our condo near the hotel hosting the event, the Playa Bonita. We settle in, unpack, then make our way to the hotel. By late afternoon, bikes fill the parking lot. Ranging from standard American cruisers, to metrics of all shapes and sizes, and elaborate customs that are complete works of art, the scene represents a biker's paradise.

The beachfront cantina of the hotel hosts all the activity. An overworked bartender serves drinks to the gathering crowd as waiters dodge their way through the festivities. Music blasts over the loud speakers adding rhythm to the fading afternoon. Numerous vendors sell their wares ranging from fireworks, t-shirts and sunglasses to silver jewelry, kites and local crafts. All in all, the scene is what you expect from an international rally composed of bikers from the U.S.: Nothing but good people having a good time.

As the evening draws near, the sun approaches the horizon lighting clouds with a brilliant array of colors reflecting onto the water below. Words alone cannot describe a sunset like this. A picture can't even do the image justice as the scene is constantly changing, becoming more spectacular with the passage of time. Perhaps time-lapse photography may convey the depth and richness of color, but there's nothing like being there to witness it for yourself.

The party continues with dancing and music as the evening gives way to night. Conversations spark and grow with life of their own alternating from one topic to the next in fluid motion like waves caressing the beach. Eventually, the night comes to an end.

The next morning, Wendy and I make our own way through Puerto Penasco looking for a scenic ride along the coast. Without a map and unfamiliar with the area, we are unable to find what we we're looking for, and after navigating the streets for a while, we find our way back to the beach where we walk along the sandy shore. Wendy and I decide to head back to the condo. We spend a quiet evening sipping cerveza under a clear black sky speckled with thousands of brilliant points of white light, brought to life with the occasional shooting star. While Mark and Dan have fun bar hopping in town, Freddie joins us for a beer and we discuss plans for the trip home, deciding to head out early the next day to beat traffic.

Just after sunrise there are no cars on the road, the streets are silent. A slight chill lingers as we ride through the Mexican desert with the sun low on the horizon. Long shadows and golden light add character and dimension to the landscape that had been shrouded by a gray sky on our way in two days before. I lose myself in the long empty stretch of road, marveling at the illuminated mountains far in the distance. We reach the mountains in no time as we close on the border.

Early in the morning returning to the States involves nothing more than a quick check at the border, then another several miles north. The sun climbs in the sky, but though the day grows warmer, the higher elevation keeps the chill in the air, like riding from Phoenix to Sunset Point. We return home in as good a condition, if not better, as when we left. I'm pleased the negative rumors I had heard about traveling to Mexico all proved untrue, and I now have a riding destination in the winter months when the northern elevations become too cold.

Ride safe, ride often...hell, just ride! - dpc

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