The second time around – Puerto Peñasco, Mexico

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We had so much fun in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico last year that we decided to return for another ten days of frolicking on Playa Bonita’s sandy beach.  This year we were there from Feb 5th-15th with our Canadian friends Matt and Gloria, and with John and Sharon of On the Road of Retirement.  We had our own little convoy of three RV’s to cross the border together.

My previous post about last year’s visit is here, and the fun things we did with the Winnebago caravan group we were with is here.

We were leading, with John and Sharon in the middle and Matt and Gloria as the tail gunners

Crossing the border was easy-peasy, with lady Border Patrol agents asking us how many cases of cerveza were we carrying.  They opened our refrigerator and found everything in order, and off we went into Mexico!

Playa Bonita RV Park

Betsy is in the midst of those RV’s at Playa Bonita RV Park

Closer view of the RV park’s beachfront sites, which require two years advance notice to get

The moment we settled in at our site a group of workers approached Steve and asked if he needed any work done on Betsy, and this year we were ready.  These vendors are vetted by the park and management gets a cut for every job completed.  We had the faded “W” Winnebago stickers removed on both sides, and some touch-up work done on other areas of the coach.

We did not intend to have Betsy’s interior cleaned, but after hearing rave reviews about the work these folks do at a very reasonable price we went ahead with it.  It took six hours for two guys to give Betsy “the works”.  They did a great job from ceiling to floor, and the old girl never looked better.  Then we had her washed the day before we left so we could proudly drive her back into the U.S. looking like new!

While getting all of that work done we also kept ourselves active.  Our ritual every morning was long walks on the beach as the sun came up:

Puerto Penasco

I didn’t mind getting out of bed early to see spectacular sunrises like this

The sounds and smells of the beach were relaxing and refreshing as we imprinted our steps in the sand.

I was so happy to see some of my feathered friends that I hadn’t enjoyed for some time:

Each day after our walk, party time with friends commenced.  Our group swelled by a couple more as Bob and Deedee (they came with the Winnebago caravan again this year) also hung out with us during several of our outings.  We went into town to taste some not so authentic Mexican food with our margaritas and cervezas.  Every day was party day, just like the spring breakers except we were a bit more subdued and kept our clothes on at all times.

The gang (minus me): John, Deedee, Bob, Gloria, Matt, Sharon and Steve

We also did some shopping, but unfortunately there is no room for these wonderful goodies in Betsy.  We just admired the colorful and intricate Mexican art on display:

But the vendors at the beach were luckier, for we did patronize them as much as we could:

As I mentioned in my previous post, our “Jeep friends” are very kind and cool people.  Well, here we were again, being hauled around by Bob and Deedee.  They took us along 4-wheeling on beach dunes about 65 miles south of Puerto Peñasco in a tour group with 27 other Jeeps.

Charlie is a total beach-bum doggie!

Fun in the sand!

Our friends all brought their pets to Mexico, and like their owners the doggies had a wonderful time whenever they were free to run and play on the beach:

Not only were the sunrises gorgeous, but the sunsets were memorable as well.  Our evening ritual was to sit and socialize at the beach with our friends while waiting for the sun to wave goodbye and dip behind the horizon once again.

Every twilight the sun left us with different hues in the sky to be marveled at, and there was never the same canvas.  Here are a few of those gorgeous moments:

And just like last year we filled our freezer to the top with the colossal sweet shrimp and seafood this place is famous for.  U.S. Customs allows 50 pounds of seafood to be brought into the states, and we would have brought that much if we could have fit it!

Like all good things, our winter break at the beach came to an end.  It was time to head back into the U.S., and after our difficult crossing from Canada last year we were extra careful to declare every agriproduct we would bring back in.  We actually wrote a list of everything in the fridge and freezer, and whether it was cooked or raw.  The Border Patrol agent appreciated it, and although he still rummaged through the freezer, our 28th border crossing was painless.  Unfortunately, John and Sharon were stopped for a long time for reasons none of us have figured out.  Maybe it was just a random thorough search, but we’ll never know.  Their story is here.

Goodbye Mexico!

 

Next up:  A place to meet up – Tucson



 

So much to do in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico

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If you missed my last post covering our drive and arrival at Puerto Peñasco, click here.  In this segment I’ll try to encapsulate what we did during our nine days south of the border, without running too long.

Puerto Penasco, Mexico

A look at Playa Bonita from The Point Restaurant

Our destination was located where the Sonoran desert meets the Sea of Cortez, 65 miles south of the U.S./Mexican border at Lukeville, AZ.  The name Puerto Peñasco derives from 19th century maps drafted by Lieutenant William Hardy, who visited the region to scout for potential pearl fisheries.  Lt. Hardy dubbed the area “Rocky Point”, after the prominent rocky basaltic headland that pinpoints the town today.

Rocky Point, Mexico

The spot later became known in Spanish as Puerto Peñasco or “Rocky Port”, as the estuary at the base of the mountain gave natural refuge to mariners.  It’s also known as Rocky Point or “Arizona Beach”, since many tourists visiting here for fishing, beach bumming and partying travel from Arizona just across the border.

Rocky Point, Mexico

It is also located in an arid desert environment, which means lots of sand – not only on the beaches but everywhere as far as the eye can see!

Puerto Penasco, Mexico

Sand, sand everywhere!

First on our agenda the day after we arrived was a car caravan to tour the town.  With our event hosts leading and a map of the downtown area in hand, we learned where to shop, eat, and souvenir shop, and the best places to buy the incredible fresh seafood here.

Puerto Penasco, Mexico

Pineapple/coconut truck or PinaColada Truck

We also learned the traffic rules – “topes” are speed bumps, “alto” is stop, and above all don’t speed through town!  Of course, the locals had no trouble spotting us gringos as they sped by and ignored all signs.  But hey, it’s their country!  After the tour we were comfortable driving around town to get groceries and eat at the many wonderful restaurants.

Old Port, Rocky Point, Mexico

The Shrimp Man sculpture at the Old Port

Between potlucks, happy hours and group meals, we definitely satisfied the main goal of this event – meeting new friends – 67 of them!  It was fun throwing together spur-of-the-moment carpools so everyone could do their favorite activities together.  In short, the caravan allowed us to socialize to the max during our first-ever driving foray into Mexico.

Winnebago Outdoor Adventures

Close the street – now this is what you call a block party!

RVng in Puerto Penasco

Steve talking with our new friends Bob and Dee Dee from Washington state

Winnebago Outdoor Adventures

Just another big happy hour

Chicken Dance

Let’s do the chicken dance!

We had lots of free time and many activities to enjoy under the sun.  During the day everyone did their own thing; golfing, 4-wheeling in the sand dunes, fishing, whale watching, souvenir shopping, trips to the local Tequila Factory or just lazing around the RV’s or on the beach.

Playa Bonita

Enjoying sunsets with friends

Playa Bonita

Kite Playing

Puesta del Sol Restaurant

Entertainment after dinner

As for us, I checked out the El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, known for its unique physical and biological characteristics.  The 1.7 million acre site comprises two distinct parts: the dormant volcanic Pinacate Shield of black and red lava flows and desert pavements to the east, and in the west the Gran Altar Desert – the largest active dune field in North America.  This area was declared a Biosphere Reserve in 1993.

Picos del Pinacate)

The Pinacate Peaks (Picos del Pinacate), a group of volcanic peaks and cinder cones

El Pinacate Trail

Walking on lava fields

Desert Iguana

Desert Iguana grabbing a snack

Gran Desierto de Altar

Dune fields in the distance

We visited the Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans (CEDO), where we learned about the Gulf of California’s extreme tides, the endangered Vaquita Porpoise and CEDO’s current projects.  CEDO’s campus is outlined by an elegant sinuous wall and entry gate sculpture designed by artist Joseph P. McShane.  The main edifice is constructed in the Greek Monastic architectural style with an open patio courtyard and a balcony overlooking the Sea of Cortez.

2016-02-16-MX-1390439.jpg

Puerto Penasco, Mexico

The skeleton of a 55′ Fin Whale that beached in the area

Puerto Penasco, Mexico

Steve tried to be helpful and pointed  Puerto Penasco on the map

Endangered Totoaba

Now endangered, the Totoabas depends on the brackish water in the delta of the Colorado River to reproduce.  Ugly!

Having an excellent burrito or tamale for breakfast in the mornings and margarita in the afternoons gave us strong impetus to walk 4-5 miles along the beach every day!

Playa Bonita, Puerto Penasco, Mexico

Picking up a burrito for breakfast

Puerto Penasco, Mexico

Puerto Penasco, Mexico

We learned immediately upon arrival that a large group of mexican workers were available to perform many services on RV’s and cars.  Everything from wash/wax to body/paint, and even interior cleaning.  And these guys are good!  Steve knows body and paint work, and he was impressed by what he saw.  We had Betsy’s wheels polished and the car washed/waxed for $60!  They did a great job and we wished we had gotten in line in time to get some minor paint work done.

One other highlight here was meeting up with friends Rick and Joanne.  They were with a group of 60 rigs from the Escapees club that overlapped with our trip.  We had a great time catching up with them.

Point Restaurant, Puerto Penasco, Mexico

Food and drinks with Rick and Joanne at The Point Restaurant

Sandy Beach, Puerto Penasco, Mexico

Those rigs off to the distant left are the Escapees group

When in Mexico it’s expected that Mariachi bands will come to serenade you while you’re dining in a restaurant, or if you’re at the Old Port locals will flag you down to get your attention and business.  We observed that once we said “No, Gracias”, they didn’t continue to bother us.  At our campground, vendors selling their crafts were limited to the beach area and not allowed inside the park.  Some were vetted by our event hosts so we knew who to buy from and were able to bargain with them.  We knew these talented folks were working very hard and we didn’t try to “lowball” them.

Playa Bonita, Puerto Penasco, Mexico

I love these colorful tables, but somebody in the household says no place in the rig to store it 😦

Playa Bonita, Puerto Penasco, Mexico

Showing off their wares

Puerto Peñasco is known for its fresh seafood, and on our last day we met up with friends Bob and Dee Dee to go downtown and bargain.  Steve got carried away and bought 10 lbs. of gorgeous shrimp, 3 lbs. of scallops and 5 lbs. of grouper – all for $100!  Needless to say our freezer will be full for a while.

Old Port, Puerto Penasco, Mexico

Steve is Mr. Fish’s new BFF!

This was our first caravan trip and first RV exploration into Mexico.  We felt safe and secure during our entire stay.  We didn’t mind being intimately parked next to our neighbors – that’s just the way they do it here.  The knowledge and experience of our excellent hosts Jerry and Sue and Paul and Kathy helped allay any concerns we may have had about crossing the border.  In fact, we would gladly do it again with some of our RV buddies – any takers?

Winnebago Outdoor Adventures

Our incredibly talented and friendly hosts (Sue, Paul, Kathy and Jerry)

The sunsets, great food, clean beaches and camaraderie made our stay terrific and memorable.

Playa Bonita

Spectacular sunrises…

Playa Bonita

…and sunsets

Betsy's dawn departure

Betsy’s dawn departure

 

Next up:  A quick visit to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument



 

Whad’ya know, we’re in Mexico!

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Who knew we would make it to Mexico this winter?

Mexico Flag

The Mexican flag flies high here

For years we’ve wanted to drive Betsy south of the border, but it’s been mostly a dream since we haven’t been comfortable doing it on our own.  We recently discovered  that Winnebago Outdoor Adventures had organized a caravan to Puerto Penasco (here’s the 2016 schedule, you can go in 2017 even if you don’t own a Winnebago – for a slightly higher price). After sitting on a waiting list for a while we were offered an opportunity to join our first caravan!  We filled out the documentation and were ready to be part of a 37-RV convoy driving to the shoreline of the beautiful Sea of Cortez.

Puerto Penasco, Sonora

The route our caravan took

We re-arranged our previous reservations and made adjustments to accommodate the detour into Mexico.  Going with a group led by professionals made it easy to take our first drive across the border and deal with border crossings, campground reservations and excursions we could enjoy while in the area.

HIghway 85 S Ajo, Arizona

Cruising down HW-8 in Arizona

The adventure began in Gila Bend, AZ where we had an orientation and met our fellow adventurers.  The two event host couples had led this trip to Puerto Penasco for several years, and their experience with organizing the necessary passportsMexico liability insurance, vehicle registrations, CB radio gear and what not to bring into Mexico was invaluable.  Click here for the official border crossing requirements.

Lukeville, AZ

Lukeville, AZ – our port of entry

Bright and early the first morning we left Gila Bend and traveled highway 85-S for about 80 miles. We regrouped at the U.S./Mexican border crossing at Lukeville to stretch our legs and view the wall that separates Mexico and the U.S.A. here.

Wall in Mexico-USA border

A portion of the wall separating two countries

After a short break we queued up and waited for our turn to cross.  Eventually, Betsy welcomed a Mexican border police official aboard to check her out for compliance.

Lukeville Port of Entry

37 RV’s waiting in line to cross, fortunately we were #5 in line!

After only a couple of questions we were on our way.

Sonoyta, Mexico

In order for all of the rigs to catch up after the crossing and be together at our destination, we pulled over a few miles south of the border to wait for the rest of the group.  It must have been quite a sight for folks passing by!

Highway 8, Sonoyta, Mexico

We got us a convoy!

The next 64 miles to our final destination at Playa Bonita RV Resort was a non-event, as we passed through the Mexican side of the Sonoran Desert, with Organ Pipe Cactus dotting the landscape.

Sonoran Desert, Sonoyta Mexico

At the orientation we were reminded to be extra careful when driving in Mexico – be aware of the many topes (speed bumps); obey speed limits (even if the locals whiz by); and stop at all ALTO signs.

Winnebago Outdoor Adventures

Looking back at the caravan slowing down to negotiate a brutal railroad crossing

Puerto Penasco is declared a “free zone” to promote tourism, which means visitors are not required to obtain visas when visiting for short periods.

Puerto Penasco, Mexico

We’re almost there!

Playa Bonita RV Resort

Betsy taking her turn to enter the park

It took helpful volunteers over an hour to park 37 rigs at the resort, in a very organized manner.

Playa Bonita RV Park

Controlled chaos in the parking area

As soon as we settled in we immediately walked to the beach, dipped our feet into the water and jumped for joy that we were in Mexico and had made an unscheduled stop at the sea this winter.  Time to party and experience everything Mexico!

Playa Bonita, Puerto Penasco, Mexico

Playa Bonita RV Park alongside several condominiums

Playa Bonita, Puerto Penasco, Mexico

Estamos felices de estar aquí en Playa Bonita!

 

Next Up:  Lots to do at Puerto Penasco