Every year, during the last weekend of April, John and I have always looked forward to traveling south of the border for the Rocky Point Skydiving Boogie. This event is run by Skydive Arizona and has had a loyal following of skydivers for twenty years. It started out as a small gathering of jumpers who did some jumps into the Old Boys Social Club in Cholla Bay and soon expanded into a major skydiving event, organized out of the Playa Bonita R.V. Park on Sandy Beach. The Verleys have been loyal followers since 1993; I joined them in 1999 and we have only missed one boogie since then (in 2005).
John and I have had many noteworthy adventures in Rocky Point throughout the years. In 1999 - my first Rocky Point - I had the chance to do an observer ride over Rocky Point; John and I also "christened" Shell Beach. Most importantly, on the way back from Rocky Point, we discovered that, when stopping for gas in Why, you should always get a receipt. Unbelievably, we got stopped three times during that trip home and didn't get a single ticket!
In 2001, we took Mary to Rocky Point for the first time; she was eight months old at the time and enjoyed seeing the beach for the first time. It was also the first time that we had actually stopped to visit Organ Pipe National Monument; we camped there overnight on our way to Mexico and did some hiking in the park.
In 2002, I did my second tandem in Rocky Point - not only that, but I was in my first four-way! John attempted to organize a ten-way with some of his friends as well as his father, but we only ended up building a four-way with him, Bill, and Eric Asendorf before we had to break off at 5,000 feet. It was an amazing jump!
Last year was the first year that John's parents did not come with us to Rocky Point; so, instead of camping at the R.V. Park, John and Mary and I stayed at the hotel. It was also the first year that John Coffman and Jan Banka came to Rocky Point for the boogie. It turned out to be one of the best boogies ever; we couldn't wait for next year's!
As planning for Rocky Point 2008 began, though, things got interesting...
Around the beginning of the year, John found out that he had the opportunity to do the OTL - an invitational organized by Airspeed's Gary Beyer - during the weekend of Rocky Point. He even tried to talk Gary into taking the OTL to Rocky Point, but Gary indicated that he wouldn't be able to do so. In the end, John turned down his slot for that weekend so that he could take us to Mexico instead.
Then, John's parents announced that they would not be going with us to Rocky Point again; Bill wasn't jumping much anymore, so it just didn't make sense for them to make the trip. At the same time, my best friend Suzanne announced that she wanted to come with us to Rocky Point, as she had not been to Mexico since she was a kid. She thought it would be fun to spend some time on the beach with her daughter Katie. That said, John's parents offered to let us use their motor home for the trip. We would all camp at the R.V. Park: us in the motor home, and Suzanne and Katie in our 10X10 tent in the slot next to us.
Although we knew what we were going to do that weekend, Skydive Arizona did not. Skydiving in Rocky Point involves a large amount of paperwork in order to obtain the necessary permits. Usually, the airport's commandant makes Larry Hill (the owner of Skydive Arizona) jump through a bunch of hoops before he will issue those permits. Sometimes, he will claim that he never received the paperwork and make Larry fill it out all over again; other times, he will tack more paperwork onto the forms that he has already submitted. There is almost always a large amount of money involved, too. Every year, Larry faces new challenges to get his permits, but he usually has them by March. This year, he wasn't able to get a deal with the commandant until a few weeks before the boogie.
This worried John; after all, he had given up a weekend on the OTL to go to Rocky Point. He followed up with Skydive Arizona constantly to make sure that the boogie was going to happen. About three weeks before the trip, he learned that a deal had been worked out, and the boogie was going to take place as scheduled. Knowing that, then, we contacted Dawn Rae, who handled the R.V. Park reservations for the boogie, and reserved our R.V. slots for the weekend.
So, on Thursday, April 24, we made the journey to Puerto Peñasco (Rocky Point), Mexico, as planned!
Preparing for a trip to Mexico takes a lot of work, and it's even more so when you're taking a motor home down there. Since it wasn't our motor home, we had to get all sorts of paperwork notarized, to prove that we had permission to take the R.V. across the border. It was the same story for the tow vehicle; Erika's Oldsmobile had the tow package installed on it, so it made more sense for us to use her car instead of ours. That meant that we would have to trade vehicles with her for the weekend. We offered to let her use my new Camry, and her first reaction was an ecstatic "YES!"
Along with that paperwork, we had to have Mexican auto insurance for both the motor home and the tow vehicle. Insurance for the car was cheap enough - it only cost us about $35 for the duration of our trip - but insurance for the motor home was expensive. Erika, however, showed us a trick to save us money: purchase insurance only for the day in and the day out. "After all," she said, "you're only going to be driving it on those two days, right?"
To add to the mounds of paperwork that we were required to bring with us to Mexico, we also had to have passports - specifically, we had to have proof of U.S. citizenship in order to get back into the United States at the end of our visit. On June 1, 2009, passports will be required to pass by vehicle or by foot from Mexico to the U.S.; during the transition period, though, it was required to show some sort of proof of citizenship, using either a birth certificate AND a driver's license or a passport. Since the three of us all had valid passports, we decided to bring those to make it easier on all of us.
We picked up the motor home and the tow vehicle on the morning of April 24 and brought it to our house so that we could pack it up with all of the things that we would need for the weekend: food, water, camping equipment, clothes, swimwear, and of course, skydiving gear! While Mary was at school, we took care of every single detail, so by 2:30 p.m. (when school let out), we were ready to go.
On the way out of town, we stopped in Goodyear, off of Litchfield Park Road, to meet up with Suzanne and Katie so that we could all caravan down to Rocky Point. We ended up waiting for them for about twenty minutes while they stopped to get gas. To kill time, then, Mary and I went to look for a geocache at the Holiday Inn nearby. At first, we had trouble finding it - it was well-hidden - but after a few minutes we finally made the grab.
When Suzanne and Katie arrived, around 3:20, we discussed our game plan for the drive to Mexico. John explained the route to Suzanne and told her to plan on us stopping in Gila Bend for dinner and again in Why for gas. He then handed her a walkie-talkie so that we could talk to each other on the route. "There are areas along the way where we won't have cell signal," he explained. "This way, if you get separated from us at any time, you'll be able to get a hold of us right away."
With that, we got back into our vehicles and hit the road. John and I took both kids with us in the motor home, and Suzanne followed us in her Highlander.
For the most part, our drive into Mexico was uneventful. As planned, we stopped for dinner in Gila Bend at the McDonald's near the SR 85 interchange and took it to go. Later, we stopped in Why to top off our gas tanks; John put over $100 worth of gas into the motor home! (With gas at $3.59 a gallon, we knew that this was going to be an expensive trip...) Finally, we stopped one last time, at 6:00 p.m., when it came time to cross the border into Mexico...
...and both of us received the green light! The border agents waved us right through into Mexico!
While in Sonoyta, we lost Suzanne briefly. She had been following us closely throughout our trip; then, as we passed through downtown Sonoyta, she got pulled over by a Mexican police officer...for the most unusual reason! She had reached over to change the song that was playing on her laptop while stopped at a stop sign next to the police station; but the policeman standing nearby thought that she was reaching for a beer! He felt pretty sheepish when he discovered what she was doing and waved her on. Needless to say, though, it did cause her to lag behind us a bit; but she was able to catch up again before we left Sonoyta.
It took us about fifty minutes to drive to Puerto Peñasco from Sonoyta; and at 7:00 p.m., we finally arrived at the Playa Bonita R.V. Park, on Sandy Beach. While I went into the office to check us in, John unhooked the tow vehicle so that I could drive to the liquor store to buy beer. (It wouldn't be a Rocky Point trip without a case of Dos Equis!) Once I had our slot numbers, he and Suzanne went to set up camp.
By the time I returned with the beer, he and Suzanne had the motor home all set up and the tent was about to go up. I put the beer on ice and started setting up chairs and tables and lanterns. Meanwhile, the girls ran around, anxious to play around; little did they know that once camp was set up, it would be bedtime for both of them!
After camp was set up, Suzanne got both of the girls ready for bed; she was going to let Mary sleep in the tent with them that night. Once all three of them retired to the tent, John and I each cracked open a beer and went wandering through the R.V. park, to see who else was there.
Two rows over, we found Kevin and Cheri Vetter, sitting in front of their motor home, enjoying the cool night air with a couple of other skydivers. They invited us to join them, so we all sat around for an hour or so, chatting. It was then that we learned the status of the boogie. Kevin told us that Larry had not yet brought down his plane (we had not seen the plane when we passed by the airport on the way into town). Some new problems had arisen with the commandant, and we weren't going to know anything until 10:00 a.m. Friday morning. This, of course, was not a good sign.
Around 9:00 p.m., we said good night to the Vetters and returned to the motor home to go to bed. It had been a busy day and we were exhausted from all of the hard work that it took to get there. Now, we were looking forward to a good night's sleep.
The next morning, we slept in, and it felt great! The bed in the motor home was comfortable, and it was very cool outside. That made it very difficult to get out of bed that morning! Eventually, we rolled out of bed and started the day, around 7:00 a.m.
We were still several hours away from finding out when jumping was going to start, so we decided to hang out until then. While waiting for Suzanne to finish showering, John and I took Mary and Katie for a walk through the R.V. park as we made our way to the beach; en route, we found the Schumachers - Terry, his wife Kathy and their daughter Kristen, who was about 24 years old. Like the Vetters, Schumachers were Rocky Point regulars, and we always looked forward to hanging out with them. Mary really enjoyed spending time with Kathy and Kristen and their dogs. Last year, Kristen paid for Mary's hair to be braided by one of the local girls on the beach; she liked it so much that we were planning to do it again this year.
After we exchanged greetings, John and I got to talking to Terry about the boogie, and Mary and Katie went with Kristen and Kathy down to the beach. Suzanne soon joined us at the Schumachers' campsite; we introduced her to Terry, who soon talked her into doing a tandem during the boogie. After all, Rocky Point was the place to do a tandem; Terry's daughter had done her first tandem at the age of 14 in Rocky Point in 1999, and it was where I had done my second tandem in 2002!
A few minutes later, Kathy and Kristen returned with Mary and Katie. Kristen announced that she had found the girls who were doing the braids; they were working on Lauren (Dawn Rae's daughter, who was six months younger than Mary) on the steps of the R.V. park. So, I took Mary over there to get her braids done; I decided to have them do my hair as well, hoping that it would keep me cool during the warm weekend. There were three girls - all sisters - who were doing braids that morning; and between Lauren, Mary, three of Larry Hill's granddaughters (Tiffany, Alexis, and Harley), and myself, we kept those girls busy for more than two hours!
While we were getting our hair braided, we began hearing bits and pieces of the news from Manifest regarding the boogie...and it wasn't sounding good. Dawn Rae came down to the beach and reported that they were getting the run-around by the commandant. He was demanding that Larry cough up a NAFTA permit before he would let them jump. I later heard that the commandant was asking for $300 per person per jump: an insane amount of money. No skydiver in his right mind would pay that amount to jump out of a perfectly good airplane!
Finally, around 10:30 that morning, John came down to the beach and said, "There will be no jumping this weekend."
"What?" I exclaimed. "You have got to be kidding me!"
He wasn't kidding. He said that he was standing around Manifest while Larry was talking to the commandant on the phone. Nearby, there was a dry-erase board with the words "We don't know yet!" written on it. As soon as Larry hung up the phone, he stepped over to the board and erased the words "don't" and "yet", then drew a frown underneath it.
In a nutshell, what happened was, the commandant of the Rocky Point Airport - José Martines - got too greedy this year, and as a result, he lost out on the compensation that he would have normally received for allowing Skydive Arizona to operate the boogie. We are not sure why he decided to give Larry the run-around this year; but we can be certain that he was thinking only of his own greed and not of the many locals who depend on our tourism dollars. While it is true that, two weeks before the boogie, all of their paperwork was indeed in order, the commandant chose to ignore that fact and demand the impossible from Larry: a NAFTA permit which no one knows how to obtain, an insane amount of money from each jumper, and power of attorney over the Skydive Arizona Super Otter.
And Larry, tired of dealing with the greedy commandant, told him, "No way, we're not jumping this year."
During the ordeal to get permission to jump, Larry did find allies, though it was too little too late. He had his employees at the DZ in Eloy on the phone with Mexico City, trying to find a way around the commandant's unreasonable demands. Unfortunately, it was 10:00 on a Friday; there was no way they would be able to get anything worked out before the weekend. He does hope that he made enough allies this year within the Mexican government that he can try one more time to organize the boogie for next year; but if not, the Rocky Point Skydiving Boogie will be no more.
The question remains, though: IF Larry can get the boogie together for next year, will anyone come? There were a lot of skydivers who came all the way to Mexico to jump, only to find out that they couldn't. Were they going to risk getting burned again? We believe that only a handful of the Rocky Point regulars will make the trip again: us, the Vetters, and Mike Putz, just to name a few...
So...once we knew that there wasn't going to be any skydiving that weekend, a new question arose: "What do skydivers do when they can't skydive?"
The answer is two-fold: they either find new ways to seek thrills, or they drink...heavily. Or they do both at the same time.
Having heard the news, John announced that we should go to lunch; we could then have a few drinks and commiserate. Since we were playing tour guide for Suzanne and Katie, we opted to take her to one of our favorite restaurants - Señor Amigo's, at the Fish Market. We could then browse the various shops that line the streets of the market and let the girls spend their allowance on souvenirs. Katie bought a couple of small toys; Mary bought a blue and white soccer ball.
Upon returning to the R.V. park, John suggested that we go for a Banana Boat ride. This was something that we had never done before in Rocky Point; John had always wanted to go, but was usually too busy skydiving to do it. Now, he had the perfect opportunity to do it, since he needed an alternative to the thrill that he would have received from getting his knees in the breeze.
The five of us hired a Banana Boat: a giant inflatable raft shaped like a pair of bananas with handles on them, towed by a speedboat or a fishing boat with an outboard motor. The idea is to straddle the banana and hold on tight while being towed through the waves by the motor boat. It didn't sound too scary...except to Katie, who insisted on sitting in the middle, on the plastic piece that held the two bananas together. The rest of us, however, climbed on board and prepared for one wild ride!
The surf was very rough that afternoon, so we got more than we bargained for out of that banana boat ride as we bounced across the waves. It turned out to be one wild, giggly ride, one that was so fun that both John and Mary were shouting, "Again! Again!" when it was all over. It might not have been freefall, but it was fun! (Although there were a few times I could swear that we were airborne!)
After the banana boat ride, we decided that it was time to take a little rest before dinner. While Suzanne took a nap in the motor home, Mary and Katie and John kicked the soccer ball around the R.V. park. When they were bored of that, we decided to pop over to visit the Vetters and Mike Putz, who were camped next to each other two rows over. We had heard that Mike did not bring his converted Bluebird bus to Rocky Point this year; instead, he was staying in a borrowed Wanderlodge. We had to check this out.
Even though it wasn't his, Mike was quite proud of the Wanderlodge. He had borrowed it from a friend of his, who was helping him put a diesel engine into his bus. His friend had recently purchased the motor home from someone in another state; Mike helped him bring it back to Arizona. He then told Mike that he could borrow it for Rocky Point if he didn't have his bus done in time; and it wasn't like you had to twist his arm to make him take it! This rig was nice! And to top it off, it had a forty-two inch plasma screen television in it - the ultimate man-shrine! We were very impressed.
While talked to Mike Putz and the Vetters, we learned that Kevin and Cheri were considering pulling out of Rocky Point on Saturday night, instead of Monday, in hopes that the could make a jump in Eloy on Sunday. The rest of us were considering the same thing, but we decided not to; at least we could enjoy a nice beach vacation!
Of course, what do skydivers do when they can't skydive? They drink, tell "fish stories", and think of other ways to find that adrenaline rush. John explained that he was considering going parasailing...as long as they would let him take his hook knife to cut the line. Mike, on the other hand, said that he wanted to talk to the ultralight pilot to see if he would take him up and let him jump out. Kevin and John loved the idea; they were game, too, if Mike could make it happen. Maybe they could build the first three-way out of an ultralight!
(Unfortunately, that wasn't going to happen either. The next day, Mike went to ask the ultralight pilots if they would allow it; but they said that they would have to ask the commandant. The commandant, of course, said no way.)
That evening, we decided to walk down to the Playa Bonita Hotel to have dinner at the Puesta Del Sol Restaurant. When we arrived, we found that the restaurant was completely packed, so we had to wait about fifteen minutes for a table.
It seemed that Puesta Del Sol was the place to be that evening, as there was quite the party going on. There was a DJ playing tunes, and there were people tearing up the dance floor. After dinner, we were all feeling pretty festive, so we got up and danced, too.
The night was still young when we returned to the R.V. park, so we continued our party at the motor home. John plugged his iPhone into a docking station, and we all danced in the cool night air. Mary fell in love with one song in particular - Todd Rundgren's "Bang the Drum All Day" - and she sang it for the rest of the weekend. At least she has good taste in music!
We were joined later that evening by another pair of skydivers who had just arrived in Rocky Point: Lily and Buck, who were Rocky Point regulars. They had just heard that there would be no skydiving that weekend and had come to commiserate. John and I sat up and drank beer with them well into the night, even after Suzanne and the kids went to bed (Mary in the motor home, Suzanne and Katie in the tent). From them, we learned that several skydivers had decided not to make the drive to Rocky Point after learning the outcome of the boogie. One skydiver did make the trip all the way to Rocky Point but immediately turned around and went home when he found out that he wasn't going to be able to jump.
Sometime after 10:00 that night, John and I said good night to Lily and Buck and finally went to bed. We were barely able to keep our eyes open, so it wasn't long before we were both asleep.
The next morning, we slept in again. Considering how much we rush rush rush in our daily lives, it was nice to be able to slow down and sleep every once in a while.
Our day started out low-key. First thing that morning, Suzanne took Katie down to the beach to get her hair braided; meanwhile, John and I visited with some of the other skydivers - mainly to see if any of them would be interested in joining us for a banana boat ride. No one was game, so once again, it was just the five of us on the banana boat.
After lunch, we decided to go for a drive, to visit some of our favorite sites and to play tour guide to Suzanne and Katie. We also thought it would be fun to do a little geocaching during our excursion...that is, if we could get to any of the caches!
Our first destination was Cholla Bay, the community located at the end of the peninsula. Many years ago, Cholla Bay didn't have electricity, and water had to be brought in by barrels. Now, the bay is lined with condos, as far as the eye can see. The world-famous JJ's Cantina is still there; behind it, the beach was lined with vendors, selling their wares from the backs of their pick-up trucks.
John drove us to the place where the first Rocky Point Skydiving Boogie took place back in 1987: the Old Boys' Social Club. The Old Boys' Social Club is an organization of American men who got together to raise money to help the locals. They bought Christmas gifts for the local children and did a number of charitable acts. Their gathering place was in a building overlooking a sandy park, and it was in that park that the first skydivers landed 21 years ago. Back then, when Cholla Bay didn't have electricity, it was easy to jump into the park, because there's weren't high voltage wires in the way; once progress came to Cholla Bay, the boogie moved to Playa Bonita.
As we drove through the area, we discovered that the building that housed the Old Boys' Social Club was now boarded up and looked as though it hadn't been occupied in years. We think that they are now meeting in a nearby building, but we don't know that for sure. We didn't stick around long enough to ask.
While we were in Cholla Bay, we did try to do some geocaching. There were two caches hidden in the community, and we really wanted to find them. Unfortunately, they were hidden in the hills and would have required a four-wheel drive vehicle to get there. Although we were driving an Oldsmobile (which, as you know, goes anywhere), we didn't want to risk damaging a borrowed vehicle...especially not Erika's!
As we left Cholla Bay, we decided to bring Suzanne and Katie to another favorite destination: Rodeo Drive. Rodeo Drive is one of the more popular shopping centers in Rocky Point. Many years ago, it was nothing more than a series of wooden shacks set up along a dirt road. There was only one shop that was permanent. Today, the road is paved, and more of the buildings are permanent fixtures. There are even streetlights lining the street!
We spent about an hour shopping along Rodeo Drive, letting Mary and Katie spend more of their allowance money on souvenirs. Katie bought herself a toy horse; Mary bought a set of bongo drums so that she would have something to play while she sang that Todd Rundgren song.
After we were done shopping, we returned to the R.V. park to rest and to get ready for a fun evening. John had signed us up to go on a sunset "booze cruise", along with the rest of the skydivers who decided to stay for the weekend. This was a new addition to the Rocky Point Boogie. In years past, the Saturday night party always took place at La Curva. Then, one year, the party moved to a Tecate tent at the R.V. park and the food and drink was included in the boogie fee.
About three years ago, the party moved again - this time, to a sunset cruise. In 2006, John and Mary and I (along with Bill and Erika) went on one of these cruises - an all-you-can-drink margarita cruise. The cruise was run by a Scottish family (which seemed pretty random to find in Mexico); at sunset, a bagpipe player stood on the bow of the ship and played "Amazing Grace". It was very serene. Later in the evening, before pulling back into the harbor, we were entertained by a bagpipe and drum corps and then by a belly-dancer troupe.
This year, the "booze cruise" would take place on a pirate ship - a favorite among the kids. After eating a light dinner at the motor home, we met up at Manifest at 5:15 p.m., to catch the Skydive Arizona shuttle bus to the harbor. At the harbor, Dawn Rae gave each of us one admission ticket (to get us on the boat) and three drink tickets to use to obtain adult beverages (or soda). Each of the kids received a ticket with a star on it for soda or water.
At 5:45, we boarded the pirate ship (ARGH!), and the party soon began! The five of us joined the Schumachers and several other skydivers on the upper deck. Once everyone was on board - around 6:00 p.m. - the ship left port and began its three-hour voyage into the Sea of Cortez.
The cruise was very entertaining; Mary was especially fascinated with the pirates who hosted the party. There were two of them - the Captain and his first mate, who was a midget - and they were dressed in full pirate attire. They even had a talking parrot, which amused the children on board. The Skydive Arizona pilot - Susie - was given the chance to hold the parrot so that the Hill grandchildren and Lauren could pet him.
Our journey took us out to the end of the peninsula, towards Pelican Bay and into the sunset. During that time, the pilots played dance music so that we could dance. After the sun went down, then the on-board entertainment began.
First, our ship was overtaken by pirates. Okay, we never actually saw the other pirate ship, but we were "boarded" by a band of scary-looking pirates, while the speakers blasted music from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland and from the movie Pirates of the Caribbean. (Mary was hoping that Captain Jack Sparrow would make an appearance.) A sword fight broke out on the deck of the ship; this was especially entertaining, as they performed some crazy antics, like extreme slow motion, similar to the movie 300...only funnier.
Later, the pirates set up a game of musical chairs for the kids and a dance contest for the women. Towards the end of the evening, we were treated to a special show: hula dancers and a belly dancer. The hula dancers performed to tunes from the movie Lilo & Stitch (another Disney favorite).
The pirate ship returned to port around 9:00 p.m. As we all disembarked, we headed towards the Skydive Arizona shuttle bus and climbed on board to find a seat. The bus filled up fast - so fast that it was standing-room only. To help make room, the children sat on laps; Mary started off sitting on my lap, but she was soon snatched away by Susie, one of the Skydive Arizona pilots. Mary was one of her favorite Drop Zone kids. While waiting for Larry to arrive to drive us back to the R.V. park, Susie announced that she wanted to make Mary the most popular kid on the bus, so she shouted to everyone to throw their beads to her. In minutes, Mary had fifteen sets of beads!
On the way back to the Drop Zone, the Hill grandchildren began to sing "The Wheels on the Bus", and it wasn't long before EVERYONE was singing it. Of course, John threw in his own lyrics about the commandant: "The commandant at the airport is a greedy prick, a greedy prick, a greedy prick..."
When we arrived at the R.V. park, we all went our separate ways. It was bedtime for the kids - and for us adults, too - so we all turned in for the night...
The next morning, we all awoke around 7:00 a.m. again. Since it was our last full day in Rocky Pont, John suggested that we spend part of the day exploring and geocaching. The first cache that he wanted to find was over by Pink Cadillac, so we called that a good excuse to go there for breakfast.
Pink Cadillac was one of our favorite places to eat breakfast - and, way back in the day, pre-Mary, it was our favorite night-spot in Rocky Point, too. It is located near Playa Elegante, across the street from Manny's Beach Club, which used to be one of our favorite lunch spots - that is, before the fence went up - and it is a good place to get a good American breakfast with a little Mexican appeal.
After a tasty breakfast, we left Pink Cadillac and drove a short distance to look for our first geocache, one that Mary found right away. It was located next to a condo that was owned by the person who placed the cache. Once the log was signed and we had traded items, we replaced the container in its niche and left.
Since we were out and about, John suggested that we take a drive out to Las Conchas - and to Shell Beach, if we could find it again. It had been nine years since we had last been there, so we weren't even sure where it was anymore; but it would be fun to try!
First, we drove to Las Conchas, which is one of the older but certainly one of the most affluent communities in Rocky Point. Whereas many of the communities within Puerto Peñasco were built within the last five years, Las Conchas has been around for a long time; and there is a lot of American money invested in these properties.
There were also three geocaches hidden in the community; we looked for all three.
The first two caches were easy enough to find. One was buried in the rocks at a restaurant; the other was hidden at a condo that is often used by the cache owner. The third one, however, wasn't so easy. It was supposed to be hidden in a niche near a condo. We spent about fifteen minutes looking for the cache but couldn't find it. On top of that, we didn't have data access on our iPhones in Mexico, so we weren't able to look up the hint on-line. Eventually, we gave up on the cache and drove away. (Several days later, we did find out that the cache was missing, but that was only after we logged it as a "did not find".)
We left Las Conchas and started on the highway towards Shell Beach - the same highway that one would take to go to Caborca. From there, it was anyone's guess as to which road to take to access the beach, because we just couldn't remember. We tried a couple of different roads, but each time we came to a dead-end and had to turn around.
Finally, we found a road that took us to the beach. It looked like the right road and we were certain that it was; what we found at the end of the road, though, was that Shell Beach was no longer the desolate beach that it had once been. There were now beachfront condos all along the beautiful shoreline. Despite the number of condos, though, the beach was still as peaceful as it had been when we first discovered it in 1998. There were very few people around, and there were no vendors at all! John was pleased to see that and said that he wouldn't mind renting a condo out there someday.
We spent about an hour walking around Shell Beach, looking for shells and enjoying the quiet morning. While Suzanne and the kids played in the tide pools, John and I took a little walk and reminisced about the "alone time" we had spent there during the 1999 Boogie. Our walk took us through some of the cool tidal streams that flowed from the pools into the sea. In one stream, we found a rather large crab, who was startled by our presence and was trying desperately to get away from us. We had the crab surrounded, so we tried to force it to back out of the water; but the crab became defensive and started snapping at us. The next thing I knew, John was boxing - yes, boxing - with the crab. He stayed at a safe distance, of course, to ensure that he didn't get pinched by the crab; but at the same time, he was still close enough to observe the crab's actions. It was interesting to watch the crab try to defend itself against its much larger "assailant" (who, naturally, didn't mean the crab any harm); it isn't everyday that we had the chance to watch wildlife in this sort of situation, and it was fascinating.
Eventually, the crab managed to escape from us, and it headed out to sea. Once it was gone, we continued on our walk with Suzanne and the kids, who had raced over to see the crab, too. About five minutes later, though, our walk was interrupted by an very loud shriek; Katie had accidentally stepped on a crab - not our crab, but a smaller one. In its fright, the crab had snapped at her and pinched her foot, shortly before his claw fell off. With that, Katie was done with the beach for the day; all she wanted to do now was to go back to the R.V. park.
It was almost 11:00 a.m. when we left Shell Beach to return to Playa Bonita. Along the way, we began talking about what to do for lunch. We also decided that we were all very thirsty, so we resolved to stop en route to buy some water for the ride home. John suggested that we stop at CEDO - Centro Intercultural de Etudios de Desiertos y Océanos (center for the intercultural studies of the desert and the ocean). Located about halfway between Las Conchas and Shell Beach, CEDO is a research institute and a lesser-known tourist stop in Rocky Point; John and I had stopped there once before, during our first visit to the area in 1998. We could buy water at the Visitor's Center, take a look at the whale bones on display, and maybe even learn a thing or two.
Although there wasn't much going on at CEDO that afternoon, we did have the chance to take pictures of the whale bones and to buy water at the Visitor's Center. We even let the girls buy books; Mary bought an educational but scatological book called Who Pooped in the Sonoran Desert. After that, we got back into the car and continued on our way back to Playa Bonita.
We spent the rest of the afternoon either staying cool in the motor home or swimming in the sea. We also stopped over to visit with Mike Putz, who was one of a handful of skydivers who were still there. The Vetters had already pulled out on Saturday night, in hopes of getting in a few jumps in Eloy on Sunday. Lily and Buck had already left, too, as well as the Schumachers. Even the Hills were gone. But we were still there, and so was Mike Putz.
While we were visiting with Putz and his girlfriend Tami, we soon came under the barrage of high winds that blew dust around the R.V. Park and threatened to rip off every single motor home awning. Mike and John dashed off to rescue one that was barely hanging on; its owner was nowhere to be found, so they did their good neighbor thing and helped out. Then, they went over to the Verley motor home to roll up that awning, as it was getting blown around a bit, too. Soon, the wind became so strong that it chased us all back into our motor homes.
Around 4:00 p.m., though, I suggested that we take a trip down to the Fish Market so that I could purchase some shrimp to take back home with us. While we were out and about, Suzanne decided to take us out for ice cream at the Thrifty nearby. The treat was so cool and refreshing that it made John and me think about our favorite Rocky Point beverage: Especiales, sold only at La Curva.
And so what happened next? We went to La Curva, of course! Our intention was just to go there for Happy Hour, for a light snack and a pitcher of Especiales before having dinner at the Casa de Capitan. Three pitchers of Especiales and several appetizers later, we decided to skip dinner altogether. We were having such a great time that we just couldn't stop at one!
We returned to the R.V. Park and went down to the beach for one last swim in the sea before bedtime. With the high winds, the waters were very rough, so that made for some fun wave jumping. We spent most of the evening getting lashed by the tall waves; then, around sunset, we retired to the motor home and settled in for the night.
The next morning, it was time to go home. It was Monday morning, and our vacation was almost over.
Of course, before we could go home, there was a lot of preparation to do. First, we had to pack up all of the camping equipment: the chairs, the tables, the ice chests, the canopy, and the tent. Then, we had to clean up; while the motor home was being washed on the outside, the rest of us cleaned up inside and packed up our stuff.
Once all of that work was done, we had time to take the girls to the beach one more time, while the motor home was still being washed and waxed (our "fee" for borrowing the motor home). Mary and Katie went swimming in the sea while we watched on the shore; and when the motor home was done, we called them back and announced that it was time for us to go.
And so, at 10:00 a.m. that morning, we pulled out of the Playa Bonita R.V. Park and started back towards the U.S. Border. Along the way, we let Katie ride with us in the motor home until we got to Sonoyta, at which time we stopped to give her back to Suzanne so that we could cross back into the country as families.
Crossing the border on Monday was certainly less painful than crossing on Sunday. Typically, on Sunday afternoon, the wait at the border is anywhere from two to four hours. That morning, our wait was less than one hour. When it was our turn to cross, we pulled up to the window and gave the agents our passports. He then asked us the standard set of questions: "Are you bringing back any fruits or vegetables?", "Do you have any alcohol?", and "Are you bringing back any meat that your purchased while in Mexico?" We mentioned the pound of shrimp, which was okay to bring back; to the other questions, we replied no.
And wouldn't you know it? For the first time in ten years of going to Rocky Point, we were asked to pull over so that we could be searched. Two agents approached the motor home and gestured for us to step outside; then, they went in and performed their standard search. Five minutes later, they emerged with two oranges - oranges that we had purchased at Fresh & Easy and brought with us to Mexico! John had eaten all but those two...and they were now contraband!
So, the United States is now safe from our contraband oranges. You can all rest easy.
What surprised us, though, is that they didn't bother to search any of the exterior compartments on the motor home. Most of them were locked; a couple of them were not. It would have been possible for anyone to stow away without our knowledge while we were waiting to cross the border. Fortunately, that didn't happen, but you would think that that would be standard protocol!
Now that we were back in the United States, we continued to caravan until we reached I-10. Along the way, we stopped once to look for a geocache between Ajo and Gila Bend. During that stop, Mary tripped over a rock and skinned her knee but never shed a single tear; an hour later, she came to me and told me that her knee was bleeding, and I was the one who freaked out!
Once we reached I-10, our caravan ended. Suzanne turned off on the Litchfield Park Road exit, and we continued on through town towards the SR 51.
We arrived at home around 3:30 p.m. and immediately set about unpacking the motor home so that we could return it to Bill and Erika. (We also filled it up with gas - THAT was expensive!) We then drove it and the Oldsmobile to their house. Bill and Erika were very curious to hear about the boogie, so we stayed a while to tell them the story.
So now the question remains: will there be a boogie next year? And if there is, will we risk going all the way to Rocky Point?
I guess we'll find out...
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