The Rocky Point Rally is described as the greatest motorcycle fiesta just south of the border, taking place annually in Puerto Peñasco, Sonora (Rocky Point), Mexico. It’s only about a four-hour ride from Phoenix or Tucson, Arizona, with a border crossing at Lukeville into Sonoyta, Mexico. From San Diego, California, it’s about a six-hour journey that crosses the border at Mexicali and follows a coastal route to Puerto Peñasco.
For 2023, the sun, fun, bikes, music, and good times on the shores of the Sea of Cortez will take place November 9-12. Now in its 23rd year, the RPR is a fun way to extend your riding season and party with fellow riders in a picturesque and vibrant location. Below is our report from the 2022 event to whet your appetite. For more info, visit the Rocky Point Rally website.
By mid-November in the northern latitudes, motorcycles are stored away, and bikers are prepping for winter in a landscape that’s mostly brown and gray. Sturgis is a distant memory, and Mardi Gras is still months away. What to do?
Riders in the Southwest have an answer: Head south into Mexico for the Rocky Point Rally. With the exception of 2020, this rally has taken place annually since 2001, combining the best of Sturgis and Mardi Gras and packaging it as “The Greatest Motorcycle Fiesta South of the Border.”
It all started when rally founder Oscar F. Palacio Soto was checking out bike rallies in Arizona and Laughlin, Nevada, and he realized the potential for a similar rally in Mexico. “I thought that we ought to do something like this in Puerto Penasco,” he said.
With help from Lyman Scherer, who was employed at the time with Buddy Stubbs Harley-Davidson in Phoenix, and a team of four other Harley dealerships in the Phoenix area, the group worked both sides of the border to make it happen.
A World Away but Not Very Far
Puerto Penasco – Spanish for “Rocky Point” – is the home of the rally, which is only about a four-hour ride from Phoenix or Tucson, or about six hours from San Diego. The 2022 rally was held Nov. 10-13, and Soto told us it attracted more than 20,000 bikers and visitors.
Bikers could register at one of two locations in Puerto Penasco, and a will-call window was available for early online registrants. Welcome gifts included the official 2022 Rocky Point Rally pin, patch, and program map detailing the schedule, which included over 60 musical performances at 11 locations. Registered bikers received cards for the daily poker runs and were also entered for a chance to win stays at local hotels.
Right off the bat on Thursday night, riders pining for fun headed to the opening night party at the Playa Bonita, also the venue for the Friday night Beach Party featuring the music of Mogollon. Many of the rally events are located on the main one-way street of Old Port called the Malecon, but it’s a small area filled with onlookers, shops, and motorcycles, so some events were held at other locations in Puerto Penasco.
Like many other bike rallies, Rocky Point had bike parades, bike shows, burnout areas, and stunt demonstrations. Riders could choose to participate in local rides or join a complimentary pirate ship cruise. Private sunset or dinner cruises were also available for $20.
The rally was a music mecca and produced a tidal wave of sound in the streets and bars. The sound wave from bands and bikes was all-encompassing, echoing between buildings like thunder in a mountain canyon.
Words like “fiesta” and “festival” aren’t normally used to describe motorcycle rallies, but Rocky Point Rally has a special blend of flavor, color, and fun. Spectators and bikers enjoyed the Mexican culture’s bright color palette woven into blankets, ponchos, hats, and even motorcycles. Vibrant sights and sounds signified there was a party going on almost everywhere.
Queen of the Streets
A picture-perfect Friday afternoon brought the Queen of the Streets Bike Show to the large patio area in the middle of all the action in front of the Margarita Mermaids bar. Spectators sat or stood on the wall in front of the Sea of Cortez to watch the show.
Started in 2014 by the Bling Devas MC from Las Vegas and sponsored by Full Throttle Law and Margarita Mermaids, the bike show has grown every year for the contestants who rumble onto the patio with their rad bikes.
To be crowned Queen of the Streets, both the riders and their bikes were evaluated. According to Shannon “Dazzlin” Venturo, founder and president of Bling Devas MC, the judgment categories were consistent with the club’s MC identity. She told us “Bling” stands for: Beautiful (in and out), Loyalty, Integrity, No drama, and Giving back.
Bike shows are about bikes, but in this show, entrants were also judged on their backstory and how it aligned with their rides. Criteria included ways in which the women made their bikes their own, how their motorcycle reflected their personal beauty, and how contestants expressed and lived their passion and purpose for riding – how bike and biker were fused as one.
Yolanda Ruiz, riding a 2012 Dyna Low Rider, was crowned Queen of the Streets for 2022. Patty Dimitriou was the runner-up with her 2017 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse, and La Nita Dominique-Tate took third place on her 2000 Harley-Davidson Street Bob.
Saturday’s bike show was held at City Hall with 12 award categories. D.J. Mata took the Best of Show award. The bike parade started near the fire department on Fremont Street and boasted more than 1,000 bikes, according to Soto. Participants could also enjoy bike washes and T-shirt contests or check out a variety of live music.
In Spanish, a malecon refers to an esplanade along a waterfront, and Puerto Penasco’s Old Port one-way street was filled with daylong parades of bikes inching along at the pace of a sea urchin. Vibrating waves of people and machines created a display to make peacocks jealous.
Unlike peacocks, there’s no jealousy among the diverse group of men and women who traveled south. People of all backgrounds gathered to celebrate what we have in common as bikers on both sides of the border.
The street was lined with parked bikes, creating a gauntlet too narrow for cars and with barely enough room for two bikes abreast. Street vendors frequently squeezed between the parked bikes and stepped out to the street for a peek at the stunning motorcycles rolling by.
If the sensory overload of the Old Port area became overwhelming, bikers had options. Those needing a break could retreat to the seawall behind the crowds, ride away for awhile, or get on the pirate boat cruise, which offered a cash bar and was free with registration.
With all the commotion, it was easy to miss some good street bands playing traditional Mexican music near the seawall and large public seating patio. It was a great place to simply sit and watch fishing or shrimping boats heading out to sea or enjoy the graceful flight of pelicans.
For those who are nervous about riding in a foreign country where streets are challenging, narrow, and not marked in English, I can tell you that traveling by bike actually has many advantages. The crowded spaces test your skills, but being on two wheels allows maneuvering quickly to avoid potholes, scooting over speed bumps by standing on footpegs, and parking in tight spaces.
Most attendees bunk up in local hotels, but I shared a large condo about 12 miles out of town with the Stilettos on Steel motorcycle group. The final 6 miles to the condo were on a sandy and bumpy road, where holding the throttle open and keeping speeds up were the best strategy.
The Rocky Point Rally is dedicated to charities within the community, with such worthy recipients as the Red Cross, Puerto Penasco Fire Department, La Escuela de la Montana for children with special needs, the Casa Hogar Home for the Aged, and cancer awareness groups.
Local businesses give to charity in their own way. Margarita Mermaids gave bikers an opportunity to contribute to their Holiday Food Box program, which delivers meals to the hungry during the holidays. As bikers, we like to party hearty, but we also like to help those less fortunate.
“Bikers gave over $1,000 to our outreach,” said Mermaids owner Kris Langford-Nicols. “Our goal is to deliver 200 food boxes for the holidays, and now we have enough for 150, with more events to go.”
As bikers packed up on Sunday morning, some of them took part in a final bit of goodwill in the form of a bike and biker blessing hosted by the Christian Motorcyclists Association. It was held at the Plaza a la Madre next to the CMA Norte Zoroeste Mexico baseball stadium. Unlike ballplayers, motorcyclists pray for a lifetime of misses while on the road.
The 2023 edition of the Rocky Point Rally will take place Nov. 9-12, so save the dates and makes plans to check it out for yourselves. ¡Hasta la proxima!