With the Sea of Cortez being only about 70 miles from Organ Pipe, we decided to take a day trip into Mexico to go to the beach and to check out RV parks in the city of Puerto Penasco (aka Rocky Point).
Now, Linda really had no desire to go, but I wanted to check it out as did Steve & Esther. They were considering driving their truck camper down for a couple of days. Linda went with very low expectations. :)
So we got a relatively early start. We filled up with fuel in the border town of Lukeville which is about five miles from the Organ Pipe Visitors Center. I also purchased vehicle insurance for the day trip. Minimum liability coverage is $20, but we went ahead and bought comprehensive coverage for about $23.
Crossing into Mexico was easy at Lukeville - no lines and no hassles. On the U.S. side, the agent looked us over and asked if we had any weapons. On the Mexico side going into Sonoyta, they just waved us through. It took a couple of minutes.
I hadn't really researched this day trip much at all, but fortunately Esther had read several blogs over time describing some of the things to look out for. One of these is speed bumps or Topes (Toe-pays) - they aren't well-marked (if they are marked at all) and can give you quite the surprise jarring you and your vehicle into quick awareness.
Though none of us were fluent in Spanish, Esther was our best translator and between all of us, we figured out most of the road signs. "Alto" was prevalent in towns and represented "Stop" on octagonal red signs. The route to Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point) was well marked and easy and we obeyed the speed limit signs although others passed us frequently. We had no interest in being stopped by the Mexican police for any reason. :)
The drive was unspectacular and took about an hour and a half. Once in town, we looked for tourist information where we could pick up a map and some tips, but came up empty. We stopped at a Sam's Club for a bathroom break. It was new and modern, but everything was in Spanish, the prices were in pesos, and only a couple of the employees spoke just a tiny bit of English.
Not really knowing where we were going, we followed the signs to the "Malecon" which is a generic term for a waterside walking area where there are often shops and restaurants. The Malecon was colorful and somewhat inviting, while everything else on the way was a combination of typical small city buildings, buildings that were falling down, buildings that were abandoned in mid-construction, and streets that were dusty.
We parked at the Malecon waterfront, and as soon as we stepped out of the Jeep, vendors were hawking their wares. We managed to avoid them and walked out onto this nice area with a view of the sea.
To the right across the little bay were condos. There has been an attempt to develop Puerto Penasco for Americans as it is a short drive from Arizona cities and is sometimes referred to as "Arizona's beach".
The Malecon is situated on this rocky beach ....
while the condos are on a sandy beach a few miles away.
We proceeded into the area of shops and restaurants and seafood markets.
It didn't take long for us to be overwhelmed by people trying to get us to come into their shops and restaurants. I was completely uncomfortable and just wanted to find a place to sample some seafood and have a drink overlooking the water.
We found a well-dressed guy with maps and Esther, being the most patient, got information and directions to other spots.
Of course the guy thought he was going to sell us a boat tour or fishing trip for tomorrow, so he was very patient with us as well.
With map in hand, we walked into Mary's Seafood next door and went upstairs to have a little seaside seafood sample while overlooking the water.
Unfortunately, it was pretty windy and cold up there. The other three ordered beers (cervezas) and Avocado Surprise - shrimp salad served in avocado halves.
I got a huge lemonade which was very good and a couple of fish (flounder) tacos which were quite boring. Fortunately, I got to finish off some of the shrimp salad. :)
Another couple that was there got a huge shrimp sampler platter for two which looked delicious. And they highly recommended a place called the Friendly Dolphin for dinner (although we had no intention of being around for dinner).
From Mary's we went back down to the street where everyone seemed to be working on some type of commission and people represented several different businesses at once. One fellow hawked customers for the Iguana Banana where he also served as a waiter and he represented a rug maker in another shop.
We took him up on his offer of a lunch special of three tacos and a beer or margarita for $5. We followed him up to the rooftop of the Iguana Banana which had a rock/shell floor with tables overlooking the sea.
It was still cold and windy up there, so we selected a table in the sun where it wasn't quite so bad.
Still, the ladies needed blankets. So our server pulled the colorful tablecloths/blankets off of a couple tables and our senoritas were soon wrapped up and happy.
Steve ordered a garlic shrimp meal while the rest of us went with the three-taco special. Their fish tacos were much better than Mary's. :)
At each restaurant, wandering musicians stroll in and out willing to play a song for you.
We didn't know the going rate for a song, but apparently it's two bucks. :)
Okay, so you could get some inexpensive food and drink with nice views at the Malecon. But the most impressive thing to me was the seafood market with lots of fresh fish, shrimp, and more. We all agreed that we would purchase some shrimp before we headed home.
We walked around a little more, but I was quite ready to get away from the constant sales pitches. From the Malecon, we went in search of the two highest rated RV parks according to rvparkreviews.com - Playa Bonita and Playa De Oro. It was depressing just driving through the blowing dust/sand to get to both RV parks.
Well, each "resort" had one row of sites looking out over the Sea of Cortez. Both "resorts" were gravel parking lots with sites right on top of each other - barely enough room to put lawn chairs between rigs. They were cheap enough at $21 - $27 per night, but I wouldn't go to either one of them if you paid me to stay there. The reviews of 8,9, & 10 on rvparkreviews fall under the category of "You can't be serious?" as far as we were concerned. I might give them a rating of 3, .... maybe.
As Esther said, "Every pot has a lid", but we're definitely not the lids for those RV park pots. :)
There is a place where you can actually park on the beach near Playa Bonita, but even that wasn't appealing. Esther & Steve's desire to make a trip down in their truck camper quickly waned.
After visiting the two RV parks, we were all ready to get back to the peaceful beauty of Organ Pipe. But first we had to buy our shrimp. Steve and I bought five pounds of the biggest shrimp we'd ever seen at $7 per pound, and they took the heads off and de-veined them for us. We didn't really even know if we could take shrimp back across the border but later found out it was okay.
Oh, by the way, our American dollars were accepted everywhere we went in Puerto Penasco.
On the way back we stopped again at the Sam's Club and the Walmart-like grocery next door to pick up a few items and take one last bathroom break.
We reached the border around 4:00. Again, we were waved through on the Mexican side. We were third in line at the U.S. border. When it was our turn, we handed our passports to the border agent and after answering the usual questions about where we were going, where we came from, and what we bought in Mexico, we were on our way. Including waiting for the two vehicles in front of us, the process took five to ten minutes.
Back in the campground, the first thing we did was determine what to do with our bounty of shrimp. The gals separated a portion of it to be prepared for tonight's dinner.
Esther took that plate while Linda boiled the rest of it for shrimp cocktail tomorrow.
While dinner was cooking, I visited with Alan & Janice. They were at the Boondocking Rally and just happened to show up here a couple of days ago not knowing several of us were in the campground.
Then I went to see David & Maxine who came in this afternoon. After the Boondocking Rally, they went to Phoenix (Glendale) and had a complete solar system installed. So they came down to join the rest of the group and test out their new capabilities.
But I didn't stick around long as dinner was just about ready. Esther used the huge shrimp and made a garlic shrimp with pasta and veggies dish.
Delicious!! The shrimp alone were almost worth today's trip. :)
So, in summary, Puerto Penasco may be okay if we went for a week, stayed in a resort, took a couple boat tours and did some fishing, perused the Malecon, had a couple meals overlooking the Sea of Cortez, and bought some fresh seafood. Seeing military and police driving around in full battle gear with machine guns was a bit disconcerting, but we didn't ever feel unsafe. Still, it is highly doubtful we'll ever take our RV there.
Linda went with low expectations, and as she said "None of them were exceeded". But the border crossings were easy, it was an interesting experience, and we'll remember the shrimp. :)