Swansea, Arizona

Last Updated on Sunday, 12 December 2010 11:42 Written by Chris Marzonie Tuesday, 30 November 2010 04:38

Over Thanksgiving weekend, many of us gathered in Swansea, Arizona to celebrate friendship, the great outdoors, history, photography, some spectacular food and delicious libations. Here are a few images from the adventure. For the complete set, visit the gallery here:  Swansea 2010 photo gallery

Miner's quarters - Swansea, Arizona

Camp at sunset

The Hanson's brought the 60-series Land Cruiser

Jack's 80-series Toyota Land Cruiser

Feuerzangenbowle

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Rocky Point report – Part 1

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 June 2010 07:34 Written by Chris Marzonie Monday, 21 June 2010 07:31

Last week I mentioned Rocky Point and my curiosity about what the place is like these days with all the new high-rise resorts, time-shares, and condos that have been built in the last decade. You see, I had been downtown having a talk with Marlin Kuykendall, the mayor of Prescott, when our conversation drifted to the topic of Mexico. Suddenly we were volleying stories back and forth like a couple of boys talking about bicycles and superheroes. Like me, Mayor Kuykendall has enjoyed a few trips to Mexico over the years and he’s seen a lot of changes.

He told me about a project he’s been working on with Life Line Ambulance Service, donating and delivering ambulances to El Salvador and Mexico. Having had my own personal experience with an ambulance in Rocky Point many years ago, I was keenly interested. The story? Sometime in the mid-90s I had suffered a nasty laceration flooded with copious amounts of venom from a stringray and my friends rushed me to the local Cruz Roja (Red Cross). The guys on duty were clearly thrilled to finally have something to do and snapped into action, quickly slamming me onto a gurney, shoving me in the back of an ambulance and then pouncing into their seats with fervor. After all, if they didn’t hurry, this gringo may soon see his last sunset, no? A turn of the ignition key was met with the painful sound of a tired motor reluctant to wake up: gaahrurururururur, gaahururururur. Nothing. Ok, pump the pedal a couple times. Then. . . gahurururur. . . putt-putt-putt. . . vahroom! Thank God, I would be saved after all. They flipped on a hilarious-sounding siren and rushed me to la clinica. Once inside, we may as well have been roaming the halls of of an elementary school on a Sunday. . . in July. (Think darkness, crickets chirping). Finally, they found someone and left me in the care of a fine individual who I’m sure felt kind of bad when I saw them coming at me with a big needle and I jumped off the table and hurriedly mumbled “Lo siento, no gracias” and rushed outside. I sat on the curb for what seemed an eternity until my friends found me and took me back to the states where it was too late to get any stitches.

Anyway, back to the mayor and his project: One of the vehicles had already been delivered to Suchitoto, El Salvador, and the next one would be going to the community of Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico. He was excited about the project and said a group of local citizens and officials planned to make the trip with him the following week. And then, to my surprise, he invited me to tag along.

Cool.

So I robbed my piggybank of pesos from the last trip, grabbed my passport, stuffed a daypack with a few clothes and a beach towel, threw a camera and a couple lenses into a fanny pack and hitched a ride with the mayor.

Life Line Ambulance donated this diesel beauty to the seaside town of Puerto Peñasco

Mayor Kuykendall (left) and Kristi Gagnon, Prescott Fire Dept (middle) with guys from the Puerto Peñasco Fire Dept.

We stopped in Gila Bend, AZ to hand off the ambulance to drivers from the Puerto Peñasco Fire Department. Part of the paperwork logistics required them to take the vehicle and deviate from our route through Lukeville, traveling instead through San Luis near Yuma and then on to meet us in Puerto Peñasco.

Cuerpo Bomberos! Puerto Peñasco

Drummer boy

This was a big deal in Rocky Point. A ceremony had been scheduled and the entire Fire Department showed up. There was even a marching band and guys with swords. The place was teeming with high-ranking government officials and a bevy of local who’s-who and reporters turned out to see the new ambulance being dedicated to the town.

Alejandro Zepeda, presidente municipal de Puerto Peñasco (middle)

Call to duty

Of course, a call came in during the proceedings and there was a brief commotion with blazes of blue running about and then some wailing sirens that faded off into the distance.

All smiles

Despite the emergency call and all the serious formalities that come with an important ceremony, there was a great sense of happiness and no end to the smiles and laughter.

Mayor Kuykendall of Prescott, AZ (left)

L to R: Alejandro Zepeda, presidente municipal de Puerto Peñasco, Marlin Kuykendall, mayor of Prescott, Arizona and C. Ruben Salido Martinez, Director, Bomberos de Puerto Peñasco

Los bomberos trying out the new ambulance

Rocky Point's new Ford diesel ambulance

It’s a heck of a nice ride—a Ford diesel that sounded beautiful and had been cleaned spotless, like new.

I like the wheel chocks stowed in the bumper

So, what about my impressions of the trip and the town? Some things have changed a lot in ten years, and some things haven’t. The border crossing was easy, and the drive to the coast was uneventful other than seeing some cyclists and support crews along the highway in the Pinacate desert for some kind of cycling event. Though I didn’t have my truck to tour around for a detailed view of all that’s going on (especially southeast of town where I used to camp), I cruised around on foot and bummed a few rides here and there. I got the impression that the Rocky Point (central) area still has the same feel to it though there are quite a few more touristy restaurants, bars and shops that have sprung up. Looking down the coast to the east from up near the point it’s easy to see it has been developed along the beach as far as the eye can see. The people of Rocky Point seem the same to me—friendly as ever. From the mayor to the guy selling bracelets on the beach, everyone is pleasant to talk to. I never sensed any animosity or bad vibes, which is great considering all that has been going on with politics, SB 1070 (Arizona’s new immigration law), a rotten economy, and the drug violence that is so rampant in the news. My hat is off to Mayor Kuykendall for following though with a project like this, which is probably more important now than ever before. Times are tough for everyone but when I see hands extend across borders and embrace with nothing but the common denominator of humanity passing from one to the other, I know things will work out.

Ok, northwest of town—Sandy beach and Cholla Bay, well, that’s another story. I had some great fun with the camera and I’ll save that for part two.

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So, what is Rocky Point like, these days?

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 June 2010 07:27 Written by Chris Marzonie Wednesday, 9 June 2010 03:17

I’ll be traveling to Rocky Point soon and I’m really curious to see what the place is like these days. Also known as Puerto Penasco, the town was once a sleepy, little fishing village by the Sea of Cortez (I’m thinking back to my first visits as a child). I’ve been around the fringes of the city several times in the last decade, but I haven’t had much desire to return to the town itself since the late 90’s when I used to frequent the area. Back then, I would stay at a friend’s place in Las Conchas (a condo community on the beach just south of town) or boondock on the beach further to the south. I brought my wife here on our first date (no, dinner and movie just wouldn’t do). I really enjoyed the solitude of the area and being able to run into town for cold cervezas or a good meal. As the years went by, I kept having to camp further and further south if I wanted to experience the solitude part of the equation. When the high-rises started going in, and the place became more “Cabo-esque” and “Spring-Breaky,” I kind of lost interest.

On a few of the more recent forays into the area, I really enjoyed the old route between Puerto Penasco and El Golfo de Santa Clara to the west, just below Yuma, AZ. That was a spectacular overland route, roughly eighty miles on an old dirt track that followed the railroad for part of the journey, and part of it along the coast, right on the beach. No one was out there. It was one of the last frontiers of La Frontera. Sadly, that route is now a paved highway, completed less than a couple years ago. I’m so glad I was able to experience it before the asphalt began to ooze over the sand.

Rocky Point was in the news last month when the State Department issued a travel warning intended for its wardens and volunteers working in Sonora, about phony road blocks set up at night to impede travel. The warning mentioned people being shot and killed for not stopping at roadblocks, but apparently this was in reference to past incidents in Mexico, not Hwy 8 to Rocky Point. The town has been up in arms about the warning and claims there is no basis for the reports, that it is only rumor and there are no documented cases. Of course my knowledge is limited, but I suspect the townspeople are right. In any event, I’ll be interested to see how the trip goes (we won’t be traveling at night). This will be my third trip to Mexico this year so far, and none of them have been hampered by thugs or violence. I’ll be sure to report my perceptions of Rocky Point after the trip.

In the meantime, here’s a few images from past trips to the surrounding areas:

Roseann and Mindy admiring Crater Elegante

Cholla cactus

Chris atop El Sierra Blanca looking out towards the Altar dunes

Songbird in the morning

Camping on the beach

Crossing the Altar dunes on foot

Two very different views of El Tribol, the triple crater in the Sierra Pinacate.

Viva Mexico!

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