In retrospect, this road trip could have been considered a bit of a reunion tour, stopping off at places I had visited during my carefree college days. But I was eager to visit many of the places again, since they had started to fade from my memory. Puerto Penasco is one such place; a getaway I have fond memories of but couldn’t quite remember all of the details of the quaint coastal Mexican town.
As we made our way towards the border, we headed south into the desert, turning right off of Interstate 8 down through the towns of Ajo, Why and Lukeville, Arizona. I honestly can’t recall if back in college we bought Mexican auto insurance before crossing the border, but the road leading down to Mexico is lined with one-stop auto insurance dealers. As an older version of myself, to be safe we bought insurance and hopped the border. With no cell phone service through the 62-mile jaunt through the desert to Puerto Penasco and cars leaving you in the dust on the lonely stretch of road, I’m not so sure I would want to drive the stretch at night. But we rolled into the coastal town in the late afternoon and like many touristy places in Mexico, there’s always a little bit of American culture infiltrating the scene. We headed to our hotel Penasco del Sol and kicked up our feet with a corona and dinner by the pool.
The next morning we had breakfast at Candy Cake in town known for their cakes and goodies. We then lounged by the pool and had massages before walking along the beach into the late afternoon. A spring thunderstorm rolled in, lightning striking the beach feet away while construction workers toiled away in the steel frame building nearby. I picked up shells and then we headed back to the hotel, just in time for dinner at La Curva Restaurant and Sports Bar serving local Mexican fare and pina coladas.
The following day we drove over to Rodeo Drive Cholla Mall Curios, a strip of shops selling traditional Mexican merchandise and trinkets, and then stopped off at a local grocery store to see what native snacks we could find. On the way out of town we dropped some dog food off at a local dog shelter and then headed back up towards the border. The neat thing about driving down to Puerto Penasco is you have an opportunity to drive right through Organ Pipe National Monument. We crossed the border and stopped off at the monument to explore a bit.
As a part of the Sonoran Desert Habitat, the Organ Pipe National Monument provides a great opportunity to venture out into the dusty roads and get lost on the circle drive through the mountains or camp for a night among the organ pipe cactus. The monument preserves the largest group of organ pipe cactus packed together in the United States. The United Nations also recognized the area in 1976 as an International Biosphere Reserve, meaning that it has been designated as an area that encourages sustainable development in the surrounding communities along with conservation of genetic resources, species, and ecosystems as well as scientific research and monitoring. Traveling through such a place always creates a bit of an unworldly feeling compared to the terrain of the northwest. Not quite ready to camp again, we kept driving north and then west towards San Diego, unsure of how far we would make it that day, but happy as always to be on the road.