Growing up in southern Arizona during the ‘60s and ‘70s meant regular family trips to Rocky Point, especially on holiday weekends.
There were no resorts then, so the main accommodation was primitive camping. Thousands of families camped out on the dunes along Sandy Beach, creating a tent city at “Arizona’s port.”
In making the four-hour drive down to Puerto Peñasco, we would drive through the town of Sonoyta, where we would sometimes encounter a makeshift roadblock. Not really a roadblock per se, more of an extortion block. Usually it was the Red Cross, or at least that was what they said they were, stopping all traffic heading south to take “donations.”
Upon arriving in Rocky Point we would run into another “roadblock,” where we paid to camp along the beach. The camping accommodations consisted of a makeshift road with sand dunes separating it from the ocean and open pit toilets that had long ago filled up their usefulness.
Two of the most essential items on a camping trip to Rocky Point were toilet paper and a World War II surplus shovel. The folding shovels that included a pick and a blade were required to dig out any vehicles stuck in the dunes or road, and to bury human waste, since no one dared use the facilities.
Everyone would camp on the dunes between the “road” and the ocean, while the other side of the road was for those who ventured off behind a dune to do their business.
We usually ventured south of the border with a group of other families that included plenty of kids, as well as dune buggies and boats.
For a group of 10- to 12-year-old boys, it was paradise. There was the ocean, older girls in bikinis to ogle and plenty of fireworks. The trips during these years were memorable.
We would have bottle rocket wars that made the Russian assault on Berlin look like child’s play. Looking back, I’m surprised no one lost an eye. We made elaborate sand castles, launched underwater shark attacks on unsuspecting girls floating on rafts and generally ran amok, but in a constructive way.
An older sibling dubbed us “The Little Terrors,” a name tag we quickly adopted.
One morning while planning our day around the campfire, the fathers came over with a collection of shovels and dumped them at our feet. The fathers told us they had a task for us.
During the night the tide had washed up a dead walrus on the beach and it was beginning to stink to high heaven. Our job was to bury the smelly creature until the tide could take it back out to sea.
We tackled the assignment with the vigor a dozen 12-year-old boys would use, making a game out of it. Sand flew every which way; some even got on the walrus.
Pretty soon we had buried the creature, making a fine-looking sand dune in the process. As we headed back up the hill to our camping compound we noticed a dirt bike rider coming our way. I don’t know who was the one in our group to hatch the plan, but pretty soon we all flagged down the rider and dared him to jump the dune we had created.
The teenage rider wasn’t about to let such a dare from some pugnacious preteens go without a response, so he took up the challenge. After riding around the dune and inspecting it, he gunned it. I don’t think he intended to actually jump it, but ride into it like a bank turn. Either way, when he hit the dune, the guts flew.
Now what happened next is kind of a blur because we were all laughing so hard as we scattered it’s difficult to remember details. The rider chased some of us around but it was like an elephant trying to stomp a bunch of ants. He soon gave up and rode off down the beach. He stopped at one point and got off his bike to wash himself off in the turf.
After reburying the remains, our gang turned our attention to swimming and frolicking in the ocean.
Over the recent July Fourth weekend, residents of Sonoyta, fearing possible coronavirus infections from hard-hit Arizona, blocked vacationers.
Local Sonoyta journalist Juan Manuel Navarro said protesters turned back Americans they believe were engaged in nonessential travel, but some were allowed through.
My guess is if the vehicle contained any 12-year-old boys, they didn’t get through the roadblock.
You can reach Andy Howell at email@example.com.