January can be a cruel month for motorcyclists. Even in sunny southern climates, chilly temperatures can make extended rides an exercise in discomfort. That’s why I make an annual winter sojourn south to the land of tequila and tacos for some riding and music at the January Jam in Puerto Peñasco – or Rocky Point – Mexico.
After topping off my tank at the lone American border gas station in Lukeville, Arizona, pleasant ambient temperatures mixed comfortably with radiating heat from the cylinders of my BMW GS as I idled in the slow parade at the border crossing. Rumble strips, remote cameras, armed agents, and concrete barriers marked the intimidating border security protocol.
My anxiety was tempered by the knowledge that I had my ducks in a row. I had purchased my three-day Mexican motorcycle insurance, and I had my passport, registration, and license handy. The camouflaged border agent motioned for me to lift my tinted faceshield and then waved me through. Just like that, I was in hustling, bustling Sonoyta. Men rushed at cars with squeegees, women held up packages of tortillas for sale, and traffic was frenetic.
I knew what to do in this dusty border town. I kept my head on a swivel and rode below the posted speed limit. Local police cluster by the border and on the southern fringe of town with eagle eyes for tourists who drive like they are still in the U.S. It is not a cheap ticket if you get stopped.
Sonoyta has the colorful, informal vibe of most Mexican towns, but I kept riding south. While the temperature back home in Arizona was hovering in the 40s, I smiled as the reading on my dash indicated 72. Yep, just what the doctor ordered.
On Highway 8 toward Puerto Peñasco, I passed dozens of descansos (“resting places” in Spanish), memorials that are intriguing, sobering, and often quite beautiful. They range from miniature concrete shrines to thematic collages. One honored a Dallas Cowboys fan.
I also passed a sign that read “Hassle Free Vehicle Zone.” Uninformed tourists often mistake these signs to mean relaxed traffic and speed rules. Not true, my friends. They just mean fewer paperwork regulations for tourist travel.
The road from the border to Puerto Peñasco is straight and barren, but there is something to be said for an open-throttle roll through the warm desert in the dead of winter.
At the end of this 70-mile stretch, I came upon a group of Mexican sportbikers who were chatting along the dusty roadside. The half dozen crotch-rocketeers waved and saluted as I approached. They were more than happy to pose for a photo for a lone gringo moto-tourist before pulling a group U-turn and roaring back toward the coast.
Just as Puerto Peñasco/Rocky Point goes by both Mexican and English names, it has two distinct personalities. There is the old town itself, teeming with street vendors, rusted vehicles, and colorful buildings, exuding the character of a traditional fishing village. Street taco stands waft aromatic clouds, and small motorcycles mounted with massive transport containers serve as delivery vehicles.
Then there is the new, mostly American-owned resort community in Sandy Beach north of town. Upscale resorts line the blue waters of the Sea of Cortez. What Sandy Beach lacks in traditional character, it replaces with comfort and safety for international tourists.
Both locations served as staging points for my weekend’s activities during the January Jam, which is the brainchild of Roger Clyne, the charismatic front man for Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers. Clyne is an entertainer with a voluminous catalog of great songs and an enthusiastic following in the Southwest and beyond.
For the jam, Clyne assembles a lineup of accomplished musicians and invites fans to congregate in Puerto Peñasco for three days of music, golf, and general reverie. Music fills the sea air, and tequila flows, especially Clyne’s own premium spirit, Canción, fittingly named after the Spanish word for “song.”
There are daily and nightly concerts at Clyne’s watering hole, Banditos, as well as performances at other venues in Sandy Beach and Rocky Point. We enjoyed the familiar tunes of Clyne’s band as well as David Lowery of Cracker, the Mexican-influenced sounds of The Jons from Tucson, and the lively rock blend of Miles Neilson and the Rusted Heart.
After a weekend of sampling traditional Mexican food, listening to great music, and riding to nearby fishing villages, the time came to head back north. It was over too soon.
January Jam Favorite Ride Resources
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