Just as February prepared its leap into March this year, the season’s first large caravan of RVers crossed together at the Lukeville/Sonoyta entry, winding their way through the Desert of Altar to the inviting waters of Puerto Peñasco (aka Rocky Point). This remarkably convenient land voyage has brought enthusiastic RV groups to the sandy shores of Puerto Peñasco for decades, many of whom were first introduced to the area by the Peñasco RV Club – or rather its later name “Peñasco Recreation.” For over two decades, an introduction to the blending of desert and sea embracing our shores was further enhanced by the ecstatic energy of Russ and Naomi Black who turned their own passion for Rocky Point into a lifestyle and, quite frankly, a career. This legacy of adventure continues under the careful guidance of Francisco “Paco” Leal of Sierra Tours.

Russ, who could often be spotted under a wide brim sombrero or donning a colorfully eclectic custom shirt (carefully designed by Naomi of course) would beam each time he spoke of how he’d meet the RV caravans at the border after having arranged an official escort through Sonoyta, documenting each and every step along the way. At the end of each trip, Russ would broadcast from the border as he waved at each rig making its way north, promising an “hasta la vista” as they rolled by.

In March 2023, shortly after documenting the departure of one Fantasy RV caravan and just before a second made its way to Rocky Point, Russ unexpectedly passed away. Naomi, Russ’ lifelong partner (whom he always called his bride), immediately turned to Francisco of Sierra Tours to ensure a successful trip for that second RV group…and beyond. This year, Francisco invited Naomi to speak to the Fantasy RV groups so she could share her story and experience, as well as to symbolize a passing of the torch as it were.

From Peñasco RV Club to Peñasco Recreation

With the glimmering sea serving as backdrop on a late February afternoon, Naomi stood before an audience of about 60 RVers at The Reef RV Park and shared how “way back in the early 1990s” she and Russ, along with their three kids, adored the beach and Russ in particular, absolutely loved Mexico and the Sea of Cortez. This led the two of them to develop Peñasco RV Club, sharing their love for Mexico, the beach, and the Sea of Cortez with fellow travelers. The business idea came after toying with another, as retold by Russ in a 1999 class he led in Idaho on “RVing in Mexico.” Naomi shared from Russ’ notes, “We tossed around the idea of a bed & breakfast on the beach but that was too expensive. One evening, while watching the sunset, my wife looked at me and said ‘You know that you love showing this place off. Why don’t we just bring groups of people down here that have their own travel trailers or RVs? Their own place to sleep?’ …”

While there were already scores of RV Caravan companies across the U.S. and Canada, Russ and Naomi began bringing groups to their favorite spot on the Sea of Cortez, even purchasing a spot in “the giant metropolis of Ajo, Arizona,” Naomi chuckles. “It was a 5-acre property on the north side of town that backed up to the desert as far as the eye could see. This included a dry-dock camping area so our clients could park before and after trips. We prepared a cowboy campfire dinner the night before our trip. I’d bake fresh cinnamon rolls for a continental breakfast in our home the morning of our departure. When we got to the beach, we served Happy Hour with freshly made margaritas and shrimp cocktail.” Oh, by the way all that cooking was done in a 1946 Spartan trailer etched with faded lettering that read National Geographic Photographic Unit – oh, the stories it could tell.

In 2015, Peñasco RV Club became Peñasco Recreation. As a local tour guide service, Russ loved putting groups in the company van and showing them around town – from the best taco spots to the Tequila Factory, Pinacate escapades to splash cruises, rock concerts, and more. Through Peñasco Recreation, Russ and Naomi also founded the popular Mermaids Market, showcasing the work of diverse artisans each 1st and 3rd Saturday generally from October through May. Even without a motorcycle, Russ would also hop in his van to lead the annual desert ride to the Shuck Toak Visitors Center at the Pinacate as part of the Rocky Point Rally. And there were, of course, the RV caravans – trekking across the border with official escorts to the awaiting shores, margaritas, mermaids, and adventure along the Sea of Cortez.

As Naomi turned to call Francisco to the microphone so he could address everyone in the Fantasy RV group eager to explore Rocky Point, she gestured to a display of photo albums and brochures on a table, “In doing a bit of research for this presentation, I found boxes of memories, old photo albums, and advertising literature. I have some of this crazy memorabilia here on the table, it’s kinda fun to look at. Now Francisco is going to tell you about a few things he has planned for you.  I hope you enjoy your visit to Russ’ favorite place on Earth…the Sea of Cortez. Thank you for giving me these few minutes to reminisce.”