The Breakfast Club
An Affiliate of The Arizona Pilots' Assn.


>The Knife & Fork



Breakfast Club Visits Rio Rico/Esplendor Resort

10 Nov 07
by Warren McIlvoy

The November Breakfast Club event was going to a somewhat familiar place just north of the border and just to the north of the City of Nogales, Arizona. At least that is where we parked our aircraft. Where we ended-up was quite a different story. Rio Rico is a retirement area that is south of Green Valley and north of Nogales and sits right along Interstate 19. According to the "on-line" encyclopedia Wikipedia, the area of Rio Rico is about to be annexed into the City of Nogales. The renowned resort that is associated with the area is actually called The Esplendor Resort at Rio Rico.

Our trip to the south out of Phoenix Deer Valley Airport began with the transition of the Phoenix Class B Airspace. Once I was clear of the Phoenix Airspace, I called-up on the
Breakfast Club's "group flight following" frequency to check-in. I soon learned that I was well back in the pack but not the "tail end turtle". For the most part, the course semi-parallels Interstate 10 but just a bit more in a southerly direction rather than southeast. Other than the vast amount of agricultural activity that dominates the scenery, there is not much to occupy one's attention. It is not until you pass to the south of Tucson, Ryan Airport, that the geography turns to rolling hills that are part of the Keystone Mountains and are marked by open pit copper mining operations. The large "funnel-like" pits are huge and certainly attract one's attention. When the bottom of the copper market fell out in the 80's, these mining areas were, for the most part, shuttered and abandoned. Now, with copper prices at historic highs, these mining operations are working at full steam.  The multi-hued strata of the open pits offer an extreme contrast in colors as compared to the earth-tones of the surrounding desert. The large, mesa-like tailings heap and water ponds add yet another array of color to the desert vista.

After crossing I-19, the scenery is dominated by countless small ridges and washes that fan-out from Mt Wrightson that towers to just short of 9500'. It is just to the south of this impressive land mass that the Nogales Airport is located. Traffic was using runway 21 and, as luck would have it, I was following a student on his first solo. The down-wind portion of the approach has you flying over rising terrain and can be a bit intimidating for first timers. After landing and finding an open parking space well to the south of the terminal building, we secured our aircraft and soon we were part of the crowd that had gathered on the ramp.

One of our members, Allen Wallace (a.ka BC-39), had arranged with the Esplendor Resort for van transportation to the resort. The round trip was about 30-miles so a $5.00 per person fare was certainly not unreasonable. The only down-side of this arrangement was that it took about an hour between van arrivals so the last group was well behind the early departures. The route from the airport to the Esplendor was over hilly, winding and twisting county roads and I could easily see why the trip of only 15-miles would take so long.

We exited the van on one side of a large, circular driveway and I immediately knew that we had arrived at a very special place. The portico sheltered a pair of large wooden doors that lead to the main lobby. The reception desk was to our left and a stone fireplace enhanced the wall directly in front of us. The entry to the dinning room, the San Cayetano Restaurant, was to our right. The first wave of
Breakfast Club folks was seated at a long wooden table the resembled something out of a Mediaeval Castle. The second wave (that be we), was seated at a smaller, but an equally impressive table, to the side of the first table. As one would expect from such a respectable place like the Esplendor, the menu can accommodate most any taste. The first thing that caught my eye was the Eggs Benedict and, since I am a sucker for this dish, it did not take long to make my decision.

While I was waiting for my meal selection, I spotted a couple of our members enjoying the great weather from the adjacent patio. From this vantage point, one could survey the surrounding community for some distance. Mount Wrightson to the northeast, dominated the geography in that direction. I think that having breakfast on the patio might be a great idea when make a return trip to the Esplendor.

After breakfast, I had an opportunity to roam about the resort property to get a feeling of the ambiance of the place. I did not go as far as viewing any of the rooms but I did visit an elevated terrace that is most likely used for large gatherings or maybe private parties. The large swimming pool was a little further from the main office area and, as expected, was totally unoccupied. As expected, the entire property is covered by lush vegetation and creative landscaping.  By this time the majority of the Breakfast Club folks had departed for the return trip to the airport so that left about nine of us for the second trip.

I visited the web site for the Esplendor and copied this:

"Set among rolling mountains, overlooking the lush green Santa Cruz River Valley and amid centuries of history, Esplendor Resort is a one-of-a-kind destination in southern Arizona. Treat mind, body and soul to unsurpassed resort services or indulge in recreational amenities like world-class golf on our Robert Trent Jones Sr. championship course; Horseback riding through the Santa Cruz River Valley; tennis on four lighted courts; or bask in the Arizona sun pool side. Esplendor. Uncomplicated, Unpretentious, Unforgettable".

The room rates in the off-season, like now, are fairly reasonable considering the ambiance of the place. A room at this time runs about $130.00 a night but if you use an AMEX card, you can get a free (?) upgrade with a bottle of wine as a kicker. The "in season" would add about $100 to that room rate.  I wouldn't mind spending a two-night/three-day weekend (definitely in the off season) here and, with a rental car, exploring the area and maybe visiting the border for some shopping.

Our return trip at 6500' was a little bumpy while we flew over the ridges and valleys until we got north of Ryan Airport and then it smoothed-out much like it was in the morning. We had great flying weather, a great meal at a prime location, and some comradery with fellow aviators; what more could one ask for?

The Rio Rico Gang

  • Warren & Jeri-Ann McIlvoy in 93MB, BC-1 & 1.5
  • Bob Jackson and Rich & Tracy Krause in 6906D
  • Trent Heidtke, BC-112
  • Glen & Judy Yoder in 31TC, BC-007
  • Larry & Sandy Jensenin 14LF, BC-65
  • Walt & Kathy Schultz in 9305W,
  • Lance Thomas in 3180R, BC-80
  • Richard Azimov and Jordan Ross in 6864Q, BC-2 & BC-11
  • Ken Calman in 686US, BC-6
  • Larry Berger and Garret Dauphers in 7077V, BC-66
  • Allan & Patricia Wallace and Paul Fortune in 1628W, BC-39 & 201
  • Al & Adele Feldner in 33RX, BC-33
  • Rob Mooers and Rich Kupiec in 428DW, BC-27
  • Jerry & Diane Kapp in 5688K
  • Austin Erwin, Richard Hlavenka, Julia Stone, and Joyce Eisert in 6693M, BC-86


What's Next?

Our December Breakfast Club event will see us returning to Parker, Arizona and the Blue Water Resort & Casino. The January destination is to be determined but will be posted along with the 2008 event calendar by mid December. Speaking of January 08, that event will mark the beginning of the 15th year of Breakfast Club events. Golly, time sure does fly when you are having fun. That's all for now but remember, fly safe.

I want to wish all of our Breakfast Club folks a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.

Click the Rico Rico/Esplendor link to view photos of this fly-in event.