Building a Community in the Desert

Building a Community in the Desert

Desert Rendezvous began as a modest effort to build a community by creating opportunities around our shared interests and values. Building a community was a conscious choice back then, and today it requires continued dedication, vision, and consistency in order to remain successful and relevant. Most don’t realize it, but there’s a lot more to organizing these large-scale Rendezvous events than meets the eye. It takes many months of hard work behind the scenes with countless hours coordinating all the different moving parts that make the long weekend what it is. Thanks to our hard-working Crew, and our many good friends within the industry, our Community continues to exceed all expectations. Today, it has grown beyond anything we could have imagined at the campfire a dozen years ago when this was all a dream, a simple conspiracy to just get out and do more.

Initially, our stated goals were quite simple. We all suffer from wanderlust and a desire to Travel, Explore and Live, so enabling more of all three was the only goal initially. Today that focus has evolved and re-aligned with a desire not only to help others get out more, but to help them do it safer through curating knowledge, helping others make informed decisions on outfitting, and sharing destinations.

Our renewed focus as a Community now follows these three simple lines of effort:

Educate. Equip. Explore.

This Desert Rendezvous afforded us the opportunity to fully address these stated goals, with our signature Camp Cooking Competition and Potluck, outstanding educational opportunities provided by true experts, tons of exciting new gear and insane builds on display, trail runs and shenanigans, and a massive raffle supported by our amazing industry partners.

Our Rendezvous events are also unique in the 4WD and overland industry due to the fact that many big names and brands get to attend as regular people. No booths, no work, no pressure, and no exorbitant fees for companies. Just camping. Our events give these good people a much-needed vacation from the exhausting trade show and “fieldlanding” circuit, providing a rare chance to truly relax while re-connecting with why they got into the overland scene in the first place.

Pictures tell the story best, so let’s see what our 11th Annual Desert Rendezvous looked like on the ground this year in Arizona.

Big thanks to Justin Pitcairn, Greg Reynolds, Brian Ismay, Mike Block, Chad De Alva, and Greg Henle for the extra lenses out there capturing this event in photos for you!

The Friday Night BBQ sponsored by American Adventurist featured beef from a local butcher, and fresh baked buns from a nearby bakery. We also had a cord of good quality firewood brought in so folks could enjoy some big campfires. These efforts are part of our long-standing tradition of supporting the local community and we encourage travelers to always buy local when you can because it’s always better!

Our famous Camp Cooking Competition and Potluck on Saturday was a huge success.

People plan for months in advance with special recipes and presentation ideas to try to set themselves apart from the competition. Rules here are simple, cook it out here and try to feed as many people as you can in hopes of winning more votes for best dish. The competitive spirit and fun increases every event, and this was the best year to date for culinary creativity in the Desert!

BIG thanks to everyone who came out and cooked all this great food and shared it with us!

This year’s Camp Cooking Competition winners are:

1st Place: Korean Tacos – Mark aka exploroverland

2nd Place: Pickled Onions – Layne aka TACMEDIC

3rd Place: Discado Norteña – Tim aka Topcat9

Big thanks to Tembo Tusk for sponsoring the prizes for the Camp Cooking Competition!

The Korean Tacos were a big hit, and the presentation was on point. The more people you feed the more votes you’ll get!

The Pickled Onions were as pleasing to the eye as they were to the palate. And let there be no doubt, major style points were scored with attendees for the excellent portability and attention to detail!

Tim killed it with his Discado Norteña game, and the strategic positioning of his serving station in the chow line ensured that everybody could easily stop by on their way through and try his Camp Cooking Competition entry.


Doug and Inger’s Swedish Sushi could have been a contender, check out this immaculate presentation!


Offroad recovery education was provided by Chris Cole, I4WDTA President and the founder of SafeXtract along with I4WDTA Certified Trainer Mike Block of Backroad 4WD Training. These guys are the real deal and having them on deck to share their vast knowledge was a real blessing. We’re grateful that they were able to make the long journey out to join us in Arizona!

A Solar 101 course was provided by Tony Ellis of Adventure Power Solutions with a goal to educate everyone on the finer points of today’s solar power technology options. This was an excellent primer which answered many common misconceptions surrounding use and employment of 12V solar panel setups and mobile energy storage options during long range trips.

Education on Desert Medical Emergencies was provided by emergency medicine expert Tim Reynolds. He covered a wide range of useful first-aid topics for us in laymans terms. Everyone walked away smarter on heat stroke, dehydration, cactus, bites and stings, first aid kits, and how to stop bleeding.

Dogs are guaranteed to enjoy any Rendezvous, and we believe that the number of families with dogs (and kiddos) in attendance is directly related to a successful weekend. Dogs and kids love nothing more than to be outside in the sunshine!

Big thanks to our Crew who really stepped up at check in to make things smooth for those arriving from afar. OG conspiracy member Stuart McWilliams has been holding this down for us for many years, but he was detained elsewhere. We were in the hurt locker without him on duty at check in this year, but the ladies stepped up and made it happen. We could not have been successful at Desert Rendezvous without the administration and hospitality provided at check in by Erika, Paige and Inger.

A huge round of applause for these amazing lady Adventurists!

Every Rendezvous is a showcase of decked out campsites. You’ll also see virtually every type of overland rig and many different ways of modifying them. You can easily spend the whole weekend wandering from camp to camp just talking to people and looking at all the great builds and various gear that people choose to equip themselves and their vehicles with.

This is how you slam dunk the Best Campsite Competition!

The Raffle this year was incredible! Even with all the supply chain pain and other challenges of the past couple years, the industry support for our Rendezvous events never faltered. These companies understand who we are and what we do, and the importance of their support year after year cannot be overstated. Remember them the next time you’re in the market for something because they are Adventurists just like you!

BIG thanks to Badass Tents in San Diego! Not only did they come out with family and join us for the long weekend, but they also stepped up in a major way by providing the Grand Prize for the event – a new roof top tent! TOTALLY BADASS!

Every event we try to recognize one of our guys. John Rhoades is our MVP for Desert Rendezvous 2022 because this little guy outworked all of us. If you enjoyed the big campfires and fresh burgers we provided, John was the driving force behind all of those efforts. THANKS JOHN!

We also want to recognize Cris Mateski, we buried his garage in raffle prizes for several months and he made sure they got out to the desert for the event. Here’s a photo of Cris working, which is only possible because he didn’t see the camera coming around. THANKS CRIS!

This Community attracts the very best people. At the end of the day, it really is the people and the relationships here that make our group what it is. With so many great people bringing their passion and talents to the table, I’m always blown away by the creative content I see after our events. Check out 395jnky and Adrian Overlands on YouTube for their recap of this event and other great content! Maybe I’ll get our American Adenturist YouTube channel moving once I’m fully “retired”…

The gifted artists behind our beautifully painted rocks – thank you!

Many roads led to this spot in the desert, and people drive from all over America to attend our events each year. In 2022, we had attendees on the ground in Arizona from as far away as Maryland, Texas, the Midwest, and Washington. That in and of itself is pretty humbling.

This year I was moved by how many grateful people stopped by on Sunday to say thank you and shake my hand on the way out of our camp, applauding the professionalism and integrity of our organization. Their character was evident after everyone had left as we stayed behind to inspect the area before turning it back over to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Not a single piece of trash was found, and every campfire had been completely erased. It was as if they were never there.

Proceeds from this event will benefit the California Offroad Vehicle Association as American Adventurist becomes a Platinum Level Sponsor to help them fight the good fight to protect and preserve off-road recreation and access on public lands throughout California. Why? Because Closure isn’t the Answer, and they need our help. Because if California falls, there will be more Locked Gates Ahead nationwide. We’ll talk more about land use issues that affect all of us in a future article.

For now, the immediate task is to keep enriching lives through fellowship, education, Tread Lightly! ethics, and the resilience that comes with increased knowledge and confidence. We’re continuing to raise the bar to make this community of Adventurists stronger so thanks for joining us here and we hope to see you at Mountain Rendezvous in California!

Big thanks to all our partners!

Public Land Use: Closure Isn’t The Answer

Sadly, as covered in my previous article, Locked Gates Ahead, we continue to lose access to our public lands across America. This is in part because of an ongoing drum beat by well funded special interest groups who seek to control access to public lands. Our ancestors fought for these lands and our rights, and today those rights are in jeopardy. Once public access is denied it seldom returns.

Real Talk

Clearly, our rights come with responsibilities. If we’re truly honest here, one of the biggest reasons we’re seeing closures is because of people. Hordes of people descending on places and trashing them with no regard for the rights of others, or their long term impacts. Some of our best places are being loved to death, and we need to do a better job as human beings to respect the resource and each other.

And while it’s easy to lay all the blame at the feet of agencies like State Parks, BLM, NPS, etc it’s not all about them, there’s millions of us using the land and we need to do our part. That’s a fact, and it’s a part of the bigger picture here that cannot be ignored moving forward.

Meanwhile at Oceano Dunes SVRA aka Pismo Beach

Recently in California, a devastating blow was delivered to the Oceano Dunes State Vehicle Recreation Area (SVRA) and the off road community in general. The local Air Pollution Control District (APCD), a relative of the infamous California Air Resources Board aka CARB, held a hearing to decide the fate of the SVRA. In case you don’t know, the APCD is a “quasi-judicial body with power to decide on matters of conflict between the Air District and industry,” according to the APCD’s website.

The APCD Hearing Board has five members, including an attorney, an engineer, a medical professional, and two public members. Despite all of the testimony by citizens keen on keeping the dunes open for recreation, these five members voted for an immediate closure of 50 acres of “foredunes” (the beach camping area) at Oceano Dunes SVRA aka Pismo, effective January 1, 2020.

This means the citizens of California just lost 50% of the current area in Pismo for beach camping resulting in half as many camping permits at the SVRA. This also equates to a loss of 50% or more of the yearly revenue for local businesses.

This is a huge blow to ALL Americans because there are actually VERY FEW places left in these United States where anyone can legally drive and camp on the beach anymore.

In fact, this is the the only spot in California where it’s legal anymore, on a coastline that spans more than half of the west coast of the entire United States. Where will we go, where will your kids go, when it’s all gated off?

Unfortunately, the first closures began back in 1982, this article at Hemmings highlights just how much public access has already been lost at Pismo.

As you can see here, it’s already a shadow of what it was intended to be and we’re losing even more of that small green island depicted on the right below.

Historical closures of Oceano Dunes - Public Land Use

From the California Off Road Vehicle Association: “California’s Oceano Dunes District provides a $244 Million economic benefit to south San Luis Obispo County, an area that is economically challenged compared to surrounding regions. $221 million of those dollars are from people who stay overnight in the Parks district, which is predominantly within the Oceano Dunes SVRA. That means, that a 50% reduction of camping in the SVRA will cause an immediate $110 Million negative impact to South SLO County. The popularity of the SVRA would surely diminish, ensuring the negative impact will continue to increase.

If we don’t stop the beaches closure now, it will immediately trickle down, putting all 8 of California’s other SVRAs under attack next. It is time that we all join together, and fight this war they are waging on the Off Road community. If you are not a CORVA Member or Business Partner, then be a part of the solution, and please sign up today. We can win this!”

We must evolve, because Closure is not the Answer!

So what is the Answer? Long term, the answer involves PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY (gasp!) and strict adherence to the Tread Lightly! principles.

Part of the answer also involves just being a decent human being when we’re “out there” on the trail, in the dunes, or in the wilderness. Be a good steward of the land, pack out what you pack in, and remember the TREAD principles:

Travel Responsibly
on land by staying on designated roads, trails and area. Go over, not around, obstacles to avoid widening the trails. Cross streams only at designated fords. when possible, avoid wet, muddy trails. On water, stay on designated waterways and launch your watercraft in designated areas.

Respect the Rights of Others
including private property owners, all recreational trail users, campers and others so they can enjoy their recreational activities undisturbed. Leave gates as you found them. Yield right of way to those passing you or going uphill. On water, respect anglers, swimmers, skiers, boaters, divers and those on or near shore.

Educate Yourself
prior to your trip by obtaining travel maps and regulations from public agencies. Plan for your trip, take recreation skills classes and know how to operate your equipment safely.

Avoid Sensitive Areas
on land such as meadows, lake shores, wetlands and streams. Stay on designated routes. This protects wildlife habitats and sensitive soils from damage. Don’t disturb historical, archaeological or pale-ontological sites. On water, avoid operating your watercraft in shallow waters or near shorelines at high speeds.

Do Your Part
by modeling appropriate behavior, leaving the area better than you found it, properly disposing of waste, minimizing the use of fire, avoiding the spread of invasive species and repairing degraded areas.


Support the organizations that fight the good fight to protect our access to public lands like Friends of Oceano Dunes. Support organizations like CORVA, Tread Lightly, the United Four Wheel Drive Association, the California Four Wheel Drive Association, the Southern Four Wheel Drive Association and others that place a strong emphasis on safe four wheel drive recreation, off-road education, responsible land usage and OHV trail conservation.

Because we’re all in this together.

Do you think you’re not affected by major public land use issues because you live in another state?

Think again, because California policies and trends almost always impact decisions made elsewhere. And make no mistake, the anti-access groups want trails closed everywhere. They prefer yellow gates and control, with all the plebeians corralled in approved areas like major cities and along interstate corridors. The only way to keep our open access is if all of us, and the good groups I mentioned earlier, work together and get vocal.

I’ve been all over the US these last couple years scouting out spots to camp and trail ride, and these spots are becoming few and far between in most states. Many of you need to travel several hours just to boondock, “wild camp” or ‘wheel, and that increased demand is putting a major strain on the areas that are still left in play. With less options for legal places to wheel and camp, we just can’t afford to lose more areas or pretty soon we’ll be relegated to camping in established campgrounds on a 20 foot by 20 foot concrete slab.

Please get involved in local land use issues, because closure is not the answer for public lands. We owe it to future generations to keep the gates open for them.


Vehicles at Oceano Dunes - Public Land Use