2019 Socal Desert Rendezvous

Location: Somewhere in the California Desert

With the coordinates dispatched to those who were in the know, the stage was set for the 9th Annual Desert Rendezvous presented by American Adventurist.

Day 00:

Local weather reports had been giving out mixed readings regarding rain, and our team needed to meet early at the Rendezvous site in the desert and get set up for the large gathering to come during the weekend. Staff members Cris Mateski, Doug Robertson, and Stuart Mc Williams headed down Wednesday afternoon amidst a mixture of weather. It was a constant on and off rain, with peeks of sunshine and then more rain. Rain in the desert is always amazing. And messy. In the meantime, Brett and I would arrive to meet them the next day.

Day 01:

On Thursday camp was setup by the time Brett and I arrived on site. The weather we encountered was a steady on/off rain all the way from Los Angeles to Anza Borrego State Park. The roads were wet and so was the fire road on the way in. It was a bit muddy but nothing to deter us from getting to where we needed to go. American Adventurist had provided a cord of wood on site again this year, and there were a few Adventurists already setup around the main fire ring getting settled in. The spotty rain continued throughout the day, but the reports stated the rest of the weekend would be clear and cool. This was definitely something we had not had for quite sometime at Desert Rendezvous as we were used to heat, wind and dryness.

This day was an arrival day for Adventurists, so we kicked back and relaxed the entire day as there was nothing scheduled. It was perfect.

At American Adventurist we have an enduring commitment to give back to the local community at every Rendezvous event we host, and in previous years we’ve conducted a desert cleanup with the Bureau of Land Management where we removed about 4 tons of trash from public lands each year at Desert Rendezvous. This changed in 2019 with the government shutdown and it’s effects on the Bureau of Land Management.

This year we shifted gears to support CORVA, the California Off Road Vehicle Association with some of the proceeds from this event. They’ve been working at all levels of government for off-road interests since 1969, and CORVA was the first organization to file for intervenor status in the lawsuit filed against off road recreation at Ocotillo Wells SVRA in California. It took 4 years, and despite the odds they prevailed in court and kept Ocotillo Wells open. Take a moment to pause and think about your OHV land access and consider supporting CORVA.

We advocate on behalf of our membership to promote, protect and preserve off-road recreation and automotive access on public lands throughout California. CORVA’s main purpose is to work with the land managers for responsible off-highway vehicular access and recreation opportunities. Secondarily, we educate our membership on the constantly changing rules and regulations and promote clean-up and trail maintenance projects.

Day 02:

Friday morning we awoke to a brisk and cool morning with partly cloudy skies and no rain. The sun was barely peering over the horizon so I was able to snag a few photos of our campground before the hustle & bustle of the morning’s happenings. The increasing brightness revealed a number of new, very muddy rigs that had arrived the previous night, plowing through the muddy desert in 4WD to get here. Daylight also revealed a stunning view of snow covered mountains off in the distance. If you’ve never been to the desert in California, you really must go.

As the sun began to warm our campsite, the rest of us began to rise and prepare for the day’s events, starting with coffee and breakfast. Or at least coffee. Looking around, it’s always nice to see the smiling faces and wagging tails at a Rendezvous event. These are the ones who made it, escaping the grind and the “real world” to get outside and do what they dream about all day while they’re slaving away at their day jobs. Time to Travel. Time to Explore. Time to Live.

The main event on Friday was a trail run to Superstition Mountain OHV area, which was to be led by one of our Adventurists: @Yumafolks. Those who wanted to partake in the trail run prepped and arrived at the main fire pit at 0830 for a driver’s safety brief, map reconnaissance, comm check, and planning. It was a great turn out for this trail run as experience levels ranged from first-timers to very experienced drivers. Thanks to Yumafolks and everyone who made this run such a great success! Although I wasn’t able to join in on the run, we did hear that the group were able to get front row seats for the Navy’s Blue Angels, who were flying around our area all weekend long. From camp, we were able to see the demos from a distance and hear the roar of the Navy’s F-18’s engines.

The remainder of the day on Friday was left for check-ins, relaxing, and socializing. The weather was fully cooperative and everyone was enjoying themselves out in the desert. As the day progressed, other Adventurists began to arrive and our campsite soon began to resemble a small town.

With the sun setting and evening just around the corner, Erika LeFiell began prepping a big round of S’mores for the kids, and even the adults. The menu was provided by American Adventurist (thanks Erika!) and consisted of a variety of different types of S’mores, so customization could be done to your hearts content. While the S’mores were happening, the fire pit was being prepped to accommodate the large group. This turned out to be a delicious hit, and we even caught Brett stealing them from the kids and eating them so the peanuts came out. If you know you know.

Right after the S’mores roasting, the BBQ Social would commence, which was graciously sponsored this year by Goose Gear. BIG THANKS to Brian at Goose Gear for hosting this year’s BBQ Social! The team quickly started cooking up the burger patties on Tembo Tusk Skottles (headlamp time!), and folks soon began lining up to fill their plates. One thing we know how to do right at a Rendezvous is cook, and Friday night with Goose Gear was another great example of teamwork making the dream work.

Once our bellies were full, we all convened around the warmth of the fire and socialized until the moon rose and the fire burned down to a smolder.

Day 03

Saturday would typically be our morning desert cleanup but this time around, we mostly had the day to ourselves. There were a number of activities planned, including a few trail runs of 4×4’s and ADV moto’s, the kids scavenger hunt, and the famous American Adventurist Camp Cooking Competition hosted by Tembo Tusk. Other than those milestones, the day was for yourself and whatever you wanted to do, or not do. Sitting back and enjoying your time here is always nice with so many amazing vehicles to see and so much awesome gear on display. You can learn a lot at a Rendezvous just by seeing how others travel.


The first event on Saturday was the morning trail run to Canyon Sin Nombre and Arroyo Seco Del Diablo. Thank you to Adventurist @Sage Bromax for organizing and leading this run. This run was a little more advanced than the previous mornings’ run to the Superstition Mountains, but that didn’t stop this even larger group from going. New people are always welcome at a Rendezvous event, and runs like this help the new people learn from our experienced “old hats”.


Once the trail run group headed off into the hills, it was business as usual around camp. Kicking tires, telling stories, playing with toys, taking naps.

At around mid-morning, a small group of adventure moto riders had assembled to coordinate a trail ride. Clearly, they were having fun and one of these days I’ll have to join them.


The afternoon sun marked the start of the Camp Cooking Competition sponsored by Tembo Tusk.  Whether you decided to cook with coals on a Dutch Oven, or over your camp stove, whatever the modality, it must be cooked within the confines of camp. Dishes must be completed and presented on the serving table to be qualified for the competition, Those who weren’t participating in the competition were welcomed to participate in the Community Potluck, which we highly encourage. This year, we received a large variety of delicious dishes, ranging from salads to main dishes and desserts. A big thank you to all the Adventurists who participated in this feast; YOU who make this event what it is!

The tables were set for the dish arrivals as the competitors and potluck participants began finishing their dishes. The fire pit was cleaned out and an even larger fire pit was created to make room for the many hungry people to come! Once the cutoff time was hit, dishes began arriving and the tables quickly became crowded from all the food. Another delicious sight to see with many smiling and hungry faces.


We all gathered around the campfire, with plates full and beverages in hand. This is a classic part of any Rendezvous event and is what really makes it special. You can see everyone interacting with each other whether it’s their first event or if they are long time members. The whole scene unfolding before me would give any outsider a warm, welcoming feeling like it’s one big extended family reunion. With the temperature dropping, the fire was expanded to Viking Longfire status which made more room for chairs and really kept everyone around it nice and toasty. Winners of the Camp Cooking Competition were announced, prizes were handed out by Tembo Tusk, and the socializing continued further into another clear and crisp night.

Winners of the Camp Cook-off Competition:

Congratulations and a HUGE thank you to all those that cooked and competed in our 9th Annual Camp Cookoff sponsored by TEMBO TUSK!!! The community voted, and the competitive spirit was great. After much deliberation (and seconds just to be sure) the winners were decided:

1st Place – Bald Taco winning a Tembo Tusk Adventure Skottle Kit w/burner and Tembo Tusk apron.

2nd Place – Tim R. winning a Tembo Tusk prize pack with Wine Tote, official Cookbook, and Buzzy Wax

3rd Place – Dave Pike winning a Tembo Tusk prize pack with official Cookbook and Buzzy Wax

Day 04:

Sunday was the last day of the 2019 SoCal Desert Rendezvous. A few Adventurists had left early in the morning with long road trips home in front of them, but many had remained for the last event of the weekend. Although it was the last day, this was what many were waiting for, their big chance to win at the raffle. While everyone packed up their campsites, the American Adventurist staff began organizing the enormous amount of prizes and gathering everyone in the camp for one last hurrah.

SO MANY WINNERS and so many smiling faces at the end of a long weekend – must be present to win!

And finally, the group photo. We can’t leave without one last shot of the weekend. A huge thank you to all the Adventurists who came down to support CORVA, and for keeping the American Adventurist Desert Rendezvous going year after year!

Also another huge thank you to all our sponsors for your steadfast and continuing support for American Adventurist!


We’ll see you all at the next Rendezvous!

A special note from the Editor: These events don’t happen in a vacuum, and at the end of the day 3 groups of people make it happen. The Members (thank you!), the Sponsors (thank you again!) and last but not least, the STAFF at American Adventurist. BIG thanks to Cris, Brett, Stuart, Richard, Doug, and Erika for busting their butts to make this happen way out in the desert! You guys ROCK! – Dave Bennett


Desert Rendezvous 2018

American Adventurist began at a campfire near Anza Borrego.  There’s just something inherently right about spending time around a campfire with good people, and we wanted to do more of it.  Fast forward eight years to a long weekend running trails with barbecues, gear raffles, potlucks and classes on everything from astrophotography to advanced vehicle recovery techniques, these times spent around the campfire are some of our best memories.  In the end it’s all about the people, and for the last eight years we’ve been teaching people how to have fun in the desert while leaving Anza-Borrego better than we found it.  This is the 8th Annual Desert Rendezvous hosted by American Adventurist.

For 2018, we came up with too many activities to pack into three days, so we added an extra day to all of our events.  This year the event started on Thursday and people came from across California, Nevada, Arizona, and as far away as Texas to join in on everything that is Desert Rendezvous.

Unlike most outdoor enthusiasts, the average American Adventurist is completely self sufficient in the backcountry.  Most vehicles have been tastefully modified and are properly equipped for unsupported, vehicle dependent travel.  There are no toilets here, no running water, no fuel or stores for many miles.  Fuel, water, provisions and toileting arrangements are all carefully planned for in advance so that they are always prepared, and once they leave a campsite there is no trace.  Just tire tracks in the sand.

One of the great things about the desert is that it allows people to spread out a little rather than being crowded in like a trade show.  People took advantage of this by arriving on Thursday, making camp at a leisurely pace and mingling.  Renowned 4WD guru Bill Burke of Bill Burke’s 4 Wheeling America and his sidekick Henry even showed up to say hi and donate to the raffle.

Friday morning started the way all mornings should – watching the sunrise while coffee percolates.  After breakfast, a number of folks lined up their rigs for the trail runs while other folks took time to relax in camp and hang out or even attend classes.  That’s one of our founding “rules” at a Rendezvous event – do as much or as little as you like. There’s an event schedule, but you’re really on your own program.

Trail runs departed and soon classes were underway in camp.  Joey Pitts, an I4WDTA Certified Trainer and owner of Pitt’s 4×4 Company, came all the way from Texas to instruct classes on off-road skills focused on safely utilizing commonly seen recovery gear to resolve a variety of “stuck vehicle” scenarios and other mobility challenges typically encountered during off-pavement desert trips.

As the sun sets, everyone is back in camp as the American Adventurist Staff fires up grills and skottles to cook up a mountain of burgers and hot dogs for the barbecue social hosted by sponsor Pelfreybilt Off-Road.  No one ever goes hungry at a Rendezvous event and the shenanigans were soon underway again as night falls.

After dinner, a number of folks met up to learn about astrophotography while others congregated around the campfire.  Thanks to our friends at Goal Zero, we were able to bring along a computer monitor to show students what the instructors were doing with their cameras, and provide free solar charging for the entire event.  Nighttime photography in the desert is a special treat and we can’t wait to see what our members can do with these newfound skills.

Saturday’s schedule is packed with classes again with offerings in camp for kids and adults alike.  A number of rigs lined up once more for trail runs while others gathered to attend the classes.  The scavenger hunt was a big hit this year as kids raced around camp putting new compass skills to use while seeking out random items and staff members.  As always, sun and wind are a factor in the desert and this weekend did not disappoint with beautiful weather and mild temperatures.  There’s a reason we call this time of year “desert season”.

Pitts 4×4 Company was joined by Deadman Off-Road and Step 22 Gear to put on another great course on vehicle recovery in the desert.  Deadman has a revolutionary land anchor that’s capable of anchoring to just about anything – earth, trees, rocks, you name it.  The demo provided was both informative and entertaining, and we were VERY impressed by the results.  A very BIG thanks to all of these experts for coming out and teaching at Desert Rendezvous!

Just as this class was winding down, folks were drawn to the excellent smells of the Dutch Oven cooking class – a perfect appetizer for the evening’s Potluck and Dutch Oven Competition hosted by Front Runner Outfitters.  If you’ve never tried Dutch Oven (aka Potjie Pot) cooking while camping you’re missing out – everything from fresh bread to jambalaya to peach cobbler or even triple chocolate cake can be made completely off-grid.  Fire one up (or just mooch off your buddy) and you’ll be a believer – the only limit is your imagination.

On Sunday morning everyone in camp mustered for the Annual Desert Rendezvous Cleanup.  This year, the Bureau of Land Management provided two gigantic dumpsters large enough to park a full-size truck inside – and by the time the group of volunteers had worked its way from camp to the dumpsters they were filled with of all sorts of garbage and oddities that you wouldn’t expect to see abandoned in the desert.  Over the years, we’ve found everything from TV’s and freezers to wigs and prosthetic limbs.

Sadly, it seems too many people have no idea what it means to Tread Lightly! in even the most basic sense – as a Community we’re doing our part to change that by putting Tread Lightly! concepts into practice in hopes of keeping this and other areas open for future recreation.  Next year, we need your help.

At final tally, this year’s Desert Rendezvous Cleanup picked up over FIVE TONS of trash.

To be precise, American Adventurist members collected 5.36 tons, or 10,720 pounds of trash from our public lands.  In one day.

Let that sink in for a minute.  If you see any of these fine Americans out there on the trail, please thank them for their efforts.

With the dumpsters full, it was time for the Rendezvous raffle.  Coolers, tires, recovery gear, gift certificates, blankets, lights, knives – there were tons of awesome prizes to give away again this year.  American Adventurist is able to have such great raffles because our members give back to the community everywhere we go, and our friends in the industry recognize and support these efforts year after year.  Please support the companies listed at the end of this article – without their generous support, these events would be much more difficult to organize.

Desert Rendezvous is just one of three national level events hosted by American Adventurist each year in California and North Carolina.  Each event is held in a unique environment and steeped in the region’s local flavor.  All of our community events have the same core values and focus on friends, family, and an active outdoor lifestyle.  At American Adventurist we are not “just for profit” and as such we have an enduring commitment to give back to the local community at every event we host.
To learn more about our other events, please visit our EVENTS PAGE.
To join the American Adventurist community, visit our Forums and REGISTER and be sure to stop by and see us at Overland Expo West in Arizona in May ~ we’re the Official Forum Sponsors for Overland Expo!

Grassroots events like the Rendezvous and the causes we support wouldn’t be possible without continued support from a large number of outstanding companies. Please consider them first when you need gear:

4X4 sPOD
Baja Designs
Colby Valve
Deadman Off-road
Equipt Expedition Outfitters
Factor 55
Falken Tire
Fold A Flame
Front Runner
Goose Gear
Goal Zero
LT Wright Knives
Mojoe Outfitters
Pitts 4×4 Co
Princeton Tec
Prometheus Design Werx
Rancho Suspension
Safe Jack
Step 22 Gear
Tembo Tusk
Wilco OffRoad

Many thanks to all the STAFF that make these events happen and to Richard SooHoo (@synikalsoysauce) and Justin Pitcairn (@pitcairnoverland) for use of their photos in this article!  See you at Overland Expo!