Oceano Dunes Are a Good Place to Take a Spin in a Humvee

One of three Humvees owned by Pacific Adventures for Pismo Beach dunes excursions.
One of three Humvees owned by Pacific Adventures for Oceano dunes excursions.

Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreational Area  in California’s Central coast looks like a busy street, except that it’s an actual beach and nearly every vehicle is a large 4×4 truck pulling a long camper.

We joined another couple for a beach excursion in a 1987 Humvee, painted desert brown, built to conquer the desert of Iraq but now in service as the biggest, baddest jeep on this crowded beach full of vehicles. Pacific Adventures are the folks who own the Humvees and offer these beach and dune rides at the long stretch of beach and dunes at Oceano, near Pismo Beach.

I had slightly mixed feelings about joining the throng of motorists all streaming down the beach, some heading from campsites, others towing trailers full of ATVs that would be rented to tourists.

I felt bad for the people who had houses on that pretty and wide beach, since all they see in front of their ocean view is the passing parade. But another part of me wanted to let go of whatever thoughts I might have had about whether this was a good use for these hilly dunes, which are mostly protected and make sand drivers adhere to strict rules of the sand.

Sometimes the dune buggies get stuck. And at $250 an hour, that stinks!
Sometimes the dune buggies get stuck. And at $250 an hour, that stinks!

People of all stripes joined the caravan, it might be that I am biased against those who would choose to celebrate driving to the point of doing it on a place that is normally a preserve of quiet, where walkers would normally be those passing by, not full size trucks with oversize tires pulling huge long trailers.

Camping sites right on the beach are just $10 a night. So I realized that this is where the families who might balk at shelling out $150 a night for a hotel can enjoy a beach vacation just like the 1 percent.  It’s an equalizer, this camping and these RVs.

Unlike in Massachusetts, where the fragile dunes are protected by myriad environmental laws, here in Pismo the vehicles–from small four-wheel ATVs to Corvette bodies fitted atop Jeep chassis or an old skool VW bug tricked out with balloon tires all enjoy the freedom to bounce and swerve and almost tip over in the deep crevices and steep slopes of the Oceano dunes. It’s gets to be more fun after you realize that this vehicle with a laughingly wide stance will indeed to the job.

Later on we saw a plant where a company bags up Pismo’s sand and puts it in bags for sale to landscapers and builders. There is so

Pismo Beach is full of trucks cars, ATVs and trailers.
Oceano is full of trucks cars, ATVs and trailers.

much sand in Pismo, I don’t think it will ever all be bagged up.

For a delicious breakfast nearby visit the two rail cars along Route 1, the Rock and Roll Diner. We loved our California omelette with avocado and bacon and my homefries were perfect! You can’t miss the big bright red signs just before the Pier Avenue exit on US 1.