Jeepin’ at Pirates Cove

From Bakersfield we had to cross the Tehachapi Mountains to get to the Mojave Desert and on to Needles, California. The first hour of the drive was beautiful with lots of climbing. Once we made it to the Mojave it was well, lots of desert. I took my first couch nap on this portion of the drive. I’m not sure it’s legal to sleep on the couch while the vehicle is in motion, after all, I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, but it was nice to be able to stretch out.

Our spot for the next two nights, right on the Colorado River before Lake Havasu. Pirates Cove is a resort that was built for off-road enthusiasts (and people who like boats and tropical beverages). Each RV spot is located on a beach on the edge of the river. Most of the coves have 3-4 RV spots each. There were three RVs parked at our cove when we arrived, a truck camper that left that evening and two RVs full of kids and their parents enjoying spring break. We think this would be a great place for a gathering. Maybe friends, maybe family, maybe both, maybe other Jeepers? We could take over a whole cove!

This place has just about everything. You can bring in your own RV. You can bring in a tent. You can rent one of their cabins. You can even rent a trailer from them and they will bring it to your spot. They also have a restaurant, souvenir (and beer) shop, and rent out boats and jet skis!

I wanted to stop at this park because we could park right next to our own beach! The water was still a bit cold for swimming but Rudy had a blast playing in the sand and wading through the water.

The reason Brandon wanted to stop at this park was the access to over 3,000 miles of off-road trails. The park itself is within the Moabi Regional Park, which provided miles and miles of sandy hills to climb on. However, the park also borders a large expanse of BLM land, open access to off-road vehicles of all types. We saw some Jeeps but many people were in ATVs and dune buggies.

Once we got the rig all hooked up to utilities, we took off to go explore the area immediately around our campsite. We found enough to keep us entertained for days!

Brandon reduces the tire pressure to around 8 psi to drive around in the sand. For the road we run at about 30 psi. The reduced psi helps you to get more traction in off-road scenarios. You may remember the flat tire at Browns Camp 1.0. That was partially because the tires weren’t aired down enough. Lesson learned.

This field of barrels looked like they were left over from a paintball course. Possibly a failed venture by the resort from years ago.

My boys looking handsome, as always. This was Rudy’s first wheeling adventure. We didn’t want to leave him in the RV all alone and we hoped he might think it was fun. He was a bit uncomfortable when we were driving at steep angles, but overall he did really well. He even took a nap at one point.


The park itself was full of enough trails that it was almost unnecessary to use the real roads. We could go from our camp to dinner at the restaurant by driving only on off-road trails.

After dinner we did some night-time wheeling so Brandon could check out all of the lights he installed on the Jeep before we left Oregon.

Our plan for the morning was to drive into the BLM land to do some more exploring. We picked up some maps and brochures from the gift shop and intended to follow one of the shorter trip plans. It was  described as an easy one hour round trip loop.

It didn’t take us long into our “easy one hour loop” to realize that this plan was just not going to happen. For one thing, whoever designated this as a one hour trail was driving WAY to fast. Yes, the trails were easy. Coming from Oregon where a “trail” can really mean just a pile of rocks and growing up in Texas where dirt roads are common place, this was nothing. From what we saw, the whole thing was just a dirt road in the desert. However, the trail was also nearly completely unmarked and frequently intersected with other trails and side trails made by people driving off the beaten path. All we had was a shitty gift shop map and no cell service. The BLM map was useful but we needed to be able to enter GPS coordinates in able to use it properly. The problem is that we don’t have an off-road GPS that can do that. So we decided to stop while we still had our bearings. We are in the desert after all. It’s easy to get lost. But we still had a great time taking pictures by the railroad and playing on all of the beach coves along the way. And we will be investing in an off-road GPS soon.


There were many of these secluded beaches along the way. I believe these are BLM land, meaning that you could camp here, but I would check before actually pitching your tent.


That afternoon I took a turn at the wheel. Seriously, I know! I am still not proficient with the manual transmission but I have now done more driving off-road than on. It was a lot of fun and great practice because I didn’t have to worry about other cars or traffic laws.


After I had my fill of cruising the dunes surrounding our camp we headed to the resort complex for my suggested activity for the day. Boat drinks and beaches!

At dinner the night before we had seen a couple come through and buy these “bucket drinks”. They came with four straws so maybe they were meant for sharing, but we went ahead and ordered two. We got a drink called the “Naked Pirate” which was basically a rum punch – spiced rum mixed with various fruit juices and topped with (you guessed it!) more rum. Delish!

The plan was to take our buckets back to camp and hang out on the private beach next to the RV, but after we ordered the drinks they told us that we couldn’t take them off the premises. We also could not rent one of their boats or jet skis. You know, liability. As a lawyer I should have known this. I’m not sure why we thought it would have been okay to wander off holding two buckets full of booze. But oh well. We just spent some time enjoying the public beach instead.

The big tower is a zip line to the other side of the river. It looked like you sat strapped into a little chair instead of hanging by a harness. I thought it looked like fun but when I asked about it the bartender told me that it wasn’t currently in operation. The resort owned the equipment but leased the operation out to another company (probably avoiding liability again) and that company had recently moved to Dubai. They were looking for a new operator.

The public beach was actually a lot of fun. People would pull their boats and jet skis right up to the beach to stop for a bite to eat.

The other side of the zipline from the beach.

The resort had a small pirate ship set up just off the beach. I figured it was a water playscape for kids, but then Brandon pointed out that it was covered in “Keep Off” signs. More liability. Although we really loved Pirate Cove, the park had more rules than any park we’ve ever been to. I had to sign a nine page list of rules at check-in. There wasn’t anyone running around hounding us to get back in line but we were there during the slow season. I’m sure they are more serious about enforcement during spring break when the place fills up with college kids. We heard the place turns into a bit of a “broasis” during the holidays.

This boat got everyone’s attention when it pulled up. And yes, Brandon immediately asked what kind of motor was in there. For those of you that are curious, it was powered by twin 572 cubic inch motors, supercharged, providing 1200 horsepower a piece.

I admired their beach anchor. It was a pretty slick parking job.

Rudy made friends with a ten-year old girl named Danielle. Her family was in the boat on the left and had stopped for a picnic on the beach. She told me all about her dog at home and got Rudy to do every trick he knows (it’s a short list).

For my dad, whose vacation photos consist almost entirely of pictures of food. Brandon had the fish and chips. I had the Baja salad and we shared some fried calamari. And of course, two more naked pirates.

Overall, we really enjoyed our stay at Pirates Cove and hope to come back, maybe when it’s warm enough to enjoy the water as much as the dunes. For now, we’re off for Florence, Arizona to visit Brandon’s dad.

By the way, we also took tons of GoPro footage while driving around in the Jeep but have to wait to upload those videos until we have a more reliable wifi connection.

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