Adventures of a German Au Pair in the United States – Secret CA Travel Tip

2016April-KathrinDesert Sunset

Dumont Sand Dunes – One of Many Hidden Travel Gems in California

One of the things I love living in the state of California is all the beautiful travel options this state has to offer.  There is San Francisco, a very diverse city full of life with amazing charming cities such as Monterrey or Carmel close by.  Down here in Southern California, we are blessed to have San Diego close by, as well as getaway spots such as Palm Springs or Temecula.  But then there are these retreats that might not be advertised as much as the above mentioned hotspots, but which are definitely worth experiencing.  Today, I would like to share one of my top vacation gems that I can recommend to anyone who likes adventure and a unique getaway.

I probably would have never done one of these vacations if it hadn’t been for my local friends.  Yes, certain travel recommendation guides and websites point out the must-sees, but I prefer experiencing the kind of vacation you won’t necessarily find in one of those guides.  One of these getaways included a trip to the desert, which I undertook with a couple local friends back in February 2013. My friend David was having an upcoming vacation to the desert with his family.  It was something they were doing every year at that particular time and this year David extended the invitation to some of his closest friends. I was beyond thrilled when he told me about this opportunity.  I have never traveled to the dunes before, and the thought of riding quads and hanging out in the middle of nowhere for an extended weekend with a group of fun friends was very appealing to me.

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So, on this particular Friday night in February of 2013, a group of eight friends rented two RVs for a 72-hour trip to Dumont Sand Dunes, a place located about 30 miles north of Baker, CA.  The ride took us about 4-5 hours without any heavy traffic since we left late that night from Huntington Beach.  We arrived in the desert at about midnight, and people were still out having BBQs in the sand.  I instantly loved the atmosphere; it was very chill and laid-back.  There wasn’t much more for us to do the first night, so we went to bed with the plan to get up early and join in the fun.

The next day was full of adventures, some more unplanned than others.  A couple of my guy friends took one of the Jeeps out for a ride along the sand.  Still, this was so unbelievable for me:  We were in the middle of literally nowhere, surrounded by huge sand dunes people used as their playground for a weekend.  I was fascinated and loved it, especially since it wasn’t your average vacation.  Those are the events that count for some of the best memories, at least in my opinion.  Once the guys got back, it finally was my girlfriend’s and my turn to take a ride with the Jeep.  My friend Derrick was driving and he didn’t go easy on us, but in a good way.  We sped off from our little camp, bumping on the sand along those giant dunes.  We were having a blast until…, yes, until the car got stuck!  Of course this had to happen when Derrick was with us girls only who couldn’t help much but try to get a gazillion-pound car out of a bunch of sand.  Thanks to it being a holiday weekend, many friendly people were around at the same time, and as they saw us struggling with our situation, we got approached by many helpful hands that offered us assistance.  In a matter of probably 15 minutes, the Jeep was free, but something was still not right with it.  It suffered some damage that needed to be fixed by a mechanic; so unfortunately, the vehicle was out for the rest of the trip.

That didn’t stop us though from having the time of our lives.  We rode the dune buggies and dirt bikes, enjoyed some really great BBQ around our nightly campfires, played cornhole and card games… All in all it was a great time.  On our second day we got the opportunity to witness a dune buggy race in which David’s dad partook in.  The disciplines seemed super crazy to me.  Contestants raced up a very steep sand hill (and with very steep I mean very steep, almost a 90 degree angle), and whoever did it the fastest, won.  It was really amazing to watch, but I concluded that never in a million years would I be sitting in that thing racing up the hills.  I’d rather leave that to the boys.  

That same afternoon, my good girlfriend Bea and I decided that it was time to be at least a little bit girly during this trip.  So we drove to a little market in the middle of the desert which was really just a couple stands where you could buy clothing and fun things, in the middle of nowhere.  I kept laughing about this absurd but oh so awesome scenery.  So off we went, shopping our way through the desert, ending up buying clothing and food.  What can I say; it made this trip even more special than it already was.  

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On our last day, some of the guys decided to go sand boarding.  They had been planning this all along and had brought their snowboards all the way from Orange County with them.  We onlookers were staying at the bottom of the giant sand dune, while David’s dad dropped the crazy sand boarders off on top of the hill with the dune buggy.  The scenery was just hilarious, watching the guys coming down the sand mountain with snowboards.  It was such a fun experience, even though I didn’t end up doing it myself due to being way too clumsy to even attempt such an ordeal.  

The next morning, we left during sunrise to make our way back to Orange County.  Seeing the sun climbing up through the sand dunes towards the sky made the scenery look beyond gorgeous.  I am not going to lie, leaving was bittersweet, but I was also ready to wash all the sand off that I brought home with me from the trip.  If anyone ever has the opportunity to experience going to the dunes, I can highly recommend it.  If you plan on doing so, I would recommend going early or late in the year since it can get really hot during spring and summer.  We went at the perfect time, and I would definitely do it again… Anytime!

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This story concludes the “Adventures of a German Au Pair in the United States” Series.
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Images: ©Anne-Kathrin Schulte
Disclaimer: Names in the story may have been changed to protect people’s privacy
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Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She lives in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

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