While many four wheelers view the trailhead as the starting point of any trip, in reality all the fun begins at the rendezvous point. That is where all drivers congregate initially. Final supplies are purchased if necessary, and trip plans are reviewed. A lot of thought should go into the selection of a meeting place. If the rendezvous spot isn’t chosen properly, the trip may not get off to a good start.
A good rendezvous point looks like this:
- Close to the trailhead, though that’s a relative term, as we will see.
- Offers lots of parking.
- Easy to find.
- Near a gas station and convenience store.
- Offers cell coverage
How close you can get to the trailhead varies a lot. A prime location could be 50 miles or more from the trailhead. It all depends on how remote your off-road destination is”and how far away the other drivers are.
Depending on the size of your group, you may need a lot of room. Select a spot that is large enough for everyone to meet”including those with trailers”but that still has enough room for regular customers of that establishment. (Be a good sport. Don’t hog the parking lot.) Big box stores always have large lots, but they aren’t very common in rural areas.
I have used parking lots for grocery stores, restaurants and BLM field offices. Truck stops are nice, too. The parking lot for an office building might work on weekends when the business is closed.
The rendezvous spot should be easy to find. This, too, can be relative. A location near a city should be more convenient than one out in the country. Also, the mapping format your guests use plays a big part. Don’t assume everyone uses GPS. (And that GPS is always accurate.)
Determine which kind of directions each driver is comfortable with. Some people prefer GPS coordinates. Others like a map (whether official variety or hand-drawn). Still others will ask for the address so they can type that into their GPS units. This last option has a potential downfall: In more rural settings, GPS can be less accurate.
Remember that the more remote your rendezvous point is, the more likely you’ll need more than one type of mapping format. Be as clear as possible when you provide directions. You are probably more familiar with the area than your guests are. Don’t be shy with details and directions.
A rendezvous point near a gas station and convenience store is a real plus. In fact, I want to say that it’s a necessity. Why? Some”maybe all”of your guests will need to stock up on something. It’s usually gas, food or firewood”maybe all three. Plus, you can pull a 10-100 visit in the meantime.
In remote, rural areas you don’t have a choice. Your rendezvous point is the last location that offers gas and convenience items. Your guests could be 50, 100 or more miles from home. Of course they will have to top off their tanks. Therefore, a gas station/convenience store combo is the ideal location.
But here’s the rub: Last-minute purchases take time. Those precious minutes come out of your day. Knowing this, it might be a good idea to arrange your rendezvous 15 to 30 minutes earlier than you originally planned. (Remember that you’ll have down time at the trailhead, too.)
It’s also important for drivers to bring along extra gas. Once off-road, you could be long distances from any gas station. Take Nevada, for example. Esmeralda and Mineral Counties are quite remote. Total surface area is some 7,400 square miles. Esmeralda has one gas station in the entire county and it is not even in the county seat which has no gas station. There are three gas stations in Mineral County, but all are in Hawthorne. Many of the rural gas stations have only 2 options for fuel: 87 octane and diesel. If you need a higher octane, bring more gas with you or add an octane booster.
Gas isn’t the only necessity in short supply. Cell coverage can be spotty, even nonexistent when off road. Make sure cell phones operate in and near the rendezvous point. Your guests can contact you while en route.
When selecting a rendezvous point, the location might be obvious. It could be the parking lot, intersection or other noteworthy stop nearest the trailhead. In other cases, you may have a choice. Always recon those locations so you’re familiar with them. Provide your guests detailed directions”in whatever format they prefer”and implore on all to arrive on time and ready to go.
Once you leave the rendezvous point, you can focus on the trailhead and four-wheel excursion ahead.