“I don’t think the guys in the middle have slept yet,” Stevie said, motioning toward a group of vans circling a campfire just past the vendor area. I had rolled in late while half the crowd was still recovering from the first night. A couple of guys were rocking out on top of a van in the distance and, without warning, one of them jumped off and body slams an adjacent tent.
“Oh s—t,” I thought, “I’ve gotta catch up.”
The Pilgrimage Campout is an independent event out near Joshua Tree National Park for choppers and vans, but anyone on anything is welcome, so long as you don’t kill the vibe. It’s located at the Palms Restaurant in Twentynine Palms, which ended up being a pretty perfect venue for this sort of hooliganism. The restaurant up front had cheap beer and surprisingly good food, and a stage out back for the bands that would play later in the evening. Beyond the stage was the vendor area, where vintage shops, van clubs, some custom-parts guys, and clothing brands were set up to display their goods and past that was the camping area. Tickets were $15 and covered camping, as well as any fees for the bar/restaurant and the bands that played.
Vans and bikes rolled in throughout the afternoon as everyone waited for the heat to die down and cooled themselves with beers. Guys stunted around on minibikes and quads, doing stoppies and falling in the dirt or trying to ride five-up with a bunch of babes on an ATV.
Fires grew taller as the sun went down and bands started to play. We all watched as the Flytraps, Ladyhump, and more bands played on the main stage, their music blasting out into the nothingness of the desert around us and lights from the stage illuminating the cacti and tumbleweeds. People walked in and out of the desert to stare at the stars and get a break from the loud music and crowd. A blanket of green blue clouds blanketed the sky and moved past the bright yellow moon. Light flickered inside vans as groups would climb in, enjoying their various substances, then back out to join the party.
I eventually stumbled back into my tent and fell asleep with my shoes on and the door half-zipped. I woke up with the sun in the morning but didn’t move until I could hear my friend outside talking about pouring something on me in my tent, so I got out and pissed on his van’s tire. Some camps started cooking up their breakfasts and others walked up to the bar to get some food. I could feel the hangover starting to creep up, so I packed up my gear as quickly as I could and, after some coffee and biscuits, I was on the road.
Two days and 200 miles later, I am beginning to feel like a human again, but I’m already looking forward to next year’s pilgrimage. Without a doubt, one of the best campouts of the year and one hell of a time with good people! Follow along on Instagram (@thepilgrimagecampout) for more information, and we hope to see you out there for the party next year!