How I raced dune buggies through the desert (and how you can do it too)


Oh Yeah, there’s a Dune Buggy Chase through the desert and literally anyone one can do it (practically).  All you need is a valid driver’s license (which they didn’t ask me to present when I went) and that’s it.  So this is one of those adventures that you literally show up, pay up, and go and do it.  You don’t even have to be a good driver– they just hand you a dune buggy and remind you that your credit card is on file in case you flip it or drive it into the ocean (both of which are highly unlikely in the desert).

So here’s what we did, my childhood friend Jesse Josefsson and I went for a dune buggy chase with Sun Buggy Fun Rentals.  (Uncreative name, but don’t let that slow you down.)  We found a couple of 20% off online coupons, but when we called in and told them that Jesse was a Vegas Local, they knocked the price down 50%.  They do ask you to prove it, but if you can prove it, wow-wee, way worth it.


Arriving on the scene, they have you watch a very low tech safety video that reminds you that if you blow
up one of their dune buggies, they’ll bill you, but they prepare you well for not damaging their stuff with tips like if you see the buggy in front of you getting closer, that means they’re stopping, so you should too.  If you’ve ever driven a car or played a video game before in your life, you should be fine to drive one of these.

From there, they provide you with a helmet and goggles and send you off on a short bus ride out into the desert.  There we met our guide Kawika–a badass buggy racer from Hawaii.  He races with a massive $100 bill flag waving over his buggy.  His job, get away.  Our job–catch him.

It was just like being a stunt driver in the movies, except these buggies are built to be virtually unflippable.  They are really clear that if you follow the tire tracks in front of you, you’ll be safe.  We got up on two side wheels, we went over jumps, and some of the drops we drove down, had me coughing up my stomach, but it was freaking awesome and as long as we followed the rules, we were totally safe.

I’d never done anything like this before and it was a crazy rush.  The guide ahead of us got big air on a every jump.  For us it took some practice, but by the end of the ride, we figured out that unless you have your foot ALL the way down, you’re not getting air.  Luckily, we managed to get airborne before the ride was over.

We switched half-way so we could each drive.  It’s definitely fun as a passenger, but it’s no substitute for driving for yourself.  Jesse’s turn driving was especially exciting though.  Driving up one of the many hills, our wheels got stuck in the loose sand, so we had to hop out, dig our wheels out of the sand, climb back in the buggy, and roll backwards in neutral for about 10o feet down a steep hill.  It was a weird rush to roll backwards like that, but at the bottom of the hill, we started the buggy back up and were back on our way.

In retrospect, we should have brought: 

Sunblock– The buggies are completely open to the sun and the sun is about 5,000 degrees out there.
Gloves– Protect your hands out there!  Jesse’s hands were pretty torn up by the end of the trip, literally skin ripped off.  My hands were fine, but my hands are full of calluses, so I wouldn’t use my hands as a gauge.

They provide free, ice cold, bottled water before, during, and after your trip.  Jesse brought his Nalgene bottle out there, but it was cumbersome to hang onto since there aren’t any cubbies or cupholders on the buggy.  Also, they give you lockers to lock your stuff up at the shop and ziplock baggies if there’s anything you must take with you.  I took my cell phone with me and sealed it in a ziplock bag and that was fine.

They have 30 min, 1 hour, and 2 hour racing trips.  We did the 1 hour so that way we could each drive.  The reviews we came across online, all recommended the 1 hour trip.  Jesse and I both agreed, 1 hour was right for us, anything more than that would probably have been too much.  It’s incredibly dusty, so just resolve yourself to dusting sand out of your ass for the whole day after, but way worth it.  Definitely on the list to go back and try again.