2014 Overland Expo East
"Hey Johnathan, I'm glad to finally meet you," I heard a woman say, as she walked toward me from an ever familiar, and impressive, Toyota Tacoma that I had watched on the internet as it made it's way into Alaska last year. The woman, though we had never met, was no stranger either... This really is a community and it is great finally meeting folks I have chatted with online for years.
Nestled among the rolling hills, green pastures, and lush forest land found at the base of the Blue Mountains lays Taylor Ranch. A picturesque setting, of varying hues of green, yellow, and red, was home to the inaugural Overland Expo East which transformed the area into a beehive of activity. The three day event brought in several thousand attendees to enjoy classes, presentations, and the chance to chat with vendors about the latest in gadgets and gizmos on the market. Although there were several thousand in attendance, the size and diversity of the ranch allowed the activities to be spread out. I never saw more than 200 people, in my line of sight, which made the whole experience very pleasant for my family and me.
First let me say that as far as Automobiles go, the shear number of custom vans on display, all decked out with the coolest custom gear, was extremely impressive and even had this Toyota fan boy's tongue dragging the ground. 4wd, solid axle beasts that could house a family of four in the most remote parts of the worl
d stood tall and proud. U-Joint Offroad had everything from mild to wild right up front and the layout was nothing less than spectacular.
Continuing our tour we came across the good folks at Land Rover. Land Rover does put on one heck of a driving class and a test drive of their unique and pristine vehicles. Year after year Land Rover has been a continuing base that the Overland Expo has rallied behind.
From what I understand about the Overland Expo events held outside of Flagstaff, AZ each year, camping at Taylor Ranch was very similar. Vehicles and tents are crammed in like sardines into the allotted (suitable) camping locations. You had better like your neighbor! As is the case at the Arizona event, groups and clubs can pay a premium to ‘reserve’ sections, in what are seemingly, the best areas of the ‘first-come first-serve campground. While I can understand the practice, a couple of folks I talked to felt this was favoring certain brands. One attendee I met
, so frustrated with this ‘special treatment’, left the event.
One thing I would suggest if you are planning to attend the Expo is to be sure to walk through the camping area. Some of the most unique and unusual vehicles of the show can be found right there.
One of the awesome parts of going to a show like this is the exhibitors. I mentioned U-Joint above but honestly there were so many worth noting that I can't even begin to touch on them all. Instead, I will point out my favorites. Believe it or not I am going to start this list off with a chair maker. Not just any chair, but a chair from Blue Ridge Chair (BlueRidgeChair.com). To say that this is the most comfortable chair I have ever sat my behind in would be an understatement. Far from cheap, this chair will last you a lifetime because it is not only sturdy but also repairable just in case something goes wrong.
DeLorme (delorme.com) was also on hand to show off their InReach product and honestly, in my opinion, it cannot be beat at this time. A true piece of equipment that could save your life in the wildest of places. A big shout out to Josh Moremen for taking the time to teach me about the product.
Last but certainly not least was Overland Solar,LLC. If you read my last review on the SolarBook, you know that I am a huge fan of alternative power as long as it is done in an ethical manner. What better way to charge your gear in the outdoors than to have a solar panel doing the work?
Learning to Overland:
One of the awesome things about the Overland Expo is the vast classes you can take to learn various things from cooking to winching, and even classes on travel photography are available to those looking for a starting point. Discussions on crossing borders, security, and ethical travel are readily available. All in all there are around 300 hours of classes offered over a 3 day period. Land Rover even has a few of their vehicles there for you to take on the off road course they have set up, but don't think you have to use a Land Rover, bring your own ride and take part in the course. You can custom build your days to fill the three days with no problem. This year we seen some inclement weather and so the off road course was shut down temporarily to keep from destroying the course. I only heard a few grumblings but they were quickly silenced with new opportunities. I personally attended one of the Round Table discussions Co-lead by Bill Pearlman. It was cool to hear these 5 experienced travelers tell of their accounts and give feedback to those wanting to take the plunge themselves. I sincerely hope that their message reached and encouraged people to get out and explore their world.
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