Val in Real Life takes on Overland Expo…

The first official destination of the Overland Expo to TBEX expedition was indeed, Overland Expo. Go fig right?

Windy, lumpy OX camp.

This event was big question mark for me. I knew fabulous blogger peeps would be there (more on them later) so I wouldn’t be lacking some face-time with some amazing travelers. But in terms of the Expo itself, true overlanding and off-roading isn’t exactly what I do which left me questioning how much I would get out of the offerings. Not that what these folks are doing isn’t intriguing, I just didn’t know that I would take away anything that would impact my personal travel paradigm.

But since I’m generally open to giving new things a chance and see what sticks, I set off from Atlanta to Flagstaff with only two days to spare.

Two days of hell…

It was a brutal 30+ hour drive… I stopped counting at some point due to the sheer misery of it but basically I covered 1850 miles over two very long days. The drive was filled with monotony punctuated by traffic jams, construction, and horrendous storms. Interstate driving is my idea of torture but it was the most expedient route with my limited time-frame. I knew from the start that’s what it would be so I was mostly prepared to just grin and bear it.

I wasn’t prepared for needing an entire day to recuperate from the ordeal however. Between that and the time change, I feel like I spent the entire first day of Overland Expo in an daze. And you should have seen my tent-pitch on arrival… you know, exhausted, in the dark, on ground not meant for tents… it looked like a bunch of intoxicated, deranged monkeys pitched it. But with no rain in the forecast, it only had to withstand the Arizona winds so I left it as it was and went about my merry business.

The Sportmobile 4WD camper vans were something to behold…


Even though I did eventually manage to find my groove taking in everything there was to see and do, there was simply a lot to absorb. Countless vendors, travel roundtable discussions, film screenings, and demos took up the days. Nights were occupied from Happy Hour on with soaking up the awesome of inspiring people. It was all good of course… a party unlike any other to be frank, but it was just a lot to process all at once so I did sneak away for some geocaching and a run in the fabulous Coconino National Forest to balance out the exhilarating-but-vigorous pace of the expo. You might find it hard to believe that I’m actually an introvert and that escaping the fray to have some alone time is entirely necessary for me to handle the overstimulation of an event like this.

No ordinary driving school…
Sneaking off for some down time (and a little gear-testing of the Outdoor Research Redline jacket in Arizona conditions.)
View of the OX festivities from the road.

The high points…

My experience at the Expo was eye-opening in terms of how other people travel and the tools they use in the process. It’s certainly food for thought and there were many setups that would alleviate some of the difficulties we here at Camp Granola face as cross-country car-campers. But of course that’s an entire post in and of itself that will have to simmer a bit longer.

What did resonate with me though was discovering Do Good as You Go (AKA the Muskoka Foundation). They facilitate volunteerism within the independent adventure travel sector by tapping into the skill-sets of these travelers to bring their expertise to local partner communities i.e. using what they know to “do good as they go.”

Yours truly with the engaging and inspiring Alice of Do Good as You Go.

Understanding the possibilities of elevating my travels to include meaningful volunteerism has given me a renewed long-term vision for my own adventures. So aside from getting to hang out with my favorite ATQA adventurers, learning about Do Good as You Go was well worth the visit to OX.

Fabulous folks…

I would be entirely remiss in not pointing you towards the folks who made my time at Overland Expo so memorable. So a big shout out to the uber-fabulous ATQA crew including American Sahara, Wilderness Dave, Overland Nomads, Only Dirt Roads, and Desk to Dirtbag (not pictured since his late self was side-lined by truck woes).

There was no shortage of good company and good drink.

And where else can you be standing in line for a shower and strike up a conversation with some cool ladies only to find out one is a geomorphologist (my former area of expertise) and the other a geology student? There aren’t exactly a lot of us out there so I was quite tickled by the collection of women geologists. Rock on sisters!

Cheers from American Sahara with a grumpy-looking Wilderness Dave and apparently just Desk to Dirtbag’s hand.

Already well said…

For more on Overland Expo, check out Desk to Dirtbag’s post which was not only much more timely than mine but much more detailed as well. Since he did such a great job capturing the events of OX (and I heartily agree with his insights and conclusions), I’ll let you read it over there instead of recreating the wheel here. So enjoy and tell him Val sent you! 🙂

For a few more images of the event, head over to my Overland Expo Flickr set. And if you’re wondering, why yes, I will be heading back next year…

[UPDATE: For more enticement to join the party at the 2014 Overland Expo, check out this post from Overland Nomads.]

And now for your moment of green…

The beauty and serenity just behind the chaos of Overland Expo.


  1. ::waves:: I’m the Geology student! It was nice to meet you, and I hope we’ll see each other again, maybe in 2014!

    1. Yes, totally planning on 2014. Think we can find more geology geeks to hang out while waiting for showers? 🙂

      1. You never know!! 🙂 That would be fun though, wouldn’t it?

  2. No, grumpy LOOKING but you weren’t actually grumpy at all. I just picked unfortunate times to push the shutter. I’m going to call it a talent. 😉

  3. Was I really grumpy? I don’t remember being grumpy…there was whiskey, why would I be grumpy?

  4. Great write up, Val! It was awesome to meet you and everybody else at OX, even though it was just briefly. Fun event, for sure. You get the award for the most epic drive to get there. Thanks for the shout out!

    1. Not sure I want that award! At least I didn’t take out a bear like Katie did last year. 😉

      Definitely lots of fun. Looking forward to next year and not being a newbie. Hope you’ll still be traveling about and be there as well. Great to meet you.

  5. Val-

    Great stuff. So glad you made the long trek to Arizona to join us. Getting to know you a bit was one of the highlights of Overland Expo for me this year.

    Travel safe,


    1. Thanks darlin’. It was so great to meet some ATQA peeps after all this time. Y’all are even more fabulous in person. Cheers!

  6. It was great getting to finally meet you in real life Val! (See what I did there :)) I just got around to writing about Expo this week too. If you want to read it head over to I hope to get to see you again, either in California or at next year’s Expo! Travel well and see you on #ATQA!

    1. Yeah, I think I need shirts or something that say “I met Val in Real Life in real life!” Great post on Expo… added it to my post. The people are indeed the best part. Happy trails!

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