Overland Expo to TBEX: Post-mortem

Back at the end of the Overland Expo to TBEX expedition, I gave a break-down of the journey in numbers and a couple of the larger take-away points. After chronicling the entire journey though, I’ve had time to consider the triumphs and pitfalls more fully. I always like to do a trip post-mortem to make sure I take the time to make changes that will improve our travels.

An altered vision…

Most of the time when we set out, we have a vision for the journey but try not to get bogged down in hard-and-fast goals. It allows us flexibility and keeps us from feeling pressured on a journey that’s supposed to be about fun and exploration.

To us, this was a trip with character-building challenges and delights… for Blubaru it was a new windshield, new rear ball joints, and a lot of miles.

So with the exception of the no-state-left-behind geocaching policy, we headed out with some places we wanted to visit, knowing as we moved along that we’d discover unexpected treasures that might trump those desires. Little did we know that a string of travel difficulties would be the governing factor in our altered vision, not deliberate decision-making.

The first two weeks (AKA Stage 1) went largely as envisioned but the last four (AKA Stage 2) were overshadowed by frustration. Unfortunately, that was the portion of the trip that was supposed to be more easy-going and free-flowing. In the end, we ended up missing half of the spots we were interested in seeing at the outset… although not because we found more compelling destinations but because we were scrambling in damage control mode.

We did manage to accomplish our geocaching mission in that we did get a smiley in every state and province, but we failed in that we didn’t do very much geocaching overall for the length of time we were traveling.

Road trip lessons learned…

Even as seasoned a road tripper as I am, there’s always something to learn from every journey. Each trip has different logistics based on the destinations and different unexpected challenges. Each trip is a completely different beast.

Travel lesson learned: Always check to make sure the geocache you’re going for is active.

So with that, here are a few pitfalls I will be taking into consideration as I head out for the next big adventure:

  • Know, and honor, your strengths: Like I’ve mentioned, I don’t do urban travel well. To be perfectly honest, I suck at it. I’ve accepted it’s never going to be a strength but I’m not going to rule it out altogether, just be more mindful about it and keep it to a minimum. I need to allow myself more planning time for these as well since they are such a challenge for me. That should minimize mistakes and frustrations.
  • Don’t break your personal travel guidelines: I have a personal policy for slow travel. You can still go far and wide and not feel stretched thin if you do it right. But in an effort to be in certain places at certain times (i.e. Overland Expo and TBEX) as well as fulfill Curious George’s travel wishes, I deviated from the policy almost the entire trip and I paid the price dearly. Trust your experience to know what does and doesn’t work for you.
  • Avoid Once-in-a-Lifetime Syndrome: This trip was not one I felt we’d ever try to attempt again. It was driven by considerations outside of my personal travel preferences and I made concessions that undermined the larger effort. When you enter into a trip with a Once-in-a-Lifetime mentality, it’s tempting to try to cram in too much. As a result, we ended up with more numerous but surficial experiences rather than fewer, more meaningful ones.
  • Spanning the continent from Santa Monica to Prince Edward Island may have been a bit ambitious…
  • Know your warning signs: One of the things I notice about myself is that when the going gets tough, photography and geocaching go out the window first… even though they rank very high in the priority list. When I notice this happening it needs to be my signal to stop and take a deep breath.
  • Budget: Some of our unexpected expenses were not avoidable. As we languished in damage-control mode though, extra nights in hotels and eating in restaurants instead of prepping our own food were budget killers. It took this trip from being very affordable to ridiculous.


So with all of that downer stuff out of the way, let’s focus on the happy bits. Our trip was challenging but not without wonderful moments. Here are my favorites…

Friends and new experiences at Overland Expo.
Excellent detours like this one at Catfish Paradise.
Reuniting with Fred and George as well as long-lost friends in California.
Exploring Great Sand Dunes with Fred and George… and giving them their first dose of Medano Creek.
The surreal experience of a thunderstorm sweeping over us at the CN Tower in Toronto.
The Strong Museum of Play was a hit with all of us.
The power of the Women’s Rights National Historical Park.
Franconia Notch State Park was stunning. It’s one of the stops of this trip I would like to do over.
Traveling the New Brunswick country-side proved a feast for the eyes as well as odd… in a good way.
A sweet moment with George at Cape Enrage.
Fundy National Park. Enough said.
The Adams National Historical Park had a big impact on Camp Granola.
Fred and George were so tickled to visit Car Talk Plaza.
The Mary Baker Eddy Library Mapparium was an unexpected discovery and very, very cool.
Our time in Concord, Mass. and at Walden Pond was a sweet spot when we had our travel groove going well.
Frolicking beach boys in Rhode Island.
The surprise of really enjoying the urban offerings in Philadelphia.
It was a brief stop but subjecting Fred and George to the antics of Karan was one of the best.

Big picture…

Overall, in spite of challenges and difficulties, I’m still amazed at what we were able to see, do, and enjoy in such a packed trip. As trips go, I feel like it was largely a failure but not completely. There were enough wonderful memories and moments to make the effort worthwhile but our good moments were so hard-earned that it overshadowed the power and sweetness of the them.

You just can’t beat the educational value of travel. Real life experiences will always trump detached learning.

Basically this trip was a very mixed bag. Some of the pitfalls couldn’t have been predicted or avoided but the decisions made out of fatigue and frustration could have been. That’s where improvements can be made.

So heading into the next big adventure, here’s my vision:

  • Slow down. We’ll still cover a comparable amount of territory but instead of bunny-hopping from place to place, my strategy will be much more like the Geowoodstock to TBEX expedition when we base-camped in one spot for many nights and explored from there.
  • Solo time. I’m starting this trip with over two weeks of solo time. For the first time ever, I’ll be exploring and photographing at my beloved Great Sand Dunes on my own terms. I should be quite relaxed and ready for a month in the car with two adolescent boys.
  • It was a hard road but George’s joy in putting the 45th state on our map… what can I say, I’d do it all over.
  • Limit Fred’s travel. In concert with my solo time, delaying the boys’ arrival to the expedition by two weeks will temper Fred’s limited patience for being on the road. Hopefully he’ll be better able to enjoy the trip by reducing his travel fatigue.
  • More Outdoors. Less urban hotel-hopping is clearly in order. I’ll return to my wheelhouse of camping with an occasional urban stint.
  • Sharing. I’ve been quite dissatisfied with how I shared our adventure as well as how long it took. Striving for some big changes on that front. If I accomplish the task of slowing down, I stand a good chance of being successful.

Up next…

Stay tuned for the details of the next big expedition which starts May 13th. Camp Granola will be taking on the Pacific Northwest which will complete the lower 48 for us. 🙂

An adventure in blog posts…

So after all this time, I’ve finally finished the tale of Overland Expo to TBEX. This is what it looks like…

FYI, for more images, I have a Flickr album devoted to the expedition. Hope you enjoyed taking the journey with us.

Overland Expo to TBEX (2013)

And now for your moment of green…

Geocaching always helps us discover amazing, hidden places.


  1. I enjoyed this series and am a bit sad to see it end, although I was wondering if it would wrap up prior to OX14. 🙂 Thanks for all the time it took to share it all, it was definitely a great road trip!

    1. Hahaha… it wasn’t supposed to take this long to get it all out! Ugh! It was a great trip but one of the most bizarre, trying, frustrating, too. Sometimes I still think, “Really…?”

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