Overland Expo West 2015

ovelranad expo 2015 - val in real life

I’ve been debating what to write about Overland Expo this year… about writing anything at all, actually. Because it was such an unusual and trying endeavor this time, I’ve spent the last few weeks attempting to sort what the true take-away was.

For my first foray into Overland Expo, I had no idea what to expect or if it would be worth it. On my second round, I had no plan whatsoever and ended up largely exploring the culinary aspects of overland travel and enjoying my overland family reunion.

This time, I had a big plan… a three-prong agenda to bring you the nitty-gritty from a general travel standpoint, motorcycle travel and logistics, and solo female travel. I had my classes scheduled and I was ready to learn. And I found that the idiom about best-laid plans became quite true for me.

My 1,800-mile drive to Arizona went quite smoothly in terms of traffic, construction, and weather. In fact, I plowed through in record time. My newly-acquired personal limitations factored in, but more on that later. I was excited, almost desperate, to get back to being myself so I dove into the trip fiercely only to find myself hampered by unexpected obstacles.

Snowverland Expo…

Remember how hot, dry, and windy I said it can be at Mormon Lake? Yeah… I miss that. The weather challenges this time proved to be of the cold, wet, muddy, chilled-to-the-bone variety. For those of us camping in tents, and in some cases hammocks, this year’s weather resulted in a lot of hanging out in the Mormon Lake saloon, drinking beer and such because it was the only place to get warm and dry. Not that it wasn’t fun, mind you, but it wasn’t exactly how I envisioned spending so much of my time at Overland Expo. Some of that time was in lieu of attending outdoor sessions and turning into a Valsicle.

val in real life - overland expo
Dave and J may have had the minimalist edge compared to my “condo” tent… but with the weather conditions, guess who was stashing their gear in my tent? 😉

The weather threw everyone for a loop. The driving course had to be closed, the campground was a mud bog with rigs getting stuck, and attendees were huddled under little canopies trying to laugh off the circumstances.

I did catch up with fabulous old friends, though, and made some new ones. I even had the opportunity to spend an evening with the legendary Ted Simon. I’ll file most of that conversation in the “What happens at Mormon Lake, stays at Mormon Lake” category but I’ll sum up by saying he’s a charming, honest, and direct character. Quite a delightful soul and I’m honored to have had the opportunity to get to know him.

For a different take on Overland Expo 2015, you can read this Jalopnik piece but you have to know we Overland Expo veterans made fun of it and questioned if the “off-road and adventure guy” author spent more than an hour there in order to fulfill his writing requirement.

Better yet, check out my buddy Lou’s 4-part account over at Only Dirt Roads… He did a much better job documenting than I did. He talks about the mud, friends and rigs (including a shoutout to Blubaru), more rigs, and even more rigs.

val in real life - overland expo
Overland Expo is definitely the place to take in groovy vehicles.
val in real life - overland expo
Oh, the mud. You wouldn’t think that would deter hardy outdoor types but with the rain, snow, and temps, it really got the best of me. An unwelcome reminder I’ve still got a long way to go to full recovery.
val in real life - overland exo
The sun came out on the final day, as did Overland Nomads as they tooled around in the Ural with Sir Digby.

Improving my skills…

Even though I did not make all of my scheduled sessions, I did come away with a lot. I adored Tiffany Coates’s session on female personal safety which included some hands-on self-defense practice. And Erik Stephens’s (of Twisted Throttle) session on the DIY motorcycle tool kit was very groovy since he focused on “what is probable, not possible.” His tips for moto repair were often fabulously MacGyver-ish and a testament to the creativity required for that kind of travel.

val in real life - overland expo
Roundtable discussions area wealth of information that feature a variety of travelers and their wide-ranging experience.
val in real life - overland expo
Erik Stephens and Andrew Pain clowning around in between motorcycle classes.
val in real life - overland expo
I only got to watch the RawHyde training but you can learn a lot by watching…

On a personal note…

So from the department of challenges and triumphs…

The trip to Overland Expo was hard. The fatigue and stiffness I experienced on the long drive were unlike I’ve ever felt before. And once there, being on my feet all day and walking on uneven terrain wiped me out physically. Which had substantial impacts emotionally. And as I mentioned, the cold simply ate into me no matter what I did. I couldn’t keep warm. As a result, I spent most of the time tired and not inclined to grab many shots of the event. So no semi-fancy video this year.

My kind friends kept an eye on me and helped me make adjustments as necessary, including many hours of conversation and philosophy over beers in the saloon. I can tell you with certainty now that laughing with friends until you cry really warms you up. In so many ways.

The fact that I was able to make the trip was a triumph in and of itself. I have to keep that in perspective. And I did learn a good bit even though I didn’t get to everything I’d planned.

Probably most importantly, thanks to my ATQA co-hosts and dear friends, I got back on the bike. I rode pillion but I rode. It was more than I have words for after the trials of this year.

val in real life - overland expo
My #ATQA counterparts, Dave and J, getting ready for a ride before taking me out.
val in real life - overland expo
My dear Overland Expo family… Wilderness Dave, American Sahara, and Only Dirt Roads.

Cheers, friends. Happy travels.

And now for your moment of green…

val in real life - pahranagat national wildlife refuge
I was looking to rediscover my groove on this trip. I didn’t find it through the trials of Overland Expo, but I did find it in Nevada afterwards.

This Mother's Day, Give Her The World - Try The World