Main Hall on the Lake

Overland Expo East: Finding our niche in the travel world

We’ve been trying to find our place in the RV world for years now and just haven’t found our niche. We’re not retired, not work-campers, not exactly ‘free spirits’, we don’t plan much, and we don’t seem to go to the kinds of places other full time RVers go or want to read about. We occasionally tent camp, seek out mud, hike to interesting places and put our lives at risk from time to time; We want to see fascinating nature and all over the US (and eventually the world); We love crazy off-road vehicles like the Unimog, and plan to be amazing, serious riders on our new Dual Sport bikes. There’s nothing wrong with typical RV life, and it can be argued that there is no “typical RV life” but I, more often than not, feel like we’re just not into the same things. I guess what makes us different from other RVers might make us interesting to some, but it may be that we’re not really RVers at all, but rather, something new?

When we found out about the Overland Expo we started to learn more about the Overland lifestyle and the types of people who define it. The overall feel of the lifestyle and what it represented hinted at a world we felt we might have some common ground on. We paid for the full event pass, the “Overland Experience”, and spent an evening reading about and registering for classes.  Overland travel is basically driving a vehicle or motorcycle across a country or continent and intentionally seeking out unfinished roads and surfaces – while being prepared and skilled enough to survive the ordeal with yourself and vehicle in one piece (or check out wikipedia). Typically the trip is about the journey rather than the destination, and usually involves camping and border crossings. 

The event featured such a huge variety of invaluable classes and panel discussions that it’s a little hard to explain them all. To get the full experience of the event you would really have to attend the event at least 3 times, each time being completely worth the cost and experience – once for 4wd classes, once for bike classes and one again for all the survival, gps training and travel advice (though you can sort of schedule a balanced dose of each). The short version is that there is a big focus on beginning and advanced classes and demos on Overland vehicle travel in the wild and/or foreign countries  – and everything you need to know that goes with that. For 4wd vehicles there were classes on recovering your vehicle from the mud, driving through water, tipping your vehicle back up if it rolls over, and several advanced terrain courses and demos for terrain. For bikes there were motorcycle skills classes with training on how to ride in dirt, a class with tips and “hacks” for fixing your bike in the middle of nowhere and an in depth maintenance class (and many more).

Motorcycle Maintenance Hacks Class
Motorcycle Maintenance Hacks with Alison DeLapp
Taylor Ranch
Taylor Ranch

When we arrived at the event on the first day, we hadn’t registered for any classes so we could walk around and check out the vendors and classroom layout. We walked at a snails pace gawking – giddy over the amazing Overland RVs, vans and popup rooftop tents, awestruck before we even reached the main hall. Not to mention the location itself is something to behold – we were greeted by two longhorns grazing in a field and miles of decades old wood fencing outlining the perfect green, rolling hills of Taylor Ranch. A private lake in the distance whose light bounces off and highlights the early morning fog in a way only a private lake can do, looked especially beautiful reflected in the windows of some of these extreme survival Overland vehicles and campers.

IMG_20141006_145233We attended several of the motorcycle classes, although, after our nearly hour long ride in 45 degree weather and 12mph winds – early in the morning on the second day of the event, I couldn’t stop shivering (apparently still under-dressed despite my efforts). Being extremely cold combined with a picky first gear issue on my new bike made me skip the actual skills half of the “Intro to Dirt” class. The techniques are different than my own “effective but inaccurate” self taught style and I would have liked to attend but instead had to stand in front of a campfire and drink a hot coffee until I didn’t feel like I had hypothermia. Ross, however, did take the skills half of the class, which ended up being gone for hours. I took the opportunity to fit in a ‘Narrative Story Telling’ class after I warmed up and learned some valuable tips from a professional documentary film maker and published photographer/writer, JoMarie Fecci, (an all round awesome woman basically).

Rawhyde Adventures
Rawhyde Adventures teaching the “Intro to Dirt” Class –

We walked in on several “Round Table” panel discussions in a huge pavilion on the property where experienced travelers, who had crossed continents with vehicles, answered any and all questions from people currently on or planning cross continent trips, panels on Mexico and Central America, South America and Africa and the Middle East. We sat in on a “Traveling Solo” class taught by two experienced motorcycle Overlanders and picked up ton of great advice there and I took a ‘Topographical Maps’ class while Ross took a ‘Basic Motorcycle Maintenance’ class since we wanted to take them both but they overlapped. Even though the class overlapped we were easily able to teach each other what we learned.

Ural 2wd Sidecar Bike
Ural 2wd Sidecar Bike

Whenever we could, we walked around the property and check out the vendors and vehicles, planning our own future trips and getting to know the gear and lifestyle. I think we’ve found, that even if we don’t fit into the globetrekking aspect so much just yet, we relate to the attitude about life, interest in off-roading/camping, and seriousness about skills, more than we do in the typical RVing world. So I suppose we’ve decided we’re some kind of slow paced US based Hybrid of Overlanders and RVers…maybe, OverlandeRVers? RVlanders?…or maybe we’re just wanabees…regardless, we’ve found a sort of calling and the Overland Expo was our first taste of the future we want.

Taylor Ranch - End of Expo
Taylor Ranch – End of Expo


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