Months ago I made it out to Arizona for the 2013 “Overland Expo“– a multi-day festival in the desert at which packs of expedition-obsessed people driving all manner of motors congregate to talk shop, swap stories, and show off their rigs.
Today, as I look longingly toward the sky through a Brooklyn airshaft, it’s time to revisit that glorious weekend and share it here.
The OE is like a music festival that revolves around trucks and bikes, as opposed to drugs and being on drugs. Individuals show up to show off their vehicles, gear purveyors offer their latest adventure accoutrements, and big brands like Land Rover and BMW put on a big show in the form of product demos and classes.
I took in seminars on how to properly use a winch, how to use a Hi-Lift jack, and make it through obstacles of particular hairiness in a three-ton truck. All of these were led by industry names- the guys behind the wheel when Land Rover sets up ridiculous brand-boosting trips around the world.
People showed up in/on everything from Unimogs to DR-Zs to tired old airhead BMWs on rotted tires. Of course, the old Rovers and military surplus where my favorites and I’m pretty sure every Pinzgauer in the U.S. was there.
I copped a redeye flight from Boston to Phoenix, rented a barely broken-in Passat sedan and flogged it toward Flagstaff after grabbing a burger and four gallons of water.
Sometime around 3AM, I succumbed to fatigue and pulled over at a truck stop to set up camp.
But being too lazy to pitch a tent and keen to make an early morning exit, “making camp” involved dropping the passenger seat as flat as possible and crawling into my sleeping bag. Not the best rest I’ve ever gotten, but off Highway 17 between PHX and Flag, the stars were spectacular. I would have slept on the hood had it not been f**king freezing out.
Waking up with the sun (well, I was pretty much awake all night) I powered on and hit Flagstaff about an hour earlier than I’d planned. The Passat’s most redeeming feature was far and away the satellite radio; Outlaw Country proving the perfect ambiance for my charge across the open plains even if I was sticking to asphalt.
Hours and two coffee stops later I was at Mormon Lake– surrounded by the coolest collection of machinery I’d seen since I drove support in the Australasian Safari. The Overland Expo was everything I’d hoped it would be; total immersion in off road adventure culture.
This is the view I woke up to every morning:
While my iPhone photos don’t do it justice, here’s to hoping this gallery gets you excited enough to gear up for next year.
When the event came to a close and everyone parted ways, I can’t tell you how disappointed I was to be returning to a FWD family sedan. Many event attendees were planning off-road trips around the South West and I had to get back to Boston and the cubicle job I was holding down at the time. I took a shortcut home to cheer myself up across some Class IV roads– still within my car’s rental agreement, technically I didn’t leave marked motorways.