Jul 1, 2011

Overland Expo

To prepare for our upcoming adventure, we attended Overland Expo.  This is an annual event that educates and inspires people interested in exploring the world by bike, motorcycle, or vehicle.  It's catered to prepare weekend travelers or groups hoping to circumnavigate the globe.

We bought the 3-day package which gave us access to every class, the offroad driving course, and camping onsite for the weekend.  We debated for weeks whether this event would be worth the investment, not to mention the drive to Arizona.  We were very pleased to find out that it surpassed all of our expectations and it was money well spent.

We were amazed at how friendly everyone was and we met several other travelers, who we found a lot in common with.  We talked with several other couples who have traveled al over the world for very extended lengths of time.  This weekend didn't exactly fit our budget, but we feel like it was a wise investment in our future.  We learned so much, the real world knowledge and hands-on skills that we took home were priceless. 

One of my favorite events was the incredible offroad course that Land Rover built.  I was able to nudge Shannon a little outside of her comfort zone, driving through large obstacles, while she had to test her newly acquired skills with the manual transmission.  She received top notch instruction by Jim Swett, of 1995 Camel Trophy fame.  Jim was great and he showed us some neat tricks in the offroad course.

After meeting Jim and getting to know him a bit, he told us that he was looking for a 4runner just like ours (though he was looking for the earlier, solid axle model) which was nice to hear.  We told him about the trip we are planning and he assured us that we had made a wise choice in our vehicle.  That was encouraging, coming from someone who has driven some of the worst terrain that Central America has to offer.  

There were several other great opportunities to learn some helpful skills.  There was a Winch-less Vehicle Recovery class, where the gentlemen from Overland Experts showed us how to safely use a Hi-Lift Jack without serious injury.  Not an easy task if you're not careful.  Overland Experts regularly teach Navy Seals and other Special Forces how to safely negotiate difficult terrain by vehicles, so they had some great knowledge to share. 

Another great class was on tire repair, taught by Martyn from Adventure Trailers.  He made it pretty clear that I don't want to mess with this in the bush, but unfortunately the chances of having tire issues are very high during our trip.  Another interesting discussion was on Bush Mechanics, which was about emergency repairs in remote locations so that you can limp your vehicle to the nearest mechanic, using whatever is available.  This was interesting and entertaining because there were so many example and ideas that emphasized thinking outside the box, including using urine to reseal a bead on a tire.  I hope I never have to test that.

UPDATE: Please note that you can save a ton of money attending Overland Expo by volunteering.  We have done this once and had a great time, just be warned that they expect quite a bit of time in return for the experience so it can be difficult to balance time working vs. time learning and enjoying the event.  I highly recommend it though, it can be very rewarding and budget friendly.

Also note that if you are on the East Coast, there is now an event put on by the same wonderful people.  Overland Expo East takes place in Asheville, NC during the fall.  If you happen to attend there is a great chance that we will be there so be sure to say hello if you see us!