Thursday, April 7, 2011

Overland Expo 2011

As I have posted before, the idea of a big adventure has been rattling around in my brain for some time. Ultimately, it will involve bicycles but it will also include a vehicle of some type to allow me (and hopefully the missus) to visit remote areas with some measure of comfort.

If you've never looked at the equipment and vehicles available to undertake a multi-country adventure, the choices are mind blowing. They run the gamut from motorcycles to trucks the size of semi's. We spent last weekend in Amado, Arizona attending Overland Expo, a gathering of people and equipment manufacturers that allow one to undertake amazing journeys. There were speakers who described trips the length of the Americas or Africa in/on both 2 and 4 wheel vehicles. Manufacturers displayed their wares and Land Rover set up a driving course.

Our goal was to attend as many of the workshops as possible, listen to the stories, and collect as much info as possible so we could make some educated decisions. The range of vehicles was staggering. Some were gigantic (and IMHO, ridiculous):

Some historic. This is one of the 400 Camel Trophy Land Rovers.

Sportsmobile, a very creative 4WD conversion of a Ford Van.

Former military vehicles:

Lots of amazing 2 wheel vehicles

Our Honda was close to the smallest rig there but lots of people came by to look at it.
There were some really interesting camping set ups.

And some extremely creative kitchen set ups:

I never knew winch options existed for motorcycles.

A majority of the workshops were led by Brits, many of whom had decades of overland travel around the world. The overwhelming message I took away from all the workshops was -- keep it simple and keep it light. Many of the trips had been accomplished on vehicles that were not heavily modified. Lois Pryce rode the length of the America's and Africa on 250 cc Yamaha motorcycles. A number of cross Sahara trips were made in fairly stock vehicles. The American tendency to heavily modify vehicles was obvious in the manufacturer's exhibit area but not generally present in the trip reports I heard and saw. We met some very interesting folks and had a great time sharing stories and ideas.

The workshop I enjoyed most was "Bush Mechanics", a focus on temporary repairs that can get you and your vehicle to a place where a permanent fix can be completed. I learned that pepper, added to your radiator, reduces the risk of boil over; bar soap can be used to seal a leaking gas tank; a flat tire can be stuffed with grass and other plant material; brakes and clutches can be used (sparingly) with water and liquid soap, absent the appropriate fluids; chain, rope and ratchet straps can fix most suspension issues; and wood, properly shaped, can replace broken suspension parts.

So, did we figure out what direction we want to go? We have (I think) and it happened on the last night of the gathering. I'll share what it is after we figure everything out, but it will be comparatively light and simple compared with many of the options out there. Stay tuned.



  1. There were a few syncro's there

  2. A guy in our neighborhood has a Sportsmobile. Pretty nice rig, but 90K for a campervan seems a bit much. And a lot of the decision has to do with where you want to go...lots easier to find spares in Africa for Land Rovers and Land Cruisers than for Ford vans!

    Curious to see what you decided.

  3. We actually considered a used Sportsmobile. But after seeing and driving them, they are far from light and simple. And parts and reliability are an issue