Our Visit to the Overland Expo (West)

After we finished our mountain biking in Fruita, you can read about it here, we traveled to Flagstaff, AZ to get ready for the Overland Expo (West).

You can read about the Overland Expo here.  This was the 14th year for the Expo.  The organization that runs the Expo holds two every year.  One in Flagstaff an another on the east coast in Asheville, NC.

Since this was our first year attending, we signed up for the full-meal deal and bought the full Expo package called the Overland Experience Package (OEP).  That got us camping on site inside the Expo grounds and full access to all the classes and presentations.  It also got us a free beer every night at the outdoor beer garden and a full catered dinner on the last night.  Those food and drink specials were nice, but we really wanted the hands classes and driving courses.

We arrived in Flagstaff from Fruita on Tuesday night and stayed at an RV park where we had full hookups.  We wanted to be able to drive down from Fruita with an empty trailer and move into the Expo on Thursday full of water and fully charged.

We arrived in Flagstaff to freezing temperatures and had to set up in a freezing drizzle.  But we managed and settled in.

We had hoped to mountain bike Wednesday morning/afternoon, but the freezing temperatures and rain stopped us, so we spent the morning sleeping in and doing laundry and grocery shopping in the afternoon.

Wednesday night was an Overland meet-and-greet in old town Flagstaff.  A block of old town was taken over by various Overland rigs and five businesses had free beer (yes, free) and sales on their merchandise.  The alcohol laws in Flagstaff are……interesting.  We spent the night drinking the free drinks and window shopping.  We met some people as we wandered around including a couple who just returned from an Overland motorcycle trip to Panama and back.

Flagstaff, at least the old town, is a pretty cool place.

Thursday afternoon we moved into the Expo and got our camp site set up for the weekend.  We did some wandering around the Expo as venders were setting up and got our bearings after we checked in and got our maps, passes and swag.

The Expo is huge.  There is a huge vender area that ranges from small booths and full blown demo displays.  Sportsmobile even holds an annual Sportsmobile owner’s get together where they have their own camping area in the woods.  There is another vender and demo area for Overland motorcycles as well.  The Overland motorcycles had their own camp ground as well.

Then there are the driving courses for trucks, cars and motorcycles.  There’s a man-made Land Rover off-road skills course.  A rock-crawling course.  Multiple vehicle recovery area demo areas.  Our OEP got us access to all these courses.

The Expo had set up portable toilets throughout the area if you wanted to use them, or you could use your own set up on your trailer/truck.  There were also hot showers set up for on site campers.  All in all, logistically, the place was set up pretty well.  You can tell they have been doing this for a while.

I’m a member of an Overland group called Overland Bound.  Many of us were trying to coordinate a meet up at the Expo on Thursday night.  We got in the camp grounds early and we weren’t a group traveling together, so we didn’t get to park with the rest of the groups.  However, we carried our chairs over to their camp site and hung out with them Thursday night.  It was nice putting faces to screen names and trucks you see on social media.  We also wandered around the camp ground a bit and met another Moby 1 owner, Monty, from California.  I knew him from social media too and immediately recognized…..his truck (LOL) when I saw it.  We saw four Moby 1 trailers at the Expo (counting ours) and met three of the owners.  The fourth was never home when we stopped by….bummer.

On day 1, Friday, Shelley and I participated a couple driving courses with our Avalanche.  The OEP allowed us to use our own vehicle for the driving courses.  We did a marshaling/picking a line course.  I drove one section with Shelley marshaling me and she drove another with me marshaling.

We did some basic hands-on recovery courses as well.  Since we had never done any of this stuff before, Day 1 was all the ‘beginner’ courses.  On Day 2, Saturday, the recovery classes were more detailed and the driving courses were a bit more in depth.  On Day 2 we also got to take the Avalanche through the Land Rover Experience course.  This was the highlight, to me, of the driving courses.  The course involved inside turns on steep banks, outside turns on steep banks, steep inclines and descents as well as other obstacles.  A Land Rover driving instructor rode shot-gun.  Both Shelley and I had an opportunity to drive the truck through the course.  It was pretty fun seeing what the Avalanche could really do as it has been a daily driver for 8 years and we just are now putting the ‘off-road’ side of it to work.  In fact, until this course, I never have had the electronic locking rear differential kick in.  But this course required the truck to be in 4-Low and both Shelley and I got the rear locker engaged when we had one of the back wheels completely off the ground as we negotiated the obstacles.  I wish we could have taken pictures or video but both of us were in the truck the whole time.

We got to spend a lot of time meeting with venders about options and new modifications that are coming out and what they are offering.  We are looking at getting a new truck to replace the Avalanche and we want to make sure we get the right truck to match up with the modifications.

We spoke with ARB about air-lockers, Rhino Rack about their bike racks among others.  Venders held product demonstrations around the venue to show off their stuff.  We also just walked around and checked our the cool trailers and campers.  We also walked through the stuff we’ll never get, but oogle over…..the Sportsmobiles, Earthroamers and Earthcruisers.  Pretty cool stuff.  Each evening different vendors would bring out kegs of beer and fire up their grills and give away food and drinks.  Even after the show officially closed, you could still wander around and enjoy some food and drinks.  Tepui Tents even had live music and beer one night.

On Sunday morning we got up early and took our Ham Radio test for our technician license.  We had both been studying for it for a few weeks.  Shelley a lot shorter time than I as she got into the class as a fill-in and I signed up months in advance.  So she started studying before she even knew if she was able to take it.  You’re allowed to miss 9 questions of the 35 asked and I missed 9……a pass……as we say at work, “71 and gun.”  Shelley, of course, aced the test.

After passing the exam, venders were serving various breakfasts for everyone.  We wandered around eating different foods and someone was even making Bloody Marys.  Sunday wasn’t as busy with classes for us.  We went to a presentation on the Mojave Road, which was our next stop on this trip, but mostly we just wandered around looking at stuff and meeting some people.  You could tell the Expo was starting to clear out by Sunday afternoon as many people headed home for Monday.

We enjoyed the catered, free dinner that night with our OEP and hung out with some other Overlanders we met on Sunday while taking the Ham radio test.  We got to talking while we were waiting for our score and learned he and his wife were from Oregon and own a Moby 1 trailer too.  We visited a bit and then met back up with them at dinner Sunday night and exchanged contact information.  Nice people.  Hopefully we can arrange a mutual trip in 2018 with them.

In fact, everyone we met while at the Expo were real nice.  Lots of stories.  We were so busy with classes, however, I think we may have missed out on some of the personable aspects of the Expo.  I think if we were to go back again I’d just do the camping package.  Unless we have our new truck, then I’d want to take it through those driving courses.

Sunday night we packed up our truck/trailer for an early departure Monday morning as we had a long drive.  Lots of people left Sunday and by Monday morning the camp site was pretty sparse.  We left early, full of water for the Mojave Road.

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Our Trip to Fruita, Colorado

Shelley and I made a short weekend stop in Fruita, Colorado a few weekends ago for some mountain biking.

We stayed at James M Robb – Colorado River State Park for three nights and four days.  The below photo was our camp spot.  We wanted to stay in North Fruita as there are tons of BLM spots up there, but with us coming into town on Friday night with a big mountain biking event that weekend, we didn’t think we’d find any spots.  So we just made reservations early for a spot.  This was a pretty nice camp ground.  On Monday, after we finished mountain biking up there, we drove the area around North Fruita marking all the camps spots for future trips back to this area.

Ripley seems to always find the best seat in the house.

We left Boise on Friday and made the drive in one day…..one long day.  11-1/2 hours with fuel and food stops.  We didn’t want to waste a day of vacation traveling by taking two days to drive there, so one long day was better.

The mountain biking area we really wanted to try out was in North Fruita, but a mountain biking event was taking place this same weekend.  So our first two days, Saturday and Sunday, was spent in the Kokopelli trail area and the Rabbit Valley trail area.  Both are south and southwest from Fruita.

Monday, after the mountain biking event was over in North Fruita, we drove up there and spent the day.

Here’s a map of the area so you can get an idea of where we were riding.

The riding was great on all the days.  It was so much harder and technical then what we typically ride on around Boise.  Plus, there are hundreds of miles of trails to choose from too.

This was our Kokopelli area ride.

The scenery around this ride was pretty spectacular.  As you can see from the map, a lot of the ride was right along the Colorado River.  We could see a lot of rafters cruising the Colorado too.

As I mentioned, there were places where we couldn’t ride and had to get off and walk the bikes.  Steep drop offs or just real technical climbs.  In this photo of Shelley, you can see her getting ready to climb down.  With her in the photo, you can see that’s about a 10′ drop.  There was one spot where the warning was regarding a 100 yard boulder field that dropped 60 feet or so and said that all the but the most technical riders should even try it.  We watched a couple guys from Germany try it, but only one of them even came within half way to making it.  Everyone was climbing up or down it.

This was our Rabbit Valley area ride.

Rabbit Valley was pretty nice, but not quite as spectacular as riding along the Colorado River.  This area was more wide open with some spots where you rode along cliff faces, but mostly it was pretty mild compared to the day before.

This was our North Fruita area ride.

Our rides in North Fruita were mostly long climbs to spectacular downhills.  On the map above, those long straight lines on the right hand side were 1-way trails where you climbed up one and then ripped it down hill on another.  Then we moved over to the west (left side of the map) and did a big loop.  That loop was pretty nice at the beginning, but around mile marker 13 on the map, it got pretty difficult with lots of climbing and areas where we had to walk our bikes.  Then, the down hill came along and it was miles of greatness back to the trail head.

Here you can see Shelley just beyond that first clump of trees along the trail working her way to those switch backs on the second ridge in the background.  That’s what we had to walk.

Here we are, finally at the top looking back down what we just rode/walked up.

Now that we are at the top, I’m getting ready to take in the miles of downhill ahead of us back to the trailhead.

On Sunday evening, my sister Laurene and her husband Roger both came to visit for the afternoon and join us for dinner.  They live just a few hours away and got some of their own biking in on Sunday before joining us.

It was great to see them again and catch up over beer and dinner.

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