The Route to Over­land Expo West

- WORDS & PHO­TOS BY ALAIN GAGNON Recreation · Lifestyle · Hiking · Travel · Outdoor Hobbies · Hobbies · Ottawa · South Dakota · Wyoming · Montana · British Columbia · Alberta · Saskatchewan · Manitoba · Ontario · Arizona · Nevada · Utah · University of Texas · Colorado · Australia · Canadian Forces · Halifax Regional Municipality · Las Vegas · Tacoma · Toyota Tacoma · Baja · Nova Scotia · Delft · Missouri · Kansas · Oklahoma · Jack Daniel · Los Angeles · Grand Canyon · Washington Nationals · Ashville, NC · North Carolina · Americas · Mexico · South America · United States of America · Land Rover Range Rover · General Purpose · Toyota Motor Corporation · Land Rover · Las Vegas-Paradise, NV Metropolitan Statistical Area · Camping · Flagstaff · Flagstaff · Moab, UT · Digby · U.S. Route 66 · Winslow, AZ · Hackberry · Seligman, AZ · Page · Paria, Utah · Jasper · Asheville · Cascadia

On the Road Again", may be a cliché ti­tle, but it is quite true in our case. Only 8 months had passed since we drove over 9000 kms from, Ot­tawa, ON, through the Amer­i­can north­west, (North and South Dakota, Wy­oming, Mon­tana) and came back through the Cana­dian West (BC, Al­berta, Saskatchew­an, Man­i­toba and On­tario’s Lake Su­pe­rior re­gion).

We were now about to em­bark on a 3 ½ week Amer­i­can south­west ex­pe­di­tion, plan­ning to at­tend the Over­land Expo West week­end in Flagstaff, Ari­zona, and travel off the beaten paths of north­ern Ari­zona, eastern Ne­vada, south­ern Utah, (mainly around Moab, UT - the ul­ti­mate rally point of all off road en­thu­si­asts), to fin­ish some­where in Colorado be­fore head­ing back home af­ter reg­is­ter­ing just over 9600 kms. We are “Over­lan­ders”. Over­land­ing is a way to de­scribe ex­plor­ing by your own self-con­tained, “cost ef­fec­tive” means, usu­ally by ve­hi­cle (of­ten with four-wheel-drive ca­pa­bil­ity) or ad­ven­ture mo­tor­cy­cle. It’s all about ex­plor­ing, not con­quer­ing. This has long been a tra­di­tional way to de­scribe sa­faris in Africa or ex­plor­ing Aus­tralia. The term “over­land­ing” is used to dif­fer­en­ti­ate the ac­tiv­ity from other four-wheel-drive ac­tiv­i­ties such as rock crawl­ing or ral­ly­ing. For over­lan­ders, the jour­ney is as im­por­tant as the des­ti­na­tion, in­clud­ing the ac­tiv­i­ties that we do when we get to our des­ti­na­tion (if we have one); like hik­ing, na­ture watch­ing, kayak­ing, moun­tain bik­ing, or fish­ing.

We are Tammi and Alain, we both work and live in the Ot­tawa area, and I’m a Vet­eran from the Cana­dian Armed Forces where I served with the Navy mainly in Hal­i­fax, NS and on var­i­ous op­er­a­tions and post­ings out­side Canada. Our kids are out of the house, liv­ing their own life ex­pe­ri­ences so we needed a “cou­ple” hobby and the great out­doors be­came our play­ground. We have a dog, Ve­gas, a Vizsla who did not ac­com­pany us on this trip due to the pos­si­ble en­coun­ters with scor­pi­ons and rat­tle snakes (which for­tu­nately did not hap­pen).

Our rig is a 2012 Toy­ota Ta­coma, mounted on Toyo Open Coun­try A/T tires, with Dirty Life wheels, and a 2.5in lift. Bil­stein 5100 shocks are all around along with a set of Fire­stone airbags in the rear. The front skid plate and mod­i­fied Taco grill are from Bul­let Proof Fab­ri­cat­ing, an A.R.E cap is mounted over the truck bed with a Baja rack on top. My new­est ad­di­tion is a Decked drawer sys­tem, to stow away a large amount of our camp­ing equip­ment into two su­per smooth slid­ing draw­ers. We are equipped with a “Sun­dog” rooftop tent and a “Batwing” awning both pur­chased from Wild Coast Tents, a com­pany op­er­at­ing near Digby, Nova Sco­tia op­er­ated by Tr­ish and Peter Van Delft - avid over­lan­ders them­selves. You can find them at www.wild­coast­tents.com.

Know­ing that we were new to over­land­ing, Tr­ish and Peter also pro­vided us with ad­di­tional cru­cial equip­ment for this trip, in­clud­ing a 56 liter Sno­mas­ter two door freezer/fridge that works on nor­mal 110V or your ve­hi­cles’ 12V, along with a set of TRED 4X4 re­cov­ery and ex­trac­tion de­vices in case we get stuck, and a Sno­mas­ter 90W so­lar panel, where we could re-charge the rig’s bat­tery or my home­made 12V bat­tery pack.

With this state of the art equip­ment in hand, we could en­joy a few more con­tin­u­ous days “off the grid” than we had orig­i­nally an­tic­i­pated, with­out hav­ing to get ice for the cooler or drain­ing the bat­tery of the truck dry. It was a great ad­di­tion to our own per­sonal equip­ment, which in­cludes a por­ta­ble toi­let, a shower pack, a Buddy Heater for those cold nights, a propane fire ring (when there’s a camp­fire ban), and all the nec­es­sary cook­ing ac­ces­sories. We just add food, wa­ter and beers, and we are set for ad­ven­ture.

The Trip

We planned to cross most of the Amer­i­can mid-eastern and mid-western states us­ing the old “Route 66” around the south­ern cor­ners where Mis­souri, Kansas and Ok­la­homa meet. From there we fol­lowed “the mother of all roads” as much as pos­si­ble, oc­ca­sion­ally switch­ing to High­way 40 to save a bit of time. The com­plete Route 66 doesn’t re­ally ex­ist any­more, how­ever there are por­tions of the route that re­main, mainly through small ru­ral towns all with their own road­side at­trac­tions that are worth the detour. Route 66 was the main road from Chicago to Los An­ge­les and you can find var­i­ous books and web­sites to guide you through the trip.

Winslow, Ari­zona, as re­ferred to in the Ea­gles song “Take it Easy”, was a nice laid back lit­tle town and a high­light of Route 66 for me, along with the towns of Hack­berry and Selig­man, Ari­zona where the old gas sta­tions, road signs and road side trad­ing posts have all kept their 50’s look. It was like go­ing back in time.

Our first “sched­uled stop” had to be near Page, Ari­zona, where we had a hik­ing pass for one par­tic­u­lar day to hike the Wave Trail. The wave is a sand­stone rock for­ma­tion lo­cated in Ari­zona’s Coy­ote Butte near the bor­der of Utah. It’s ab­so­lutely spec­tac­u­lar.

Only 20 passes per day are avail­able to pro­ceed into the Paria Cany­onVer­mil­ion Cliffs due to the frag­ile na­ture of the for­ma­tion and the large num­ber of peo­ple that would like to hike to it. You must par­tic­i­pate in a lot­tery sys­tem on­line, five months prior to your planned jour­ney, and I was lucky enough to have my name drawn for the day we wanted. It’s a rough 16 km (re­turn) hike, ba­si­cally in the mid­dle of the desert, but so worth it. We stayed for two days in a small, re­mote camp­site owned and op­er­ated by the BLM (Bu­reau of Land Man­age­ment). This is free of charge and you must only camp in des­ig­nated ar­eas and they are well marked.

We then drove the two hours to Flagstaff, Ari­zona to at­tend the Over­land Expo West 2018. Flagstaff is the gate­way to the Grand Canyon and nes­tled in a cool pon­derosa pine for­est. It has a re­laxed vibe, and re­minds me a bit of Jasper, AB. There were plenty of restau­rants, along with lo­cal brew­eries & pubs, mak­ing it well worth the stop.

Over­land Expo is the world’s most com­plete event for do-it-your­self ad­ven­ture travel en­thu­si­asts, with hun­dreds of ses­sion-hours of classes for 4-wheel-drive and ad­ven­ture mo­tor­cy­cling, in­spi­ra­tional pro­grams, the Over­land Film Fes­ti­val, round­table

dis­cus­sions, demon­stra­tions, food, and a large expo fea­tur­ing over 300 ven­dors of ad­ven­ture travel equip­ment, in­clud­ing camp­ing gear, bikes, ve­hi­cles, and ser­vices. At­ten­dees come from all over the world and this year they were ex­pect­ing over 14,000 visi­tors dur­ing the 3-day expo. We stayed at the Expo’s ded­i­cated camp­ground, which was walk­ing dis­tance to all the ex­hibitors and ac­tiv­i­ties.

There are two Over­land Ex­pos each year, one in Flagstaff, Ari­zona - aptly named Over­land Expo West (in May), and one in Asheville, North Carolina, - called Over­land Expo East (in Novem­ber).

Var­i­ous train­ing ses­sions, dis­cus­sions, demon­stra­tions and pre­sen­ta­tions were avail­able by pur­chas­ing the three-day pass, from ‘Over­land­ing for Begin­ners’ to ‘First Aid for Over­land and Wilder­ness Ad­ven­ture Seek­ers’. You could also regis­ter to at­tend var­i­ous sem­i­nars on 4x4 trou­bleshoot­ing, and es­sen­tial main­te­nance and re­pair for your over­land ve­hi­cle. There were lec­tures by tech­ni­cians ex­plain­ing trac­tion con­trol and demon­strat­ing proper tire pres­sure for var­i­ous off road sit­u­a­tions. Other over­lan­ders of­fered pre­sen­ta­tions on their re­cent Pan-Amer­i­can trips through the Amer­i­cas, and a va­ri­ety of round ta­ble type dis­cus­sions about plan­ning your next trip through Baja and Mex­ico, dis­cus­sions on how to safely travel through South Amer­ica, and classes for women trav­el­ling alone. There’s an ex­ten­sive sched­ule of all classes that were avail­able on their web­site www.over­lan­d­expo.com

There was also a Range Rover driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, where you sit be­hind the wheel of a Range Rover along with one of their driv­ing spe­cial­ists who guides you through an ob­sta­cle course to get a first hand ex­pe­ri­ence of the off-road ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the ve­hi­cle, which is pretty im­pres­sive. You can do this as many times as you like and you can also regis­ter to un­der­take the man­made track with your own ve­hi­cle.

There was also a sim­i­lar track ex­pe­ri­ence of­fered where you had a

chance to drive a Jeep or a Toy­ota Ta­coma to test the per­for­mance of the lat­est M/T tires. Both ex­pe­ri­ences were great. Mo­tor­cy­cle en­thu­si­asts had a sim­i­lar op­por­tu­nity to try out var­i­ous mo­tor­cy­cles in off-road sit­u­a­tions un­der the guid­ance of spe­cial­ized in­struc­tors. All this was in­cluded in your three-day pass, you just had to regis­ter the day you wanted to try the tracks, and within 30 min­utes you were sit­ting be­hind the wheel.

Dur­ing my ex­plo­ration of the expo, I was glad to find a cou­ple Cana­dian ex­hibitors, namely Duane Leedell from Off Grid trail­ers (www.of­f­grid­trail­ers.ca) who was ex­hibit­ing two solidly made trail­ers “ready for your next over­land ad­ven­ture”. These trail­ers were very im­pres­sive, and we are se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing get­ting one for our next ad­ven­ture (in eastern Canada). It is es­pe­cially at­trac­tive as it is Cana­dian made. Next there was David Loretto of Cas­ca­dia 4X4, (www.cas­ca­di­a4x4.com) who spe­cial­izes in the pro­duc­tion of high qual­ity parts and ac­ces­sories for Jeeps, trucks, and SUV’s such as the in­no­va­tive fair­lead “flip­ster”, which al­lows a front mounted li­cence plate to “flip” and cover an equipped winch mount­ing sys­tem - bril­liant idea.

There was also an eclectic mix of pri­vately owned rigs on dis­play, from old Land Rovers to large Mega Trucks that are ab­so­lutely out of this world. It was en­light­en­ing and grat­i­fy­ing to talk to the ded­i­cated and proud own­ers who have made as­tound­ing restora­tion/ mod­i­fi­ca­tions to their rigs. Just view­ing these rigs was worth the ad­mis­sion fee.

All in all the Over­land Expo West was a great ex­pe­ri­ence and we fully en­joyed chat­ting with most ex­hibitors. We gained some great in­for­ma­tion on equip­ment we al­ready own, and now have a list of new equip­ment and ac­ces­sories that we need (or want) for our next trip.

Af­ter three days at the Over­land Expo we made our way to Las Ve­gas. There, we ac­tu­ally booked a ho­tel room for two nights, which pro­vided a nice break in the mid­dle of the trip. Af­ter our two nights in Ve­gas we pro­ceeded to

Moab, Utah via Zion and Bryce Canyon Na­tional Parks. An ab­so­lute must do road trip if you are in that area. It was a com­pletely dif­fer­ent land­scape than any­thing I had pre­vi­ously ex­pe­ri­enced. Trail­head park­ing ev­ery­where along the main roads yielded ac­cess to hik­ing trails with ab­so­lutely spec­tac­u­lar views.

Moab, Utah,

Moab is a small re­sort town sur­rounded by hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres of old min­ing roads and 4x4 trails, mak­ing it one of the most pop­u­lar back­coun­try driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ences in North Amer­ica. There’s full range of back­coun­try trails, from easy scenic drives to ul­ti­mate chal­leng­ing four-wheel drive rock climb­ing trails. All trails are named, marked and pub­lished in a 4x4 trail book avail­able for pur­chase at the vis­i­tor cen­tre or one of the many lo­cal camp­ing sup­ply shops in town. There are so many trails that you hardly ever en­counter any­one else. You can drive your own rig or rent var­i­ous 4x4 ve­hi­cles, such as a Jeep or side-by-side ATV/UTV (2, 4 or 6 seaters).

We drove a few trails namely the Potash trail and Shafer switch­backs, which were in­cred­i­ble trails with

mag­nif­i­cent views of the Utah land­scape, fin­ish­ing at the “Thelma and Louise drop off ”. We ended our trail rides at the La Sal Pass where we camped at an el­e­va­tion of 3000 me­tres in a very re­mote lo­ca­tion. A snow-capped Mount Peale (4000m) pro­vided a pic­ture per­fect view.

Af­ter spend­ing our last day wan­der­ing around the town of Moab, we made our way into Colorado, where the scenery changed sig­nif­i­cantly right be­fore our eyes. The desert ter­rain of Utah gave way to the green moun­tain­ous forests of Colorado. While in Colorado Springs, I got an oil change and tire ro­ta­tion done on the truck and we re­luc­tantly started on our way home. The drive home took us mainly through Ne­braska, Illi­nois and Michi­gan to our bor­der cross­ing in Sarnia, fol­lowed by a very busy, and con­stantly un­der con­struc­tion, High­way 401. We were back home for sure!

When all was said and done, we man­aged an­other fault­less 9000 kms on our truck, and ar­rived home safe and sound. We loved our over­land ad­ven­ture so much we are al­ready plan­ning our next trek through Que­bec and Eastern Canada.

 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Tammi and Alain Gagnon.
Tammi and Alain Gagnon.
 ??  ?? Go­ing along Route 66.
Go­ing along Route 66.
 ??  ?? Standin’ on a cor­ner in Winslow, Ari­zona.
Standin’ on a cor­ner in Winslow, Ari­zona.
 ??  ?? The rig in Moab, Utah.
The rig in Moab, Utah.
 ??  ?? Cadil­lac Ranch, Amar­illo, Texas (Route 66).
Cadil­lac Ranch, Amar­illo, Texas (Route 66).
 ??  ?? Hack­berry, Ari­zona (Route 66).
Hack­berry, Ari­zona (Route 66).
 ??  ?? Off Grid Trail­ers.
Off Grid Trail­ers.
 ??  ?? Over­land Expo West 2018. Vol­ume 20/5
Over­land Expo West 2018. Vol­ume 20/5
 ??  ?? The wave, Ari­zona.
The wave, Ari­zona.
 ??  ?? At Coy­ote Butte Trail be­tween Ari­zona and Utah.
At Coy­ote Butte Trail be­tween Ari­zona and Utah.
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? The Land Rover Park­our.
The Land Rover Park­our.
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Off the grid Camp­ing in Moab, Utah.
Off the grid Camp­ing in Moab, Utah.
 ??  ?? Shafer Switch­backs, Moab, Utah. .
Shafer Switch­backs, Moab, Utah. .
 ??  ?? Shafer Switch­backs, Moab, Utah.
Shafer Switch­backs, Moab, Utah.

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