Mount Rushmore was completed in 1941 as a way to not only promote tourism to the local area but pay tribute to some of our country’s greatest leaders. I thought it would be interesting to explore my own conceptual “Overland Mount Rushmore” of the four fellow overlanders that I enjoy following. So let’s take a look, in no particular order, at who made the cut.
The Road Chose Me
I’d be remise if I didn’t include Dan “The Real Deal” Grec on my Overland Mount Rushmore. He is as nice as he his genuine. Having spent the summer with him touring events I got to witness first hand how much he cares about sharing his stories with people (sometimes at the expense of his own lunch) and helping them prepare for their next adventure.
What I like most about Dan is his complete and total disreguard for frivolity. There is nothing on his Jeep or in his kit that doesn’t need to be there. Consequently, there is nothing lacking from his Jeep or his kit that he doesn’t need. It’s honestly a bit intimidating. There was a moment early in the summer when I remember watching him cook breakfast on his small camp stove and frying pan using a small plastic scraper to flip his eggs. No Skottle. No expensive cooking set. Nothing more than what is absolute essentially neccessary. His videos are also essentially raw. While they lack the production value of other channels out there, their content is unmatched. Each episode documents his travels through a given country giving you a feal for the unique landscapes, food, animials, and people he encounted along the way.
The most impressive thing though is he just does it. He’s out there doing it without any major sponors. No vinyal wrapped rig. No entourage. He’s just out there living his best life one day of adventure at a time. He did the entire Pan-American highway in a stock TJ with a ground tent (mind = blown). His latest rig is a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon with an Ursa Minor J30 top. Unlike his Pan-Am Jeep the JK did have a small life and slightly bigger tires. Nothing crazy, just some mild sized mud-terrains. It was purpose built for solo travel around Africa with a snorkel, winch bumper, and some aux light (no light bar though; if he didn’t need one, do you?). If you want a rig to model your overland rig after, you can stop looking and check out Dan’s JK! Make sure to check out his books on Amazon.
From one modest J30 equiped JKU to another, is Chris Shontz of Venture4wd. He is another perfect example of an authentic outdoor adventure travel enthusiast that lacks any needless frivolity. Like Dan’s JK, Chris’s is mildly built emphasizing reliability over prowess. That doesn’t mean his Jeep lacks in the performance department. His JK is also a Rubicon meaning it has lower gears and lockers from the factory.
Chris has weaved an interesting path across the US and Canada. He recently posted a map of his travels and it’s very reminiscent of an old Family Circus cartoon where little Billy has wandered all around the neighborhood. Like Dan, Chris is the real deal who is out there doing it. He set out a few years ago with no real plan and that made a lot of people jealous. Since then he has racked up a loyal following who look forward to his weekly updates.
When it comes to Chris’s videos you can expect a few things. First, unlike some other channels out there, it’s not just 30 minutes of watching him play with his toys in the woods. Chris does an excellent job of providing a context to each of his video’s setting. This information goes a long way in connecting you to the culture and environment he is visiting. You can also expect his dry deadpan sence of humor to shine through. It takes a little while to pick up on it, but once you do each episode is good for a few priceless gems that will give you a laugh. Lastly, you can expect reality to shine through. There are a lot of people who filter their lives through social media and only put their best foot forward. Chris is one of the most authentic people you’ll see on video. He’s not afraid to tell you when he’s having a bad day, when something doesn’t go right, or when things go horribly wrong – like when he flopped his Jeep over into a ditch in Canada.
I’ve been watching Brad’s videos on his Trail Recon channel since the early days of ECOA. His channel was just getting started and, although a little rough at the time, he has since come into stride as one of the go-to channels for all things Jeep.
Like Chris and Dan, what I like about Brad is his authenticity. (Notice how that is a trend with me?) His videos are a mix of garage footage, honest product reviews, and trail footage. Like Chris, Brad does a great job of providing a context to his adventures. He takes time to show you around camp, what the view is like, where he is, and what you should check it out. That’s my ultimate litmus test. If I don’t want go where you went, or know why you were there, or even know where you are, you failed. Brad succeeds across the board.
One of the things I like about Brad’s videos is that he’s rarely traveling alone. There are a few repeat guest adventurers, some of which are his family, but there are a fair number of new faces on his videos from time to time. Combined with his other videos, this keeps his channel refreshing and entertaining.
Now, I will say that in recent month’s it’s been hard to play catchup with Brad as he’s axle swapped his JKU, built up a Gladiator, and will soon be building up his wife’s 2dr JL. That’s a lot going on in rather short time period. However, with a successful brand that’s taken him to both the SEMA and LA Autoshow at the tail end of this year, can you blame him?
I know I said there was no particular order to this Overland Mount Rushmore, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t save the best for last. When it comes to overland adventure travelers out there, there is one I would rank above all else – and I’ve told him as much. Between the content, editing, and soundtrack Kevin’s videos on his Lifestyle Overland channel are hands-down the best. There, I’ve said it.
I must confess I was a little late to the party since the first video I watched of his didn’t hook me. It wasn’t till John of New Horizons Overland told me to go back and watch from the beginning that I got sucked in. I quickly found out that, like everyone else on my Overland Mount Rushmore, what fueled my interest most was Kevin’s authenticy. It’s him, his wife, and their daughter out there traveling the country. It doesn’t matter what you drive or what kind of gear you flash, without character and personality it’s just “stuff.”
I first me Kevin at Overland Expo West this year. I also got a chance to talk to him and a small overland meet-and-greet in New Jersey (of all places) this fall. On both occasions he was a pleasure to talk to and it’s evident that his passion and love for his family form the bedrock for all his pursuits. That passion and love are reflected in the videos he shares with us. A perfect example is a particular scene of him fishing with his daughter along a stream in Alasaka. A perfect wholesome family moment that has nothing to do with gear, vehicle builds, or social media pretentiousness. It was a moment he didn’t even have to share with us but chose to include us anyway. His videos are full of those moments. Makes them worth watching.
Lastly, what I like about Kevin’s videos mirror that of what I about the others I’ve mentioned so far. He does a great job providing you a context of where he is visiting. To be honest, I never wanted to visit Alaska and do the Dalton Highway. I know it’s a bucket list item for many travelers, but it just never appealed to me. It always seemed a bit cliche and, like the Appalachain Trail, something that’s been so overdone recently it’s lost its significant meaning. However, after watching Kevin’s videos my mind has been changed. Alaska is on my list and someday I hope to check out a few notable places that showed up on the Lifestyle Overland channel.
Our society has degenerated in a great number of ways (many of which aren’t the focus of this blog so don’t be worried). Most notibly is the general air of negativity that has become so pervasive across so many aspects of our daily lives. Social Media hasn’t done us any favors either. While it’s given a platform on which people can stand, share their content, and voice their opinions, it’s also given a shoud of anonimity to the less than generious types.
Speaking specficially about the overland adventure lifestyle, I’ve taken to my own soapbox a time or two to call out a few critics and defend the cause. There are a few “spoof” social media accounts that at first glace seem to be all in good fun but on futher inspection are rittled with hate and discontent. Sadly over the years it seems these types of negative voices of hate and discontent have only gotten louder. That’s why I thought I would take time to throw a little positivity out there and rather than tear down someone out of jealousy or spite I would take the opportunity to tell you who I enjoy watching and why.
So… who is on your “Overland Mount Rushmore”? Who do you look upto and enjoy? And more importantly, why?
Don’t forget to check out the Venture4wd and Lifestyle Overland Patreon pages too. Supporting them goes a long way in ensuring their quality content continues, not to mention access to the cool perks they offer.