[Trip/Event Report] Two weeks in North Carolina for the 2016 Appalachian Rendezvous and Overland Expo East

Wednesday morning I woke up, kicked the Jeep in drive, and pointed it south.  The plan was to spend two weeks in North Carolina for the American Adventurist Appalachian Rendezvous in Uwharrie National Forest followed by Overland Expo East in Asheville.  Last year I had attended both events and had a great time.  This year was even better since the weather cooperated.

Loaded up and ready to roll.
And yes, all my trips start at a Sheetz.

With a plan to take my time, my first stop was Front Royal, Virginia to take Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park.  That was the plan at least.  Read on to see how the trip down went and how both events went once I was there.

The first stop on my trip was Shendoah National Park.  The plan was to roll down Skyline Drive then stay on the Blue Ridge Parkway with plans to camp at Peek of the Otters in Virginia.

This was a fun section of the 2015 No Highways Tour
This time… not so much.

Once I flashed my Annual Pass at the gate I started the long slow climb up Skyline Drive to the ridge of the mountain.  This is when things started to go bad.  With a speed limit of 35 miles per hour it was a slow climb.  With the trailer this meant a lot of load on the transmission since I was pulling the trailer.  Down the highway the auxiliary cooler works great.  At slow speeds there just isn’t enough air flow to cool things down.  By the time I hit the first visitor’s center my transmission temp gauge was pegged at 250 and it was time to let it cool down.  Luckily I was planning on stopping anyway.

If a hot transmission was bad enough…
Visibility was measured in yards.
Gotta love driving in a rain cloud.

Once the transmission was cool I began working my way south again.  The transmission still wasn’t happy and I pulled off at every other overlook to let it cool.  This wasn’t great because it was slowing me down even more and visibility was nil.  I opted to bow out off Skyline Drive at my first opportunity and hit some backroads parallel to the park with my aim still fixed on Peek of the Otters.
“Numbered campsites might be for mini-vans…
… but pooping in something that flushes is well worth the price of admission.”
New unofficial ECOA motto
My night at Peek of the Otters was one for the record books.  Coming in on the hour every hour from 6pm till about 1am were some of the nastiest storms I’ve ever camped in.  Thankfully I had a new radio pre-programmed with all the common weather frequencies.  I was able to tune in and listen to warnings about heavy rain, high winds, and hail.  So thankful to be sleeping in a trailer rather than a tent.  More importantly I was able to keep and ear out for any tornado warnings.  This was also part of my strategy in picking a campsite near one of the bathrooms which is a nice solid block building.  Just in case.
The next morning I headed into town for a stop at the local YMCA.  On the way I spotted a sign for the National D-Day Memorial.  If you haven’t guessed by now I’m a suck for museums, local cultural spots, and of course military history.  This hit all three in spades.

This is well worth stopping at.  Absolutely breathtaking.
The bronze statues around the memorial were eerily lifelike.
Really drives home the human cost to the D-Day operation and WW2 in general.
Without giving away any details, there is a lot of significance to the gold wedding band on this statue.  Make sure you ask about it.

With my tour of the D-Day Memorial complete I took a little time to recollect myself and then resumed my southernly trek toward Uwharrie National Forest for the Rendezvous.
Hashtag “Southbound and Down”
Once I checked in with the American Adventurist staff at the Uwharrie Off-Road Training Center it was time to pick a campsite and get setup.  Since things worked out well for “Camp Humble” last year I went with the same location.  I backed the trailer in where someone else had their teardrop last year.  All about that upgrade.
Basecamp for the Rendezvous.
Shade, a table, and a nearby fire ring.
Doesn’t get much better than this.
Oh, and of course it was dinner time…
Cooking on my vintage never-been-used 1974 Coleman two-burner stove.
I’m really not a hipster. I just like old stuff that has a story.
And craft beer…
…and I have a beard…
Honestly, I’m not a hipster.
The next day (Friday if you’re keeping track) it was time to hit the UORTC trails.  It was a guided ride with their staff.  I’m not used to being guided, but it was fun to take a backseat and just enjoy someone else leading the way.  I did make sure I was in front just behind the guide though.
Lovely thick east coast forest with tight winding trails.
Good mix of rigs too.
Jeeps, Toyotas, Land Rovers.

Things got technical on the hill.
I made it up on my second try (Thank you Aussie Locker!)
Many other rigs needed a winch —- or two.

One of the more technical recoveries.
Good to have UROTC and I4WDTA people on hand.
Again, fun for me to sit back and watch, but it was hard biting my tongue
(Like watching them park on a synthetic winch line and not care when it was pointed out).

One part daily driver.
One part overland adventure vehicle.
One park rock crawler.
After the trail ride it was back to camp for the evening.  Socialized.  Took some photos.  Drank some beer.  Listened to some good stories.  It’s probably the best thing about the event.  It’s laid back and the people are awesome.
Saturday it was time to hit the trails again.  This time a small group of us (three rigs and a SxS) headed into Uwharrie National Forest to hit some of their trails.  The plan was to hit some easier trails… that was the plan at least.
“Two Jeeps and a Subaru enter a forest…”
Bad joke or the start of an epic good time?
How about the later.
Grant (aka “Offroad Subaru”) has a never-back-down attitude.
When the trail turned from rolling forest trails to a hard rock section we sprung into action.
With a team effort we helped him winch his Outback up the rock section.
If you check out his YouTube channel there is a video of our day on the trails.
Two tree-savers
Two 40′ Custom Splice Syntheic winch line extensions
Two Custom Splice soft shackles
Two Warn hard shackles
A 30′ tow strap
And a winch with a 50′ synthetic line
Hands down the longest pull I’ve ever been a part of
After the recovery it was back to the trails.
A nice mix of forest trails with some occasional side obstacles.
And no, I wasn’t driving.  In fact I didn’t even drive the hard rock section.
(More on that later)
After our trail ride we returned back to camp to chill and get ready for the night’s festivities.  One of the only scheduled “formal” events for the Rendezvous is Saturday night pot-luck which includes a raffle and a Dutch Oven cooking contest.  Sadly, despite testing my recipe last month, I forgot my Dutch Oven.  Next year I need to staple a note to my steering wheel so I don’t forget it.  Anyway, I took a bunch of photos with my big-boy-camera so once I edit those you can see more photos later.

After dinner it was time to chill around the campfire.
Sadly it wasn’t as well attended as years prior.
Ended up being two of us closing the thing down

The next day (Sunday) was low-key and ended up just being most people vacating the site.  Monday I opted to head into town for some laps at the local YMCA in Asheboro, lunch, laundry, and tried to check out a local museum which ended up being closed (family curse).

Grant dealing with some post-rockcrawling damage.

Taking in the sunset over Uwharrie National Forest

No caption needed.

Built myself a one-match fire to relax and enjoy the stillness of the night myself.

I came… I saw… I was disappointed it was closed.
Maybe next year.

I did find a cool covered bridge though.

I also logged a few miles on some local fire roads.

After getting back I opted to pack up and roll out a day early.
I was requested to show up to Expo early to help set up.
As they say… “Leave No Trace”.

After getting back Monday night I packed up and rolled out.  Plan was to roll close to Asheville just down the road from the Biltmore and stealth-camp at a highway rest stop.  The drive from Uwharrie to Asheville wasn’t bad.  Luckily I didn’t run out of fuel halfway like I did last year thanks to the 31.5 Gallon GenRight Safari Tank.  (Yes, that specific experience is one reason I wanted a larger tank).

Setup day at Expo.
The calm before the chaos.

After setting up I headed into town to the local Y for some laps and a shower. (Notice a pattern?)
Also did some walking around taking in the sites.

After setup day #2 the event to kick-off Expo East was the “Cool Ride” show at a local brewery.

Good times… Good beer… Good people.

After the cool ride show it was time for some socializing in the volunteer camp site.
That means JIFFY POP!!!

When Expo kicked off on Friday I was pretty busy.  Three hours Friday and four more on Saturday.  Between classes, round-tables, and the vehicle show-and-tell it was a great show for me personally.  It was nice to meet many fans of the No Highways Tour and who follow this site as well.

One of my first stops was the DeLorme/Garmin booth.
As an inReach Ambassador it was to check in with them.
Got a new water bottle and a NC Gazetteer while I was there too.

Rare to see new products debuted at Expo, but Cummins was a title sponsor and had their new 2.8L CRD diesel crate engine in a TJ on display.
Goes without saying… but… OMG I WANT ONE FOR MY LJ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

When I wasn’t teaching I was learning.
The classes are the best thing about Expo.

One of the featured vehicles near my campsite.
Huge. Green. Epic.

Compared to the 5-ton my campsite with a lot more modest.
Still, it turned lots of heads and even more when I mentioned I only had $1200 in it.

Sunday BBQ
The people of expo are also a great thing about the event.

When things wound down on Sunday it was nice to take a deep breath.  There were still people lingering about and it was nice to continue socializing into the wee hours of the night.

I think this one photo perfectly sums up expo.
Three small business owners. Event volunteers. Event Participents. All just chiling.
Oh, and beer… lots of beer.

Once teardown was done Monday it was time to pack up and hit the road.  Aside from some rain on Friday and some wind on Saturday the weather was pretty mild.  As such my camp was already mostly torn down.  The trailer also makes for a quick teardown.  After loading up, and a little post-event frisbee it was time to head home.

Loaded up and ready to roll.  Weather was prefect for a long drive home.

Might be a highway, but it was a very scenic drive.
I thought about taking backroads home, but I was still worried about the transmission.
Hopefully next year I’ll have the heat issue sorted out.

All in all it was a great trip to NC.  Having these two events back to back is no accident.  It’s really nice to hit the Rendezvous for a laid-back action-oriented event then switch gears to Expo which is more commercial and more workshop-oriented.

I do have more photos to edit and share so stay tuned for another batch of photos next week.