After Action Report – Vol 1 of the 2017 No Highways Tour

The trip you experience is always better than the trip that you plan.”  At least that’s what I said in the last blog article.  Sadly I think the original plan for the first 2017 No Highways Tour would have been much better than the one I experienced.  Sadly the tooth I broke on the way out would nag me in a number of ways.

This was the plan.  Follow the Old Spanish Trail from New Mexico to SoCal.
The route I was going to take was the northernly/middle route going through Moab and Green River.
In actuality we ended up on the southernly route.

That said, the trip was still a good one.  Despite the pain and discomfort, and the detour to see a dentist, it was still a worthwhile trip.  Overland Expo West didn’t disappoint and the little bit of overlanding I did get to do was epic.  So read on for a photo-essay style after action report…

I’m going to organize this by people, places, and things…


Before I even left, and one of the reasons I left later than planned, was an upgrade to the trailer.
Bomber Products set me up with a set of their AwnLock brackets as well as 2.5 meter awning.
Game. Changer.

Check out their site here.
I’m counting the Check Engine Light as a “thing.”
Anyone who had “still in town” for when it’d go off, you win a prize.

At first I thought this was a Ghostbuster’s car.

Yes. That is a stuffed alligator on the front of a Hummer holding a severed hand…
And no, no idea why.

Cool DIY trailer I saw at expo.
Much smaller than mine but just as functional.

In contrast, this one is much larger than mine and has a roof-top-tent and a dog.
His truck is bigger too.

A shot of the ECOA Basecamp at expo.
Good pic of the awning and deluxe room kit courtesy of Bomber Products.
As I said, game changer.

Also picked up a Tembo Tusk Skottle while at expo.
And some local 4% beer while in Utah.

My hitch took a real beating during the AZBDR portion of the trip.
Ended up replacing it before the trip home.


One of the things I love about traveling is the people I get to meet along the way.   At an event like Overland Expo it’s even a chance to meet idols, people I look up to, and people I draw inspiration from.

On the way down, after a shot stop at Blue Ridge Overland Gear in Bedford, VA I hooked up with some people in Roanoke.
Center: Adam of Overland History (@overland_history)
Right: Gabby of Mountain State Overland (@msoverland)
Playing peekaboo: Rachel (aka Gabby’s better half)
In Roanoke I connected with Jonathan (@smithcreate)
We convoyed out to Overland Expo West.
Always nice to have a travel buddy.
Plus we had to represent for the east coast!

Too many cool people to name in this photo.
This was the pre-expo “Beer and Gear” event.
Great time to socialize, visit some cool stores in Flagstaff, and drink some local beer.

Pre-expo meeting with some of the many instructors who teach at Overland Expo.
These are the real people to get to know!
One of things I was looking forward to at expo was a chance to meet these two.
Center: Cappy (@410expedition)
Right: Bruce (@410overland)
Make sure to check out their website and their YouTube channel.

Another honor was meeting Clay from Expedition Overland.
For better or worse you can’t talk about overlanding without talking about what XO has done for the lifestyle.
He’s also a fellow ginger so he has that going from him which is nice.

The biggest honor of all was meeting the Wescott’s.
I have been following the adventures of Gary and Monika for a very long time.
I’ve also been enamored with their trucks ever since the Turtle II.
If I wasn’t a Jeep guy I’d probably be driving a clone of the Turtle V.  For real.
Check out their site here.

A lot of people ask why go to something like Overland Expo.  The above photos are just a few examples of why.  It’s not for the stuff (although there is a lot of cool stuff).  It’s not for the food (although the food is great).  It’s not even for the classes and workshops (although I hear they’re taught by some really cool people <cough>).  Expo is worth it simply for the people.  People like Clay, Cappy, and the Wescott’s are just a few of the thousands of cool people at expo that are out there living the overland lifestyle.  Everyone from full-timers to weekend enthusiasts.  Everything else at expo is icing compared to the people.


Historic District of downtown Roanoke, Virginia

Getting some barbecue outside Memphis, Tennessee.

Crossing into Oklahoma on I40

Thanks Oklahoma City for cramming EIGHT F&%#ing LANES OF TRAFFIC INTO ONE.

Crossing the Continental Divide in New Mexico

Overland Expo West – Preshow construction in the Camel Trophy Area

Another shot of the ECOA Basecamp at Overland Expo.
Have the Overland Solar 150w panel out soaking up up the rays.

Grabbing some grub at OXW.
Amazing pizza!

Downtown Flagstaff again for a post-expo meal at the Lumberyard Brewery.

Some actual overlanding…
Tonto National Forest in central Arizona just outside Phoenix

Air’d down and ready to roll on the Arizona Backcountry Discovery Route
Did from Globe to Young, AZ
Very intense… more on that soon.

Checking out the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad in Chama, NM

Downtown Durango, CO

Riding the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad on our way back from Silverton, CO

Glen Canyon Dam with Lake Powell in the background.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:

Not happy about my detour to Phoenix to see a dental monitor.

The culprit to the undermining of Vol 1 of the 2017 No Highways Tour
My pesky lower-right wisdom tooth.

If you want to destroy my sweater, hold this thread as I walk away. Watch me unravel, I’ll soon be naked.” ~ Weezer, ‘Undone’ (aka the sweater song).

I quote the Weezer song not because I’m a huge Weezer fan (anyone that knows me can attest to that).  It’s just the most appropriate lyrics I could think of as to how cracking my tooth unraveled all the plans to Volume 1 of 2017 No Highways Tour.  That one single moment started a cascade of pain, discomfort, delay, panic, and whatnot that did a pretty good job of derailing the trip as planned.  As a result I was left scrambling trying to make the best out of a bad situation.
I was also facing deadlines such as Saturday tickets for the Durango and Silverton railroad as well as getting Alex (@ecoa_alex) to Saint George Utah in time to connect with his family.  Had it not been for those two things I most likely would have left right after expo and headed straight home to see my home dentist.  However, there are worse things in life than being “stuck” in places like Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah in a fully equipped overland Jeep.

With compromise the name of the game I did the best I could and snaked along the Old Spanish Trail as best I could.  Rather than take the northerly route up to Moab and Green River I opted for the southerly route skirting the border between Arizona and New Mexico.  This was mostly out of necessity because we were four days behind schedule and it was the most direct route from Durango to Saint George.  Not ideal by any mean, but it was what needed to be done.

Along the way I struck out twice at Mesa Verde National Park and Aztec Ruins National Monument.  The cliff dwellings I knew were an easy-in/easy-out at Mesa Verde were closed due to a rock hazard (strike 1).  I misread the schedule for the Aztec Ruins and arrived an hour after closing (strike 2).  Without the flexibility to stick around and wait till they opened (which I could have done under normal circumstances) I stuck myself out and just marathoned to Saint George to get Alex to his family.

It’s probably impossible to predict something as random and as unexpected as a broken tooth.  Of all things I don’t think it was something I ever considered as a potential trip-ending thing — especially before the trip really even began.  Luckily, at least I hope, it’s something that will only ever happen once.  Since returning home I’ve had my right two wisdom teeth pulled.  In a few weeks once my jaw heals I’ll get the left ones out.  The only good things from my detour to Phoenix was finding out I had cavities in all four wisdom teeth which is why the one cracked.  Given the likelihood of the other three cracking I was advised to just have them all pulled.  That’s why as soon as the pain got to be too much I headed home once I had a firm appointment with my dentist — who unlike the one in Phoenix was able and willing to yank the little bastards out.  Good thing too since there was a slight complication getting the lower one (the one that was cracked) out.  Rather have someone I know and trust wrenching on my jaw with a set of pliers when I’m a few miles from home than some stranger I don’t know going at it when I’m 2,000 miles across the country.  So far no complications during the healing process <knocks on wood>.

The Trip Home:

On my way back I stopped in Denver, Colorado to couch surf with Josh from Bomber Products
Proof that Jeep people and Toyota people can be friends
On my trip home I detoured through central Indiana to visit a friend.
Was nice to be off the interstate for a while.

Finally back in PA.
Roughly 5,000 miles round-trip and just over three weeks total.
Not the trip I planned, but still a pretty good trip none-the-less.

Looking Ahead:

Plans for Volume 2 of the No Highways Tour are still in place.  I am looking forward to a month in WV, KY, TN, and North Carolina before the Appalachian Rendezvous and Overland Expo East.  As with every trip I take, I’ve learned a lot.

I firmly embrace a “never give up” attitude but I temper that with being smart.  That’s why I pressed on as much as I could and when I hit my limit I came home.  As much as it pains me to leave something like Vol. 1 of the 2017 NHT unfinished, I won’t give up on it.  The plan is, as of right now, to head out to Overland Expo West a little early next year and fill in some of the blanks to round out the book.  In the meantime I’ll start work on the book anyway because even as detailed as this after-action-report might seem, it’s still only a superficial summary of the trip and I’ve purposely left out a lot of stuff which will go in the book. The NHT books are also intended to be more of a guide book than a trip summary so many of the details in this summery won’t make it in the book.  If that makes sense.

In the meantime I have some upcoming shows here on the east coast where I’ll be talking about overlanding.  Also going to do a few local trips here in PA and maybe down in VA again.  See how things go.  And of course things will wrap up this year with Overland Expo East in the fall.

Oh, there are a few other things in the works… but I can’t talk about them just yet.  The only thing I’ll ask is this: How would you like to go on an official ECOA guided overland adventure? (I can’t promise no one will break a tooth though.  At least we won’t break any on purpose.).

Bonus – Teasers from the Arizona Backcountry Discovery Route:

Phoenix (@tokentacoma) snaking his way around a boulder that blocked most of the road

I was able to get the trailer passed.
It was tight, but not as tight as I was expecting.

One of the lush groves of trees that were totally unexpected given the bleakness of the canyon’s desert terrain.

So much more great things from the AZBDR… guess you’ll just need to buy the book.


If you enjoyed this article, and would like to be a part of helping further the ECOA mission to educate, encourage, and inspire please considering joining the ECOA Patron Support Team.  Not only will you help take ECOA to the next level but you’ll get access to patron exclusive items like hardcover copies of the 2017 No Highways Tour books as well as a 10% discount at the ECOA/NHT online store on cool swag like patches and stickers.

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