[Trip Report] 2 events, 14 states, 14 days, and 5,000 miles

Earlier this month I left on a two week trip that turned out to be a lot crazier than I expected.  In total I covered nearly 5,000 miles over two weeks and hit a total of 14 states.  The first of the events was the first ECOA Overland Skills Weekend at James River State Park in Virginia, the other event was Overland Expo West in Flagstaff, Arizona.

“Adventure begins when things don’t go according to plan.”
A dead battery is not how you want to start a cross country road-trip.
However a few minutes with some jumper cables and she was good to go.

Read on for an quicks synopsis of the trip…

Hashtag Road-Trip

I hesitate to call this an “overland adventure” mainly because it was all pavement and I was rocking the Liberty again.  However, road-trips can still be an adventure and this trip did not lack in its adventurousness.  First stop was an overnight in Bedford.  I needed to pick up the bags from Blue Ridge Overland Gear that each student was going to receive during the OSW workshop.  Plus, if I’m honest, it’s not very hard to get me to layover in Bedford and visit BROG even if I’m not buying anything.

A much needed cold adult beverage at Beale’s in Bedford.
If you’re ever in town, hold down a picnic table outside, order yourself a drink, and grab a bite to eat.
Great small town brewery!

If only the weather would stay this nice…
Spoiler Alert: It didn’t.

It was a nice night sitting around camp with the Ted from OEX and the students.
Lots of good conversations were had which made for a relaxing, yet educational, first night.

Event #1: Overland Skills Weekend #1

The first event for the trip was the recovery training weekend at James River State Park.  The plan was to offer up a hands-on recovery training session for no more than 20 students.  Although we didn’t get 20 people to sign up we moved forward with the training anyway.

Ted started off the class with a breakdown of the Overland Experts methodology.
He then went into a basic “show and tell” of all the various types of recovery gear.

Going over attaching recovery straps, types of shackles, and the advantage of using a bridle.

Getting to the hands-on portion and doing a little winching.
This portion of the class we put customer with their rigs and with their gear.
Some had winches they never used so it was fun giving them that opportunity.
Never used a Hi-Lift?
Don’t worry, we’ll change that!

The class covered so much more than these four photos reveal.  If you’re interested in future training sessions offered by ECOA or OEX, stay tuned!  We will be doing this class again for sure.  We will also be going a Communication & Navigation weekend in June, a Trip Planning and Logistics Class in July, and a Wilderness First Aid class in September.  All will be hands-on and will give you not only knowledge but experience as well.

On to the Next: Crossing the Country in Two Days

I’ve had some less than stellar ideas over the years.  The most recent one was leaving myself two days to go from Virginia to Arizona.  I rolled out of James River State Park at 6am Sunday and would roll into the Arizona rest area outside Flagstaff at Midnight on Monday.  Basically worked out to be two 1,000 mile days.  Not idea, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do to get where you need to be.

“Never turn down an opportunity for a hot shower” ~ John Jacobs of New Horizons Overland
Getting up at 5am for a pre-trip shower was a good idea.

When you’re friend is heading east toward home from Texas from a Crawl Magazine reader’s ride…
and you’re headed west toward  Arizona for Overland Expo…
You spend an hour coordinating a meet-up in Arkansas when you realize your paths will cross…
even it is at 1am.

Sleeping in highway rest areas isn’t very overlandy.
However, when I built the trailer this was exactly what I had in mind for trips like this.
Roll in, open the backdoor, and crawl in and go to sleep.

I opted to spare you a long list of “hood shots” of the drive across the country.
This was probably the highlight of the day when I crossed out of the flats of Oklahoma and Texas
and started getting into the textured terrain of New Mexico

Event #2: Overland Expo West 2019 – 10th Anniversary Show

Missing Overland Expo West in 2018 will go down as one of my biggest regrets.  It’s too good an event for me to miss.  I know Expo isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.  It continues to get larger (Spoiler Slert: this was the largest ever at 22k people) and continues to become more commercially focused.  However with my role in the whole game being that of an instructor, I go for the people.  I go to offer up my skills, knowledge, and experience to my fellow overland adventure enthusiasts.  In that regard, the event will always be worthwhile for me.  That said, it is cool to check out the vendor area and see some of the newest gear and what the industry is up to.

Home for the week.
As functional as the trailer is as a mobile “bed in a box” is when packed up,
it’s also a great basecamp when fully deployed.
The combo of the ARB Awning and room kit with a 270 awning make for a nice basic home.

The calm before the storm.
As usual, I also volunteered to help with setup.
Always fun watching the event take shape over a few days from behind the scenes.

The first official event of Overland Expo is always the “Cool Rides Contest.”
It’s one part car-show and one part beer-crawl.
Also a great way to visit and support local business in downtown Flagstaff.

Putting the “cool” in the Cool Rides Contest.

“Cool” isn’t limited to big rides.
This 2wd off-road moto might be pocked sized, but it’s super capable.

As mentioned, Expo is about the people.
It was very cool to finally meet Dan of The Road Chose Me.
It was also great to check out his JK that spent 3 years exploring Africa.

Who’s that guy?
What’s he doing?
Why does he talk with his hands so much?

In all seriousness this is exactly what I go to Expo for.
This demo attracted quite the crowd and all weekend people came up to me expressing their gratitude.

Huge thanks to ARB USA, Blue Ridge Overland Gear, Warn, Factor55 and Purple Lizard Maps.
Each of these Corporate Partners is essential in making workshops like this happen.
This “10 Essentials” workshop will be the foundation of some cool things yet to come.

Roundtables are always a great way to bring together a lot of knowledge and experience in one play.
This discussion was facilitated by Brit & Ashely of The Jeep Girls.
It was fun being a part of a conversation on social media influencing.
Even more fun sitting with other industry professionals covering the topic from multiple angles.

If you want to learn how to travel on a budget, these the people you need to listen to.
Dan Grec and Sam Manicorn are two adventures who know how to leverage a buck.

What better way to end Overland Expo West than with a beer called “Weekend Vibes” while standing around a campfire?

All in all it was a great Expo.  The new owners of the event have already begun making changes.  Some of them are good.  Registration probably ran the smoothest I’ve ever seen.  The vendor area was the largest I had seen.  The educational opportunities were numerous.  And the people, well, when you bring together that many like-minded adventurers it’s bound to be a good time!  I’ll be at the east Expo in the fall for sure and I have no doubt I’ll trek back to Flag for next year’s  Expo West. I just won’t rush there in two days.

Homeward Bound

Sadly without the LJ my post-expo plans to take my time meandering back east evaporated rather discouragingly.  As I worked my way east I slowed my pace a little and took my time (relatively speaking since I went from two 1,000 mile days to four 600 mile days).  I ended up adding a slight detour through Louisiana to avoid some nasty storms in Oklahoma as well as see a friend I hadn’t seen since my last Expo West trip in 2017.  Again, why miss an opportunity to sleep in a real bed and get a hot shower?  Oh, and good food!

Yes, that is snow.
Never a dull moment weather wise for Overland Expo.

The skies in eastern Arizona did not disappoint once I busted out of the snow storm in Flag.

Made a lunch stop in Plano Texas for some local barbecue.
Love the old-town feel of brick streets and historic buildings.

When in Louisiana you go find yourself a local hole in the wall place next to a stream.
Can’t go wrong with some creole cooking.

Crossing the Mississippi is always my symbolic “I’m home” moment.
I feel like as soon as I’m on it’s eastern shore I’m back on home turf…
Even if Mississippi is a state I don’t get to visit that often.

5,000 miles
14 states
14 days
2 events
1 crazy driver

It was a lot to pack into two weeks, and if I had it to do over again I would have loved to take the LJ and stretch it out.  Obviously 2019 is off to a rocky start in that regard. However what I do and the reason I do it has nothing to do with the Jeep.

The Jeep is just the means.  It’s just a vessel for my adventures.  If there was one piece of advice I could give is use what you have.  I see too many people get caught up trying to build the “perfect rig” or accumulate all the “perfect gear.”  I could easily have given up on my Expo plans because I didn’t have the LJ.  It’s rather humbling pulling into an event populated by kitted out adventure vehicles in a bone-stock Jeep Liberty Limited on 18″ chrome wheels.  Not exactly ideal.

However, when all is said and done, and now that the dust has settled I’m glad I went.  The drive sucked.  The weather wasn’t as nice as I hoped for either event, but I’d still do it all over again.  I mean, I know it’s a Liberty, but those heated leather seats and premium sound system didn’t go unappreciated.


ECOA will be attending the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival in Butler, PA next weekend (June 7th-9th) and will be hosting an Overland Demo Area.  We will be doing hands-on demos, vehicle walk-arounds, and author meet-and-greets with both myself and Dan Grec of The Road Chose Me.

Got Skills?
Here’s your chance to get some.

Following BJHF ECOA will be hosting our second Overland Skills Weekend at James River State park (June 14th-15th).  That weekend will focus on Communication & Navigation and will feature some hands-on practical training.  Spots are still available, however to ensure you get the t-shirt and BROG bag at the event you’ll need to register ASAP!