A Weekend on the Trail
Earlier this month I set out on a two-day weekend adventure with some friends. We set off over the mountains from central Virginia with plans to snake our way into West Virginia via nothing but back roads and forest service roads.
This end of Virginia is dominated by Jefferson and George Washington National Forests. In many ways they are two separate forests, but it’s often hard to know where one ends and the other begins. They are very fragmented snaking their way up the Appalachian and Blue Ridge mountain chains along the Virginia and West Virginia borders.
The group consisted of my buddy Tre taking the lead in his Land Rover, Rodney in his nearly new Ram 2500 (yes, he sold the Gladiator), and me in stock ’06 LJ. No trailer for me this trip as it was only going to be one night of camping I opted to sleep in the back of the Jeep.
The weather was less that ideal with pretty much three straight days of rain Friday through Sunday. That said, I spent most of the time behind the wheel so it really didn’t matter. Some of the forest service roads were a bit on the slick side, at least the ones that were dirt, but for the most part it was a lot of 2wd and 4wd-high. I like being in 4wd-high even on forest service roads because it limits wheel spin and also gives me some front-end-bite going up hill. This is more important with the trailer, but it’s a habit that seems to be engrained in me now. Leave pavement; hit 4-hi.
The major highlights of the trip had to be the forest service road (FSR 55) that follows the ridge line making up the WV/VA line, hitting Cass again (which I haven’t done since the 2015 No Highways Tour), and camping along side Lake Moomaw.
Rooftop Tent Rally
The weekend following this jaunt into WV was the Virginia Rooftop Tent Rally. This year marked the 4th year for the event. Despite state-imposed restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event lived up to my expectations as one of the best events out there. The smaller-than-usual group (limited to 200 participants and 50 vendors/staff) made for a more intimate feel akin to the first year of the rally back in 2017. That’s not to say the larger rallies of 2018 and 2019 aren’t fun, there’s just something to be said for the closeness of the smaller events like this and the Appalachian Rendezvous (which sadly was canceled this year).
This year I was wearing two hats. First was representing the day job working the Blue Ridge Overland Gear booth. We only had a few items to sell due to the production backlog we’re experiencing due to COVID-19 related supply chain issues. The other hat I was wearing was – of course – the ECOA hat. I was slated, as usual, to be an instructor and opted to do a class on Trailer Supported Adventures. Had a lot of good Q&A related to trailers as well as some good discussions on the pros and cons of trailers.
The last thing about the RTTR that I’ll mention is that we offered up a HAM Radio Test for anyone want to get their license. I finally got off my duff and took both my Technician and General tests. I managed to pass the Technician one, after a few months of solid studying (watching YouTube videos, reading the ARRL book, and using a practice exam app), but bombed the General test (18 right and 17 wrong, mostly because I didn’t study for it one bit). So I am not a legal HAM operator!
Fall Virtual Overland Expo
One of the major products I have undertaken in 2020 is the start of the official ECOA YouTube channel. I’m not sure I’ll ever profess to be a “video guy” but I’m slowly getting better at it. The two videos on the ECOA channel have been well received and I’m anxious to make some more. However, it seems I end up making more videos for other channels. I have a ton on the BROG channel on great topics like Navigation and Communication. I also have three videos on the Overland Expo Channel as part of their Virtual Overland Expo events.
In August I did a video version (albeit a super condensed version) of my 10 Essentials talk. That talk has evolved from an article series here on the ECOA blog to an in-person class at Overland Expo (which is widely popular and arguably one of the most-attended sessions) to a video series and soon podcast series (more on that later).
For the Fall Virtual Overland Expo event I was part of a roundtable discussion on North American Overland Routes. It was fun to rep the east coast and talk about some of my (mis)adventures both on the east coast and out west. I also did another stand-alone video which was a Navigation 101 video talking about maps. We all know how much I love maps.
Being a part of these virtual events has been fun. I even got to do an Instagram Live interview with Eva from Overland Expo. These virtual events are no substitute for in-person events, but all things considered it’s a nice compromise given the current state of world.
More to Come
So earlier I teased that I will be doing a podcast series on my 10 Essentials talk. That’s how I will be structuring season three of the Echoes of Adventure Podcast.
I’ll start with an intro episode called, “Back to Basics” which is going to echo some of my thoughts on the essence of overland travel and my plans for the “stock+” build of the ’06 LJ. From there I will progress through the ten individual “essentials” and then wrap up with a 12th and final episode which will summarize the list and maybe a few things that aren’t essential per-say, but are nice to have.
As far as video go, the plan is to ultimately mirror the 10 Essentials talk with corresponding videos on each topic. I’ll start with the basic level of each one and then progress deeper into each topic as the channel develops. I firmly believe, as evident by the ECOA Mission Statement, that education and training is what I’m good at and I should stick to what I’m good at. I just can’t bring myself to do the “watch me play with my toys in the woods” videos so many others are doing. My goal is to help YOU. It really is that simple.
In other news the ’04 LJ will hopefully finally maybe be finished in time for the 2021 season. I’d be lying if I said I was excited. I’m a little burnt out on the whole ordeal. At some point, when it’s running and the dust is settled, I’ll explain some of the things that went on behind-the-scenes that lead to the project falling off the rails. For now, I’m just crossing my fingers that it will – at some point – run and I can get it back out on the trail.
As always, thanks for swinging by and checking out all that ECOA has to offer. If you haven’t been the online store lately you might want to check it out. There are some new patches on the site (both the 2019 ECOA season patch as well as the Echoes of Adventure Season 1 patch are live) and soon I will be posting registrations for the 2021 Overland Skills Weekends event series. Don’t forget that ECOA Patron Support Team members do get discounts on merch and class registrations.