Expedition Portal http://expeditionportal.com Mon, 20 Oct 2014 18:14:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Retrospective: Range Rover, the Early Yearshttp://expeditionportal.com/retrospective-range-rover-the-early-years/ http://expeditionportal.com/retrospective-range-rover-the-early-years/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 07:19:44 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=22487 Who could have known it would become such an epochal vehicle. A legend even at the time of inception, it would go on to dominate the category it created, defining a standard that others would aspire to imitate, often in vain. Like all heroes, it would have its flaws, detractors, and usurpers to the thrown, but for the better part of 45 years, the Range Rover has held its own.

 

Like all triumphs of design, the wellspring of the Range Rover can be attributed largely to one remarkable man, Charles Spencer “Spen” King. Cutting his teeth as an apprentice for Rolls Royce in the early 1940s, Spen would later go on to become the chief engineer for Rover, leaving his mark on a number of projects before and after his contributions to his crowning achievement, the 1970 Range Rover. His automotive influence would later be applied to the Triumph TR6, Stag, and TR7 as well as other revolutionary designs of the time.

 

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Already well known the world over as a premier off-road car maker with their Series I and Series II trucks, Land Rovers, by the time of the late 60s, were being used to explore the most remote and rugged corners of the globe. It was said that for one-third of the world, the first car they had ever seen was a Land Rover. Their vehicles had also been widely adopted by military forces, commercial operations, and countless farmers as the modern day country workhorse. It would be fair to say that due to those favored applications, Land Rover’s were characterized by their very utilitarian nature. In America however, the Jeep Wagoneer and Bronco were winning loyal fans with their off-road prowess paired to refined creature comforts. Seeing a gap in the British market for a similar 4×4, Spen and fellow designers set out to create the Range Rover, a vehicle with the brand’s off-road pedigree, but with additional refinements for driver and passenger.

 

 

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Starting in 1967, the Land Rover design team began building a fleet of 26 clandestine test vehicles which were badged with the somewhat deceptive and mysterious Velar brand name. It wasn’t until June of 1970 when the veil of secrecy was lifted and the first Range Rover was officially announced. So impressive was the design of the first Range Rover, it was immediately put on display at the Musée du Louvre in Paris as an exemplary work of industrial design. It wasn’t just the critics that were so enamored with the new Rover, as consumers snapped it up as quickly as they rolled off the line.

 

Although not as finely appointed as its American counterparts, the Range Rover was built around the company’s uncompromising off-road ethos. The suspension employed coil springs over leaf springs, it had permanent four-wheel-drive and disc brakes on all four wheels. Power was supplied by a V8 engine which produced an adequate 135 bhp. Overall, it was a vehicle primarily built for utility, the interior rather sparse of features. As the subsequent years progressed, the addition of more luxurious features would become more common, eventually making the Range Rover the elegant estate wagon every well heeled gentleman had to own.

 

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In 1971, in an effort to confirm the new Range Rover’s position within the off-road segment, Land Rover entered into a bold proposition with the Trans Americas Expedition. Under the leadership of Major John Blashford Snell, two Range Rovers were commissioned to complete a daunting drive from Alaska to Ushuaia via the Darian Gap. Although it would be hard to say the two Range Rovers made the journey without a hitch, they did somewhat manage to complete the journey as planned. In the years to follow, the Range Rover’s off-road aptitude would be tested and confirmed many times over, most notably within the Camel Trophy series.

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As the years pressed on, the Range Rover would sell well and receive a number of important updates and improvements. Engines would go on to include diesel options and the interior evolved into the posh SUV we know it to be today. Until 1987 however, the Range Rover was not officially available to North American consumers.

 

With the entrance into the American market, Land Rover made the conscious choice to market the Range Rover as a highly exclusive off-roader delivered with the same features normally reserved for only the finest luxury sedans. Power windows, an electric sunroof, leather wrapped seats and wood accents were all added to the Range Rover setting it apart from every other SUV on the market.

 

Twenty five years after the first unit rolled off the assembly line, the Range Rover, then officially billed as the Range Rover Classic, was a legend of automotive history. In 1994 the successor to the original Range Rover was released in the form of the P38, but knowing loyalists still demanded the Classic, Land Rover left it in production for another year.

 

In an interesting twist, in 2004 after the introduction of the third generation of the Range Rover, Spen King criticized SUV owners by saying, “Range Rovers were never intended as a status symbol but later incarnations of my design seem to be intended for that purpose.” The takeaway from that quote––go get your Range Rover dirty.

 

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Destinations: Harquahala Mountainhttp://expeditionportal.com/destinations-harquahala-mountain/ http://expeditionportal.com/destinations-harquahala-mountain/#comments Sun, 19 Oct 2014 16:05:52 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=22295 Ending at the highest summit in Southwest Arizona, the Harquahala Mountain is as steep, rugged, and beautiful as the desert comes. Its finer historical points start back in the 1920’s when Charles G. Abbott spearheaded an effort for contraction of a weather observatory. Looking for a dry climate allowing for sun observation and measurement, the Harquahalas were an obvious choice for the new station. In 1920 the Smithsonian Observatory was constructed atop the peak and a small team began the tedious and grueling task of gathering weather data in the harsh Arizona desert. Although standards of living improved slowly with the addition of a refrigerator, telephone, and better quality water tanks, the observatory was abandoned in 1925 for a new location in Table Mountain California.

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The small and crumbling pack trail has now been upgraded many times by the BLM and is drivable with only moderate difficulty. Covering 10.3 miles from start to finish, this route climbs 3,700 feet to a total of 5,600 feet above sea level. Starting off of Eagle Eye Road, a clear sign points to the Back Country Byway followed by a large and colorful entry sign just off the pavement and onto the dirt road. A shaded information station is placed off the start of the road with a map, description of the trail, and historical information. I would recommend stopping here to learn a little about the area and let the family use the “facilities” located nearby.

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Wandering down the dirt road you’ll find markers along the route guiding you on the correct road. Once you’ve begun the markers and a little common sense will keep you on track so enjoy the views and don’t worry too much about missing a turn or taking the wrong path. If you do feel like exploring off the byway, several old mines can be found in this area including the Alaska, Snowball, and Monterey mines.

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Continuing the climb the road will snake its way around the opposite side of the mountain revealing a stunning view of the desert below. WARNING: the road does narrow on many of the switchbacks and bypasses. While it’s wide enough for one vehicle it may be impossible for two vehicles to pass. Turn offs can be few and far between so please be cautious and polite to others on the trail.

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As you begin to approach the summit the road condition continues to deteriorate. The BLM paved one small section that was especially dangerous, however there are still several climbs that can result in slipping, spinning, and grinding. Use care when ascending these sections as a slide off the road would not end well for anyone involved at these heights. WARNING: The consistently steep ascent and slow speeds can easily result in engine overheating. Monitor temperatures carefully during your ascent. During colder months it is also possible that this road may gain snow or ice. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS ROUTE UNDER THESE CONDITIONS. The unfavorable road slopes in several sections can lead to a loss of traction towards the ledge.

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Upon reaching the top you’ll have the pleasure of witnessing some of the best views Arizona has to offer. It will be fairly cool at these altitudes so eating at one of the several overlook picnic tables is a great option for lunch. Make sure to bring plenty of water for yourself and your pets, the altitude combined with heat can make quick work of your hydration. If you are feeling adventurous with your foods, there are several prickly pears growing at the summit. Cut one off and remove the prickers for a tasty treat!

Coming back down the mountain you’ll want to make sure to downshift into first gear and check your brakes. The steep descent can quickly result in a serious problem if full braking power is not available. The views descending are even better than during the ascent so enjoy the journey!

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Seasons and Conditions

As with anywhere you travel, time of year can make all the difference. While this trail is open all year, we would recommend avoiding summer months as the high desert heat can result in overheating during the slow steep climb and monsoon rains can and will wash out portions of the trail. Fall and Spring are both great times to run the trail. Temperatures are mild, weather is stable and favorable, and the road has had time to firm up since the monsoon season. Winter can be favorable as well however it is possible that snow or ice may accumulate. If this is the case DO NOT ATTEMPT THE TRAIL.

 Permits

There are no permits required to traverse this trail, however some valuable information can be found on the BLM website regarding the area.

Campsites

Camping along this route is limited to back country remote sites without facilities. There are a few towards the summit of the trail and almost unlimited in the desert below the mountain. As always remember to choose your site carefully and tread lightly to avoid damage to the surrounding environment.

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Map Provided by TrekNow

Getting There

From Phoenix travel 80 miles west on I-10 to the salome road exit at mile 50. Turn right and follow salome road for 9.6 miles to Eagle Eye Road. Continue roughly 8.5 miles until you see a sign pointing to the back country byway.

From Wickenburg take H-60 to Aguila. Turn south onto Eagle Eye Road for roughly 18.5 miles until you see a sign point to the back country byway.

Local Resources

The closest town in which you can find fuel, food, and hotels is Aguila Arizona. Unfortunately if you need a full array of services like medical, law enforcement, or better hotels and restaurants you’ll need to travel to the town of Wickenburg.

For more information check out the BLM website here:

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Long Term Wrap Up: Salsa Fargo Tihttp://expeditionportal.com/long-term-wrap-up-salsa-fargo-ti/ http://expeditionportal.com/long-term-wrap-up-salsa-fargo-ti/#comments Sat, 18 Oct 2014 07:30:14 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=22458 It was roughly a year ago when I plucked this little beauty from a collection of boxes and with anxious hands began assembling it piece by shiny piece. As it came together, passers by at the Overland International office would stop and say, “Wow, that’s a cool bike. What is it?” It’s easy to forgive the uninitiated for not immediately knowing what to make of a bicycle that looks largely like a mountain bike until you take note of the unusually flared drop bars. To the adventure cycling set however, that is the one thing that sets it apart as unmistakably––a Salsa Fargo.

 

As I said of this bike in the 2014 Overland Journal Gear Guide, “The Salsa Fargo Ti is a witch’s brew of exotic ingredients borrowed from other platforms to create an adventure bicycle without peer.” I do get carried away with my wordsmithing, but you get the drift. It’s a handful of 29er mountain bike mixed with a pinch of touring bike. What ever it is, the end result is a bike designed to devour big miles regardless of the terrain.

 

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The thing that is most surprising about the Fargo platform is how well it does at just about everything from tough trail to baby smooth tarmac. We’re all well aware of what happens when you design something that does everything. It usually does nothing, or at least nothing well. The Fargo certainly isn’t an all mountain shredder, nor will it win your local road race, but it is impressive how well it conquers everything in-between.

 

Some of you may remember our Fargo project from a couple years ago. We built up a steel Fargo in a multitude of configurations from commuter to tourer, singlespeed to bikepacker. I even rode it in a 100 mile mountain bike race proving two things: I’m a glutton for punishment and the Fargo is if anything––versatile. The titanium version is all that and more.

 

I have now racked up just short of 2,000 miles on the 2014 Salsa Fargo Ti, and I am wholly smitten by it. I loved the steel variant, but the titanium version with updated full carbon fiber fork is simply better. What I noticed first, something I hoped I would notice, is the lively feel of the titanium frame. There is a feedback that is indicative of titanium that is hard to put to words, but it is there. It’s more than a compliance to the ride, it’s a feeling that the frame is contributing to the effort. It has a springiness that is, well, what makes titanium the “magic metal.” Regarding the new all-carbon fork, it simply adds a level of control accuracy that the steel fork couldn’t achieve. Diving hard into turns the new fork holds a line with tenacity and confidence. Standing with the bike fully loaded with bikepacking kit, the fork is steadfast, never flexing to the pressure.

 

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On the Trail

 

Taking the Fargo Ti to the singletrack is one of those things I do more often than I thought I would. Maybe it unleashes my inner Tomac (Who raced drop bars in the early 90s), or maybe I just like the challenge. Regardless, it is very doable to ride technical singletrack with the Fargo as long as you adapt to three considerations. First, the bottom bracket is relatively low, so being mindful of foot placement is key lest you smack your cranks on the rocks with enough force to loosen your fillings. Secondly, the hand positions best suited for braking will likely put you in the drops. That’s a pretty aggressive place to be when rolling down techy trail. Lastly, the geometry is pretty relaxed so diving into hard turns requires some turn telepathy. You can’t figger out your line mid-turn. If you do, you’ve way over shot it. Fitted with full bikepacking kit, and at moderate bikepacking tempo, the off-road chops of the Fargo Ti are more than adept at tackling any moderate trail.

 

 

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On the Road

 

At the risk of just burning good tires for the sake of wasting rubber, I have slogged down many a mile of pavement on the Fargo Ti. The longest day might have involved a solid 87 miles of pavement and all things being considered, it did quite well. Hunkered down in the drops, the miles melted away, the drivetrain more than tall enough to provide enough gear. On a recent bikepacking trip near Durango we hit speeds nearing 55mph on the road and the Fargo Ti was rock solid, even under full load.

 

Upgrades

 

Being a bike dork of the highest order, it was only a matter of time before I adorned the Fargo Ti with a multitude of upgrades, most of which are obnoxiously unnecessary, but fun all the same. I don’t know why I felt it needed a 120 gram Easton EC 90SL carbon fiber stem, but it’s on there. It probably didn’t warrant carbon fiber bottle cages, but I had them in the closet so why not, right?

 

The big register dinger was the purchase of the ENVE XC carbon rims paired to Sapim spokes and Chris King hubs. I could have bought a really nice bike for the price of these two wheels alone, but they are spectacular wheels. Okay, that might have been over the top, but they really did add to the line-holding capabilities of the front end and the power delivery at the rear. And, most importantly, they declare my status within bike geekdom better than a cog-capped scepter.

 

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Accessories

 

By now my Fargo Ti has become a bit of a do-all machine and as such gets used as a daily trainer, weekend bikepacker, and as soon as my schedule clears, will be used for more protracted journeys. As the days shorten, I have fitted the Fargo Ti with a Nite Rider DIY Pro 3600 light system. Some may lament the weight of the battery and lamp, but for me, they permit several rides on one charge. Plus, they are ridiculously bright. I have only had the lights for a month, so I’ll have to give a full report on those later.

 

At the aft end, I did what I said I’d never do and fitted the bike with a rear rack and bag system. I hate riding with a pack, so the Moots Tailgator system seemed ideal. The tubular titanium rack weighs but a handful of grams, and can be used to hold the two purpose-buit Moots bags, or any small bag. For things like spare tubes, a jacket, snacks, and all the goodies needed to keep me on the road as long as possible, it’s pretty slick. With the ability to mount five water bottles on the Fargo Ti, I’m seldom thirsty.

 

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It’s a beautiful machine, the 2014 Salsa Fargo Ti. I’m happy to see Salsa didn’t make many changes for 2015 as it is a near perfect design. Even when I squint through a critical eye, I can find no discernible faults with it. The finish detail is superb, equal to the boutique ti bikes in my quiver. The geometry and fit dimensions are neutral and accommodate a wide range of rider sizes. It’s a thoughtful bike, one the competition must feel is too intimidating to challenge. The Fargo seems to occupy its own space in the market, and perhaps that too makes it extra special.

 

What I enjoy most about the Fargo Ti is that every ride holds endless possibility. I might start a ride burning pavement, then hit a gravel road, stretch of singletrack, it really doesn’t matter where the route takes me, the Fargo will eat it up. It also begs to be ridden for long hours. Anytime I get a full day to ride, I load it up with food and fluids and just go. Where I go matters not. That freedom to go anywhere gives the Fargo a sense of freedom I truly love.

 

The only thing mine needs is more miles. Where to find the time, that’s the thing.

 

www.salsacycles.com 

 

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On a recent bikepacking trip along the Colorado Trail from Silverton to Durango, the Fargo Ti carried me and my gear with no problems at all. I did fit the Fargo with a SID carbon-crowned fork, which was necessary for such an aggressive trail. The brakes might have been a tad underpowered for the long and steep downhills, but all-in-all, it was a great platform.

 

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Company Profile: Ecuador Freedom Bike Rentalhttp://expeditionportal.com/company-profile-ecuador-freedom-bike-rental/ http://expeditionportal.com/company-profile-ecuador-freedom-bike-rental/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 20:14:53 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=22301 I am probably not unlike many motorcyclists in that I often dream of extended travels to the deepest corners of South America. It’s an intoxicating fantasy filled with the rumble of a well tuned engine, never ending roads connecting quaint villages, rustic roadside inns, and all of the charms we associate with the lower Americas.

Until recently, the only way to get your South American riding fix was to either ride or ship your motorcycle there. For travelers like me, I simply haven’t the time or means to dedicate to such a protracted or expensive journey, but that doesn’t mean I have to miss out on the experience altogether. Over the last few years as the popularity of off-road touring has exploded, so too have the opportunities to scratch that itch. Companies like Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental are now providing riders with turn-key tours making South American motorcycle travels easily achieved.

 

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Founded by Court and Sylvan, two well-traveled adventure riders themselves, their Quito based operation has a fleet of more than twenty well maintained motorcycles of all makes and models. Providing self guided and fully supported tours, their routes cover the diverse regions of Ecuador from the densely vegetated Amazon Basin to the rarified air of the Andes Mountains. With trips starting at just four days to longer journeys up to twelve days, they offer something for everyone whether you prefer dirt, pavement, or a carefully crafted mix of the two.

Just last week, my friend Justin Julian and I had the good fortune to join Court and Sylvan on their six-day Off-Road Ecuador adventure. It gave us detailed insight into their company, their philosophy of travel, and why they chose Ecuador as their adopted home.

 

The Founders

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Sylvan prepares to launch their video drone. It’s all about capturing the experience for these two.

 

In an earlier life I was a travel guide in Europe and Alaska and have a deep appreciation for the client/guide relationship. In my humble opinion, the tell-tale sign of a good guide is where they live. Many companies providing tours within South America are not residents of those regions but simply swoop in, knock out a few tours, and fly home. Court and Sylvan, after a year traveling the Americas on motorcycles, made the conscious choice to call Ecuador their home and over the past five years have developed friendships with the people along their routes. From a client’s perspective, that provides priceless x-factor. As we made our various stops throughout each day, Court and Sylvan were quick to introduce us to the people along the route, people who have become their––amigos. Little details like these are impossible to replicate by the fly-in tour companies.

 

The Country

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As well traveled as I thought I was, I had to admit I knew very little of Ecuador prior to stepping off the plane in Quito. After just twelve days on the ground, I can say with conviction that I will most certainly return. Although not a big country by South American standards, it is diverse in its landscapes, has a textured history, and is populated by some of the most hospitable people I have ever met. In an age when travel safety is of paramount concern, there wasn’t a day in Ecuador that I didn’t feel wholly welcomed by its people. From the capital city to chance encounters with locals in the most remote corners of the backcountry, the people were warm and gracious, smiles and curiosity the backdrop to every interaction. Even when traversing areas considered dangerous by the U.S. State Department, we were treated with nothing but kindness.

 

The Riding

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By mid day, most of our rides had us well above the clouds, high above 13,000 feet.

 

I have been fortunate enough to ride many of the most celebrated motorcycle destinations in the world from the Alps to Baja. Riding Ecuador’s paved, cobbled, and dirt roads just might top them all. I had never heard of “Incan Pavement” until my wheels rolled over it, but I will never forget the experience. The work that went into building hundreds of miles of stoney roads is mind boggling and the quality of the ride is superb. To think sections of these roads may have been 400 years old is hard to comprehend.

 

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For our trip, one billed as an off-road adventure, we traversed hour after hour of beautiful dirt roads, some sections offering just the right amount of challenge, most not so difficult as to detract from our ability to take in the views lining the route. Each day our bikes would transport us above the clouds, the high points often reaching well above 13,000 feet. When the dirt would turn to pavement, the revs would build, the speeds increase, and I have to admit, carving Ecuadorean tarmac is as good as it gets.

 

The Motorcycles

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Riders have close connections with their steeds and the thought of riding someone else’s bike often holds little allure. Standing in Freedom Bike Rental’s office in Quito, surrounded by beautifully maintained motorcycles, I felt like a kid in a candy shop. Their inventory of bikes includes Husqvarnas, Triumphs, BMWs, and even the latest Suzuki V-Strom 1000. It’s easy to see, Court and Sylvan are if anything, motorcycle enthusiasts.

 

 

The Accommodations

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There’s no better way to unwind from a long day in the saddle than a dip in a pool or natural hot spring.

 

Like many riders, I’m not afraid to sleep on the ground, but I won’t ever shy away from a nice hotel. Despite the fact Ecuador’s more remote areas have few options, our route seemed to always converge with a great hotel, just as our day came to a close. It would be fair to say some of the hotels along our ride were more rustic than others, but every night was comfortable, clean, and relaxing. Having breakfast on a veranda overlooking a coffee plantation shaded by banana trees is a great way to start the day, especially when that breakfast is accompanied by freshly brewed coffee acquired in a tiny village the day before.

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The Experience

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Justin the Giant made quick work of making new friends where ever we went.

 

It would be impossible for me not to rave about our time with Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental. Court and Sylvan created a six day experience that was beyond our wildest expectations. The riding was superb, the accommodations and food excellent, and our guides were good pals by trip’s end. We couldn’t have asked for a better trip, a trip I will report in full in an upcoming issue of Overland Journal as well as here on Expedition Portal.

 

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www.freedombikerental.com

 

Ecuador Travel Logistics

 

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Money: Ecuador not only uses the USD as their standard currency, the cost of travel is an exceptional value. Although hotel prices are factored into Freedom Bike Rental’s self-guided and guided excursions, hotels seldom exceed $50 per night. Lunches are rarely more expensive than a couple dollars and even gas is less than $2.00.

Flights: For most Americans, getting to Quito, Ecuador requires little more than a short three hour, forty five minute flight from Miami with a slight change in time zones, seldom more than a three hour difference. Our flights from Phoenix and Minnesota were just $950 and $800 respectively. Hotels in Quito can be readily found for under $75 for what I would say are rather nice digs.

Connectivity: Although travel makes for a great opportunity to unplug, we had unexpected cell coverage, even in far flung corners of the mountains, and every hotel offered WiFi. Charging devices is easy enough as Ecuador uses the same Type A power outlets as used in North America.

Documentation and Visas: Unlike other countries in South America, Ecuador does not require any reciprocity fees, or unique travel visas. All you need is a passport.

 

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Chile’s Charms: Running Hot & Blowing Coldhttp://expeditionportal.com/chiles-charms-running-hot-blowing-cold/ http://expeditionportal.com/chiles-charms-running-hot-blowing-cold/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 07:23:03 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=21829 Upon registering my motorcycle’s mileage clock 10,000 miles since hitting the Americas five months previous, without conscious volition I stopped seeing our trip as an extended holiday.  This had now become a way of life for my partner and I.  The honeymoon period wasn’t altogether over, it was simply the start of a new chapter having learnt the basic ropes of two-wheeled travel.  

 

Namely journeying into the unknown and coping with all its capricious twists and turns – coming out the other end better off for it.  Travel for me is one thing you can buy that will make you rich.  South America so far was adorned by many pleasurable experiences mingled with the odd misadventure thrown in for good measure.  We were able to carry all we needed on the back of two motorcycles, which wonderfully, excluded all those unnecessary societal burdens.  I’m done with those.  

 

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The 50-mile ride from San Pedro de Atacama took us north in ascent to the Antofagasta region.  The sky was an animated arrangement of clouds straight from an episode opening of The Simpsons.  En route to El Tatio, we were ungrudgingly slowed by a herd of goats consuming the width of the road.  Watching the mature ones amble and kids toddling along bum-to-bum, my heart went out to commuters back home in murderous bumper-to-bumper traffic.  Straggling behind a frisky band of bearded goats was my kind of traffic jam.

 

In eventually skirting around the herd we blasted through our first ford of water; my lower half got drenched.  The splash I’d zealously made soaked my legs trickling into the top my boots.  Wet feet forgotten, we were favored with clusters of vicuña dotted on the mountainous plains – a wild relative of the llama, supposedly valued for its fine silky wool.  Like the llama, vicuña were a lot less skittish than the similar looking but larger guanaco.  It gave us a moment to marvel at them in the altiplano high Andean pastures against a big sky backdrop.

 

 

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My bike had been crying out for some much needed attention but with everything else going on around me, I’d neglected to notice that a battery connection had become loose.  I was too happy to be astride the saddle bearing witness to deep yellow grassy plains curving in from the left and red rock rearing up from the right against a blindingly blue sky.  Landscape of this simple but immense magnitude in a three-part colour scheme set to ‘vibrant’ was a tonic to the system.

 

I spent the remaining four miles towards our destination in anxiety of presaging disaster.  Cue the rider lurching while enduring a motorcycle’s resistance to ride, my bike was not a happy soul.  Ordinarily, I would have sought instant roadside assistance from my partner, a self-taught mechanic at my constant beck and call.  But so close to El Tatio, I gently and slowly coaxed my motorcycle over an unforgiving four-mile stretch of the coarsest corrugations, relentless ruts and up hill sandy struggles.   She neither thanked me nor denied me; my F650GS was forever my perfect riding companion.  I owed everything to her and of course my partner’s pre-requisite knowledge of what makes my two wheels tick.

 

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Back at serious elevation we rocked up at El Tatio, a geothermic basin.  My motorcycle had out-performed herself and Jason rapidly remedied her ailments.  Trying my utmost to shun the fatigue, dodge the dizziness and other bothersome symptoms of altitude, we surveyed our surroundings.  “Oh look!” I said, pointing to four grey foxes advancing on reddish legs that were long staring at us if not any potential meals at hand.  We were in geyser seventh heaven, thanks to the frozen underground rivers making contact with sizzling hot rocks.

 

I tentatively asked a member of the Tatio Mallku Society whose job it was to administer the natural heritage – a woman in charge of patrolling the activity around such fragile ground – if we might sleep in her stone floored office.  She responded warmly and would accommodate our request for a negligible fee.  The lady seemed obliging so I also inquired if there might be a hot shower nearby.  She smiled knowingly, pointed a mile down the hill and kindly explained, “There is hot spring.”  I laughed heartily at the self-evidence all around me and mentally applauded the utilization of natural resources.  Without toiletries in tow, we headed straight there for a dip.  By late afternoon, the ambient temperature had to be in falling single figures but what the heck, the pool was steaming away at a ‘Come to daddy’ 40 degrees Celsius.

 

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Before reaching the hot spring, we took the time to recce the place.  Fumaroles bubbled all over the geyser field, plumes of scalding hot water gushed upwards and arresting towers of steam rose from the rocks making a spectacular sight.  Especially so, as we watchfully weaved through on our wheels.  The towers of boiling steam were intensely striking first thing, contrasting with an air temperature of -12 degrees and shrouding my partner amongst a sea of other bodies in the eggy stench of fetid vapors.  At 4,320 metres above sea level, we were gazing on the world’s highest geysers.  I had forgotten to bring my ‘boil in the bag’ rice, I’d just have to plunge myself in instead.

 

By dusk all the tourists were disappearing leaving the hot spring serenely still, just for us. My heart was racing and I found it difficult to slow my resting pulse; acclimatization was strenuous work-in-progress I mused.  The hot spring soothed and settled me.  Its hot surface water caressed my neck, my body remained lukewarm below the waterline but once my toes gently disturbed the sand on the bottom, it got ‘feet hopping’ hot again.  It stopped the compulsive musings compounded by the head banging at elevation and emptied all thought from the hinterland of my mind.  Like the tourist turbulent muddy pool upon our arrival; when left undisturbed sooner or later stopped rippling.

 

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I surfaced the next morning like a bear roused from hibernation, lethargically coming out of my cocoon.  Our one-day sojourn in El Tatio extended into an unplanned second day.  The afternoon saw us race back toward the geysers; there were over 500 of the thermal manifestations.  A lot of them boiling away at 86 degrees Celsius, less than a kettle’s boiling point at sea level due to the altitude.  We stuck our fingers in as many bubbling mud pools, perpetual spouters, steamy waterholes and hot springs as we dared.  With the Andean gulls soaring and not a soul in sight, we took our wheels and rode around again within this unique and striking site.  A befitting depiction of our two-day stopover in El Tatio?  A toe-tingling sizzler!

 

twowheelednomad.com

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ADAK Bivouachttp://expeditionportal.com/adak-bivouac/ http://expeditionportal.com/adak-bivouac/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 18:54:00 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=22270 You may remember ADAK’s Outpost camper (pictured above left), a spacious travel trailer built to handle rough roads and provide a comfy basecamp in the back country. The downside was it’s shear size, which made it impractical to pull over much more than moderate trails. For those of us seeking an equal level of all-weather comfort in a smaller trail-ready package, ADAK has unveiled the Bivouac.

adak-biv-02 adak-biv-02a

The Bivouac is a fully self-contained 11.9-foot bunkhouse on wheels, with sleeping for up to 4 adults, based on the same stalwart construction of the Outpost. Standard features include a dinette which converts to a bed, rear bunk, interior and exterior lighting, 450 amp-hours of 12 volt power storage, full bath with instant hot water heater, a 43 gallon fresh water supply, cassette style black water storage, electric brakes and a heavy duty 7,500-lb 8 lug torsion axle. The trailer can be custom built to fit practically any needs, with common options including solar charging, generator, air conditioning, propane furnace, inside galley, refrigerator, stove, microwave, 4-season water system, additional bunks, roof racks and ladders, and additional gear storage.

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With a dry weight of 2,925 pounds, the trailer is well within the towing capabilities of many mid-sized SUVs and small trucks. The Bivouac’s overall dimensions are 16’8″ long, 8′ wide, and 10’3″ tall with a ground clearance of 20.75 inches at the frame. Pricing on the base model starts just shy of $40,000. Learn more at ADAK Adventure Trailers.

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Overland Expo East 2014http://expeditionportal.com/overland-expo-east-2014/ http://expeditionportal.com/overland-expo-east-2014/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 07:49:29 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=22223 While not as massive in attendance as the well-established Overland Expo West the inaugural East event was easily as big in acreage and enthusiasm for the overland world. What set the East event apart from it’s Western brother is the picture perfect North Carolina Fall setting and close proximity to big population centers, who came out in big numbers to see what this “overland” thing is all about. The same tested formula for a quality overland event was used; hands on driving/riding courses, tons of industry vendors showing off and selling the latest greatest toys, lots of educational opportunities on a wide variety of overland relevant topics and scheduled opportunities each day for the overland tribe to gather around food and beverages to share their stories.

 

BryonDorrExpoEast2014 1

 

Fall showed all her South East flavor during the weekend. Venders and attendees started to roll in Thursday to hot sunny weather and a truly spectacular venue that featured lush green rolling hills, beautiful old trees full of vibrant Fall colors and a picture perfect large pond that was the centerpiece of the Taylor Ranch venue. On Friday the weather took a drastic change with lots of rain and high gusty winds. Many campers arriving on Friday were redirected to camp in the primary day pass parking fields in order to preserve the well manicured fields at Taylor Ranch, as the steep hill into the main camping area turned into a rutted muddy mess.

 

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Saturday was an absolutely beautiful sunny day, but was still quite windy and very cold. Sunday everyone awoke to frost covered vehicles and thick fast moving fog rising from the Taylor Ranch pond. Luckily as the sun rose everything thawed quickly and Sunday ended up being a perfect Fall day full of sunshine, puffy clouds and moderate temperatures.

Land Rover again built a great little offroad driving course to showcase the off pavement prowess of their vehicles, as well as teach basic offroad driving skills and provide the opportunity to learn your own vehicle’s limits. The weekend’s muddy conditions really highlighted vehicle and tire differences, as well as the value of proper driving skills. Because of the layout of the venue site the driving course was a bit hidden, and hence not as much a centerpiece as it is at Overland Expo West. Even though it was a bit out of view by most show goers, the line to drive the course was usually well over an hour long. Rawhyde Adventures also brought their adventure motorcycle riding expertise to Expo East through a rodeo ring riding course, similar to Expo West, and through utilizing the hills, fields and forest trails of the ranch.

 

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Events of this caliber just can’t happen without the support of great industry and local companies. There were over 50 vendors at this inaugural event showing off everything from the latest overland expedition vehicles all the way to the local animal rescue, and everything in between. It was great to see industry veterans like U-Joint Offroad, that don’t make it out to Expo West, have a big presence at their backyard event. A big thank you to the event’s presenting and title sponsors, Four Wheel Campers and Sportsmobile, for helping to make it all such a success.

Essential to the Overland Expo model is classes, workshops, demonstrations and roundtables. Topics range from; exploring your back yard trails to far away exploration, boarder crossings, sharing your adventures through stories, photography & video, traveling with a reluctant partner, overland women specific courses, finding the perfect vehicle for your overland travels and so much more. There was truly something on offer for everyone and anyone who likes to explore and find adventure.

 

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As usual it really did come down to the amazing people you meet at these events. Sharing stories, experience and skills with each other in order to better and grow the overland tribe. It was great to see so many fresh faces and absorb their enthusiasm for adventure and exploration. On the flip side of the coin was being able to learn so much from the many seasoned overland travelers who truly love to share experiences and skills from the road less traveled. The message shared by all was; Go adventure!

 

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Importing a 25 year old Vehicle 101http://expeditionportal.com/importing-a-25-year-old-vehicle-101/ http://expeditionportal.com/importing-a-25-year-old-vehicle-101/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 17:26:17 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=22208 When I sold my 1988 FJ62 Landcruiser last year I felt empty. I decided to replace the truck on a whim with an equally dependable and lovable Toyota, a mint 1988 4×4 Pickup with a 5 speed mated to a 22re motor with front and rear lockers. It just wasn’t the same. I sold that truck this spring and the Land Cruiser replacement search commenced.

 

My first FJ62 search was of grand proportions but familiar to many Toyota fans. I found the truck on Craigslist using SearchTempest.com. After weeding through ad after classified ad for months on end I found one in Trona, California. (See Planet of the Apes, the truck was featured in a few scenes) 86k miles, not a spec of rust, and maintained by a BMW machinist. I booked my flight from New York and drove back twenty eight hundred miles with my less then enthusiastic brother in three and half days. Making stops at the old Profitts garage in Delta, CO for a post-purchase inspection and too many fuel stations along the way. I drove that truck over 100,000 miles in three years with basic maintenance and tire changes.

 

The utilitarian aspect, respect on the trail, waves from other Cruiserheads, smiles on kids faces as they sped past you in their car seat strapped tight in Mom’s Porsche Cayenne, and dependability are all things I missed. I knew what I had to do––Replace it. Not just with any old FJ60 or 62 Land Cruiser, but a diesel.

 

Once again my search began on the several vehicle forums of EXPO and the like, but the few and far examples were well beyond my budget of $10k.

 

Searchtempest.com resulted in a few finds in the US, but once again way out of my budget. I changed the search selections to Canadian provinces and a few examples began to emerge.  BJ60’s, HJ60’s, HJ61’s, 70, and 80’s series Land Cruisers all flew to the surface.  But something was missing, my search results were only delivering a handful of trucks, mostly beaten up overpriced examples. I began to realize that similair to Salt Lake City, which heavily relies on online classifieds such as KSL.com vs. Craigs, Canadians prefer www.Kijiji.ca.

 

I specified my search to

– Make – Toyota

– Fuel   – Diesel

http://www.kijiji.ca/b-cars-trucks/british-columbia/diesel-toyota/c174l9007a166a54

 

To my surprise multiple listings of foreign import trucks rose to the surface. Province after province was chock full of diesel Land Cruisers. I felt as if I struck gold. Far more in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario then others. Simultaneously I began to research the process of importing a truck.  In several words the process can be described as, “daunting, intimidating, illegal, stupid, and ridiculously expensive”. I made countless calls to notable Land Cruiser shops, sent emails to other import owners, and discussed my possible quest with friends/family. The results from my inquiries were at all ends of the spectrum, “Not possible” to “What’s wrong with you, Joe?” to “It’s easy, just drive it across”.

 

Legally section 591.5 Section 2-i of the “Importation of Foreign Vehicles”

http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&SID=19e4cbac46a9ea658658fcc5d2ea765e&rgn=div5&view=text&node=49:7.1.1.1.18&idno=49

Clearly states “The vehicle is 25 or more years old.”

 

I figured enough was enough.  I was between jobs and the time was right to make the trip.  If I was going to bring back my boyhood dream truck I was going to have to do it myself.  I found the truck on Kijiji.ca , further north then I initially wanted to go in Whitehorse, Yukon. I negotiated the price, sent a deposit, and booked my one-way flight. A call to my local insurance company was made to arrange for a temporary Canadian insurance ID and a temporary United States insurance card.  I made a stop at the local AAA for more maps, Trip Tik, and confirmation of their tow services in Canada. I downloaded the 2010 Milepost edition for extra precaution.

 

Access the online 2010 milepost digital edition by visiting:

http://www.onlinedigitalpubs.com/publication/?i=32159

Direct download the 2010 milepost digital edition PDF by visiting:

http://d27vj430nutdmd.cloudfront.net…2159/32159.pdf

Finally my last step was to stop by my local bank for cash.

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Embarking on the trip from Denver on a one way flight, two thousand miles north, had me nervous. Additionally my less then enthusiastic brother was sitting this one out so I was going to drive the 4500+ kilometers back solo, if I bought the truck. Upon my arrival in Vancouver the customs agent asked my purpose of the trip and I clearly stated my intent, “I am flying to Whitehorse to buy a truck and drive it back to Colorado”. She was not amused by my response, stating, “everyone is crazy there, all the cars are covered in rust, and you’ll probably just be turned around at the border”. But she stamped my passport for entry and wished me good luck.

 

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 I was going to need a mountain goat not a diesel Landcruiser if I was going to make this trip.

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When Russia emerged on the GPS I began to have my doubts if I would make this journey

 

I arrived in Whitehorse greeted by freezing rain and a right hand drive air adjustable suspension turbo diesel Subaru. The owner of the Land Cruiser and unique Subaru was making his was back and forth to his studio http://yukonstruct.com/ where they were hosting local government officials for a meet and greet.  Tucked behind 3D printers, lathes, electric powered pickup trucks, and wood cutting lasers was the HJ61 in the flesh.  After two months of back and forth emails with the patient owner we made the deal.  A handover of cash, simple bill of sale, signatures on the Yukon registration, a run down of the truck, a fine Canadian beer (at 10 am), and a handshake completed the sale.

 

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 New owner happiness vs Landcruiser sadness

 

The first fuel up of the trip in Whitehorse didn’t sting as bad as I thought it would.  Every fuel station offered me straight exchange $1 US to $1 CAD for cash not the actual conversion, I was prepared and stuck to credit cards from there on out. The thrill of the abundant torque, smooth acceleration way past 80mph, and quirkiness of right hand drive never got old. Only the lack of music(2 cds and no radio stations) left for a little to be desired as the kilometers passed, it was quickly made up though by the symphony of the straight 6 diesel and subsequent turbo spool.

 

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Turns and turns of the Trip-Tik, fuel stops, fresh coffee refills from my Jetboil, a jump(shower) in the local hot springs roadside pub food along the Alaskan Highway, getting stuck and pulled out in a river bank near Fort Nelson (4wd wasn’t engaged, saved thanks to local Bruce McMillen!), avoiding caribou, bears, bison, elk, deer, moose, and other vermin, negotiating Calgary and Edmonton rush hour, and finally arriving at the Sweetgrass Coutts border crossing was exhausting.  With the only single minor mechanical setback of a driver door lock mechanism failure. I made it in just over thirty hours driving 70+mph getting 25mpg and better along the way.

 

http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/liard_rv_hs/

http://www.britishcolumbia.com/things-to-do-and-see/attractions/hot-springs/

 

All my doubts and prep work were to be put to the test. I pulled up to the Border Agent with the bug splattered and BC mud covered Land Cruiser diesel chugging.  I leaned left, way over the passenger seat, to give the officer my passport. He asked, ” Are you bringing anything back?” I stated, ” I bought this truck and have two cans of beer”.  He asked me again, ” So your declaring two cans of beer?”, “Yes, and I bought this truck”. He said, “Ok, looks good, your steering wheel is on the wrong side though but have a good day…”.  He waved me through.

 

I insisted, “I have to pay taxes or a tariff on my purchase of this vehicle.” the officer said your welcome to come inside and talk further.  Shocked and awed that I was about to drive into the good ole USA with just a wave. I prepared to wait the 6 or so hours for my truck to be entirely stripped down and searched.

 

Nope, exactly three minutes later another officer retrieved my passport and asked my intentions. I stated that I would like to import a vehicle, it is 25 years old.

 

He pulled out form OMB NO. 1651-0022 https://ssl1.appersonsecure.com/pdfs/common/01911.PDF

 

Filled in filler code1. (informal), entry type, country of origin, exporting country, entry date, ultimate consignee (myself), checked box 3. Unregulated., the officer signed his name, I signed mine, he dated the transaction, and I paid my 2.5% tax on the purchase price of the vehicle. There was no vehicle VIN check, no search, no pat down, there was absolutely nothing, and not a single person stepped outside the border crossing office to inspect the vehicle.

 

With the single piece of paper in hand I officially imported a vehicle on my own terms.

 

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Officially stateside

 

I crossed a US border in exactly 15 minutes and imported a car I dreamed about for years. Pinching myself and looking in the rearview mirror for the next hour or so I realized what one Toyota shop told me, “Just drive it over” was true.  I really needed four things; a bill of sale, transfer of registration, temporary insurance, and my passport.

 

Onward to explore Montana, Wyoming, for a few weeks then home to register the truck in Colorado.

 

With a simple VIN # verification, payment of sales tax, and verification of insurance I was issued a Colorado license plate. If you have any doubt about trying to import a vehicle be assured; it is nerve wrecking, it takes a patient/enthusiastic seller, but foremost know that you can enjoy the journey because you can do it yourself.

 

Happy Importing!

 

Scott Brady & Enzo Ferrari were right, life is just better when the steering wheel is on the right side.

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How Much Adventure Does Your Motorcycle Really Need?http://expeditionportal.com/how-much-adventure-does-your-motorcycle-really-need/ http://expeditionportal.com/how-much-adventure-does-your-motorcycle-really-need/#comments Sun, 12 Oct 2014 07:28:12 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=21028 It shouldn’t come as a big surprise to report that the adventure segment is the fastest growing category in the motorcycle industry. For a multitude of reasons these bikes have served to transform the run of the mill motorcycle ride into something aspirational––an adventure. But, what does that mean, anyway? This is a topic intermixed with infinite opinions, many of which are spot on, a few perhaps dubious at best. We recently published Noah Horak’s open letter to the motorcycle industry and the subject of what qualifies as an adventure bike once again stirred up quite a bit of dust. I absolutely loved his letter, his opinion, and his conviction. Having ridden through 42 countries in two years, he also delivered his thoughts with a serious dose of credibility. I just don’t happen to agree with him, not that I think he’s wrong.

 

If you hang around the riders oft caked in dust, adventure riding is nothing short of travel where only the most skilled and intrepid dare. As such, their interpretation of a true adventure bike is purely dirt driven. To them, a motorcycle needs to possess the brawn and burliness to conquer the most ambitious off-road tracks. They also assert these bikes must also shoulder mass volumes of gear, because that’s what is required for a ride around the world, and naturally everyone wants to ride around the world, right? Clearly, no.

 

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Not all riders dream of endless miles of craggy obstacles and rutted routes. Some crave little more than a periodic stretch of gravel, or routes flanked with white lines. I recently spoke to a Kawasaki Versys rider who said his 30 years of motocross racing had so ravaged his body, his dirt days were done. He had just completed a three month, 10,000 mile ride from Sicily to Iceland. That he rarely touched dirt didn’t make his adventure less…adventuresome.

 

I liken this to the early 90s when the ubiquitous sedan started to lose ground to the booming popularity of the SUV. Authentic off-roaders squirmed at the thought of a 4×4 never getting dirty and quickly castigated those buyers using their capable trucks to ferry kids to school or for expeditions to the local mall. At that time, the sedan became rather pedestrian. It was short on storage volume, lacked visibility, and when snow days hit or a gravel road entered the route, seemed woefully inadequate compared to the new SUVs on the market.

 

Today’s adventure motorcycle is very much the SUV on two wheels. They have great visibility, shoulder loads effortlessly, roll off the lot with tons of whiz-bang features, and glide down the road with as much comfort as any sport-tourer. And what of the modern sport-tourer? Perhaps it has been long neglected, but the sport-touring category seems to have the waning allure of sedans in the early 90s. So, knowing full well many riders are never going to venture onto the dirt, what’s the motorcycle industry to do? I say they should do what they’re currently doing, which is to offer a variety of bikes, some built for the hard knocks of true off-piste riding, others for tearing up good old sticky black-top, and a few capable of everything in between.

 

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Putting this to extreme examples, this spring I had the pleasure to ride Aprilia’s 1200 Caponord Travel Pack, a bike designed to devour tarmac. Carefully marketed on the fringes of the adventure bike segment for lack of a better category in which to place it, it is one of the most technologically advanced bikes of this or recent years. To many, it is appallingly delicate, can’t fit a TKC80, and would implode if launched off a water bar, or rocky ledge. They’re probably right. On the flip side, it is sublimely fun to ride and dispatches miles of straight or twisty road with more fun-factor than it should be allowed to possess.

 

The thought of carving Stelvio Pass in Italy on a Caponord makes me weak in the knees. Spending a week on Highway One with my wife  riding pillion sounds just as enticing. Would I miss the dirt? Not a chance. This is where the dirty evangelists chime in and say such rides are not adventure touring. Okay, I’ll bite. Is driving a Unimog to Alaska on roads suitable for a Honda Civic––overlanding?

 

Then there are the in-between bikes like the latest iteration of Suzuki’s V-Strom 1000. Although a huge improvement over its predecessor, it is still not the most dirt-worthy performer on the market. To some, this was an egregious misstep by Suzuki as they felt it should have been shipped with a bigger front hoop, more suspension, more beef, more brawn…just more. Despite the fact it is a great machine at a very affordable price, many bemoan its under developed dirt aptitude. That is a shame, really.

 

caponord_jeromecaponord_front

 

The V-Strom, like many bikes in this segment, is a wonderful machine for what it is, and for whom it is designed for. Is it for the Dakar romantic who wants to push it to the ragged edge? Not without good insurance. It is however perfect for miles of pavement interrupted with stretches of gravel or mild off-roads. For someone like me, frequently traveling solo, I tend to avoid difficult routes anyway simply out of a sense of self preservation. I could find plenty of adventure on a V-Strom 1000 and never need more off-road prowess than it can deliver. I have to remind myself that people do ride Harley Davidsons and Vespas around the globe. That makes it hard to nit-pick a V-Strom.

 

I will concede that the motorcycle industry does offer bikes that will just as easily cruise miles of Interstate or mountain roads as effortlessly as they will the most hair raising off-road sections. The BMW R1200GS as just one example, is adept at nearly everything. This begs the question, why wouldn’t everyone just buy one of those? Aside from the niggling issue of price, many riders simply do not need the off-road potential of that bike. Why plunk down $20,000 for off-road potential you’ll never useparticularly if you don’t want to use it?

 

Adventure, like those who seek it, comes in all sizes. It seems reasonable to me that riders would select the bike most suitable to their brand of adventure. Ultimately, because the simple word adventure cannot be finitely defined, the bikes to fit that category cannot be easily defined either. Adventure is what you make of it, and as this discussion rages on, seems to apply to the motorcycles in the category more than ever.

 

IMG_5196 klr BAJA 037 Kawasaki-Versys-Off-Road-Pictures KTM-1290-SUPER-ADVENTURE_MY2015_web  1655124_10152552477693275_545914559_o

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Expedition Portal’s Favorite Guidebookshttp://expeditionportal.com/expedition-portals-favorite-guidebooks/ http://expeditionportal.com/expedition-portals-favorite-guidebooks/#comments Fri, 10 Oct 2014 07:44:01 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=21293 Intrepid travelers don’t think twice about venturing into a strange land with nothing but their wits and a strong sense of adventure. For the rest of us, a guidebook is a reassuring asset and a key component to planning any journey, big or small. In our digital age, quality guidebooks are becoming increasingly scarce, and only a handful of publishers continuing to produce books aimed at the adventure travel segment. We try to keep the Overland Journal library stocked with the most useful and current guidebooks for destinations around the globe. We’ve assembled a small collection of favorites, some of which are tattered and worn from years of loyal service. If you’re looking for inspiration for your next adventure, maybe one of these titles will speak to you, as they so often do to us.

 

 

 

 

Nevada Trails Southern Region

Nevada Trails - Southern Region

By Peter Massey, Angela Titus, Jeanne Wilson

ISBN 978-1930193147

This trio of authors has collaborated on dozens of excellent guidebooks covering most of the American West. The Southern Nevada edition, part of a series covering Arizona, Colorado, California, and Utah, includes 44 scenic drives of varying difficulty. Loaded with detailed maps, directions and trail information, these are must-own books for any overlander.

 

 

 

Guide to Arizona Backroads & 4-Wheel-Drive Trails, 2nd Edition

Arizona Backroads & 4wd Tracks

By Charles A. Wells, Matt Peterson, Shelley Mayer

ISBN 978-1934838198

These spiral-bound books cover most of the popular routes in Colorado, California, and Arizona, with a dedicated edition just for Moab, Utah. The amount of information efficiently packed into these compact books is impressive. Detailed maps and hundreds of quality images are paired to precise mileage logs and GPS coordinates. The result is effortless navigation and easy to read trail ratings to ensure you don’t get in over your head. The Arizona edition contains 100 of the state’s most scenic and challenging trails.

 

 

 

Backcountry Adventures Colorado

Backcountry Adventures - Colorado

By Peter Massey, Jeanne Wilson, Angela Titus

ISBN 978-1930193062

If only all guidebooks were this good. This nearly 600-page hardcover book contains a staggering amount of information on the flora and fauna of Colorado and its rich natural and human history. The 143 routes are described with impeccable detail and feature easy to read maps with full GPS coordinates and mileage logs. A virtual encyclopedia for backcountry travel; Backcountry Adventure books are also available for Arizona, California, and Utah.

 

 

 

4×4 Routes of Western Montana

4x4 Routes of Western Montana

By Willie and Jeanne Worthy

ISBN 97800615610825

Montana is known as “Big Sky” country for good reason; there are over 500 miles of open air between its eastern and western borders. Willie Worthy, co-author of The Jeep Bible, has compiled his 20 years of Montana exploration into a spiral-bound encyclopedia on the region. In addition to detailing dozens of overland routes, which include GPS waypoints, mileage markers, trail difficulty, and the best campsites, it includes loads of information on ghost towns and historic mining camps, wildlife, and local services. 

 

 

 

The Milepost 

Milepost

By Kris Valencia (Editor)

ISBN 978-1892154316

Now in its 64th edition, this 784 page behemoth of a book is the mile-by-mile guide for all travels north to Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon Territory, and Alaska. Supported by a comprehensive website, the book is a densely packed compilation of travel information on everything from where to get fuel to tips for viewing wildlife. Even for those with aspirations to travel far off the main roads, The Milepost is an invaluable resource.

 

 

 

Yosemite & the Southern Sierra Nevada

Yosemite and Southern Sierra Nevada

By David T. Page

ISBN 978-1581571400

Add a good map to this book and you’ve got the makings for a great trek through the American West. While it doesn’t focus on specific off-pavement routes (there are some details), it does provide hundreds of nuggets of information on everything between Yosemite and Death Valley and from Mammoth Lakes to Kings Canyon. It is loaded with historical facts on ghost towns, hot springs, petroglyphs, the first residents of the region, and even where to eat.

 

 

 

The Baja Adventure Book

The Baja Adventure Book

By Walt Peterson

ISBN 978-0899972312

As the title would imply, this book is aimed directly at those seeking adventure. From bird watching to spear fishing, The Baja Adventure Book takes travelers through a myriad of potential experiences, big and small. Simple, yet easy to read maps are supported by extensive descriptions of places to see and things to do. If you go to Baja with this book and don’t have fun, you didn’t try hard enough.

 

 

 

Backroad Baja: The Central Region

Backroads Baja

By Patti and Tom Higginbotham

ASIN: B002I62WSW

Editor-in-Chief Chris Collard has used this book on a number of treks to the Baja Peninsula, and the result was some of his favorite Baja backroad adventures. The route maps are very basic, but mile markers are concise, and they’ll guide you through some of the region’s most remote areas. Destinations include mining ruins from the early 20th century, Jesuit mission ruins of the mid-1700s, and beaches that may seduce you into kicking off your sandals and staying for a month.

 

 

 

Baja Legends

Baja Legends - Greg Niemann

By Greg Niemann

ISBN 978-0932653475

A different kind of guidebook, Baja Legends walks readers through Baja’s rich history describing the events and personalities that have shaped its rugged landscape. From the first explorers and founding fathers to the modern influences of the present, Baja Legends is a perfect read prior to or during a Baja excursion. Author Greg Niemann does a wonderful job of painting a colorful and textured backdrop full of nuanced detail.

 

 

 

Americas Overland: The Driving Handbook 

Americas Overland

By Donald Greene

ISBN 978-0557007127

Donald Greene is universally lauded for his ambitious travels and the high quality guidebooks that have followed. Americas Overland: The Driving Handbook is considered by many to be the quintessential book for overland travel through Mexico, Central America, and South America. A comprehensive resource for camping locations, route suggestions, and other logistics, it also offers tips for border crossings and includes interesting anecdotes from Greene’s own travels.

 

 

 

The Kimberly – An Adventurer’s Guide

The Kimberley Adventure Guide

By Ron and Viv Moon

ISBN 978-0977518869

Ron and Viv Moon are legends of Australian bush travel, and over the years the couple has authored several highly regarded guidebooks. Now in its 7th edition, The Kimberly – An Adventurers Guide is a colorful example of their detailed approach to introducing readers to the splendors of Australia. Spiral bound for ease of use, their books contain an amazing breadth of information, all delivered in a very readable format.

 

 

 

4WD Adventures – Australia

4WD Adventures - Hema 1

By Hema Maps

ISBN 978-1865006192

It’s almost worth going to Australia just to use a Hema guidebook—they are that good. Spiral bound with heavy-duty pages, they are as rugged as the landscapes they represent. Rich imagery and impeccably designed maps define a Hema guidebook with just the right amount of critical information to execute the trip of a lifetime. This particular title features Australia’s top 100 routes and destinations.

 

 

 

The Outback Way

Handy cover 2005

By Hema Maps

ISBN 978-1865007175

Described as Australia’s longest shortcut, this book covers the route between Perth and Cairns. Typical of a Hema guidebook, the maps are not just useful; they’re artistic renderings of the landscape, making travel in this vast locale an interesting journey. Information about flora, fauna, and other natural wonders fills each page. The book also features GPS coordinates, town maps, and other useful resources.

 

 

 

4WD Australia: 50 Short Getaways, 2nd Edition

4wd Australia_50getaways

By Linda Lee Rathbun and Steven Miller

ISBN 978-1741174045

Recently released in its second edition, this book promises readers the opportunity to explore the “real” Australia. The focus is not just on unique adventures, but journeys which can be done on a budgeted amount of time. The book details all of the basic route and camping information needed to knock out a quick trip. It’s a comprehensive resource guide complete with information tables and helpful phone numbers and website addresses.

 

 

 

The True Blue Guide to Australian Slang

True Blue Guide to Australian Slang

ISBN 978-1459642201

By Jenny Hunter

If you’re planning a trek to the Australian Outback, which will probably include a long chinwag about who shouts the pub next, you’ll need to learn the language…true blue Aussie English. The True Blue Guide to Austrailian Slang will help you communicate in a culture where everything is humorous and half-cocked metaphors are the norm. Whether it’s a dole bludger, jumbuck, or quandong, you’ll be apples before your second Darwin stubby. Fair dinkum.

 

 

 

Morocco Overland, 2nd Edition

Morocco Overland

By Chris Scott

ISBN 978-1905864539

Morocco is a timeless place and an adventurer’s paradise. Chris Scott, an intrepid explorer, has compiled his years of knowledge into an excellent guidebook for the region. The 49 routes featured in the book, which range from the treks through the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert, are outlined with detailed maps and practical travel information. With more than 10,000 kilometers of GPS coordinates to pull from, few readers will exhaust all of the information made available in the book.

 

 

 

Sahara Overland: A Route and Planning Guide

Sahara Overland

By Chris Scott

ISBN 978-1873756263

A continuation of his Morocco Overland book, this 576-page resource covers travel through Morocco, Mauritania, Mali, Libya, and Tunisia, as well as parts of Egypt, Algeria, Niger, and Chad. More than just a route guide, Scott prepares travelers for the challenges presented by border crossings and other aspects of Saharan travel. There are even practical tips for driving and riding in these rugged and often inhospitable places.

 

 

 

Africa Overland, 5th Edition

Overland Africa

By Bob Gibbons and SiânPritchard Jones

ISBN 978-1841622835

It’s hard to dismiss good travel book advice: “Camels are careless when crossing the road, and women carrying water pots are little more watchful.” Sage advice like this is proof the authors truly know their subject matter. Part of the highly regarded series of books by Bradt, Africa Overland offers 352 pages of practical information relative to traveling in a continent with an ever-changing political backdrop. The forward by Michael Palin is a great read on its own.

 

 

 

The World’s Great Adventure Motorcycle Routes

Worlds Greatest Moto Routes - Wicks

By Robert Wicks, Kevin and Julia Sanders

ISBN 978-1844259458

Few books capture the essence of motorcycle travel as well as this. Stunning images from Tibet to Peru fill these pages, leading readers on an alluring tour of the world via 30 detailed routes. More than just a guidebook, with the full compliment of maps and travel information, this book serves as motivation to pack your panniers and hit the road.

 

 

 

Vehicle-Dependent Expedition Guide, 3rd Edition

Vehicle Dependant

By Tom Sheppard

ISBN 978-0957538504

When the Royal Geographic Society says you have “an outstanding book,” you know you have done well. Legendary overlander Tom Sheppard, over a period spanning four decades, has traveled more than 110,000 miles of rugged terrain. The Vehicle-Dependent Expedition Guide was originally commissioned by Land Rover, and its 500 pages of are some of the most trusted pages in overlanding. Signed copies of Sheppard’s book fetch a pretty penny. If you can find a copy, any copy, grab it.

 

 

 

Overlanders’ Handbook

Overlanders' Handbook

By Chris Scott

ISBN 978-1905864072

How do you know which vehicle to choose for a long trip? What considerations go into route planning? These are the types of questions many new overlanders have. Drawing on his many years of expeditionary travel, Chris Scott answers these and many other questions relative to planning and executing your own protracted overland adventure. It even covers many subjects such as how to best travel with pets and what to avoid at border crossings. Practical as well as entertaining, it’s a must-own guide for any overlander.

 

 

 

Adventure Motorcycling

Advmoto_planning

By Robert Wicks

ISBN 978-1844254354 

Motorcycle travel is a unique and rewarding experience, but it can intimidate some would-be adventure riders. This book strives to instill readers with the necessary confidence to undertake their own ambitious two-wheeled journeys. The book delivers a broad range of practical insights into the nuances of motorcycle travel. From how to pack your bike to what to do in the most dire emergencies, few books cover this mode of travel with this much detail.

 

 

 

Lonely Planet Travel Guides

Lonely Planet - Western Europe

Battling Fodor’s for the title of largest travel guidebook publisher in the world, Lonely Planet, which was founded in 1970, now employs more than 400 people worldwide. Their guidebooks cover thousands of destinations in 195 countries and on all 7 continents. They have more than 178 books for Europe alone. Best known for practical travel information, Lonely Planet books continue to be a prized resource for budget-minded travelers. lonelyplanet.com

 

 

 

Moon Travel Guides

Moon Guides - Patagonia

Based in Berkeley, California, Moon Travel Guides was founded in 1973 by a collective of travelers. Originally targeted towards the independent traveler, Moon now offers a wide range of interesting titles. Their Moon Living Abroad series has become very popular, as has their collection of highly detailed books covering locations like Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, and other destinations. moon.com

 

 

 

Knopf Guides

knopf

Knopf Guides are, if anything, beautiful books with hundreds of detailed maps and illustrations. Small enough to fit into a travel bag, these guides are bristling with interesting details about the history and culture of the destinations within. While most of their maps and books are city specific, Knopf does have a handful of books by country. They make for great inspiration when planning for a big adventure. knopfdoubleday.com

 

 

 

Frommer’s Travel Guides

Frommers

Frommer’s guides cover more than 4,300 destinations around the world. Like many travel resources, they have slowly transitioned into the world of web-based guides, but their books continue to resonate with travelers. Perhaps best known as a great resource for finding hotels, restaurants, and key attractions, Frommer’s Travel Guides are utilitarian in nature, comparable to a travel Yellow Pages. frommers.com

 

 

 

Fodor’s

fodors-1

Fodor’s is the world’s largest publisher of English language travel guidebooks. Founded in 1936, Fodor’s has more than 400 titles covering over 300 destinations. Their 700 permanent researchers are stationed in more than 80 countries providing them with the most up-to-date travel information. Their award-winning website is designed to augment their books, giving travelers the best of both worlds. foders.com

 

 

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Twelve Hundred in Twenty:http://expeditionportal.com/twelve-hundred-in-twenty/ http://expeditionportal.com/twelve-hundred-in-twenty/#comments Thu, 09 Oct 2014 07:46:32 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=21746 It was probably one of the dumber rides we’ve done. Certainly the dumbest I’ve ever done. A torrential downpour at speed – 70, er, more like 75 miles per hour – fully loaded on worn out knobby tires, sandwiched between semi-trucks with no rain gear whatsoever. This was dumb! After a good hundred-foot hydroplane, I was lucky that Justin also wanted to get the hell off the highway.

We took solace in a run-down hole-in-the-wall attached to a gas station which happened to serve “burgers.” Our rain-soaked gear, clothes and gadgets exploded over a full third of the dining area. I plopped down my good ‘n’ wet gear on a table hosting this generation’s “Jay & Silent Bob” without a word. Luckily, this generation is reliably so absorbed with their smart phones that 20 minutes passed before one of them looked up to chuckle and remind us that we were (still) wet. At least the heater was on.

Fast forward an hour and a half… Hot coffee, Oreos and sub-par meat sandwiches were shoved so fast into our mouths that we had just enough time to feel “okay” before we felt foul. But digestion had set in motion and internal heat was being produced. Nothing was dry, but at least I could feel my fingers again! They buzzed for most of that last hour or so. Gassed and geared up – rain having subsided – we did the last two-thirds of the trip faster than the first. It was the lousiest, as well as the last day of our trip, but if that’s the worst of it then we had a fantastic few weeks on the road.

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Sand Dunes, Fire Escapes and an Old Fashioned.

To begin our twenty (+) day adventure, we spent time with loved ones  in Portland, camped at Cape Lookout, found an “alien” species that had washed ashore and then took the next five or so days to travel from one Oregon coastal town to the next. We wound our way up Highway 101 popping in and out of the lush green fingers that reach toward the sea from the confines of the forest. In Pacific City there were serious sand dunes to concur, as well as lots of wind, a haystack rock, beers above the beach and unbreakable wineglasses (long story). Canon Beach – short and sweet – provided a light drizzle, cold treats, more winding roads, a ranch full of bunnies and the best… the infamous… Bill’s (Brew Pub) Blackberry Beauty, a Pale-Ale brewed with local blackberries.

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By the time we hit Astoria, a warm bed and a clean (shared) bathroom were more than welcomed. It was a chance to take a deep breath and a hot shower. But it was so, so much more. Our accommodations were the recently renovated – and wholly awesome – Commodore Hotel (insert angelic choirs). It’s a sort of prohibition era meets mid-century modern meets contemporary “cocktail,” climaxing at the first-floor-attached coffee house residing in an interior designer’s wet dream. I loved it, of course.

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The night we arrived was spent on the ledge of an old – but sturdy – fire escape. The windows were left tantalizingly open and the opportunity was taken. We sipped whiskey out of a flask, watched cars roll past, talked about life and our future, and ate carrot cake. Our only encounter with a staff member consisted of a single warning: “don’t fall!” We all had a laugh, he strolled away, and then Justin and I ventured up the very exposed, likewise unprotected ladder to the roof. We’ll be going back to this hotel. Soon I hope.

The town itself is charming. Maybe we were delusional. Maybe we desperately needed a change of pace. But the brewery (surprised?) with its strong beers, the French cafe stockpiled with unorthodox magazines and killer desserts, even the dingy two-story thrift store… charming. There’s a lot of character in this town and, compared to the carbon copied coastal towns, it was refreshing to be in a place that seemed to have a little personality. To celebrate our arrival, I tried to keep up with Justin during a spiraling climb to the lookout of a hollow column atop a tall-ass hill on the outskirts of Astoria. It’s ornamental. The view captured my breath before I got to it. I edged around the petrified, albeit somewhat courageous, wallflowers pensively pressing themselves against the tower walls. I tried not to smirk, but it was funny. You’d have to be there, I think.

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The goodbye was bittersweet, but a little over 24 hours later the road back to Portland made its call. We were off to watch my eldest sister in her first play on its second night. She killed it. Post performance, we “kicked it” with my brother and sister-in-law, went on walks with my nephew and his mildly loopy grandfather, swore to quit drinking for a few days, rode back to Seattle to unload/reload and (that night…) had an Old-Fashioned.

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Tourist Towns & Drive-In Movies

After our brief stint at home to attend a birthday party, repack and have a candle-lit dinner, we hit the road yet again. This time it was “The Trio” – Justin, his father and I – headed west. We made the most of a beautiful day, speeding eagerly into Port Townsend after a short ferry ride. Meandering about the cute tourist-rich town, we wished for the things we don’t have… and likely never will. We laughed at the under-dressed and under-protected “Road Pirates.” Then laughed at their equally, yet inversely, over-dressed and overloaded husband-and-wife-on-back duo making the “arduous” journey (69.2 miles) from Gig Harbor to Port Townsend. Am I being prejudice? Maybe, or maybe I just find joy in observing the many flamboyancies that are found in the motorcycling community, including my own. A little later, Justin’s father, dubbed ‘The Captain,’ headed home and we rode to our “castle” on the cliffside. The building was beautiful, the grounds were ‘meh,’ but the room, plain as it was, had a bed and a shower. Once settled, we headed to my very first drive-in movie. What could be better than a drive-in with the one you love? Howsabout a drive-in movie on your motorcycle! Long line and grumpy owner aside, the experience was quite cozy, even better considering there was popcorn (which I also love).

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Wild Boys & Abandoned Bunkers

To Justin, Port Angeles means memories, BIG memories. It was the start and end of his once weekly search for surf, and home to Toga’s. More specifically, delicious soup and Paulener. I can’t share the first two “meanings” with him with so easily, but the third… the third is for everyone. Toga’s has the sort of soup that warms your heart and eases your mind. And Paulener! A particular kind of beer that’ll lift you up where you sit, and knock you down when you try to get up to order another. I’ll gladly get my “work” done here whenever its doors are open. Fast forward to nightfall, and we’re playing a dice game (to which I was a virgin, for the record) while waiting for friends to arrive from Tacoma. Fast forward even more, and I had witnessed what was maybe history’s longest bivvy [tent] assembly. After this, time picked up again. We (now four strong) yard-camped on an eight acre piece of property home to two blonde boys, a network of trails, a homemade sauna, four-wheelers and compost toilets. The next morning, we made breakfast-by-fire in a carefully carved pit before our generous host led us along Forest Service roads, breaking off onto single-track trails hiding 75 year old military bunkers which sit above the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Stopping was necessary in order to gasp in awe at contemporary America’s only ruins, hidden as treasures for future generations to wonder over and write their names on (read: graffiti). Racing to meet our ‘cage driving’ friends at Crescent Beach, I followed with blind trust and as much speed as I could muster, hucking my bike onto lookouts (more than once), that exposed an epic horizon. A quick cell phone photo or two and we were off to the finish.

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The End of America

The road to Neah Bay feels endless when you’re eager. We rode it fast. The temperature fluctuated from sweltering to freezing and back again, however we only stopped to alter our attire after realizing we’d lost our friends somewhere amidst the vicious coastal turns. After having regrouped, we hiked to a secluded beach (or two) eating blackberries and laughing our asses off along the way. The beach, blazing and bright, offered views of an ominous (and telling) cloud listlessly floating over the dynamic sea ahead of us. Shallow caves are carved into the sandstone that rose high past our “line of sight.” We scaled these sandstone cliffs searching for moments of peace and intimacy. A reminder of the great things life has to offer and how people can take full advantage, if willing. Our friendly counterparts were caught cuddling in a flag-claimed driftwood fort. Brought back to earth by the ever looming clock, we rode into town, devoured some of Kim’s cedar-smoked salmon, and left the crystal blue skies for the dense, cool blanket of fog guarding the realm against our curious gaze. This was Hobuck. A place where I was caught by an unassuming patch of sand and bucked off my motorcycle so hard Justin choked from laughter. It’s a place where many times a year the fog grows so the thick the audible ocean is invisible. We camped under moist trickling tree branches for the next few cold days. Good fun was had. Bad fun was had. And even more food by way of fire. I could hear a ‘braap-braap’ in the distance as Justin jumped his motorcycle across a narrow road that cuts through the campground – he and his bike popping in and out of the trees. After our friends bid us “adieux,” we (two) browsed the local museum, picked up more smoked salmon, slept another night and then packed up our things in a light mist that clung to us all the way to the ferry in Kingston.

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Island Life

Lummi Island offered us good friends, Boundary Bay Brewery, another short ferry ride with a confrontational, racist island woman… more good friends, cheese and crackers, and breathless sunsets on the rockiest beach. Then daiquiris. WAY too many daiquiris. Oh, and AROUND THE HORN! Justin and I were woken by sweet whispers “good morning” from my girlfriend’s six year-old before the click-clicking of an Xbox controller. In the time we were on the island, much was done save for riding: a hike that included 1,100 feet of elevation gain in 1.5 miles, mussels and laughs at the Beach Cafe and (more) AROUND THE HORN! Kaiser’s morning whispers and clicking continued as the days rolled past. For breakfast we ate gluten-free banana pancakes then set off on an art “walk,” followed by wine tastings and fuzzy memories, as well as more cheese, more wine and overpriced artisan chocolates. A 300 foot long, 3.4 million-dollar yacht dropped anchor offshore of the ritziest -maybe a little too acclaimed- restaurant on the Island. I was not terribly impressed, but neither were the Lummi Island locals. And I like the locals. Finally, put off until our first and only rainy day on the island, we embarked on a search for single-track and off-road adventure. After trying to summit Lummi Island’s tallest mountain, with no legal or passable trail in sight (our bikes and ourselves taking on a layer of predictable Washington precipitation), we gave up. Thus began “one of the dumber rides we’ve [ever] done,” concluding our twelve hundred mile, twenty (+) day adventure.

You can read more adventures from Kyra and Justin at: www.peanutbuttercoast.com

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4×4 Drive for Excellence Celebrity Pro Amhttp://expeditionportal.com/4x4-drive-for-excellence-celebrity-pro-am/ http://expeditionportal.com/4x4-drive-for-excellence-celebrity-pro-am/#comments Wed, 08 Oct 2014 23:33:32 +0000 http://expeditionportal.com/?p=22172 Left foot! Use your left foot on the brake…You’ll never drive fast in the dirt unless you learn to brake with your left foot.” – Rod Hall

 

I first met Rod Hall around 2001. He was instructing students at his military driving school and I’d landed a gig shooting the program for Heartland USA Magazine. I’d run around the Southern California deserts on motorcycles and four-wheel drives since I was a kid, and Mr. Hall, who had more class wins that any American racer, was a legend. Through the viewfinder I observed the master calmly disseminate concise instructions on how to maneuver the big H1 Hummers through some very technical terrain. That day, I listened and observed; hoping to absorb something through osmosis I suppose.

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Rod Hall, Chris Collard, and Stacie and Del Albright.

 

A few years later I was sitting next to Rod in Baja, Mexico during the media launch of Hummer’s new H3 Alpha. Rod, who had led the Hummer racing team to numerous Baja championships, was guiding the trip and riding with each journalist. It was on a long winding stretch of dirt two-track north of LaPaz, while attempting to push the car through a high-speed turn, where I was introduced to the wrath of Rod. “Left foot! Use your left foot on the brake…” he barked with furled brow and shaking head, “You’ll never drive fast in the dirt unless you learn to brake with your left foot.” I would spend the next decade with those words etched in my short-term memory files.

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Part of course #1 included a long, steep, downhill section of loose, shale-like granite.

 

4×4 Drive for Excellence

Fast forward to October 2014 and I’m once again on the track with Rod Hall, this time at the Wild West Motorsports Park near Reno, Nevada. I’m not there for a race, vehicle launch, or magazine gig, but as a participant in the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame’s (ORMHOF) inaugural 4×4 Drive for Excellence Celebrity Pro Am. This wouldn’t be an exercise in speed, but in precision driving: maneuvering a stock Jeep JK through technical obstacle courses, cambered sidehill situations, and rocky sluices. The field consisted of high-profile racers like Baja 1000 champions Jim and Ann Anderson, sisters Amy Lerner and Tricia Reina of Australasian Safari and Aïcha des Gazelles (Morocco), and land-use activists Del and Stacie Albright (Del is also one of the 2014 class of inductees into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame).

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Blue Ribbon Director of Operations Del Albright and wife Stacie, also with Blue Ribbon, analyze an upcoming section.

 

The goal was not to finish in the shortest time, but to master threshold throttle control and allow the vehicle’s traction control to work; about 1,200 to 1,500 rpms. The optimum time was 5.5-minutes, and any deviation resulted in one penalty point for each second you were off. Next was Snake Hill, a steep, loose, and winding track with rocker-panel-sized boulders, tight turns, and numerous, precariously placed ball drops. The perfect, or “par” time was 4.5 minutes. Ann and I each nailed it within 4 seconds.
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 Sisters Amy Lerner and Tricia Reina, who won the Dakar Challenge at the Australasian Safari and Logica EMO Eco Challenge (part of Aïcha des Gazelles) in Morocco, carefully negotiate a sluice.

 

Following the obstacle courses Josh Hall, Rod’s son and founder of Precision Driven Unlimited, led us out to a corral of Polaris Wildcat side-by-sides. After a rundown of the vehicle’s operation and safety protocol (which included insight into the previous day’s rollover), they cut us loose on an emergency braking exercise. The track was a long straightaway, the run-up portion, followed by three tipped-over safety cones and a rope across our path, the braking section. We needed to stop before crossing the rope. Though some failed miserably on their first pass, most had the exercise dialed in by the sixth or seventh pass.
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The principle behind threshold braking is to maximum pressure to the brake pedal without having the wheels lock up, or skid. My teammate Ann Anderson at the wheel here.

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Airtime in a Polaris Wildcat.
Though there were several other courses set up (which looked like more fun), Josh put us on this one first. He gathered us around after the exercise and said, “The reason we started here is to learn the most important thing about driving fast, and that is how to slow the vehicle with control. How to apply the brake efficiently without locking up the wheels; when you lock up the wheels you can’t steer, and that’s not good. With your left foot on the floor, use your ankle as a hinge to apply brake pressure on a 1 to 10 scale as needed… Now let’s go work on making some turns.”

 

Next was a large dirt oval with several S-turns on what would normally be the straight sections. The theory behind this exercise was not to simply drive fast, but rather to prepare the vehicle for each turn prior to entering it. To “set it up” with regard to speed, and positioning the vehicle to safely execute the turn at that speed. Though a few of us (myself included) might have had a bit too much fun on this one, the premise was about managing speed, determining position, and keeping your eyes moving, always looking for the turn’s terminus and forward to the next turn.
ORMHOF Drive for Excellence Pro Am 021 Collard and Anderson en route to a first place finish.
The final timed event was a half-mile loop that included gravelly high-speed turns, small hill climbs, a jump, and a couple of ball drops. This was the trickiest course yet, as our “score” was based on our teammate’s time. In other words, the second driver had to match the first driver’s time, and penalty points were accrued for each second you were off. Each driver had to run the loop twice, and as with the other events, stopwatches were not allowed.

 

Ann took the wheel first, and as co-driver I created a mental picture of how fast she drove on each turn—more of a seat-of-the-pants feeling. The strategy we’d agreed on was to drive at a moderate pace, one that could be observed and replicated more easily than running flat-out. We were in good standing from the previous events, but this could make or break us. My turn!

 

I eased off the line and around the first few turns, querying Ann to see if she felt our speed felt right. We made it to the first hill and ball drop. I shifted into low-range and, as she had done, left it there for the rest of the course. I sped up in the flats and slowed for the jumps, reflecting back on her pace and constantly querying, “How is this feeling for speed?” Previous teams had matched each other’s times by as little as 7 and 3 seconds, hard scores to beat. As we rolled across the finish line the judge extended one finger in the air. It wasn’t the middle one, but his index finger. We’d nailed it within one second of Ann’s original time and secured our place at the top of the podium.

 

This fun event, which was one of Rod’s must-do “bucket list” items, was sponsored by the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame and managed by Josh Hall, founder of Precision Driven Unlimited driving schools. Polaris provided the side-by-sides, and the Wild West Motorsports Park offered the perfect venue. Based on its success, I’m guessing there will be a sequel. Keep an eye on the below websites for updates. If you are a general motorsports fan, become a member of the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame.

 

Resources:

Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame: ormhof.com, 775-815-4892

Precision Driven Unlimited: precisiondrivenunlimited.com, 775-771-0536

Wild West Motorsports Park: wildwestmotorsportspark.com, 775-750-7166

Rod Hall Racing: hallracingusa.com   ORMHOF Drive for Excellence Pro Am 030
Rod Hall poses with racing sisters Tricia Reina and Amy Lerner.

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