3,500 miles from the Upper Peninsula to Overland Expo

upcruiser

Perpetual Transient
Nothing seems more attractive than the lure of warm, dry weather after a harsh winter in the north country. Whether it was that or he just a needed break from the full-on remodel he had going on in his house, it didn't take much to convince Tom (TJDIV) to tag along on my trip to Overland Expo. What I really didn't convey was the fact that having a copilot was going to make the trip much more enjoyable PLUS Tom has camera skills that I thought would come in handy for the trek.

I had literally just returned from my honeymoon in Baja, arrived at 5pm in the evening to Denver and flew out the next morning to the fabled land of the UP. See, I have been a fish out of water so to speak, displaced, living in Colorado since last October. I was excited to get back to the Yoop and check on the house, catch up on the neighborhood gossip from my retiree neighbor Carl (who needs a security system when you have him watching literally everything that happens on that block!) and grab the vehicle we would be using for the first leg of our journey.

My poor Tundra had been sitting, unused since I left in early October and due to it's sitting, developed a bad wheel bearing and needing some general TLC. Luckily we had the right guy for the job. TJ at UP Autotech with the help of Tom, got the truck into his shop while I was still honeymooning to give it a once over. TJ has become our official UP Overland service supplier and has a killer new shop near Munising. They got the Tundra dialed and ready for our trip.



As you can see, a spring snow storm was gripping the region and giving us all the more reason to hightail it to some fairer weather.

We had a couple of more stops before the trip could get rolling...

Greta Berg with Company B Graphics of Marquette. Greta does our logo work for UP Overland and does a full range of services from full size canvas printing, banners, etc. She is our go to person for imaging and printing services.

Lastly we stopped by VIO's offices in Marquette. They sell POV camera systems that are top quality and innovative used by athletes, US military, police forces, and just about every thing that you could use a POV camera system for. Grown from one guy fiddling around with old security cameras on our mountain bike rides to the global giant it is today, it is still based in Marquette.

They hooked us up with their latest POV camerra system to help capture the trip. Good stuff!

After some last minute packing that involved mostly grabbing tools, camping gear, and recovery gear from the Land Cruiser and loading it aboard the Tundra, we were off! We had 1,400 miles to burn and we weren't going to take our time. We had plans to make Evergreen, CO the next day.

We worked our way west crossing through the small towns of the western Upper Peninsula that seem so remote and isolated. Like little dobs of civilization randomly spread across a rather undeveloped region, the towns all have a sense of lost in time. Few if any have any modern franchise restaraunts, mostly mom and pop diners, bars, and grocery stores. This is some of the last true Americana that has resisted the homogenization that seems to be sweeping across the continent one Wallmart and Starbucks at a time. Not that I am hating on Starbucks, one of the founders graduated from Northern Michigan University's business school, as did I. Does this mean I will use my encompassing businness skills to overtake the business world...... well, uh no... but maybe we can make this overland thing jive up here.

Well, the miles slide by as we cross through Ironwood, the western portal to the UP and pass into Wisconsin. Occasionally glimpses of the cobalt waters of Lake Superior come into view to the north. Though firmly into foriegn land now, the big lake seems to give me comfort whether I'm in Wisconsin, northern Minnesota, or Ontario. It's a Great Lakes thing, you wouldn't understand, well some of you might. We admire the grand murals painted on the brick building sides as we pass Ashland, WI. The old abandoned ore docks stand guard over the bay. An hour and a half later we hit Superior, Wisconsin and cross over the bridge to Duluth, MN. Some of the giant ore boats are in various harbors, loading grain, iron ore, coal, or are getting the final upkeep work done before the busy shipping season is underway.

Once into Duluth we hopped on I 35 which would be our first freeway and the end of the two lane roads for us to Colorado. We take I 35 through Minneapolis down to Des Moines where we connect to I 80 West. Now the miles are flying by, things are blurry, it is late. Tom is nodding in and out as I am exhausting my playlists and searching randomly for NPR..... but finding alot of country. At some point, I believe 3:15am I hand over the wheel and grab some zzzzz's. Tom hopped up on energy drinks and coffee takes to the interstate and fortunately doesn't pull the Dumb and Dumber move of getting on the east bound on-ramp. First test passed! Nice work buddy.... Saile out...

I woke up at some point, with the faintest hint of light showing up in the rearview mirrors. We were still in Nebraska, but fortunately had chewed up most of the state. We pulled off to grab some gas, drive a country road a ways to shoot the sunrise and just stretch out a bit! Felt good to use the 'ol legs.

Sunrise in the Great Plains.


Our trusty steed just piled the miles on effortlessy, with supreme comfort.

I used to passionately dislike the Great Plains, the bread basket, the grasslands, whatever you want to call it. It might have to do with the 25+ times in my life I have had to make the drive across them to get to the mountains. I have come to really appreciate them though. If you just get off the interstate and drive out into the plains in say... Nebraska, you will find quaint little farming towns and skies that rival the mighty Montana for big sky virtues. What it lacks in contrasting landscapes, it makes up for in a simple beauty of land stretching to the horizons in all directions with views unimpeded... with the exception of a random windmill, standing like a rusty sentinel in the grasses. There is a distinct charm to the plains... but not to be appreciated by us as we hustle back on the interstate to make time again.

We soon cross the Colorado border and hit I 76. We now have just 200 miles till we hit the mountains. This stretch seems to go by fast every time. Maybe it is the anticipation of seeing the whitecapped peaks of the Rocky Mountains coming into view. Imagining what the settlers must have thought the first time they saw them on the horizon after what must have seemed like an endless slog across the plains. Even with us wisking along at 75mph with music, food, and gasp... cruise control, it is a taxing drive.

We cruised through Denver and climbed up the foothills to my home away from home in Evergreen. Arrival time 11:30am, not bad! We grabbed some lunch and Tom crashed out while I spent some quality time with my wife. We would stay in Evergreen for a couple of days doing some last minute preps to the Land Rover and doing some sightseeing around Evergreen.



We sorted gear out of boxes in the shed, I put Tom to work trouble shooting the furnace in the house (did I mention this guy is handy to have around??) and we got last minute supplies. It wasn't all work though...


With my wife Alexia, Madison the dog, and Tom, we took a drive up to Mount Evans then explored a bit near Idaho Springs till the snow stopped our progress.


That just gave us a reason to hike a bit and get some fresh air and the blood pumping. I know what you are thinking... cool socks right?

That evening, one of Tom's long lost buddies came up from Denver and we had a small bbq on the deck. While we grilled and hung out around the bonfire, a couple of young bull elk sparred in the back yard.

Very cool evening. Here is the video from the trip thus far....
http://vimeo.com/10871927

Stay tuned, to be continued!
 
Last edited:

upcruiser

Perpetual Transient
Keep it coming. I was in the Tan Sportsmobile that stopped and said hello in the Valley of the Gods.
Nice! Yeah, you guys have some footage coming up for sure. It was funny basically running into you guys 4 different times. Where did you guys head after Valley of the Gods? We thought for sure we'd run into you at least one more time up near Moab.
 

upcruiser

Perpetual Transient
Before we rolled out to Amado we had to run some errands and pick up some needed items.

First stop, MIT in Evergreen. Rob and Corey rule. Rob has been patient enough with me to help fill me in on my vacuous knowledge of things Rover and is a guru when it comes to just about anything related to them. His shop always has enough cool rigs and toys in it to keep me drooling...


Next stop was stopping by Slee Offroad in Golden, we caught Christo as he was loading his 100 series up to take to Overland Expo.


It had been a few years since I visited the shop, looking good!



This 200 series in the shop was drool worthy!


We couldn't resist getting a Rover shot in front of Slee's :victory:


With some last minute packing and gear transfer we were ready to go. Tom found it amusing that our fancy new magnet graphics that we had made by Greta didn't seem to stick too well to the Land Rover's aluminum body panels, D'oh! Tom proved to be a patient guy with me being my normal, anal self going through all the gear to make sure we had everything (of course we didn't) and was really in for a treat later that night when he discovered his loaner sleeping bag was still zipped together with my wife's from our Moab trip where we got engaged! Did I mention it was 3:30am when we made this discovery?? In an unusually cool tone he proclaimed...."That aint going to fly Chris". More to that later.... We were off again!

We were treated to 70mph winds and weather moving throug the mountains. As we crossed through South Park the breaks in the clouds made a dramatic landscape across the high plains as we approached the Collegiate Peaks.

Coming into Buena Vista

The weather caught up with us a bit as we climbed over Monarch Pass. Our second experience of winter thus far on the trip....

We rolled through Gunnison, grabbed fuel and took a quick buzz through my old stomping grounds. A younger me once went to school here at Western State and spent as much time as possible skiing the steeps of Crested Butte, mountain biking Hartman's Rocks along with the Butte trails, and exploring the old dirt roads with a trusy but crusty '87 Isuzu Trooper. I am happy to say that outside of a few new apartments near the college, not much has changed in Gunny!


We were treated to some great light as we drove by Blue Mesa Lake, the largest body of water in CO and the beginning of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Looked like winter was just about to give up it's icy grip on the lake.
 

upcruiser

Perpetual Transient

Travelling along the Black Canyon


This shot was for a shoutout to Tom's hometown of Munising and the Falling Rock Cafe which is a cool cafe, bookstore and a great place to stop when you are in the area.

Well, by the time we hit Ouray it was well dusk. I was hoping to get there an hour earlier or so to take in some alpine glow on the San Juans as we travelled the Million Dollar Highway. I think that was my first time driving it at night and it is frustrating not having the views but that was made up for by needing to focus on the often shoulderless road with no guard rails. There was an impressive snowpack still along Red Mountain and Molass Passes. We were now just on a mission to rack up some miles. After grabbing some food in Durango we kept pushing a hole in the night heading south into New Mexico and then west towards Arizona. At 3:30am we pulled off on the NM/AZ border rest stop and threw open the roof top tent. We were both pretty exhausted and after the potentially scarring sleeping bag episode, we fell asleep to the sounds of idling semis, traffic on the freeway and the nearly constant trains passing by what feeled like feet from our "camp". Ah, life on the road!

After a bleary eyed wake up we packed up camp (much to the interest of the curious folks around) and got back on the road. We were soon off the interstate and working our way south along 191. We ran into some fellow travellars heading to the Expo with some tricked out FJ Cruisers in St Johns then headed east to towards Show Low and the Salt River Canyon.

The scenery was incredible. The mix of brushy desert with pine forests lead us into the scenic beauty of the the Salt River Canyon. What a great road and really made me wish I was on a motorcycle or perhaps an open top sports car to really enjoy the sinewy curves.




It was here that we ran into Richard Hunsucker from Green Bay, Wisconsin. He is a vet walking from Jacksonville, Florida to San Diego, California to raise money for disabled veterans. He was a great guy to chat with and made us feel a little less tired from our long DRIVE. His website is http://www.vetwalking.org/ if you would like to donate or at least check it out.



Tom, being former Airforce signing the support car.


and rocking our sticker...
 

upcruiser

Perpetual Transient
The closer we got to Tuscon the hotter it became. We spied a nice little pulloff along a river and ran into Expo bound travellers Roger and his dog enjoying a break as well.




A couple of hours later we found ourselves at the Amado Territory Ranch and pulled up next to Roseann's sweet 60 series. It was now late afternoon on Wenesday evening. Tom and I were arriving early in order to lend a hand with the organizers for setup. We closed out the evening with a nice little grill out with Graham cooking up some burgers and cracking a few brews with the rest of the Overland Expo staff. It was a pretty cool evening shared with the likes of Duncan Barbour, Tom Collins, Graham and Connie Jackson, Roseann and Jonathon Hanson, Raven, Nathan Hindman, Bill Green, and a bunch of other overland dignitaries. Fantastic! Lights out...

The video of the trip from CO to AZ
http://vimeo.com/11155081
 

upcruiser

Perpetual Transient
Yeah, we will definately be heading back.... unless my work schedule interferes...

Are you driving down or flying?
 

ChuckB

Expedition Leader
That looks like a great trip!

My Father-in-law recently purchased some property up in the UP. I plan on hanging out there as much as work will allow. I hope to meet up with the UP EXPO crowd for some of your summer trips.
 

Lost Canadian

Expedition Leader
Yeah, we will definately be heading back.... unless my work schedule interferes...

Are you driving down or flying?
I'm going to try and take 3 to 4 weeks off and explore some of the west/southwest around that time so more than likely I'll drive. If all pans out it'd be cool to hook up with a few ExPo folks along the way.
 

elripster

Adventurer
I'm totally enjoying the read. I wish I had more time off around that time of the year, would love to make this trip.

Frank
 

trailsurfer

Explorer
Nice! Yeah, you guys have some footage coming up for sure. It was funny basically running into you guys 4 different times. Where did you guys head after Valley of the Gods? We thought for sure we'd run into you at least one more time up near Moab.


We headed over to Capitol Reef National Park and then camped off of the Burr Trail Road outside Boulder, Utah. Where did you guys head off to?
 
Last edited:

upcruiser

Perpetual Transient
We headed over to Capitol Reef National Park and then camped off of the Burr Trail Road outside Boulder, Utah. Where did you guys head off to?
Ah, nice. We hit the Mulie Point overlook then tried to go the backway into Beef Basin but hit too much snow. Ended up going to Needles and doing Elephant Hill before heading up to Moab.
 

upcruiser

Perpetual Transient
Sorry for the delay, I have been travelling the past couple of days and finally have had some time to continue this thread.

Now... where did I leave off? Oh yeah, Overland Expo. Well, honestly, the three days of the event were kind of a blurrr due to complete sensory and social overload. I have been looking at people's photos from the event and am blown away by how many cool things I missed.

I think the reason I missed out on seeing so much gear and display was simply because of the people. I think I socialized more in those three days than the past 12 months! ha ha It was wonderful and I could have used another couple of days to meet a few more people that I was hoping to talk to.

I was honored to work the Overland Journal booth each afternoon of the event. I got to meet and hang out with Scott, Jeremy, Brian, Stephanie, Andrew, Bobby, Nathan, and crew. As has been shown numerous times in the photos from the event, the OJ tent was incredible. It was probably the most comfortable digs on the grounds. What a great crew and thanks to Jeremy's patience I was soon ringing up OJ subscriptions and peddling the goods.

After spending too much time with Dave, Jordan, and Kent from AEV I was practically ready to sell a vital organ to get my hands on a Brute. Jordan's is for sale too which made for all the more temptation. We spent a couple of great evenings going out for dinner, shooting the breeze and having way too much of a good time. I fear we might have been a bit loud a couple of evenings in our sector of the campground.

Some of the other folks we had a great time hanging out with were Doug and Walt who everyone seems to know. Pat Bonnish from Every Miles a Memory, Holt Webb from Vanishing America, Scott Brown from Jeep, Dave and Yosh (though it was brief), Flying Will! (though it was even briefer), Linda (suntinez), Scott (the guy with the cool 4wd Chinook camper), Andre (DieselCruiserhead) and his crew, the Sagen Media crew, and a bunch of others that would take me all day to remember.

Well, I think everything that could be photographed there was so here is a quick video of our take of some of the sights of the event.

http://vimeo.com/11155992

If you are thinking about making it to Overland Expo next year, don't think, go. Whether for the gear, the education, or the people, you will have a blast!
 
Top