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.
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.
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.
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.
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!