Ask the Overland International team how many events we have attended over the years and we will probably reply with a collective shrug of shoulders. How could we possibly know? From massive trade shows to small gatherings around the glow of a fire, we have attended hundreds of assemblies big and small. So naturally, when our entire team convened on the beautiful hamlet of Plain, Washington, I admit we expected business as usual; the typical assemblage of travelers and venders, each vying for the affections of the other. To our surprise it turned out to be something far more special.
Now in its fifth year, the North West Overland Rally was considerably larger than the first year, by perhaps a multiplier of ten. What was once a humble head count of one hundred has now swelled to well over one thousand, yet it feels undeniably intimate. Like a reunion of friends new and old, this rally is an anomaly, and one we cannot recommend with any greater enthusiasm.
Organizers Ray and Marianne Hyland clearly understand how to create a fun environment and how to navigate the tricky straits between being overly organized and casually coordinated. Everything went smoothly, without an overbearing crush of volunteers. It felt very much like a campout with 1,500 of our best pals.
Central to the event and its carefree feel was the evening campfire. If you have not witnessed hundreds of people circled around a communal fire, it really is something to see. Each night for a couple of hours, the grounds rumbled under the jovial and powerful voice of MC Steven Talaki as he announced raffle winnings and handed out free merchandise, all to the amusement of the audience. With the late summer sun illuminating the mountains above the campground, it was an perfect end to each day’s activities.
As we would expect of such a well organized event, there was a full schedule of instructional seminars and ample opportunities to explore the surroundings within a variety of trail rides. With Touratech as a lead sponsor, the number of adventure motorcycle riders in attendance was noticeable, their evening exhibitions on the off-road course adding yet another fun diversion to each day.
It’s easy to dismiss events like these as merely a place to see interesting products and learn a few new tricks, but the Northwest Rally elevated the experience by adding a delightfully unexpected sense of community. Travelers from around the globe gave presentations in formal settings and welcomed people into their camps to share in their exploits, once again proving that the overland crowd is very much a family, more than just a group of people with a shared pursuit.
The other pleasant surprise for many of us was the absolutely stunning venue. Located just a short drive from the Bavarian-inspired hamlet of Leavenworth, Washington, the mountains surrounding the Northwest Overland Rally were a picturesque backdrop to the weekend. With temps soaring to unseasonable highs, respite from the heat was a short walk a way to the nearby river where a quick dunk in its cooling waters became a mid-day ritual for many.
If you are looking for things to occupy your early summer, we’d highly recommend fitting the Northwest Overland Rally into your schedule. You won’t regret it. We certainly are glad we went.