The Overland Expo


Overland Expo is an international event that “educates and inspires people” to go out and explore the world, by two-wheeled or four-wheeled vehicle. A participant can  buy an “Overland Experience” pass, the cost for which seems to be several hundred dollars according to people at the information booth. Or, visitors can get a day pass at the gate for $20 per person, $15 if you buy beforehand online and print a receipt.

Weird juxtaposition of transportation modes – ancient vs. modern

We arrived in Amado, AZ, the location of the Overland Expo, around 12:30 Saturday, April 2, after 2-1/2 hours on the road, slabbing it down the I-10 from Phoenix. I was once again mounted on my trusty F650GS, thinking I might get the chance to ride a little dirt while I was there. The wind blew, the sun beat down, and I roasted under the weight of unseasonably warm temperatures. However short, the journey was rather uncomfortable. I seemed to be not quite adjusted to the heat since it came so suddenly.

We left  I-19 south at the second of two exits that pointed toward Amado. I would have gotten off at the first, but I mindlessly followed my riding partner, knowing that we’d fallen for this once before on a previous trip. Of course, we backtracked almost to the first exit, then easily found the venue, which was just off the freeway at the Arivaca Rd. exit. The venue was crowded, teeming with adventurous people!

The camping area

We parked on “bike row,” which was already populated by many BMW GS bikes, KTMs, and a few other brands, and as we de-geared, I wished I’d worn shorts. My jeans were going to be too hot, I already knew that. Better yet, I should have worn something “khaki,” as it seemed to be the color/fabric of choice.

We walked to the entrance and paid to go in, a rather expensive fee, I thought, but then again I am a poorly-paid teacher. As we walked, we noticed that each exhibitors’ row was named for a famous destination or conveyance, for example, one of the rows was named “Silk Road.”

While there, I met several people whose stories I’ve enjoyed on ADVRider – Becktastic  was one person. Hal and I met Becky as she worked in the information tent, and I knew her instantly from her photos. I found that to be the case with me as well. Several people came up to me and said, “You’re Jo, azgsgirl on ADV!” Yes, I am.  🙂

I also met Jason Black and his wife, Amy, from Outrider Journal as they worked at their booth. I enjoyed meeting them very much, and their new publication is nicely done with good stories and excellent photography.

As we continued our tour of the venue, I noticed how many different types of vehicles there are for camping, and also for off-roading. I haven’t been paying much attention until now to the ways camping with a four-wheeled vehicle has changed over the years, but I was interested to see many racks on top of trucks. People mount a platform on the rack, then set up their tent on top of it. They use a ladder to climb up into the tent. I like the idea of being high up off the ground, as long as the person who is camping does not sleep walk, I guess!

My favorite vehicle at the show was a rally car, called the Rally Fighter, built by Local Motors of Chandler, AZ. I first saw the car as it was coming in from an off-road run. It made its way back to the company’s booth, and I was so intrigued that I followed it. I ended up talking to the guys there for quite some time. In the process, I discovered that the car was built in Chandler. I also learned about how it was designed and engineered. Being a “gearhead,” I was fascinated by all the interesting components of the design. The Rally Fighter finished third in its debut at the Parker 425, a great achievement since the attrition rate is about half, and few vehicles finish at all on their first try, much less podium. Later in the day, I was lucky enough to photograph the car as it ran slowly through a small off-road course set up at the venue (more photos at the bottom of the story).

Information about the car

The Rally Fighter

Rawhyde Adventures was there and there were big GS bikes for people to “demo.” The rides went out at regular intervals, long lines of GS bikes rolling out in snake formation behind a leader. This was a very popular activity; they were fully booked throughout the day we were there. We hung out a little while, talking to the guys manning the both. I still think it would be great to get a local group and do the Rawhyde training together.

Beemer row

After an hour or so of walking and talking, we were thirsty, and dusty. The wind was whipping relentlessly, and dust blew, tent flaps made snapping sounds as they cracked in the wind, and we tasted grit in our mouths.

We headed toward a permanent structure that housed, among other things, a small café. By chance, we met up with one of Hal’s co-workers, Buster, who had ridden down the day before and was camping. We passed nearly an hour in pleasant conversation, drinking cool lemonade and cooling down beneath the slowly rotating ceiling fans. While I sat in the cool air, I felt so tired, like I could drop into a little heap on the floor and instantly be asleep. While I fought to hold open my suddenly heavy-lidded eyes, I listened to Hal and Buster talk about fun rides in the vicinity. Buster had previously lived in the Tucson area and knew of many great rides. They all sounded wonderful, and I began to dream of future dirt rides to locations presently unknown to me but begging to be discovered. Before I slid fully into sleep, I shook myself awake to save the embarrassment of falling off my chair.

With our lemonade gone, we all stood up to go, then walked out into the heat again. I felt a little bleary-eyed and dull. Buster wanted to see our bikes, so we walked to the long row of them where we’d parked earlier. I laughed to myself because my GS was covered in dust, but not because I’d ridden it. Hal had ridden his R1100RS, and I thought it looked cool, the only obvious street bike among all the dual sports. I was proud of him for being willing to ride it off-pavement if he had to, but as it turned out, the parking area was accessible by riding through only about 100 feet of dirt.

We parted company with Buster, then walked back to the exhibitors’ area. I went to the authors’ table, where I met the delightful Lois Pryce, author of Lois on the Loose. I bought a copy of that book, which she signed for me. Later, when I sat down to read chapter one, I realized the appeal, as if it hadn’t already been apparent to me – there are so many of us who long to give up mundane, mind-numbing jobs for an adventurous life on the road, yet there are few of us who do, for whatever reason. The book is very engaging and enjoyable to read because Lois had the motivation and courage to do just that.

One of my personal favorite moments was meeting Nicole, a.k.a., Nicomama on ADV. I found her very enjoyable to talk to as well. She is a very positive person, and I hope we can ride together sometime!

Nicole's DRZ

Tent with "garage"

The shadows started to get longer, and all this time I had been trying to reach my friend, Seamus, who I hadn’t seen in over a year, and who was supposed to travel to the Expo from his home in Idaho. I was beginning to lose hope, but then suddenly a text from him popped up on my phone. He was in the movie theater, the entrance to which was only feet from where Hal and I were sitting on a patch of grass in the shade. He had been out riding all afternoon and wanted to get into the cool darkness of the theater. He soon appeared, though, and I was glad to see him. Alas, we only talked for a few minutes; much too brief a time. Hal and I had been about to mount up and head out. Seamus promised to come back to Arizona soon and ride with us. In a couple of days, he would be off to far-flung destinations as part of his globe-trotting job.

I was getting stupid with the heat. On the way out, however, I did find enough energy to watch and photograph the rally car we had seen earlier as it made its way around the course at the venue set up for four-wheeling. I really enjoyed watching it move, although it was not going very fast. I liked how the suspension of each wheel moved independently as it encountered varying terrain.

The Rally Fighter in action

I love this car!

At last, we headed for a cool oasis, our day at the Expo was over. I slept like the dead that night, I don’t think I moved once. But I woke up Sunday morning ready to ride another day.

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2 thoughts on “The Overland Expo

  1. I like the look of the Rally Fighter, too. Nice shots of it out on the course. I also liked thew idea of the way they named the ‘roads.’ I did wonder about another comment. Did you find (and is it true at other events) that all bikes of a particular make park together? You mentioned BMW row. Was that by happenstance or tradition?

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