Last year, the Overland Expo (OX) was the start of my journey around the back road of United States. This year, I will be working the event as an ASL interpreter for an attendee. Now, I need to figure out which mode of transportation I want to take to the event. Plus, I need to see if my partner, Mark, wants to attend the event as well and if he does, how much vacation time he can take off. Also, if he does want to go, then this will also determine which way we will travel to OX.
After much discussion, he decided that he wanted to go and we will be taking the van. Several months ago, we bought a 2006 Ford diesel e350 van to convert it into a camper van. Our plan was to use it as way for me to continue traveling since the arthritis in my hands can’t handle long trip anymore. The camper van would allow us to travel to a base camp and then bring along the bikes to do short trips from there. We originally found a contractor to help us with the conversion but he wasn’t able to help us right away and we haven’t been able to find another contractor that would work for us. Summer was approaching, so we decided to put the project on the back burner for now until winter.
So, we figured that we might as well utilize the van for this trip since it does have a reclining bench that can be used as a bed. Realistically, it is not big enough for the both of us but we will make it work for now. Also, this trip would be a good practice run for us to learn what would work and what doesn’t work of the camping gears that we have bought so far.
Getting to Mormon Lake, AZ from our house is only about 6 hour drive but Mark was really excited to be attending his first overland adventure event with me so we took off on Wednesday night. We took our time driving and made a lot of stops along the way, we ended up stopping at Kingman KOA for the night. Even this late at night, it was still quite hot and realized that an A/C should be on the top of our list for the camper van conversion.
We got up early the next morning and headed on out to our final destination, the OX. Once we arrived, I was surprised that Roseann managed to obtain a camping site right next to the presenter’s Moto Village so I could be close to all of my friends.
We arrived in plenty of time before I needed to be at the presenter’s meeting where I will be introducing myself to all of the Nicole’s instructors to give them the 411 on what to expect while I’m interpreting during their class.
The four days spent as an ASL interpreter was challenging and rewarding at the same time. The challenges were taking on the persona of four different presenters in the same class, the long days or having to come up with technical signs for the various type of winches when there is only one sign for it. However, the rewards were knowing that the attendee was able to grasp what was being said in the presentation and building a friendship with her.
I have to give a special thanks to the Land Rover Team. The instructors went out of their way to make sure that the attendee and I were taken care of while out on the course for the Vehicle Marshalling Skills class.
Well, it wasn’t all work and no play, there were a couple of gaps in her schedule where Mark and I were able to catch a couple of classes ourselves. The first one we were able to squeeze in was the DIY Overlander: How to convert an ambulance, bus or military truck. Even though we don’t have any of those vehicles but thought that we might learn a few tips and tricks that would be beneficial to us. Boy, it sure was! One thing we learned that we did the right thing by taking the van on short trip to figure out what we need and want to have in our van before doing the conversion. The second thing was when they asked us a question, “where do you typically park your camper?” Most people try to find shade to park under so installing a solar panel on top of your vehicle is the most practical thing to do. So they recommend getting a portal solar panel instead so you move it around to face the sun.
The other class that we managed to attend was the Overlanding Survival for Couples. After traveling solo the past year, I going to need learn how to deal with the challenges of the constant togetherness on the road. Oh boy, I haven’t laughed so hard in a class, Simon and Lisa Thomas sure made it enlightening. My favorite tip was that if I can’t get Mark to do what I want then I can start withholding foods and sex and then he will come around. 🙂
We also were able to sneak in some times to wander around the exhibitor’s area to look at products that would be useful for our camper van. Remember, in the DIY class, we learned that a portable solar panel is a better solution than the built-in one. So we were on a mission to check out all of the vendors that were selling portable solar panel. We finally came upon a vendor, overlandsolar.com, with the quality and the price we were budgeting for. He had several different wattage solar panels available and convinced us that we didn’t need the biggest one for our van. He even had a converted camper van as well and welcomed us to step in to see what he has done to it. So, I would highly recommend this vendor if you’re ever in need of a portable solar panel.
During the evening, I am able to get some free time to catch up with some friends that I haven’t seen since last year when I left for my trip. We were able to catch up as if no times have been lost. However, I’m still amazes of the camaraderie that is shared among motorcycle riders. A lot of them know my stories and they welcomed Mark into the circle of friends like he has been a part of it the whole time.
After we got home from OX, Mark asked me when the next event is, itching to get on the road again. I smiled and said next month to the Touratech Rally in Plain, WA. I think Mark got the traveling bug now.