Overland Expo Experience Part 1: “The Journey the Experience”

The Overland Expo 2017 East was held in Asheville, NC on the Biltmore Estate this past weekend (Sept 29-Oct 1).  It was a 9.5hr drive from NJ filled with spectacular views of the Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains. I took Interstate 81 for most of the trip.  A majority of the driving was done in Virginia, but I also spent time in Tennessee before arriving in the area of Asheville, NC. There were blinking moments in Delaware and Maryland too.

I got a late start on Wednesday 9-27, so I decided to find a place to camp before it got dark.  I looked for free camping online in the area of Wytheville, VA.  Freecampsites.net informed me of an abandoned picnic site on top of Walker Mt. Unfortunately, this turned

out to be a bust.  As I started up Walker Mountain Rd, which was in great shape, I came across multiple signs stating the road was closed due to tower service. There was a high voltage warning along with it.  Being that it was remote and getting dark, I wasn’t going to take any chances and decided to go to a state campground I passed closer to town.

The night’s rest was the first in a decade where I slept on the ground. I even had two sleeping pads, and my body was not happy with me.  I started hammock camping years back to avoid the morning aches and pains with ground camping and it also lightened my pack significantly.  So while cooking and eating breakfast, I found a Cabela’s just off I-81 and stopped by to pick up an inexpensive cot to use for the remainder of the weekend.

I arrived at the event around 12:30 on Thursday 9-28 for check-in and camp set-up.  It was well-organized and easy sailing for me as a first-timer to one of these events.  The direction and information provided at different steps along the way took the stress out of the situation.  I received my welcome paperwork and was directed to a campsite where I began to set up.  It didn’t take long until Nash and I were relaxing in the shade and meeting our new neighbors.

I hit the rack early, mostly due to a crappy night’s sleep the night before, because I had some early classes scheduled.  *Tip for first-timers, leave some time in your daily schedule to visit the vendor booths. It’s easy to fill up your day with classes but you don’t want to feel rushed*.  I enjoyed each class throughout the weekend and the instructors were approachable and friendly, they worked hard to cover the items deemed important by the class.  I took artistic type classes dealing with photos and journaling. I also had technical classes dealing with electrical systems and radios.  There are classes offered that are helpful to all skill levels.

The evenings were marked with a social hour at the main food tent with craft beers on tap and wine from the Biltmore winery.  I met many interesting people from all over the world (Europe, Australia, Mexico and Africa).  Jumping from table to table or just walking around you were sure to strike up a conversation with someone easily after noticing a patch, accent or just asking about their dog.

I would spend the remainder of the evening writing about something important I experienced during the day, reading or brewing over the plethora of handouts I received during my vendor walks.  I managed to get a shower Saturday night in the shower trailer provided, other than that it was baby wipes and deodorant to keep the smell off.  The showers were available all weekend but I understand there was difficulty keeping up with demand so hot water was scarce.  Bringing your own shower system is a must if baby wipes don’t work for you.  I then hit the rack and started it all over again in the morning.  The cot worked great by the way, I slept very well even with the temperature hitting the low 40’s at night.  Nash slept in a corner of my two man tent with a poncho liner and blanket.

Most people pulled stakes and hit the road throughout the day Sunday which was the last day of the event.  However, I stayed with a small group of people until Monday morning before leaving.  I found myself awake with my mind racing at 0415.  With no signs of being able to get back to sleep, and a longing to see my children, I decided to get up and get moving.  After a cup of coffee and oatmeal, I packed up and hit the road by 0530.  The ride home was pleasant and uneventful, except for watching the sun rise while driving thru the Shenandoah Valley again.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience. I can’t wait until next year’s Overland Expo West (May 18-20) in Flagstaff, Arizona.  I hope to reconnect with some of the people I met this weekend get, some more knowledge and see what else is out there in equipment and gear.  I will be following this blog series up with additional entries relating to Overland Expo. I will cover some of the different equipment I saw and provide my conclusions as to what will work best for me and my expedition.  So please subscribe and get notified when Part 2 gets published.

Thank you for being a part of my journey! Keep working on that list of must-see-and-do items to share with me as I begin to plan my 2018 expedition across the U.S.

Semper-Fi and God Bless!

Tom Knapp

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