Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Propane Run Gone Wild

The Mighty Evelo Aurora, ready for duty.

The Mighty Evelo Aurora, ready for duty.

Thursday morning, one of the Grandby’s two 10-pound propane canisters finally ran out, and I figured that was my excuse to mount up and get it refilled in the little village of Mormon Lake. Occasional sprinkles of rain marred the departure, but it finally departed for good and I took off on the e-bike. That in turn gave me an excuse to tour the parking/camping area set aside for the Overland Expo that starts the next day. The parking this year is more orderly, being set along parallel rows.  However, it also seemed to cut capacity, and by the time I got there about 2 PM, they were already nearly full. Between that and the forest area where I am, I suspect that attendance will be beyond expectations.

This is one little hill on their "advanced driving course, meant to get people used to what they're not used to.

This is one little hill on their “advanced driving course, meant to get people used to what they’re not used to.

Leading to it is another hill that's sharper at the top. I can confidently say that the long-wheelbase Mighty Furd would ground out at the top of this. Now I know not to sign up for the Advanced Driving Course.

Leading to it is another hill that’s sharper at the top. I can confidently say that the long-wheelbase Mighty Furd would high-center (ground out) at the top of this. Now I know not to sign up for the Advanced Driving Course.

Heavy equipment is still working to complete the course!

Heavy equipment is still working to complete the course!

This little piece is intended to test suspension articulation, and most vehicles (like the Furd) will lift a wheel off the ground getting through it. Actually, with its perfectly even weight distribution, the Furd might well lift two wheels off the ground, except that these are spaced for shorter utility vehicles and SUVs. My pickup would most likely just totter heavily from side to side as a test of the locking cabinet door latches.

This little piece is intended to test suspension articulation, and most vehicles (like the Furd) will lift a wheel off the ground getting through it. Actually, with its perfectly even weight distribution, the Furd might well lift two wheels off the ground, except that these are spaced for shorter utility vehicles and SUVs. My pickup would most likely just totter heavily from side to side as a test of the locking cabinet door latches.

A high-dollar Earth Roamer arriving. Thanks to tractors and equipment using this ground, it was very bumpy, and the box on this thing was bouncing around very impressively. That's significant, because there's no bed involved as on my rig. The box is bolted directly to the frame.

A high-dollar Earth Roamer arriving. Thanks to tractors and equipment using this ground, it was very bumpy, and the box on this thing was bouncing around very impressively. That’s significant, because there’s no bed involved as on my rig. The box is bolted directly to the frame.

Row 2, just for giggles. The camper styles run the gamut, and if you want to survey what's being offered on the market, this lot is much more comprehensive than the show itself.

Row 2, just for giggles. The camper styles run the gamut, and if you want to survey what’s being offered on the market, this lot is much more comprehensive than the show itself.

Row 3. That big rig on the right is for sale. You could probably snap it up for quarters on the dollar, if you sold your house first.

Row 3. That big rig on the right is for sale. You could probably snap it up for quarters on the dollar, if you sold your house first.

Row 4. Some folks rolled in with small cars, to tent it. Others had vehicle-based folding tents with ground rooms and awnings.

Row 4. Some folks rolled in with small cars, to tent it. Others had vehicle-based folding tents with ground rooms and awnings.

A re-purposed ambulance, complete with an F-250/350 solid front drive axle grafted in. Livin' large. Yep, that's a for sale sign on it. Nope, I didn't ask. And yup, it ain't cheap.

A re-purposed ambulance, complete with an F-250/350 solid front drive axle grafted in. Livin’ large. Yep, that’s a for sale sign on it. Nope, I didn’t ask. And yup, it ain’t cheap.

Here's a similar one, except that it was never an ambulance. A custom build by a body outfitter.

Here’s a similar one, except that it was never an ambulance. A custom build by a body outfitter.

I did use the parking lot tour as an excuse to run over and see if Four Wheel Camper was set up yet, and they were, complete with a ton of customer rigs packed in amongst the factory display units. But they were all shorty models mounted onto friggin’ white Toyota Tacomas! Only as I was departing did a lone Dodge pull up, but it had a short bed as well. I bumped into a guy named Tom who was telling him where to pack it in, and I jokingly complained that what they needed was an A-Class Ford Super Duty with the more luxuriant full-size Grandby in all its splendor. Oh yeah. He weakly pointed to the factory’s Dodge parked over yonder, used as an open walk-in display for the prospects.

When I mentioned that I was a recent customer for the last of the 2015’s, he said “Really? Oh, thank you so much!”  I unashamedly raved about the quality of my Grandby, and admitted that while some complain of the cost, I considered it obviously worth every penny when you plan to use it forever. He punctuated my complements with frequent thank-yous, and by this time it dawned on me that he might be from the factory. I asked whether he was with the factory or a dealer, he said factory, and introduced himself as Tom. We yakked about the solar I’d installed and he was taken aback by 360 watts of panels on the roof, but he was already aware of the recent problems with failing lightweight flexible panels. I considered my 75 pounds as the practical maximum, but he said a few folks loaded 300 pounds of equipment up there and somehow managed to still get the roof up without unloading it first. Amazing. I think we have a potential Olympic event here. We talked about the bed mounts, and how obsessing over keeping them tight for a year, until they can settle in, avoids a heap of problems. Then he mentioned I should stop by during the show and hit their refreshments and food tent for all their customers. Nice guy, huh?

Only later did I come to realize that I may well have been talking with Tom Hanagan, the owner of Four Wheel. Considering that he’s been the owner since 2001, when the drive for improvements in the platform began in earnest, it’s less of a mystery as to why he seemed to take my comments personally and earnestly, not as an employee would. He’s initiated a lot of improvements in a niche market that is still heavy swayed by price, so to have someone insist that the efforts (and price increases) have been well worth it, well, maybe my career history pursuing a better product when “it’s good enough for who it’s for” is the main managerial theme, helps me relate. It’s a maxim that the last 10% of a product’s development takes 90% of the project’s time (and cost). So, that last 10% is usually ignored, now more than ever. It was probably nice to hear someone appreciate the extra effort put in to make it so much better than the accepted standard.

Now I’ve got the bug to somehow get the Intrepid into that display for 2017, if only to show that mods are not limited to cookie-cutter front bumpers with brush guards and winches on small pickups. It could demonstrate that bloat is another option, with a bike carrier and a cargo box, custom solar panel carrier and dice hanging from the unusable rear view mirror. Trouble is, I’d have to be overnighting not four feet away from other campers, and who knows if they’d enjoy hearing the Longmire TV series as much as I enjoy watching it? I’ll have to think on that one for awhile.

I ended the day at the local non-franchise Pizza joint, the first time I’d seen it open for business, ever. They offered four kinds by the slice, very close to Chicago-style, and it was really excellent, as was the place’s ambiance. Affordable, too. No dinner for me tonight, thanks! What a great day!

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11 thoughts on “Propane Run Gone Wild

  1. I’d like to go see that next year. Is it in different places each time????

    • Nope, same place, same weekend just before the Memorial Day weekend, Charlene. Changes are only made if a location starts presenting problems while alternatives are available. Their website is overlandexpo.com and you can sign up to to get monthly announcements that start when prep for the next year begins. They actively readjust things based on feedback. If you were to want to do any more than just show up for daily admission to see the vendors (like camping overnight with the hoard or taking classes), you’d need to prearrange online well beforehand. I think they mail out passes.

      • Hard for me to plan a year ahead of time, and hopefully I will be on the AZ Trail at this time next year, so may not make it then. But maybe the year after.

  2. Linda Sand on said:

    Those shows do tend to bring out the “my rig is better than your rig” in us, doesn’t it? Of course, better for us may not be better for someone else. When I camped at any of Bob Wells gatherings I got requests to tour my rig. I loved it. But his groups don’t line up in a row like most shows do so it’s easier to keep you sanity at his gatherings.

    • Well, that “keeping up with the Jones'” mentality doesn’t seem to work that well here, since for every big Fuso box or even campers like mine are at least ten tents or tent-based rigs. The diversity is just too wide to get a clique going in any one, with the possible exception of the owners of old Land Rover Defenders, who just know they have the edge on everyone else: tradition and history. There’s a recognition that the guy in the big Earth Roamer is trading freedom of choice for comfort and convenience, but that’s his choice. It might be impressive to look at, but he’s also giving up a lot to have it. Even the hardy motorcyclists who ground tent, range from dirt bikes to exotically-laden KTMs to fat, heavy Urals with sidecars, and nobody’s willing to trade. They’ve got what they each want, and the vibes I pick up are that as long as it does what you want, that’s the best solution. There’s no undertone of rebelling against society, or assigning values of good and evil to rig types, lifestyles or having a home base to return to. There are only roads and places never personally seen yet, and how you want to do that is your business. The only similarity to Bob’s RTR gatherings I can think of is that it’s a coming together of like-minded enthusiasts who appreciate enjoying nature and freedom, but this 3-day gathering is so large that there’s simply no way they can do that when spread out. This is the first year of organized parking, and given the acreage available, it’s a trial effort to avoid trapping anyone in when they want to leave. That massive compaction is why I’m in the woods and e-bike the mile in! I need the privacy too!

  3. Matt on said:

    Find your way. I keep thinking this as I read the blog and comments, excellent as always. It’s definitely not what other people are doing that is important, but what makes you feel that you’re exactly where you should be and are happy as can be in the moment.

  4. Ming on said:

    I was going to ask if you were planning to try out the course with your rig, but I guess not. Would they allow my 2WD truck on there, or would I need 4WD to deal with some of those obstacles?

    I’m glad there is camping option away from the crowd a bit, it looks like a zoo in there! Now to figure out a rack for my e-bike.

    Glad to hear that there are cute campers to visit made for my Tacoma!

    • I could certainly sign up, but I’m pretty sure they’d take one look and talk me out of it, and shuffle me into a Land Rover – which would still pump up my getting used to tackling currently-uncomfortable things with tilt and lean. And have courage when seeing nothing but sky. That’d be okay, since I look at that improvised bridge and wonder what 10,000 pounds would do to it. I suspect your 2WD Tacoma might make the climbs, but any mud sections (they are trying to sell people on 4WD Land Rovers, after all) and those articulation sections may have you sitting there spinning a wheel or two. Basically, they’d take a look and either let you go or do what they’d do to me, but for other reasons.

      If your bike has a diamond frame, the choices are wide. If not, you’ll want something that carries it by the tires with hoops. There’s a very wide span out there, and eTrailer has choices I haven’t noticed anywhere else, like rear hitch carriers that swung off to one side for vehicle access. Prepare to be overwhelmed by options.

      Your Tacoma is the dominant platform for FWC because of the product’s light weight. Outside of FWC and Phoenix Pop-Ups, I don’t know what would be suited as far as “real campers” go. All-Terrain, the 20-year-old version of the FWC, does not attend. But all those roof-top canvas jobs and tiny sleep/cook trailers would risk your changing plans, and the rows of hardware specifically for the Tacoma would let you see all that you can’t possibly afford, too! I can see you with a common bed shell for storage and an external ladder rack topped with a platform tent… 😉

      • Ming on said:

        lol, I HAD a car top tent that I planned to use on top of the truck canopy, but I would have had to beef up the canopy to hold the weight of the tent+people, which might have run into deforming stresses on the truck box sides and my ultimate goal was a camper, so the roof tent had to go.

        Having slept up in the air, I do prefer to not have to make that journey (and hoist the mutt) up the ladder for sleep anymore. Now I can have a toilet and food available from the bed and hurricane force wind storms no longer mean having to fold down the tent and wait it out in the vehicle. But hey, it would have been fun to show up at OX in a Fit with roof tent!

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