Overland Expo 2011….Wow!0
We’ve been called crazy. We’ve been called inspirational. We prefer the latter. In fact, we prefer anything but usual. Our travels are always different and off the beaten path. Preferring the dirt trails as well as roads less taken, we crave a good adventure. We truly love travelling together as a family. As the Adventure Trio, we are a strong unit that’s constantly learning from and changing with each trip. We do this because we love it and we know our time together as a family is short. You only have so many years to raise your kids before you have to let them go. But we also do it in hopes of inspiring other family to turn off the TV’s, put down the phones and flee the norm. Unfortunately for this trip, we had to incorporate a little too much of the norm. Like I always say, you have to keep the boss happy. You’ll soon learn who holds the reigns in the family.
We’d been gearing up for our first trek of the year and Overland Expo 2011 for months. This annual gathering of overland travelers, as well as those looking to learn more about overland travel, was held the first weekend of April in Amado, Arizona. My husband, Terry, was VERY eager to get a look at all the modified vehicles that tackle the terrain. Jack, our 9 year old, was just looking forward to getting out of school a couple of days before spring break. No, seriously, he couldn’t wait to harness up and ride behind dad. And myself? I was ready to stalk and get to know some of the world’s foremost experts in moto travel. Well, that and being able to see how much stuff I can pack onto two BMW GS’s. Remember, there is a kid involved here and you know how much kids like bringing ‘stuff’. And for those of you who aren’t in the know, we strap Jack’s guitar on the back of Terry’s bike. Not kidding.
Oil changed in the bikes? Check. Radios working? Roger that. Tents looking good? Sort of. I’m thankful that there’s an REI in most major cities for those “just in case” moments. We were 2 weeks out and still hadn’t tackled one major hurdle. Yes, we burned it at both ends in order to go on this trip. Yes, we had tagged all the bases as far as work coverage. But how to get the bikes TO Arizona was the one thing we had yet to figure out. All of us can plan and check off lists, but even that can’t keep Jack’s schooling and Terry’s schedule from keeping us home just a little longer than we’d like. We didn’t have the time to ride our bikes there as we only had a little over a week to travel and that was not going to give us enough time to cover the miles. Boo. Solution? Terry would drive a rental truck one way on Wednesday and meet up with a work colleague for a place to stay in Phoenix. Jack and I would hop a plane after school on Thursday and meet up at said locale. Then, all of us would suit up Friday morning for the 2-hour ride to Amado. Perfect. But as any rider knows, you’re constantly buried in that pesky weather site on your phone. Huh, record temperatures in Arizona and a chance for freezing thunderstorms later in the week on our way home. Mother Nature must be bipolar.
After a Thursday night of catching up with friends and setting the bikes up, Friday was met with a bit of a head scratcher. How was I going to carry all of Jack’s so called necessary items? The drumstick bag, Harry Potter novel and bazillions of Transformers were going to have to head home. Sorry, buddy, but the minimalist thing applies to all of us. With a final click of the bungee cord and a thank you to our gracious hosts, we set south once again as a trio. It’s amazing how the roll of the throttle can instantly change your mood. Good times.
We rolled in to Overland Expo and were immediately greeted with dust, lots and lots of dust. No problem. We’re used to anything at this point. The wind did give us a bit of trouble when it came to setting up the tents, but what are you going to do? We bunked next to a lovely girl and a British chap she’d met up with earlier in the week. She was setting around the states for a couple of months while he was jumping in with both feet and heading to South America. He had many reservations about going though Mexico. Don’t worry, cahp. Trust in the goodness of others and you will be well.
Expo exceeded our expectations ten-fold! Meeting so many fabulous riders as well as being asked to help inspire other families to travel made it all worth the extra hours. It always does. And meeting Ted Simon? I think I almost curtsied. Camping in 100+ degree weather on the dirt brings its own set of challenges. You’ve got a little man to think of as far as shade and a full Camelbak. But he’s a true traveler and has learned to adjust to any situation. With sun block slathered and a little store that sold cold beverages, the boy was set. Throw in some ice cream, too? Why not. It’s all about keeping the boss happy. And what else makes Jack happy? Playing his guitar for a willing audience. Tonight’s special guest was none other than Cupcake Carl. Why Cupcake you ask? Well, the only way to traverse the darkness back to our campsite was by motorcycle and Terry’s got the bigger bike. Carl on back equals riding cupcake. Sorry, Carl, but it just fits. With a meal of spaghetti and entertainment by Jack, it was the Saturday night out we needed.
By the last day of Expo, the winds were expected to gust up to 50MPH. It was time to arrange for an early exit and start heading back to California. We had the whole week planned and needed to be in, ugh, Disneyland by Thursday. I know, I know, it doesn’t sound very pleasant or adventurous but you have to remember, KEEP THE BOSS HAPPY! With our fill of blowing dust met, we rolled north in hopes of making it to Casa Grande, Arizona, for the night. We didn’t want to push it regarding weather and the Holiday Inn Express guaranteed a pool for Jack, WiFi for Terry and a laundry facility for me. Check, check and check. And parking it for the day was by far the best decision we had made yet! Not 5 minutes after taking off our helmets, I went out to unload in one of the largest wind gusts I’d ever witnessed. This wave of curling dust came roaring from the west, bending all trees in half and shaking the bikes from side to side. I thought for sure mine was going to go over. And Terry and Jack weren’t even there to witness it! I swear, boys, it was surreal. Oh, and for your information, a hotel bathroom does double as a kitchen, but not in a Kramer sort of way. You know what I mean.
With bikes full of clean clothes and a GPS set for Alpine, California, we headed west on the 8 in yet ANOTHER day of gusting winds. After a while, you just quit your complaining and learn to ride sideways. We had hopes of camping along the Colorado River in Yuma, but quickly learned that Yuma is not very, ahem, kid friendly. Also, the winds were so bad that our chances of setting up the tents were slim at best. So Alpine it was, home of a friend we hadn’t seen in quite some time. It was going to be a long day on the road for Jack, looking to be about 7 hours on the bike. He’s learned that some days are longer than others, that sometimes it’s about making up the miles in order to be able to stop and enjoy our time together.
We rolled into Alpine ready to be done with the gusty winds. Enough already, I get it! Our friend’s home was more like Jack’s personal playground. Video games, air hockey and musical instruments – it was his version of Christmas morning. Those of you who know me know that in exchange for lodging, you will be well fed. With side cases unloaded, I headed to my own version of Christmas morning, the grocery store. I swear I wish I could capture the looks on people’s faces as they watch me load a cart full of groceries onto a motorcycle. It’s always my personal “neener” to fit it all on including 2-dozen roses tucked safely in. Okay, did I mention that I couldn’t quite shut the right side case? Did I also mention that Alpine is a riding paradise of twists and turns? Let’s just say I came home with 1 dozen roses and that some lucky person out there felt good about giving their sweetheart some beautiful roadside flowers. Hey, if it’s meant to be, right? But man, it felt good to toss around an empty bike again.
The fun and catching up can only last so long. The need to twist the throttle beckons constantly, so off to (AAAAACK!) Disneyland we trudge. Remember, it is Jack’s spring break and we can think of no better way to spend a day than watching lazy people scoot around in carts and exhausted families hauling around their brood of 20. I’m not joking! Not the adventure we were looking for, but you’ve got to let the kid get his fill of rides and happy music. But I’ve got to say, there’s no better advertising to get families out and about then rolling up a hotel on a Wednesday, dirty and loaded to the gills. Stares from the husbands and glares from the wives…awesome. Well, we did our best to put off entering the magic kingdom, but we finally headed out late Thursday morning. So, Jack has never been on nor heard of Space Mountain? Jack, you really haven’t? Then we must go there first! And Jack, you’d like to sit with daddy? You’ve got it buddy! Trust me, this ride was done PURELY for my and Terry’s entertainment. I could hear Jack screaming before we even started the climb up. “And I’d like to announce the winner’s of this years Parents of the Year….” It took him a bit to stop hating us, but he fully recovered with promises of NEVER going on that ride again. In all honesty, we did have a pretty good experience at Disneyland. When the heads of Disney got smart enough and loaded Downtown Disney with restaurants that featured full bars, they were really on to something, purely done to keep the parents happy and willing to fight another day. But, alas, our time at Wally World had come to an end. And to the delight and cameras of the people watching us load up, we posed for a few pictures and made our way north on the 101. We seemed to be a bit of an anomaly.
Today’s destination? Monterey. Today’s actual stopping point? Not Monterey. When we ride staggered, I’m Terry’s wingman, calling out certain cars to watch for and lane changes. Have you ever ventured through the L.A. freeway system? I don’t recommend it in a car LET ALONE a family of 3 on motorcycles! Lordy, what a mentally exhausting experience. Fortunately, Jack is oblivious to what Terry and I experience. It’s true that when you ride a motorcycle, your peripheral vision becomes much more acute, tuning into certain drivers that just even LOOK like they’re going to do something stupid. Now imagine our peripheral vision after 3 Red Bulls. Are you getting the idea? Never, ever again will I do that but for that day’s ride, it was necessary. Like I said, never again. We couldn’t wait to hit south of Santa Barbara and roll along the coastline. But, I see traffic completely stopped on the freeway. Surely, you must be joking. Nope. Okay, what brilliant CalTrans official thought it prudent to merge 3 lanes into 2 on the 101 not just once but TWICE? Oh, the agony. But, oh, the lane splitting! Fortunately for us, Terry and I have learned to be quite agile on a weighted down bike and are able to maneuver through the crowd. In all, it has now taken us 5 hours to get just north of Santa Barbara. Monterey is not looking so good. And what are those black clouds looming to the north of us, you know, the direction we need to head? Like I said earlier, pack for everything! We entered the darkness and were immediately greeted by a wall of water. Jack has been through this before, but the wind was so chilling and the rain so relentless that we pulled off in Buellton to make the “call”. Forge ahead to San Luis Obispo or stay and call it a day. Jack wanted to stay. Not a problem, buddy. You’ve been a real trooper. We got to the hotel just in time as even travelers in cars were pulling in for the night and it was only 4PM. Yes, the storm was that bad.
The next morning we were greeted by an azure sky and no winds. Today Monterey! With one day left in our trek, we took advantage of our time and headed to the ocean. Jack delighted in the seals and fishing boats. It’s always a blessing to watch that sort of sheer enjoyment in your child’s face. We slept lightly that night knowing that our journey was ending the next day. In the morning, we reluctantly packed our gear for the last time, threw a leg over our bikes and made the solemn journey home to Davis. Even Jack wasn’t ready to go. That’s the true sign of a successful family adventure. When we arrived home, Jack was immediately greeted by a neighborhood buddy. Oh, the stories he had to tell. He didn’t even take his helmet off he was so eager to share.
And that’s why we do what we do. Nothing can replace the memories we have of our travels on two wheels. We’ve been riding as a family for over 4 years now. You can’t imagine what a privilege it is to be able to spend time together as a family. Sure it’s a lot of work, but isn’t everything? As with all our adventures, we learn something along the way. This time we learned to slow down even more, to take our time and enjoy the journey, not just the destination. There’s always going to be storms, there’s always going to be challenges, but what Jack is experiencing is far beyond anything we could’ve imagined. We plan on keeping it that way.