Overland Expo West 2019

AKA the moto Authors Tour

I had been hearing about Overland Expo for some time on Adventure Rider Radio and an idea started to form about how it might be the perfect test ride to see if my ankle (which had been shattered a year earlier) would hold up for a long distance ride. Then I found out the Ted Simon and Sam Manicom would be there which made the trip sound much more interesting. Now in full discloser this is all a bit horrible because I didn’t realize Ted Simon was still alive; it turns out he was 88 and still doing these book signing and presentation tours. If your reading this and your asking yourself “who is Ted Simon” then we may not be able to be friends any longer. The plan is to ride a couple of thousand miles out to Flagstaff hang out with some authors have a look around at Overland Expo and then come back and see how I hold up.

If you know nothing about Overland Expo here is a primer from what I figured out. You must register online and then based on how soon you registered relates to how soon you can sing up for classes with the earlier registers being able to sign up sooner. The website specifically warns you not to jam pack your day registering for too much and to allow yourself some walking around time. I duly noted it then went ahead and jam packed my schedule. However once I got onsite I quickly realized the Website was correct and started skipped a bunch of stuff to walk around and just check things out. In hindsight I would probably do the same thing again because there was no check ins for any of the classes I went to – no one really was checking to see if you attend what you sign up for or not or will kick you out if you didn’t register. its all a bit of a free for all on what to do and how to get around and where to park. I just figured that its all part of the overlanding experience and if you cant find your class then how the heck do you ever plan on doing a proper border crossing.

The way to FlagStaff

M65 atomic cannon “Atomic Annie”

If you happen to be by Fort Riley there is one of the most unique things you will ever come across. The M65 atomic cannon AKA “Atomic Annie”. During the cold war the Army wanted a nuclear capability and 20 of these crazy things were built of which 7 are on display with 1 of them being across from Fort Riley. The whole idea of using a cannon to launch a nuclear device a maximum of 20 miles away from land based troops never caught on.


I have been across Colorado on motorcycle trips numerous times and this time the route planning was just to try some new roads. It wasn’t until I spotted a road sign telling me 4-Corners was just down the road that I even realized how close I was to the landmark. It costs $5 bucks to get in and isn’t a bad little stop but it is absolutely in the middle of nowhere.

Still snow in Colorado Mountains

I knew the Colorado Mountains route would be cold but I wasn’t sure how could and this gave me a really good chance to test out my cold weather kit I got just for this trip. The roads where absolutely clear of snow except for the patch of ice I hit going under a water shed – and of course after hundreds of miles of nearly solo travel the only ice patch on the road is when 2 other cars are next to me.

Arizona Mountain Inn Cabin 9

I despise camping which is odd but I speak of the dislike of it often. I was an employee of the Coleman corporation for over seven years I my oldest son is an Eagle Scout and youngest is currently a Bear Scout. In short I know about most camping products and one weekend a month and one week a year for the last 5 years I have camped and I have started to dislike it. There is a reason I have over 1,500 nights in Marriott and probably closer to 2,000 nights including all hotel brands and only ~75-100 nights camping. Also please keep in mind I wasn’t sure how the ankle was going to hold up so camping for me (even though it was included in the price of the ticket) was absolutely out. The Arizona Mountain Cabins had a discounted rate for Expo attendees and the cabins had heaters, electricity, Wi-Fi and NO TVs and as such sounded like the perfect place to “camp”. While the cabins are very quaint I feel I may have missed out on a few things by not actually camping at the event, and would have had more human interactions if I would have camped.

Overland Expo West

The day before the event I went to go check in and do a bit of a recon so I would know the basic lay out of the area. When I was getting ready to leave I looked over my should and saw Sam Manicom (on his new bike) and I thought to myself “what are the odds of that” I had planned the whole weekend to track him down and bumped right into before the show had even officially begun. Sam was in authors tent or presenting the entire time I am not sure they actually gave him any time to eat and not sure he slept much. I found out about Sam Manicom from Adventure Rider Radio and read Tortillas to Totems before heading out. Mr. Manicom is a very pleasant person who is at ease giving you travel and writing guidance. I actually learned about proper note taking and camera skills above and beyond the expected knowledge about traveling and writing.

Ted Simon of course was hiding out in the authors tent and how great is it that he was wearing a brown leather jacket at the time. I quickly bought (again) several of his books and got them signed. I attended two of his sessions one of which was the “Ask me anything” session which 15 people attended and it felt quite personal and familiar. Surprisingly a reoccurring theme from Ted Simon was his disgust with the word “Adventure” and how anyone traveling now really only needs a cell phone and a credit card. I told Mr. Simon that I found myself with either Time or Money but never both at the same time and he suggested that I should change my priorities (I have been thinking about that quite a bit and think he might be a little right).

I was not expecting to bump into Lisa and Simon from 2RideTheWorld to be at the event and while I knew of them I had never really followed them. After bumping into them (literally they were across from Sam and Ted) I started talking to them I found them to be surprisingly nice and with a good sense of humor; after leafing through Lisa’s book I thought “what the hell I might as well get all the books in this area”. Upon getting home it turned out to be the first book I spent the most time exploring. My main concern was that they are British and personally swore I would never go back to the UK without taking KC BBQ sauce. Luckily Dirty Dining is a International cookbook written by Brits and not a “British cookbook”. Spoiler alert I think “Sardine Spaghetti” might be British but the rest of the stuff is very good.

Well Traveled bikes

I really like checking out bikes but when you see bike that I know the riders actually have more miles than I do its a special treat. I instantly have questions such as “What equipment are they running” and “how is the bike configured”. Right there in front of me where Sam Manicom’s new ride and the 2 bikes from Lisa and Simon (2RidetheWorld). My first instinct is to be that of a driver ant and swarm the bikes crawling all over them but then logic kicks in and I respectfully look over every detail of it and make notes of what they are running and how its configured (more to come on that in a later post).

Overland Gal

I saw this tremendous GS Sidecar setup and had to track down the owner and that’s how I met the Overland Gal who has a trip to Alaska planned and has an Alaska sized sidecar hack. The side car was massive and had all sorts of cool things integrated into it, such a fuel cells, storage, lights, tires and the whole works. She was very pleasant and I wish her all the best for her trip.

Huge off-roading trucks

The entire trip as seen with Data

Garmin InReach trip data and Microsoft Excel map

In closing the event exposes you to a fantastic group of experienced people and allows you to shop to your hearts content on items not normally so accessible such as the Patriot Campers I fell in love with. Yes I went to see Ted Simon and Sam Manicom and yes they were fantastic and yes in the bike world you should absolutely meet your hero’s. However its the little jewels and nuggets of information and insight that you had no idea of previously that are of greatest benefit. Take for example Peter Sweetser who I had no idea about and even though he is a bit of a Range Rover person he is an absolute wealth of information when it comes to international travel. I would highly recommend you attend anything he is presenting.

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Credit for Music in Video
Music from Groovin’ by texasradiofish (c) copyright 2019 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/texasradiofish/59695 Ft: ElRon XChile, unreal_dm, Admiral Bob