Eddie Bauer / First Ascent, Karakoram 20 Sleeping Bag

By Christophe Noel

For many people, the Eddie Bauer name evokes images of khaki pants, braided leather belts, and perhaps even a fine selection of throw pillows for the well-appointed suburban home. It is true, Eddie Bauer offers those things and much more, but they can also lay claim to some of the most advanced backcountry apparel and equipment available today. Those items, branded with the First Ascent logo, mean serious business. Designed with direct feedback from world renowned mountaineers like Ed Viesturs and Peter Whittaker, First Ascent products are ready to take on any backcountry endeavor you throw at them from your local wood to the icy ramparts of Mount Everest.

The Karakoram 20 sleeping bag from First Ascent is one of the finest sleeping bags on the market. Inspired by Eddie Bauer’s mountaineering bags from the 1950’s, the Karakoram’s vertical torso baffles provide a unique structure that moves with the sleeper for maximum warmth and comfort. As is fitting of a premium bag, the materials are top notch with 20-denier Pertex® Endurance Shell fabric wrapped around 850 fill premium European goose down. A full-length draft tube protects the entire length of the zipper from the ingress of cold air, and a neck baffle prevents warm air from exiting the bag at the shoulders. The well defined foot box, and highly sculpted hood maintain their shape even amidst the most restless sleep sessions reducing troublesome cold spots. It’s a masterfully crafted sleeping bag. Weighing in at just a shade over two pounds it is also exceptionally light and packs down to a tight bundle barely larger than a football. For the space challenged traveler, the Karakoram 20 is an excellent option.

In an era of frequent cost and corner cutting, it’s clear First Ascent is uncompromising in their pursuit of excellence. No detail was overlooked in the design or construction of the Karakoram 20. During our testing sessions, the Karakoram performed flawlessly proving it belongs in the rarified air of the world’s best apparel and equipment manufacturers.

http://www.eddiebauer.com/EB/First-Ascent/index.cat?cm_sp=navigation-_-top_nav-_-firstascent

$349

KTM 1190 Adventure, Taming the Beast?

By Christophe Noel

Almost a decade ago, an orange beast escaped from the dunes and rocky tracks of Africa’s Dakar Rally and took up residence in the civilized garages of motorcycle enthusiasts the world over. This race-inspired animal was the KTM 950 Adventure and it became an instant icon. Since then, the adventure bike scene has exploded with almost every manufacturer dipping a toe, or diving headlong, into the mixed-surface market. With the competition edging ever closer to reaching the bar set by the 950 and subsequent 990 Adventure, KTM has uncaged another animal with the newly released 1190 Adventure.

The 1190 Adventure is not just a punched-out 990, it’s an entirely new machine. Riders have long praised the 990 for its rawness and ability to produce adrenaline-pumping horsepower. The 1190 promises the same thrill, but with a level of refinement and precision that seems to be KTM’s new forte. If the 950 is a ferocious animal, think of the 1190 as a beast less likely to bite your hand off.

There are not too many motorcycles in the adventure segment with a superbike engine stuffed under the seat. The 1190 Adventure is built around KTM’s powerful 1195cc, 75-degree V-twin engine that rips out an impressive 151 horsepower. Twist your wrist with too much enthusiasm and you’ll dig a furrow fit for a row of corn. Taming all of that power is a new ride-by-wire ECU with four programed riding modes: Sport, Street, Off-Road and Rain. Traction control further reigns in the power with three settings for Sport, Street and Off-Road. For those wanting to evoke the raw fury of the old Adventure, the traction control can be switched off completely. Suspension settings are tuned on the fly with an optional Electronic Dampening System (EDS). Riders can chose from Solo, Solo with Luggage, Two-up, and Two-up with Luggage. If nothing else, there are plenty of electronic options to keep you occupied.

All of this power and poise is packaged in a bike that stripped of its color and markings could be  almost anything. To some dyed in the wool KTM loyalists, this could be problematic. KTM even succumbed to the beak when designing the front of the 1190 Adventure. It would seem that no bike is admitted into the adventure bike category without a prominent proboscis. At any rate, it’s a striking motorcycle.

These are interesting times in the motorcycle industry. BMW’s newly released R1200GS is now pumping water for the first time in 90 years, and KTM is wiring their bikes with more electronics than Sputnik. Some have argued that KTM’s new flagship adventure bike pushes the brand further towards the tarmac and away from their dirty roots. There is no doubt that in the last few years their orange letters have adorned some impressive road machines from their 1190 RC8 R superbike to their X-bow car. The 1190 Adventure is clearly aimed at the massive number of highway biased riders throwing a leg over adventure bikes, but who’s to say those adventures are less significant than the off-piste romps? Has the beast been too tamed? For those of us in North America, we’ll have to wait until 2014 to find out.

 

Overland Journal: Summer 2013 Preview

The Land of Butch and Sundance: Bolivia by Dual-Sport, Bill Dragoo

Vehicle Feature: FJ45 Crew Cab Pickup, Chris Collard

Knobbies: Dual-Sport Tires, Overland Journal Staff

Sand Raiders: Egypt in two 1940’s Willys, Sam Watson

The Summer 2013 Issue of Overland Journal will also feature:

Leather Boot Comparison, Christophe Noel

To See the Elephant: North America’s Emigrant Trail, Chris Collard

and much more.

The Road Less Traveled: The Alpine Loop Scenic Byway

Story by Christophe Noel

Every spring in the craggy peaks above Silverton, Colorado there can be heard an unmistakable clatter as heavy plows labor to free high altitude mountain passes from the last of winter’s snow. Sunlight dances on racing creek waters as they flow from the melting snowfields to the lush valleys below, and alpine flowers push forth to make the most of their brief growing season. High above, ravens rise on warm air currents, their inky shadows racing across the mountainsides. It is a magical scene, a virtual postcard in motion.

To experience the splendor of the Rocky Mountains of Southern Colorado, one need only drive the short 65 miles around the famous Alpine Loop Scenic Byway. This iconic route begins in Silverton, climbs over Cinnamon Pass to the mountain hamlet of Lake City before circling back and over Engineer Pass. Along the way it passes through historic ghost towns and verdant mountain meadows, while winding amidst towering mountains and crossing countless streams and creeks.

At the entrance to the Alpine Loop sits the mining ruins of Animas City. A once thriving operation employing thousands of ambitious miners, all that remains today are humble cabins, vacant slabs of concrete, and errant piles of rusty industrial era metal. After a short visit to Animas City the road narrows, showing only a brief section of rocky scrabble before rising well above the trees to eventually top out over Cinnamon Pass. Here the air is thin, the views never ending, and the adventure still yet to unfold.

Shortly after descending off Cinnamon Pass, a short diversion to American Basin awaits along with a veritable sea of wild flowers. Said to contain the most dense growth of alpine flowers in all of Colorado, American Basin is a stunning backdrop for an alpine picnic. Handies Peak looms overhead reaching over 14,000 feet into the sky.

As the road reaches eastward, occasionally presenting a mildly technical switchback, the terrain opens up, exposing creeks and alpine lakes—the namesakes of the only small town in the area, Lake City. This charming little town offers a couple of eating options, a chance to refuel, or a nice night’s stay at a cabin or campground.

On the return trip, the gravel road climbs progressively, passing narrow roads leading to destinations like the Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre Peak trailheads. Eventually, the road ascends quickly to acquire the summit of Engineer Pass. Well above the treeline at over 12,000 feet, the adventure begins in earnest atop Engineer with a narrow descent back to Animas City.

Without trying to detract from the unique beauty of the Alpine Loop, Colorado is full of similar driving experiences. It is a land of unimaginable beauty. For the traveler, it is also rich with opportunity. Hot springs, and mountain hikes abound as well as dozens of other mountain adventures. In the small towns of Durango and Ouray, charming restaurants and breweries always welcome weary travelers.

As routes go, the Alpine Loop isn’t as remote as the Canning Stock or as long as the Road of Bones. It doesn’t offer the challenge of the Darien, or the culture of the Wakhan Corridor. It is however, nearly smack dab in the middle of North America and one of the most travel worthy routes any overlander could hope for. It is accessible, flanked on all sides by immeasurable opportunities to explore, and a must-do for any overlander via any means possible. It is a beautiful stretch of a road less traveled.

Disfrutado

All I had to say was, “Yesterday was fun, I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did.” This seemingly simple sentence had me paralyzed. I was supposed to be translating, but after a long pause–thinking–I asked, “How do I say ‘enjoyed?”  So focused on the word, I didn’t know I hadn’t even begun the sentence.  Grinning, my teacher asked if I knew how to say, “Yesterday was fun.”

“Well yes, Ayer fue divertido.” I replied.

How about, “I hope everyone?” She asked.

Again, I was able to easily get that part of the sentence out. She added “disfrutado” (enjoyed) and asked if I knew how to translate the end of the sentence. My teacher, Carol, who is very dear to me, got me thinking about much more than Spanish that day.

The word for “enjoyed” (“disfrutado”) paralyzed me in my translation, it was the one small “if” in an otherwise unintimidating sentence. Growing up I watched people live in fear of the “ifs” of life, the “disfrutados” if you will.  The “Well, I have always wanted to travel to France but I don’t know the language, and what if I get lost in the airport?” or “What if I get there and the hotel I booked is horrible?” I have come to the conclusion that the “ifs” are the adventure of life, the spice.  Would it really be the end of the world if you had to ask someone to help you in the airport or find another hotel? Go for your dreams one step at a time and when you encounter your “disfrutado” you will find your way around it, through it, and most likely come out with a great story—spice!

Don’t let yourself be paralyzed by the “ifs.” Go for it passionately. No dream is too crazy. I firmly believe that you are capable of much more than you think. I’m not saying that it will be easy. More likely than not it will be hard, require determination, courage, and a good sense of humor.

For me this way of thinking is a decision– a decision I constantly remind myself of. Life isn’t so scary. What it boils down to is the simple things in life are the most important. When I am in the midst of an “if” and I am somewhere I don’t enjoy with people I don’t particularly like and I just want to go home, I can sneak away, sit on a swing in an empty playground, and enjoy the simple things like the warm sun, the birds playfully chirping, and the peace and quiet of just being.  A deep breath, a few minutes and I am able to take on whatever “ifs” are headed my way.

Live in the moment. Keep your dreams, but don’t keep them on a shelf to look at every so often, keep them with you close at hand so when an opportunity presents itself your dreams are sitting there waiting in the forefront of your mind, not pushed aside as a scary “if” or a “someday when I am better suited.”

The reality is the longer you stay the way you are the easier it is to stay the way you are and your dreams get dustier and dustier every day that passes up atop that shelf.

Everyone says it, but somehow no one realizes it until it has happened to them; life passes you by in an instant. Many lives are wasted in a holding pattern telling themselves that next year I will have more time and money to take the trip to Europe. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Take things as they come, one thing at a time.  I am not saying don’t be prepared, but that most likely, there will never be a perfect time to do what you want to do; so ultimately you never will be prepared. Take heart in each little step, realizing that it is a step closer to your dream. Believe in yourself. Everyone is extraordinary. The difference is some people don’t believe it.

If you happen to be one of those people who doesn’t believe in yourself, take a tiny step. See what happens. You might just find that one tiny step leads to the next tiny step; and before you know it, you will look back and realize you have found that extraordinary self.

So instead of focusing on what you don’t know, the “disfrutado”, start your sentence with confidence, passion, and the rest will come.  Don’t let the “ifs” scare you out of experiencing life to its fullest…enjoy!

 

Press Release: Land Rover Adventure


4-Aug-2011 – For immediate release

Are you ready to see the country like never before with an incomparable Land Rover Adventure? From August 29 through September 5, 2011 you can join Land Rover to drive off-road in Moab, Utah; Colorado’s San Juan Mountains and Telluride, Colorado.

You’ll be met at the airport in Grand Junction, Colorado to begin your adventure. It all starts when you get the keys to a Land Rover you’ll drive while following the Colorado River. And this scenic tour is just the opener.

More technical driving follows at the ultimate “slick rock trail” Hell’s Revenge as well as other trails. You will drive Land Rovers over Entrada sandstone, climbing and descending slopes approaching 40 degrees. The challenging trail culminates with a vista framed by the Colorado River, overlooking Arches National Park.

There’s more to the world of Land Rover than scaling rugged terrain. We’ll rest your driving muscles as we make you a special guest of the 2011 Telluride Film Festival. Relax and enjoy the town and sponsors’ gathering for a director’s review at the Sheridan Theatre in downtown Telluride.

Your experience in the country steers toward the city as we introduce you to the newest member of the Range Rover family, the all new 2012 Range Rover Evoque. You will be one of the first to drive this latest offering from Land Rover, before its official fall 2011 debut. Drive your own Range Rover Evoque for the remainder of the weekend as we explore historic mining towns of Colorado.

Land Rover Adventures will provide all meals, 5-Star lodging, vehicles, driving instructors and transportation for the 7-day journey. You are only responsible for your flight into Grand Junction Airport, Colorado and a departure flight from either Telluride or Montrose, Colorado. Everything else is up to us. Start your adventure by reserving your spot today.

Exclusive Offer: $13,000 per couple, $9,000 per single (attendees limited to 12 people; first come first served).

To book now, contact our rep at 828-225-1541 or email sandy@landroverschool.com.

Office and Shop Expansion at Overland Journal World Headquarters

When we’re not testing out $600 camp chairs whilst sipping on gin and tonics in the shade of our safari tent, we love to roll up our sleeves and get dirty! We here at Overland Journal are excited to be experiencing growth in the publication to the point where we are expanding into the rest of the building. This will, in effect, triple our square footage, and allow for more office space and more shop space. There will be more warehouse space to store back-issues of the journal, a clean vehicle bay for photographing and filming, open work space for the creative design team, as well as more quiet office space. There should also be plenty of room to roll out a nap-mat for that mid-afternoon siesta.

This expansion has truly been a community effort. Gavin Ferguson, long-time subscriber and Expedition Portal member, put his Construction Management degree to good use by framing, dry-walling, plastering and building wooden table and desk tops. Dave Argust of Adventure Trailers is an expert welder, and welded the bases for all our new tables and desks. Stephanie Brady, President and Designer of Overland Journal, ensured that all interior design elements were held to a high standard, as well as sanded, painted and stained the new desks and tables. Chazz Layne, our new graphics designer, enlisted his expertise in network administration by pulling cable for the new network, in addition to configuring the new phone system. Dani (Chazz’s wife) assisted with sanding, along our accountant Andre, and subscribers Rex and Carrie. We had four electric sanders going simultaneously on the day dubbed our “sanding party,” and it sounded like the drone of a hive of bees! I (the Director of Operations) had a hand in just about everything mentioned above. Each of us have definitely been wearing a lot of hats recently. And all of this on top of all our regular day-to-day duties of running a business. We had just enough time between the completion of the Spring 2011 issue and starting the Summer 2011 issue to do all of this, although it made for some very long days and weeks! Quite a journey since the humble beginnings in a guest bedroom in a single iMac (see page 12 of the Summer 2011 issue).

The hive of bees sanding party. The million-dollar desk!

I know they like to pile the work onto me - and here I'm getting crushed under the weight of important documents. All smiles after the sanding is done (for now at least...)

How many overlanders does it take to assemble a filing cabinet? El Presidente, staining away.

Motorcycles & dry-walling; we know how to have fun here! Gavin makin' tables

Everything must go!! Box-o-rama.

Head first into the powdered sugar? Nope, that's drywall plaster dust -- possibly worse than silt or bull-dust. Forward progress.

Business travel in the spirit of overlanding

We all have the same dream, it’s why we are here.

Sure it may look a little different for each of us, but the essence of it remains the same.

For overlanders, we dream of taking our vehicle, be it truck, car, unimog, bike, or skateboard, and traveling to distant locales. Having our vehicle symbolizes independence, the ability to go where we want to go, on our own schedule, and to try whatever we like. It also gives us a feeling of empowerment, to talk to local people not as tourists, but as travelers.

Alas, not all travel is overland travel. For many of us, much of our travel is work travel.

Usually work travel means you fly into a foreign city, get to meet the friendly local immigration officials, compare how efficient the baggage-claim is to other airports, find a car/bus/cab to the city, check into a hotel, and spend a few days in business meetings. Then you reverse the process, and find yourself back at home.

Of course, most of the time the local people you are meeting with will want to treat you to lunch and dinner and show you a few sights, but often you see the sights that they think you should see, not the places they would hang out at if they didn’t have you along; and you eat at the fancy restaurants, not the places where your local hosts would go for a quick lunch or a cheap dinner.

So you end up having the business-class-version of a package tour. And that is what overlanders usually try to avoid. We want to see the real country, not the one that is packaged for international consumption.

So how can we travel with the spirit of a overlander, when we are not overlanding? First of all, don’t be afraid to get a little bit lost, to ask directions, and to try things.

market

It is easy to rely on a host to take care of us. But if we say “that’s ok, I think I’d like to walk around tonight and try some food on my own” – suddenly the entire experience changes.

Walking into a corner market, trying to order dinner with hand-signals when nothing on the menu looks familiar, and then trying to pay for it and figure out the local currency will often give you a better feel of the local culture and connection to the local people than a night looking at the local famous landmarks.

Leaving early for a meeting, and figuring out how to take a city bus or train (or tri-shaw, or water-taxi) from your hotel to the office, rather than a cab, will suddenly give you a sense of connection to many of the people you are meeting with in the local office. And when the locals hear that you took a bus to work, or went to “that” market for dinner, suddenly they will look at you a little differently, and maybe they will decide to take you somewhere else, somewhere a little more local, for dinner that night.

water taxi

This is how connections are started, and how we can start to see the real city, not the prepackaged one, even when we don’t have our vehicle along.

Note – Images via creative-commons-licence.

Fieldsheer Adventure motorcycle jacket: long-term review

We ran a motorcycle jacket comparison article back in the Spring 2009 issue of Overland Journal (pg 80-81).  Although no awards were given (Editor’s Choice and Value Award), in my opinion this jacket should have received the Value Award.  Not only was it the least expensive jacket reviewed, it received a glowing review by the author, as well as withstood all of the abuse I sent its way.

fieldsheer

After the article was printed, Fieldsheer sent me an appropriate size of the Adventure to review.  By chance, UPS delivered the package just minutes before I was about to leave for a ride with some friends.  We headed out to a single-track area for motorcycles near town, and within 30 minutes I had washed out my front tire, flew over the handlebars and hit the ground.  But thankfully both rider and jacket were unscathed, albeit a little dustier than before.  And that was just the beginning. I would later have many more uneventful wipeouts in the dirt in which this jacket protected me well.

beach

Over the course of two years, I must have put well over 5,000 miles of dualsport riding on this jacket throughout all 4 seasons.  Only on the very hottest days of desert riding (100+ degrees F) was the Fieldsheer Adventure uncomfortable to wear, even with all vents open.  Most likely a combination of the black color and thick materials.  But this is a good tradeoff to have given that it is a sturdy and durable jacket.  During the spring and fall this jacket was a pleasure to wear as it kept me warm on the chilly mornings and evenings, and breathed well during the warmer days.  During the snowy winter months, I did have to wear a few extra base layers even with the liner zipped in.  The optional neck cover came in very handy for blocking most of the cold air from blowing into the jacket around the neck.

baja

I was very glad to be wearing this jacket on a 3,000-mile trip to Baja, which consisted of interstate highways and lots of technical dirt riding.  I found the overall usability of the Fieldsheer to be great, with plenty of big pockets that are easy to open with gloved hands.  It was a bit bulky and cumbersome to carry around under my arm, but that is by far my biggest complaint about the Adventure.  During the time I was testing this jacket, I know of at least 3 of my friends that purchased a similar Fieldsheer based on my report (and the low price).  I now look forward to giving this jacket a proper washing and using it for many more years to come!

Book Review – The River of Doubt

Book review:

The River of Doubt by Candice Millard

I recently completed the book The River of Doubt by Candice Millard – the story of Teddy Roosevelt’s expedition to descend and map an unknown river in the Amazon in 1914. I had never heard of it, but happened across it when I was browsing the “expedition” section at my local library.

Candice Millard is a former writer and editor for National Geographic, and you can tell when you read this book. She puts a lot of time into researching not only the individuals on the journey, but she also takes the time to give you a good sense of context for the book, so you understand the social and political implications of the events as they unfold.

She also spends a lot of time describing the jungle ecosystem that the team is traveling through, an environment where as she puts it the “men were more often prey than predator”.

The most fascinating thing I found when I read this book is that it is the opposite of the story I expected. Teddy Roosevelt is such a legend that it is almost unthinkable to portray him in anything less than heroic terms. And he is such a huge figure that anyone next to him automatically is in his shadow.

Yet in the book, Millard candidly talks about the personal issues that Roosevelt was facing and how that resulted in an expedition that was a textbook example of “how NOT to plan and execute an expedition”. Three men died on the trip, and it is sheer luck that they didn’t all die. Also interesting is how she portrays Colonel Candido Rondon, the Brazilian co-leader of the expedition, as the true driving force on the trip.

Many of us enjoy reading about epic adventures and famous historical expeditions as a way of learning about the world, and also for inspiration, and to learn best-practices for expedition preparation. Usually the men we read about who lead these expeditions have 20/20 foresight, always make the best decisions, and are prepared for anything they will encounter. This expedition is not like that.

In fact, I think I learned more from this book than many of the expedition-themed books I have read in the past, because it reads like one of those Harvard Business School case studies I had to read in college, you know the ones, they show you how a company was ill-prepared for the situation they found themselves in, and then made a series of bad decisions, which made the situation worse. You are supposed to learn from these case studies and not make the same mistakes in your own business. If you apply the same logic to this book, you can learn a lot about how NOT to plan and lead an expedition.

And throughout the book, you also get a good sense for the people involved. Roosevelt’s resolve and good character is very evident throughout. Some of the other members of the expedition do not come across so favorably.

So to sum up: Was it a riveting page turner? No.

Would I recommend it to anyone thinking of planning and executing an expedition into unknown (to them) territory? Absolutely!