Tools, bad and good

I’ve just finished an editor’s project column for the Gear issue that deals with quality tools. The importance of that subject was brought home to me this morning.

For nine years I’ve been using and abusing an excellent Bosch cordless drill, the batteries for which finally died a few months ago. To my chagrin, I discovered that that model drill was one of a very few Bosch made with a battery no longer available. So I put it on my list to buy a new pro-level drill, and until I had the money figured the Sears cordless model someone traded me for construction work a while ago would suffice. It was a nice-looking 18-volt model, and brand new when I got it. Not one of Sears’ professional models, but it should do, no?

No: This morning as I was holding up a panel of sheetrock to secure to the shop ceiling, and driving a drywall screw through the panel and into an ordinary 2 x 6, the gearset on the drill stripped itself of every tooth it possessed. Inconvenient enough that I was balancing sheetrock on my head, and now have to drive 40 miles to town to get a new drill. What if I’d been in the middle of nowhere using it to repair a broken-down vehicle?

It pays to buy good tools.

Update: Mark Weiss sent me a link to, a battery rebuilding service. I already bought a new 18-volt lithium-ion Bosch set, but now I can have my old Bosch batteries rebuilt so that drill can serve as a backup or loaner.

Everybody needs a little adventure

When we think of adventurous travel, we often think of the “epic” trip, where we spend months planning, packing, preparing, and going on an overland trip to places we have never seen before.

And yet sometimes, adventures can happen unexpectedly.

I am lucky to live in a beautiful spot, a little house in the Northern Cascade Mountains, on the BC side of the border. It is a rugged area, with a mix of steep mountains, un-named glaciers, winding highways, and scenic trails. We are 20 minutes from the nearest town, gas pump, or grocery store which, having moved from the bustle of New York, feels a little like heaven.

But every once in a while mother nature decides to remind us that life in the mountains, while scenic, can also be unpredictable. Yesterday was a good example for me:

Having driven to Vancouver in the morning for a business meeting, I was driving home when I found out that a mud and rock slide had closed the highway that I normally would follow to make it home.

As the heater in my Defender had decided about 10 minutes earlier to only blow cold air, and with the outside temperature hovering around freezing, the thought of a winding detour through the mountains and valleys had less than the usual appeal.

Pulling over to put on my parka, consult my GPS, and confirm I had snow chains, shovel, air-hose, winch-controller and granola bars in the back of the truck, and grumbling at the inconvenience, I set out to find a “scenic route” home.

But a funny thing happened on the way home. After about 40 minutes of driving through little farms, over ancient steel bridges, railroad tracks, and quarry sites, I realized I was no longer in “commuter” mode. Rather than driving down the highway on auto-pilot, I was actively engaged in the drive, the truck, the road, and the scenery around me. And you know what? I was enjoying myself. And I continued to enjoy myself all the way home.

So the drive home took about 90 minutes longer than usual, and I got less work done in the afternoon than I’d planned, and yet, I found myself a little disappointed when I checked the highways-department website this morning and saw that the road was back open.

I guess adventure really is good for you. Even a little adventure.

Open House

Overland Journal and Adventure Trailers recently hosted an Open House and BBQ at their headquarters in Prescott, Arizona. Overlanders from far and wide turned out for the event, the longest-traveled being Espen and Malin, a couple visiting from Norway in their Nissan Patrol. Many vehicles, trailers, and equipment were on display and there were presentations and slideshows on new mapping software, a trip to Mexico, and an adventure in the Mongol Rally. Clint Rounsavall was there to present his new book, Adventures From the Trail. Overland Gourmet was on site creating more delicious food made in the outdoors. Thanks to everyone who came out to see us and have some fun!

More photos can be seen at the Expedition Portal forum

Overland Journal and Adventure Trailers open house and BBQ

Chowin\' and chattin\'

Espin and Malin from Norway

Overland Gourmet made grilled peaches and bacon-wrapped sausages

2010 Holiday Special

We at Overland Journal are excited to unveil a new 3-year subscription/renewal option, along with our 2010 Holiday Special. Folks who purchase a 1- or 2-year subscription/renewal will receive a decal, in addition to one extra issue for each year purchased (so, a total of 6 issues for a 1-year, and 12 for a 2-year). The decal will be included with the next issue to be published after the purchase (so either Winter 2010 or Gear Guide 2011). Purchasers of the 3-year will receive a free pair of Mountain Khakis. We will be emailing the codes for use on their online store about 1-2 weeks after you make the purchase, so you can get whatever color and size you want. For each of these offers, be sure to enter the coupon H2010 in the shopping cart after a qualifying item has been added (1-, 2-, or 3-year subscription/renewal).

Check out the most recent newsletter.

Mountain Khakis Fly Fishing Vacation to Lake Tahoe!

There has been a growing interest in fly fishing among overlanders, or perhaps it’s a growing interest in overlanding among fly fishing enthusiasts; either way there is no doubt that the two compliment one another wonderfully!

So, when Mountain Khakis told us about their latest sweepstakes, a 5-day/4-night fly fishing vacation complete with a resort stay at Squaw Creek in Lake Tahoe, a half day of training and over $3,500 in gear, we had to share it with you.

Registration in the sweepstakes ends on Wednesday, September 1, 2010. Good luck!

Here’s some of the cool gear included:

New sign for Overland Journal headquarters

In the previous blog entry you can see the Overland Journal sign on display in our safari tent at the Overland Expo 2010. We also used it in our booth at the Whiskey Off-Road mountain bike race at the end of April. That sign is now proudly hanging above the door of our office/shop in Prescott, AZ. It is lightweight so that we can take it to other events in the future.

new sign


Overland Expo 2010

This year’s Overland Expo is being held at the Amado Territory Ranch in southern Arizona. A huge thanks to Exclusive Tents for providing the awesome safari tent for the Overland Journal booth. So far it has provided for a great place for people to stop by and spend time with the OJ staff. The vehicles we are featuring at the booth are a Land Rover Defender 110 Dormobile, a right-hand drive diesel Jeep Wrangler, a Royal Enfield Bullet, and a Thorn expedition bicycle. We have definitely enjoyed the event so far, and are looking forward to the next two days!


Short trip to Bisbee

Roseann and I managed an overnight trip to Bisbee from our house southwest of Tucson, she on her Honda NX250, me on the long-term Royal Enfield Bullet EFI.

We stayed on two-lane pavement on the way over – Sahuarita Road to Highway 83, south to Sonoita then west on 82 to 80, down through Tombstone. Self-portrait at 65:

. . . and on to the Copper Queen Hotel, historic and stately but seriously overpriced.

. .

We arrived in time to visit some shops, including a look in the window at the Bisbee Bicycle Brothel, which we knew would be closed (only open on weekends). But just a look was thrilling: the entire shop is filled with vintage bicycles and frames.

The next morning we headed south and west, to Montezuma Canyon Road, a dirt route that climbs to the pass at the Coronado National Memorial . . .

. . . which offers spectacular views to the west:

We continued on, through a few shallow water crossings . . .

. . . and out to Sonoita again, and west for lunch in Patagonia. We continued on to I-19 and north, but exited west at Arivaca Road. Rather than stay on pavement again to Highway 286 to head north to home, we cut off on Ryan Ranch Road, another dirt route that skirts the Cerro Colorado and Sierrita Mountains. We stopped at the old ranch house:

. . . came across a Border Patrol surveillance post:

. . . and continued on to home. On the way I found a 20-foot length of heavy choker chain with hooks on both ends that someone had dropped, so I stuffed the whole thing in one side of my Andy Strapz panniers. It made handling much more interesting on the rest of the loose dirt sections – which the Bullet EFI otherwise handled with ease.

Interestingly, both bikes – the 250cc Honda and the 500cc Royal Enfield – got exactly the same 71 mpg for the whole trip.


Four Peaks Pickup 2010

The 2010 Four Peaks Pickup has come and gone, and once again the Sonoran desert is a little better for it. Tim Huber and Danica Moore spearheaded the event and tackled the enormous task with Everest-sized spirit. They brought together the talents and hard work of numerous individuals, families, clubs, groups, friends, and businesses for a big day of transformation. Just under 500 people turned out to clean up almost 25 tons (yes, that’s fifty thousand pounds) of trash from this otherwise beautiful area that stretches west of the mighty Four Peaks, just northeast of Phoenix, Arizona.

Why is there so much trash? Great question. Some will say it’s ignorance, some will say laziness, many will say “because they just don’t care” and obviously it’s because the area is so convenient to a sprawling metropolis of over four million people, but I continue to be perplexed and insist that no reason is good enough to explain it. Human behavior, logic, whatever, I just can’t relate. It won’t compute in my head.

Why would someone seek out a place like this. . .

Four Peaks Arizona

to do this. . .

Again, I can’t comprehend. It doesn’t compute.

The Four Peaks area and the Mazatzal mountains were once home to the Tonto Apache people. Not far north of the peaks lies the site of old Camp Reno, a short-lived military outpost positioned in the region along with others in an effort to daisy-chain the U.S. military efforts along this Arizona portion of Apachería in the late 1800s. There are tales of lost gold mines somewhere around the base of the peaks and accounts of Apaches who continually brought in ample amounts of the metal to obtain goods and supplies. An amethyst mine that is thought to have been originally worked by the Spanish is located on the southernmost of the four peaks and is the only mine in the U.S.A. that produces world-class specimens of this highly valuable gemstone.

The area of the cleanup is a watershed of the Mazatzal mountains, and contains numerous canyons and springs that flow westward to the Verde River. Spectacular buff-colored granite boulders and imposing rock formations dominate the topography and along with classic Sonoran desert flora and fauna create a magical atmosphere that is unique among the world’s landscapes.

The good news is that I see an improvement. When I visited an area along Cottonwood creek that my wife Sharon and I worked on last year, it was in much better shape. Overall, I think there was less trash, and perhaps future efforts and awareness will make a lasting change.

Before-and-after comparison of one of the cleanup sites

Overland Journal sponsored the event with boxes of magazines and raffle prizes that included subscriptions, hats, and decals.

Tim and Danica asked if I would photograph the event this year, which I was more than happy to oblige. The full gallery of images can be seen here: Four Peaks Pickup 2010 photo gallery

Overland Journal’s Director of Advertising, Brian McVickers, with his children, Max and Charlie

L to R: Chris Marzonie (Overland Journal Editorial Director), Tim Huber, Danica Moore (Four Peaks Pickup masterminds) Thank you Heidi for the photo

More links:
Four Peaks Pickup website (more info, photos, and videos)
Tim Huber’s blog, SOAZ “Exploring the Southwest one paycheck at a time” (it’s a good one!)

Team Overland Journal

Overland Journal fields its mountain bike team at the 24 Hours of Old Pueblo race

Nathan: Team Overland Journal
Nathan on his first lap of three, wearing the Merino wool Overland Journal jersey.

As part of the Overland Journal subscriber survey, we ask about our readers other interests beyond overland adventure travel, and not surprisingly, 74% of our readers are also MTB enthusiasts.  This fits well with our own passion for mountain biking and adventure cycling, and the idea of an Overland Journal sponsored team was born.

Our 5-person team:
Nathan Kroeker
Katrina Loperman
Mike McMaude
Micki Mckay
Steve Reynolds

Solo Rider:
Christophe Noel

The 24 Hours of Pueblo is an endurance event coordinated by Epic Rides, and the nature of the event requires everyone to have some type of camping set-up, which ranged from huge RVs to ground tents.  We were happy with the number of attendees that were either subscribers or had heard of Overland Journal. Tim Huber, a Charter Subscriber said hello.  He was riding for Team Molasses, because, if you are slower than their team, you are. . .
Tim Huber: Overland Journal

Christophe rode the event solo, and managed six laps.
Katrina, sporting one of the new Jerseys

Even an E-Camper was in attendance. These are cool little trucks

A few nice BMWs
F800 GS: Overland Journal
Overall, the team did great, and finished in 18th place for the 5-person mixed category.  Great Job!