Yes, we went, saw, and experienced the Overland Expo East 2018 at REEB Ranch in North Carolina. We would like to say that we are sorry for those that got turned away at the gate. Not good. And, Overland Expo should offer a full refund to these people. Hopefully, all is made right.
We were very much looking forward to meeting and making new SMB friends!
Here is a summary of our trip:
This year myself, my wife, and my daughter were all registered as presenters/instructors so we needed to be at the expo early to attend mandatory instructor meetings. This is our first year being full instructors at the expo and we were excited for the expo and the opportunity to instruct classes. I taught a class on photography and my daughter taught a kid’s class on animals in the wild with journaling. My wife assisted with the kid’s class.
Logistics around traveling to the expo this year were a bit different for us since my wife had a business trip to Dallas the same week. We had it all worked out with her flying into Asheville, NC on Thursday where we could pick her up and head to REEB Ranch in time to attend the late afternoon instructor meeting….oh, the best laid plans of mice and men….as you might have guessed things didn’t go as smoothly as we planned.
Our daughter is in public school, so we planned ahead for her to have excused absences on Thursday and Friday. That worked well so she and I could hit the road on Wednesday after school.
We traveled a little over 2 hours that afternoon/evening so we would have a shorter trip on Thursday. A cool shoutout to Buffalo Wings and Rings as they let us boondock in their parking lot after having dinner there. I asked the manager and he ok’ed it.
A note on traveling to destinations, we have also boondocked in Outback Restaurant, Cracker Barrel, Walmart, Gander Mountain (now Camping World), and Cabela’s parking lots on other trips. We always ask the store/restaurant manager. So far, we haven’t had anyone tell us no especially after spending money in their establishment.
It was a noisy night, the restaurant was very close to the interstate 75 with semi traffic all night long, so it wasn’t very restful.
We woke up Thursday morning to bright sunshine for our travels into NC. We got our caffeine fix at Starbucks and hit the road.
As we got into NC, we needed a break, so we stopped at the Welcome Rest Area. That is when my wife called me to let me know her flight was delayed out of Dallas. Then, a bit later she called me back to inform me that the flight kept getting delayed and the gate agents said it would eventually get cancelled because of a mechanical problem with the plane. After looking at the logistics and timing of everything, she decided to fly to Atlanta and get a rental car to drive to the Expo.
We continued on knowing that my wife would do the best she could to get there when she could. Uggghh, air travel does suck sometimes.
We got to REEB Ranch just after 12pm on Thursday. It was cloudy there and just starting to rain a bit. Since we were presenter/instructors, they parked us on the hill with the volunteers/presenters. We got settled in and were able to get our registrations and my wife’s too, then attend our instructor’s mandatory meeting that afternoon.
I wanted to plan ahead for logistics around getting my wife in when she arrived. The more the day went on the more we knew she wasn’t going to get to REEB Ranch until late. She was trying her best to get into Atlanta and with the drive over arrive before the gates closed at 6pm. That didn’t happen. I let her know that they wouldn’t let her in unless she had 4x4 on the rental as well.
I informed the Expo staff of the arrival situation with my wife and her expected arrival after the gates were going to be closed. They said not much could be done about that, but did say they were not in charge of the security at the gates. I did have her credentials and luckily an extra parking pass. So with the hint regarding the security personnel, I went and checked with the person at the gate. They said that most likely under my wife’s circumstances that with the parking pass and her presenter’s credentials they would let her in after 6pm. I was starting to feel better about our situation.
Cell coverage was horrid, but I was able to get a call out to my wife to find out she would not be arriving until 9:30pm or so. She did get a Jeep 4x4 rental so she would be good to drive into the Expo.
During the afternoon/evening, we were able to catch up with X-treme Mobile Adventures (Carl and Kathy), Sportsmobile Texas (Paul), and everyone at Aluminess. It was great seeing them again.
We were also very happy to realize when we got back to the Sportsmobile that Ralph and Joene were our camping neighbors for the weekend. We met them two years earlier at the Overland Expo at Biltmore. Another volunteer came in and camped next to us, Bill from Knoxville, TN. He had some trouble setting up his tent so I helped him get his tent setup. After helping Bill, I ended up going over to Ralph and Joene’s camp and hanging out with them exchanging funny stories about each of our adventures/travels.
It was getting late and the Overland Expo staff let us know the gates were closing, so I wanted to make sure I talked to the security person watching the gate about my wife’s arrival. I grabbed my wife’s presenter credentials as well as the parking pass and walked up to the gate. I talked to what looked like a sheriff’s deputy. She was very nice and looked at the presenter credentials and parking pass. She got on the radio and called Overland Expo HQ. I was very nervous because I thought if they were not going to let my wife in then she would have to see if she could get a hotel room in town or something. I heard on the radio that they had some late volunteers coming in and that it was okay. Pheew… now all I had to do was wait.
I hung out with Ralph and Joene while I waited on my wife to arrive. My daughter was already asleep in the SMB. Between 9 and 9:30pm my phone rang, it was my wife. She was at the gate. They let her in. I ran up there and got her to our camp site. She parked behind Ralph and Joene. We were all glad she arrived safe and that they let her in the gate. My wife was tired. We said our goodnights and headed in for the night.
On Friday, we woke up to rain. We had a good nights rest. All was nice and quiet overnight. We got up and rolled out the awning and fixed some coffee.
We had a mandatory meeting for the Kid’s presenters track at 8:30am. I had two presentations that day: the first one at 1pm, “Overlanding with Kids” a round table with other panelists, and the second one at 4pm, “How to Capture Stunning Landscape Images”. We needed to come up with a plan for getting the rental to the Asheville airport. My wife and daughter decided after the morning meeting to go ahead and take the rental back and catch an Uber back to the expo. That way they would be back for the 1pm roundtable and they would get the rental out before the mud mess got too ridiculous. Although, it was already getting pretty sloppy.
When my wife and daughter were getting ready to leave, a guy in a white Mountaineer was trying to leave. He had 4WD but was going nowhere and spinning his wheels in the mud. Ralph and some other guys got out their maxtraxs and helped him. My wife waited a bit thinking he would be out before she got up to the gate. She decided to go ahead when he was nearing the gate. She put the Jeep in 4WD low. Joene and I watched as she crawled the Jeep up the muddy slope without any issues. That was with street tires! It could have been an advertisement for Jeep for sure. Joene and I were cheering. I told Joene we grew up in Kentucky and knew how to drive in mud. The guy in the Mountaineer was still gunning it and spinning his tires, so my wife had to stop and wait for him to get out of the way. Once he was out with the help of the maxtraxs, she crawled right on out with no spinning or slipping. Now she and my daughter want Jeeps. : )
On their way to Asheville, my wife and daughter stopped by Walmart to pick up some boots for my daughter as she only had sneakers. Lucky for us, they came across $20 muck boots and got a pair for each of us.
Uber worked out great for my wife and daughter getting back to the expo from the Asheville airport. They made it back in time for the “Overlanding with Kids” roundtable. It went very well. We had a pretty good crowd and they asked very good questions. We have been traveling with our daughter since she was a baby which was mostly tent camping until we got the SMB 4 years ago.
After the roundtable, we decided to walk around the venders area. We were shocked at how muddy it was already. It made walking around difficult and everybody was trying to find areas that had grass. This of course would eventually turn to mud also. I was so glad that we spent the money on the the muck boots.
On Friday, I started a group text to try to touch base with everyone that was attending or traveling in so we could plan times to catch up. Cell coverage wasn’t good, so communication was difficult. Texting became totally useless as messages would come in hours late. We were not sure when or if anyone had arrived on Friday yet and it was time for my afternoon presentation. I had 33 people registered, but I ended up having 10 people attend. It went well and my wife and daughter were able to attend too since there were seats available. I wonder if the weather and the logistics circumstances had anything to do with the attendance turn out.
After that and getting my equipment back to the SMB, we were able to text our friend Shyll and arrange to meet him at the Barn. We got our drinks as well as Chub Burgers from Oskar Blues food truck. Shyll texted back and said he was fixing dinner at his campsite and would meet us there in a little while. For a brief moment in time the texting and the wifi was working.
Friday evening the “Change Your World Fund” raffle took place. My wife had bought tickets when we registered for the expo so we wanted to make sure we were there “in case” we won anything. We met up with Shyll and his son at the raffle. It was great meeting up and now we knew where each of us were camped for the weekend. This made it easier to meet on Saturday. At the raffle, text messages started coming in from the group text I sent earlier (hours late). I guess the wifi decided to start working again. The main content of the texts was that Overland Expo was turning away people. Even people who paid for camping as well as tickets for the weekend. I was totally shocked! There was no mention of the issues at the Change Your World Fund raffle.
After getting turned away on Friday, Tlg ended up going to Walmart’s parking lot in Brevard to overnight there. He sent a picture of fellow Overlanders there too. TLg mentioned that it looked like a mini Expo, and it did with all the vehicles in Walmart’s parking lot.
Saturday we woke up to a cold, windy morning. We made coffee and headed over to Shyll’s campsite. As we got close to the Barn where the wifi was setup that is when I got a new text from Tlg. Tlg and the other Overlanders got kicked out of the Walmart parking lot by Brevard police the previous night. They ended up pointing them to an abandoned logging lot. Such a hassle and a mess due to no alternative logistics planned by Overland Expo for the weather and ground conditions.
At Shyll’s campsite, you can see that he had to maxtrax to his site. It took him 30 minutes and that was on Friday morning. He ended up leaving the maxtrax under his wheels. There was plenty of space there, but the problem was getting in and out of the area. It was low and had a lot of water and mud.
We headed over to the vender area together. There again the mud was everywhere. We decided to go ahead and buy a set of maxtrax. After seeing all the people having trouble getting in and out, plus Shyll having issues getting to his campsite, we figured it was a good investment.
At lunchtime on Saturday, we headed up to the food trucks by the Barn. Lines were crazy long, so we decided to get the pretzels. They were out of pretzels, but said they would have more in about 30 minutes.
Shyll decided that they would get hamburgers from Oskar Blues Chub Wagon. Since we were waiting on food, and we were hungry, my wife decided to go to the Sportsmobile to get some snacks and pops. After a while, I decided I wanted a beer so I jumped in line which was not too long. Standing there I recognized Mandy Lea. She is an Ambassador for Nikon Camera. I have watched many of her presentations at Nikon events of her travels around the US shooting landscapes living out of a teardrop camper. She does pretty much the same thing that we do so it was pretty cool to talk to her. One of the nicest people you could ever meet. She loved being there with the like minded Overlanding people.
After speaking with Mandy Lea, I got back in line and got my beer, got back to our table and waited.
Within minutes my wife showed up with our pretzels, but Shyll was still waiting on his food. It took him a good 45 minutes, maybe longer to get his food.
Since cell coverage and messaging was so bad, Shyll mentioned earlier that he had walkie talkies. We have some too. So we decided that would be the best way to communicate. It was. We will remember that for future events.
The mud was getting deeper and thicker as the day went on and more people were walking around. We visited with more vendors. I was able to pick up a wind shield for my Tembo Tusk skottle grill. My wife and I also picked up a couple of knives from ESEE. They are USA made and beautifully crafted knives.
By this time it was getting late in the day, Sportsmobile Texas was hosting a happy hour at the vender site around 5pm. We Kentuckians had to bring some KY bourbon. We brought Maker’s Mark and Basil Hayden. The Basil Hayden was a hit! Carl told this fabulous story of him and Ralph on the Olympic Luge Team. (If you have not heard the story, you need to hear Carl’s and Ralph’s point of view, hilarious) I guess I was in charge of the bourbon pouring….. I tended to do heavy pours so everyone was very happy. We all were laughing and had a great time. It was cold, our feet were cold, and we were standing in mud 2 inches deep, but our laughter, jokes and stories made everyone warm. Mental note, next year bring 3 bottles of Basil Hayden! It was getting late… Kathy had already cut Carl off from the bourbon, and everyone else have had their fill too. So everyone said their goodnights and we all head back to each of our respectable Sportsmobiles for the night. Great Happy Hour. Made the whole weekend worth it!
On Sunday, it was very cold during the night. We slept warm in our Sportsmobile with the propane furnace. We woke up to a temperature of 23 degrees. The sky was clear with the sun still below the hillside. There was a heavy frost on the ground and we got to witness a strange phenomenon I have never seen before, Ribbon Frost. It looked like ice crystals growing out of the ground! Alexa shot some pictures with her phone.
On Sunday morning at the Expo is the Walk-About-Breakfast. We didn’t want to miss that. So, we got our coffee and headed on over to the vendor area. We let Shyll know via walkie talkie that we were headed that way. When we got there the mud was partially frozen so it was not too bad to walk on. The Walk About Breakfast was great with breakfast burritos from EarthRoamer and Mountain House’s biscuits and gravy is to die for.
Our daughter had her class for the kid’s “Animals in the Wild” at 10am that morning. It was a class where the kids could make journals of wild animals that they might see on their overloading trips. Our daughter sketched all the animals and made copies for the kids to color and add to their journals. She had a very good turn out for her class. The kids had fun coloring in the animals and telling stories.
A friend of ours that lives in NC, came Sunday for the day. We met up with him after our daughter’s class and headed back over to the venders so he could check them out. I had texted him about the muddy conditions, so he came fully prepared with muck boots on. It was cold until the sun rose over the hillside and started to warm things up. But after the sun was fully out, Sunday was by far the best weather day.
That afternoon while we were back having a late lunch at the SMB, we got to check out the Unimog camped next to us. We got to look inside. It was pretty cool. The couple has been traveling all around the world in it. Check out their blog: whiteacorn - overlanding blog
Sunday afternoon came quick and it was time for my last presentation at 3pm. Shyll and his son said their goodbyes and hit the road prior to my presentation. The vendor area was right next to the class tents which wasn’t bad except all of the vendors were leaving early due to the muddy conditions and needing assistance from the tractors and bobcats. This made for a noisy situation trying to give my presentation. Three people out of the 45 people that signed up for the class showed up. It turned out great because I was able to interact more with the attendees, they asked very good questions, and we had great dialog. Even with the noise.
Most people had left by the time we returned to the SMB. They were also letting everyone know that they couldn’t stay on the grounds for Sunday night due to an incoming rain storm. The ground was pretty well dry by the time we headed out and we had no problems.
We dropped our NC friend at Oskar Blues to get his truck and then went to Twin Dragons (a Chinese Buffet) in Brevard for dinner. My wife and daughter weren’t feeling very well and we were all tired, so we decided to get a hotel in TN for the night and then drive the remainder on Monday morning.
I wish more fellow Sportsmobile forum members were able to attend and get into the Expo. We really enjoyed the expo even with the weather hassles. Maybe the venue and the logistics will be better next year with some cooperation from Mother Nature too.