Overland Expo East 2014, Part Two


I remember going to my first Expo in 2011. It was in southern Arizona, near the border with Mexico. Hot, dry, and seemingly in the middle of no where. It didn’t even feel as though there were many people there, until we were all gathered together.

Taylor Ranch was a large area, and it felt spread out. The camping area didn’t seem all that crowded, though it did also seem to go on and on. Over the course of the weekend it was hard to really get a sense of how crowded the venue was, how many people were there. So, when I went to Roseann’s opening remarks Friday morning, I was curious on how big the crowd was going to be. My first West Expo had seen a small group of people, and the most recent West Expo we had filled the bleachers. This was more the small group, but it was cold and raining Friday morning so I am going to put most of the blame there.

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Of course, by the time she was done speaking there were a lot more people there, they had just come in late. It was early in the morning.

I had a author booth, which limited how many other classes I could attend. I was getting better at the table thing, after living there every moment I wasn’t teaching, back in spring. I did leave from time to time when I didn’t have a class, just not as much as I probably should have.

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It was a pretty location, with the indoor vendors and authors sharing the one building with the Overland Theater. Other classes were held in tents, which was nice once the chill faded during the day, and there were a couple impressive driving courses (one each for trucks and motorcycles). The truck course was apparently extra tough, with the recent rains, resulting in a couple serious failures and numerous people getting stuck. I guess that is the point, though. And, if you are going to break down, doing so at an event like this, full of knowledge and tools, isn’t the worst choice.

I spent a lot of time hanging out the Ken and Carol-Ann Duval, an Australian couple who had been wandering around the America’s for the last few years, on their second time around the world. They were heading to Asia in the Spring, so this was my last chance to see them before the left. I also spent time with Alison (from Alison’s Wanderland) and Alistair (WhilstIWasOut), but didn’t take either of their pictures with my camera. This was at least partially Alistair’s fault, because he had this really cool vintage looking camera which was actually all modern inside. It even made this cool shutter click sound.

This was my busiest Expo to date, with three solo classes (each having two sessions), co teaching a class with Alison (two more session), and moderating my first round table. The round table was outside on what was the coldest day of the event.

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It was an event marked by early morning frosts and cold evenings. I was fine in my sleeping bag, but getting out of it each morning was a struggle. Since I was supposed to be an instructor meeting every morning at 730, just when the sun was cleaning the surrounding mountains, having to leave the warmth of the bag to walk the 15 minutes to the building seemed unusually cruel. There usually wasn’t even hot water yet.

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After the meeting I’d go back up the hill to the camping area for breakfast and to bring Curiosity back down. Technically motorcycles weren’t allowed in the venue area – it was a long walk – but I needed Curiosity for some of my classes during the day and found a place to hide it close to the classrooms. One day I didn’t have time to move it after one class and before the next, and it was apparently used as a prop for the next few classes until I collected it laster on my way back to camp. Sunday, though, I just walked down since I wouldn’t need it.

Sunday was the last day of the expo, and a lot of people were already packing up and leaving. By evening the crowd size had dropped considerably. I was staying until Monday morning, braving one more night in the cold. I had almost sold out of books, which was a problem since I had another event after this and no time to have more printed and shipped, and was hoarding the last few copies of each. There was a large dinner/BBQ Sunday night, with lots of food and free drinks (up to a point), though we still had wine left over.

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And desserts too. So many desserts.

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After dinner the Duvals and some other friends (Alistair included) announced they were headed into town to sleep, rather than camping and dealing with frost/wet gear in the morning. I couldn’t blame them, it was cold at night. Since I didn’t have to wake up for an early meeting and had little to pack, I decided to stay. I had a couple days to get to a friend’s house where I’d had parts shipped. I wanted to stop somewhere else along with way (The Pirate’s Tavern in Maryland), but with Curiosity running so poorly I just didn’t think I would be able to do the miles in the time I had. I was right.

In the morning the hill, which had been packed with tents and vehicles, and served as one of the hubs of activity for the weekend, was bear. Curiosity all along where I had parked it Saturday night.

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I packed up and rode back out to the registration desk to say good bye to the Expo staff and thank them for having me again. I wasn’t sure if I was going to do speaking events in 2015, though attending as a non-presenter was always an option. It would suck to not see them for a year.

After that, I started north and east, off the interstates, on my wounded bike, hoping it would get me where I could fix it.

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