Overlanding USA

With the situation likely to get worse, unenviable decisions come knocking

by | Aug 3, 2021 | Uncategorized

For want of a road trip the year was lost

COVID. The great stop sign. An acronym supplanted into global history books. Causing death, division and introspection. And, depending on the country you live in, not always in equal measure.

We’ve spent seventeen months in Colombia, the latter twelve months moving through the now familiar viral stages:
Locked down; allowed out; authorized to enjoy precautionary travel between areas.

But with the situation likely to get worse, unenviable decisions come knocking. Do we gamble and hunker down, or head back. Maybe Overland USA for a while. And, if so, how do we get there?

El Refugio Parking Lot

At home in Refugio La Roca parking lot – La Mojarra, Colombia

Here we are. In he Colombian Andes. Waking up in our camper to the sound of cockerels. Flora the rescue Capucin monkey banging on the wall of her shelter as the sun rises over the parking lot of Refugio de la Roca, a climbing hostal nailed (literally in some places), to an edge of the glorious Chicamocha Canyon.

A month has passed. Eating banana and oatmeal pancakes, drinking the sublime Colombian coffee, climbing, waiting. We head out on our daily run, passing the local concrete tienda with a table of Colombians drinking early morning beer. We wave at the locals who now consider us local. We pass the chicken farm, always an olfactory treat, and head up the hill before Claire bursts into tears. The incessant holding pattern of our daily routine finally taking its toll.

Running Chicamocha Canyon

Our Morning Run – Chicamocha Canyon, Colombia

Borders are closed, onward travel impossible and any prospect of immunization being shared amongst the developed nations highly unlikely. The immediate outlook for the whole of South America is bleak and getting somewhat bleaker. The Pan American Facebook group’s overly optimistic posts becoming increasingly annoying as the reality slides increasingly in the other direction.

It’s time. We’ve tried to wait it out. But we are keen to ensure that no more time is wasted. I grasp our road trip firmly at the base of the neck. Place another head around its head and, grimacing, pull sharply.

Done quickly, it was pain free. Almost a relief. I say,”let’s go back to Canada,” and Claire agrees.

The Border

We pick up the camper in Veracruz, Mexico; the ‘Roll On Roll Off’ cargo journey from Cartagena resulting in a lost key and alarm fob, requiring the truck to be unceremoniously dragged form the huge transport ship. But, it is in one piece with nothing pilfered. The closed twin shell of the camper providing a confusing and secure place to store all of the things.

Casitas Mexico

El Coco Loco – Casitas, Mexico

A decision to ‘race North up the Mexican coast’ is sidelined by a beach in La Casitas, a few climbing locations along the Eastern States and a dentist in Ciudad la Curuna. Our poorly detailed Mexico plans melting away like the curved cubes of ice circling our evening rum and cokes.

The border beckons. We cross the short bridge from Ciudad La Caruna towards the United States of America. Claire’s first time on non-Latino soil for three years. Initially we experience the horror of being refused entry due to COVID restrictions, before Claire throws a Hail Mary, requesting a supervisor. Our helpless demeanour and tales of providing an ‘essential service’ (bonafide given Claire’s forthcoming job in the Emergency room at our local hospital) loosen the rigidity of immigration bureaucracy and we are delighted to be set free onto the highways of Texas.

The road surface is the first shock to the system. The welcome purr of tires on perfect tarmac. Roads incredibly wide and calm. No lurching to avoid potholes. No squeezing between a family of five on a small motorcycle and an oncoming, unsympathetic semi-truck on an Andean mountain curve. I smikle and thrum the steering wheel with my fingers, turning up Spotify on the stereo. I feel like less people will die today.

Major Tom to Ground Control

We are heading home via NIMBL HQ. The spiritual home of our camper tucked away in Colfax, California. The new company owners keen to help rectify the toils taken on our vehicle over the last three years on the road.

A few fixes, a smattering of upgrades. The camper remarkably free from any major issues. Claire would be keen for me to remind you of the time I ripped the main camper door of its hinges. The scars from that particular battle soon to be filled and painted. Evidence buried.

Lastly, a rebrand. The camper now stamped with the Nimbl logo. A fresh start.

Safety in Numbers

As we settle in for a relaxed drive to our first camp spot, a Dodge Ram dealership slides by. Then another, this one surrounded by auto part stores and quality tire retailers. A sense of calm drapes over me. A comfort blanket of first world availability. Everything you could want, every part you could need. Right there. No Amazon, No Fedex. No two week wait for customs.

At one stage in our trip, FASS Fuel Systems kindly shipped us two boxes. Complimentary diesel water separators and fuel filters we were unable to find in Colombia. The first arrived in two weeks. The second arrived thirteen months later. That is not a typo. At what point does a mail warehouse assistant think “they’ve waited long enough”

The comfort of an instant, quality fix to your overland vehicle removes a good degree of stress, makes off-road excursions a lot more enjoyable. Your time from broke to fixed measured in hours, not weeks or months. When you overland USA, you get back on the road, fast.

Abiqui Dam New Mexico

Roaming the back streets – Abiqui, New Mexico, USA

OVERLAND USA – BLM LAND

We’ve not been everywhere. Not even close. In fact, a glance at a map reveals the true extent of how poorly travelled even well travelled travellers truly are. But, you can be sure of one thing. The scale of wild camping options in the US South West is off the charts.

From New Mexico, through Utah, Arizona and California. BLM land stretches is welcoming arms.

Whereas much of the Americas fence and gate; securing their private acreages away from travellers and locals alike. The US holds back massive swathes of epic countryside for its people.

BLM land is a wonder. A national treasure. It’s one of the things that the US can be incredibly proud of and a flag that can genuinely be waved as a sign of something that makes America great.

Ely Nevada Camping

No Neighbors Required – Ely, Nevada, USA

For those who seek solitude. A genuine respite form the modern world. The burgeoning RV scene comes with considerable concern. RV parks are full and State Parks are going the same way. Weekends are an ant farm of activity at either, to be avoided at all costs.

Regardless of the weekend, July 4th or otherwise, BLM land is vast, swallowing those that don’t require the trappings of city water or electrical hook up and spitting them into a scene of solitude, peace and quiet.

Moab Utah Camping

BLM Land – Moab, Utah, USA

There is no “Where do we stay tonight?”. You can stay almost anywhere. Drive a few miles outside almost any south western state town and you’ll have your pick. It’s harder to find neighbours than it is to find a secluded place to camp. No Ranchero music. No loud exhausts.

Peace and quiet. One of earth’s precious resources, its dwindling supply barely getting mentioned.

SCENERY

You can travel far. You can travel wide. But finding a country with a better selection of scenery is not going to be easy.

As we skirt the dull southern edge of Texas and move through an uninspiring eastern corner of New Mexico, we know what to expect. Suddenly humps become slopes. Slopes become hills. The flat desert landscape blooming into a dry, solid meadow of magnificent red rock.

Even driving through the places we have previously travelled is exciting. The vistas a breathtaking and stoic reminder of just how epic the US South West can be. The deserts unleashing a spectacular array of off road adventure and other worldly camping locations.

Earthquake Fault Road Nevada

Earthquake Fault Road – Fallon, Nevada, USA

Overlanding means many things to many people. But the United States fields an impressive arsenal of them all. Rock crawling one minute; city slicking for supplies and a new pair of approach shoes the next.
Wind Caves Anza Borrego

Just outside of LA – Anza Borrego, California, USA

Is there a bigger juxtaposition two hours apart than the desert moonscapes of Anza Borrego and the urban chaos of downtown LA? Maybe there is. But I am at the start of a sprawling list of ‘must see’ camper destinations that goes on for days.

The US could be one of the most impressive camper oriented destinations in the world. Everything is right there. On our doorstep. You just have to turn the key.

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