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John and Mandi

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Overland Expo East - 2014

Oct 23, 2014
by John

Attending Overland Expo East was a big target for us shortly after purchasing the van. Our original idea was to have the JaMvan completely built out for the event, that didn't happen. Instead we dropped it off at Ujoint Offroad about 7 weeks before the Expo to have the engine rebuilt and their 4x4 system swapped in. This had us picking up the van the morning of the first day, Thursday, and then camping in it unfinished.

Getting re-acquainted with the JaMvan at Expo East

Getting re-acquainted with the JaMvan at Expo East

Getting to see the van in person for the first time was great. We were mostly speechless as it had been a while since were around the van and we forgot just how big it was. The newly plasti-dipped exterior, tangerine orange, provides the matte finish we were after. All of the Aluminess accessories we had ordered were installed, new wheels, Toyo tires...it was starting to look like we envisioned it. The guys at Ujoint were still hard at work on several vehicles and were waiting for one last part to bolt up our 4D battery and rear skid plate. We hung out with the crew, went out to lunch with Chris, installed our personalized door panels, packed all of our junk into the van, and then headed to Taylor Ranch just a few miles down the road in Fletcher, NC, once the guys were finished.

We were one of the last to arrive so we got to park in the overflow Exhibit area just behind the check-in tent at the front. We're pretty sure we were the only 4" Ujoint van there so it was good for attendees to see the differences from the 6" and 8" kits. We ended up next to Lillard Flyfishing Expeditions in their '03 high-top Sportsmobile and Exploring Elements in their famously custom-built EEXP, all great people we look forward to meeting up with again.

Aluminess bumper and Warn winch, goodness

Aluminess bumper and Warn winch, goodness

Wench over winch, a new option for 2014

Wench over winch, a new option for 2014

The event flew by with us scrambling to get to classes, skipping some while talking to other attendees that stopped by to ask about our van, horfing food, getting a Range Rover stuck during Friday's downpour (ahem, Mandi), and finally winding down with the Ujoint crew while staying warm next to their smoker on Saturday night. We learned a lot but most importantly, that the overlanding community is just a great bunch of nice down to earth folks. For any Expedition Portal or Sportsmobile forum members out there, 86Scotty (Scotty86 for those of us with mild dyslexia) is an awesome guy and loads of fun.

A big shout out and thank-you goes to LT Wright Knives. We spent a long time drooling over their hand made offerings and getting some great information. Mandi also received a private flint and steel lesson that resulted in her very first hand-struck fire! She was, and is still, super excited about that experience. We ended up leaving with a Coyote knife with plans to add a Genesis and machete to our cutlery arsenal. We've always been suckers for handmade gear, with plans to live and travel in our van, heirloom quality knives seem to be a smart choice. Buying goods that are made in the good old USA is an added bonus.

Badass LT Wright Coyote

Badass LT Wright Coyote

After the Expo we hung around Fletcher for a couple more days to get some last minute changes completed on the van. We had previously planned on visiting the Nantahala Gorge in Bryson City but this gave us the opportunity to capitalize on some previous cyberstalking. We had been emailing Brenton and Shannon of Ruined Adventures for a few weeks and this change in plans gave us the ability to get together and spend Monday with them. What a great couple! They shared some lessons learned from their Pan-Am adventure as we moved from cafe to restaurant. We had a great time eating, talking, eating some more, me talking a lot...while getting to know one another.

We ended up leaving NC without our van because Chris and company had a gremlin they wanted to sort out before they would feel comfortable with us taking it home. We were initially bummed, but that resulted in us returning two weekends later and reuniting with Brenton and Shannon for some REI garage sale shenanigans and a wonderful evening of conversation and food. Brenton has quite the bargain shopper eye, he has a blog post about proper tactics specific to REI bargain hunting, he found a Delorme InReach SE for us while we were digging in the freshly stocked bins. It was missing a price but a little more rummaging turned up the markdown ticket, it was less than 15 dollars. Thanks again Brenton! Making new friends before setting off on a long journey is bitter sweet. We've (I've) twisted their arms a couple of times about visiting us while we are on the road and we hope that will happen (hint, hint, Brenton and Shannon +1).

Glitz and glam of the JaMvan back home

Glitz and glam of the JaMvan back home


Say what? (6)
Eric
Oct 26, 2014 at 09:01 PM
Thanks John and Mandi! I had a great time hanging out with you guys too.

Eric
(86Scotty)
Oct 27, 2014 at 06:54 AM
Hopefully we can get together again before we start our trip. There's always Expo West!
Maria
Oct 29, 2014 at 09:27 PM
My partner and I will be embarking on our journey in July of 2015!
We're in the process of buying a van right now-I didn't realize this step would prove to be so difficult!!!!

Best of luck and maybe we'll see you on the road!

Oct 30, 2014 at 08:11 AM
Hey Maria!

Hopefully we'll bump into each other. Definitely keep in touch and good luck on your van.
Nov 9, 2014 at 08:31 AM
John and Mandi, it was great meeting you both :) Enjoy the knife and the others are on the way soon.
Nov 9, 2014 at 04:43 PM
Thanks Scooter! We use the Coyote everyday and can hardly wait to get the Genesis in the kitchen. I was looking up Ferro rods last night so Mandi can get in some more fire striking. Your knives (LT Wright for anyone that was wondering) are wonderfully crafted tools. Major props to you guys.
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