The Overland Rallies & Workshops series has now been around for a few years and has established itself as a great way for regional, like-minded adventurers to get together, sample the local off-road trails, and consume tasty local eats while learning a thing or two about overland travel from each other and experts in the field. While Rallies have been held in all four corners of the continental US in the past, the Washington and Vermont Rallies have stuck around and grown each year. I like to get to as many of these types of events as possible in order to hang out with the overland tribe, learn from the experts, and get the inside scoop on local trails, food and adult beverages.
The Northeast Overland Rally in Vermont delivers on all of the above and I was stoked to make it back again this year. Vermonters are very proud of what their state has to offer the overland traveler and love to share these amenities with the overland tribe. The one thing that truly makes Vermont stand out for off-road travel is the huge volume of unmaintained roads across the state, referred to as class 4 roads. A class 4 road can mean everything from a flat gravel path through a field, to a steep boulder strewn gully that hasn’t seen a vehicle in decades. Exploring these roads are exactly what overlanders like to do, and in VT you can really bite off as much as you and/or your rig want to tackle. This year the Rally organizers laid out self-guided tours using the Avenza PDF Maps app, and set aside time each day for small groups to go out exploring. While out on the trail it is highly advised that you take in the amazing sights and sounds of VT; impressive architecture, covered bridges, old grave yards, small country stores, local breweries, stunning vistas and of course the vibrant fall foliage that the northeast is known for this time of year.
As usual, the event was held at Lillie Brook Farm in Rockingham, VT, which is located in the southeastern corner of the state. This location offers up an amazing natural setting, a huge field to camp in and hosts that truly love to share their little slice of Vermont heaven. The crowning jewel that the property has to offer for this event is a huge forested hillside that has a plethora of steep, technical and tight off-road trails that offer great training opportunities and just plain good fun. New this year is a full single-track mountain bike trail system that weaves across the hillside and connects many of the driving trails. I will warn you that the bike trails can be challenging, but totally worth the effort and I can’t wait to shred them again soon.
Besides being able to experience all the awesome that Vermont has to offer, the Rally also offers up some amazing opportunities for learning through workshops, demonstrations, gear vendors and guided trail runs. The highlight for many is getting world-class instruction in off-road recovery and driving from Overland Experts (OEX). Other workshops this year were taught on how to build up your rig, how to rebuild a winch, how to unseat and re-seat a tire bead and advanced winching scenarios. Besides the instructional classes, Michael Hussey, a member of the only US team to win the Camel Trophy, gave a presentation on his experience at the 1993 Saba Malaysia Camel Trophy. Here is the video he showed to the group:
As usual, I picked up some great pointers on how to off-road with more confidence and more safely recover my rig if needed, while also being inspired to keep exploring the world through off-road overland travel.
The Northeast Overland Rally is really all about bringing together like-minded adventurers; the off-roading, passionate overland gear vendors, world-class trainings, amazing local food, mountain biking and truly spectacular Fall foliage are really just icing on the cake. Big communal meals around the campfire each night helped to bring everyone together to share stories of the day’s adventures. Most of the attendees were from the mid Atlantic and northeast, while a few people from far away places like Nevada, Montana and Washington came in as well. The huge diversity of people and rigs in attendance was really good to see, and allows everyone to learn a lot from each other. Overland travel is a really great way to meet like-minded amazing people who enjoy being outside and exploring.
The event always finishes off with an off-road challenge event on the forest trails at Lille Brook Farm. This year they did a “Simplified RTD (Road Tax Vehicle) Trial,” which basically means that they did a series of trials courses, where points were gained for any backups, tree touches, course tape touches or recoveries and the object was to have the least amount of points possible. Each trials course section also had a junior and varsity line, with a clean run of the varsity line giving you -3 points. Strategy was key and knowing your vehicle made all the difference, as no spotters were allowed. After a few recoveries, a few broken parts and a good bit of bent body work it came down to a tie between two Wranglers, which then did a speed trial up the final course to break the tie. Not sure that the speed trial was exactly in the overland style, but it was a blast to watch!
Peter Vollers and his local crew at Vermont Overland did an amazing job once again hosting the Rally and truly sharing the amazing assets that Vermont has to offer the overland traveler. This same team puts together the Vermont Overland Trophy, a very different kind of Vermont overland experience!
For more stories and photos from past Overland Rallies & Workshops check out, check out my coverage of the 2013 Northwest Overland Rally, the 2012 Northeast Overland Rally, and the 2012 Northeast Overland Rally.