I am a gearhead who loves beer. So that’s what Outdoor Gear and Beer is all about: the intersection of great gear and amazing beer. I am a husband, a dad of 2 boys, the Scoutmaster of a local Boy Scout Troop, and all- around outdoor enthusiast. Lately I have been developing a new love… overlanding. Let me tell you how I got there.
Overlanding? They do that here?
I grew up camping and doing all things outdoors, but this wasn’t the case for my wife Amanda. She’s always had an appreciation for nature, but I’m proud to say that I introduced her to the wonders of whipping up dinner on two burners on a picnic table, and the glory of showering with the creepy crawlers at the park comfort station. Our little crew of four ( I have two awesome sons, ages 15 & 12) have explored campsites all over the Southeast. Camping for us started as a fun and affordable way to get away and a happy medium from the backpacking I could rarely convince Amanda to join us on. Over the years, it became a means to see more, and really get out there and discover all that the outdoors had to offer. In 2018, we took a trip out west to visit Zion, Bryce, and Grand Canyon National Parks. We flew out with our gear, used Las Vegas as home base, and explored the area with our rented Jeep. It was so dope! Driving around Utah and Nevada, and exploring as we went along. I think this trip was when the overlanding seed was planted. It wasn’t that I said to myself, “I think we should start overlanding,” because to be honest, I didn’t know it was even popular in the States. It was more like, “How can we do this more?” The biggest obstacle then? At the time the family vehicles were an older model Accord and our Honda Pilot. The Pilot had been clutch for car camping and our general family travels, but Amanda had never been keen on taking it off the beaten path.
In Comes the Tundra
Fast forward 2 years. An epic European adventure, pandemic living. A few socially distant camping trips to break the monotony, and BOOM the Accord dies….wah wah wahhhhhhh… The silver lining? We had already decided that if and WHEN the Accord conked out, our next vehicle needed to be a truck. We had begun to outgrow the SUV as our camping vehicle, particularly when we went on longer than weekend camping trips. A truck would give us space for the growing boys, the aging dog, and all the gear we brought on our travels. Sooo..Pappa got a brand new truck!
Well, new to me at least! And this was no small feat. The pandemic and supply chain issues meant that it was really tough. Inventory was low, so after a week of searching, it was like I stumbled upon one of the only low mileage Toyota Tundra’s in the Southeast. Getting “Smokey” put our overlanding dream in hyperdrive. I had several good buddies who were deep in the sport already and I had been taking notes on what was necessary to get started. I’ve been building out my rig, bit by bit, ever since.
Man on Mission
Building out Smokey to be an overland-worthy rig has been amazing. We have already been on some pretty epic trips so far. We’ve taken a cross-country trip to the wilds of Big Bend NP in southernmost Texas, and recently we did a National Park Palooza to Hot Springs NP in Arkansas, two Colorado gems in Great Sand Dunes NP, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and lastly the Gateway Arch in Missouri. The more we adventure, the more I am convinced of the need to make sure that more people who look like me, and other folks of color, are welcomed into this space to enjoy it with their friends and families.
As an influencer and ambassador, I have always wanted to leverage my platform to do a few things: bring attention to the lack of diversity in the outdoor industry, provide inclusive opportunities for folks to get outdoors and enjoy nature, and teach people about all the different ways the outdoors can be a place they too can enjoy. I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had with friends and acquaintances of color who comment, “I can’t believe ya’ll do stuff like that” or “I didn’t know black people did that.” Historically, this makes sense. For a long time, we weren’t allowed to do these things. I’ve been fortunate for this not to be the narrative I was originally exposed to. There has never been an outdoor space that I felt I couldn’t or shouldn’t participate in. I hike, backpack, camp, flyfish, sail, boulder, trail run, and so much more. And now I can add overlanding to the list. I want others to know that the outdoors is for ALL and for folks to find the experiences that bring them the most joy. That’s my mission, that’s the goal.