What is all this ОѴƦԼχƝƊ nonsense, anyway?

ОѴƦԼχƝƊ comes from the plate on our FJ.  It is meant to describe the type of build we’ve done on our FJ, and to describe what we do with it – overlanding.  With any vanity plate, you’re left at the mercy of your own creativity and whatever is available.  In my mind’s eye, the X kinda looked like VA.

But what do I know about aesthetics?  I can’t even be trusted to take a photo that isn’t blurry.  Either way, it gave us a short, unique domain name for the web site, and that is always nice.

Sorry I asked.  Now, what is overlanding?

The definition I’ve decided on is:  vehicle-based self-reliant adventure travel.

Wow, you really like hyphenated words.  But what does what you said even mean?

You drive around and live out of your vehicle.  From food to tools, you carry whatever you might need and resupply along the way.  You stop to smell the roses.  The journey is as important as the destination.  It’s about getting behind the wheel and crafting your own adventure in the outdoors.

The outdoors…  Well what are you doing with a website, Nature Boy?

We just wanted somewhere to host our pictures, tell our stories about the places we’ve been or plan to go, and to offer reviews on the gear we’ve been using.

Uh, okay.  But do you have any clue how you want to end this article?

 

After publishing at 3 am and getting a good morning’s rest, I have figured out how to end this article!  I’m going to share a few links where you can learn more about overlanding.  These are sites I visit frequently and have garnered tons of useful info from.

Expedition Overland – These are the guys to beat.  Hands down, there is no better production quality for overland vehicles than the content this crew is putting out.  They have explored various parts of the American southwest, gone as far north in Alaska as possible, and have recently returned from Chile, about halfway through South America.

 

Expedition Portal – ExPo is an online community of overlanders, tending toward the more experienced crowd.  Lots of Q&A, excellent info, route sharing, and more.  My favorite thread there is from Kenny J, who sets out with an AstroVan and a dirt bike on a solo exploration of the American west.

 

 

Overland Bound – Michael and Corey started out just telling stories like us and ended up building one of the largest and friendliest online overland communities.  Their site is more our speed, with most people just getting started with overlanding.  What the members there lack in experience is more than made up for in enthusiasm.

Finding Serenity

In 2009, I bought a Jeep Cherokee. On paper, it was exactly what we needed. 4 doors, four wheel drive, 4.0, double-digit gas mileage, able to tow a trailer with our ATVs, and a fantastic platform on which to build a new rig. When it worked, it was great. In between problems, we did get a few trips to the mountains and the Outer Banks out of it. The two most notable trips were when I asked Shannon to marry me on Oregon Inlet, and taking Dad back to where he’s from to visit family.

Exploring some trails with Dad

Fast forward to 2015. We’d been building fixing the Jeep for 6 years. It was full of new parts, upgrades, customizations, and electrical fixes. Suddenly in March, it decided to begin shedding its floorboards. Well, really it was just a couple holes in the driver-side footwell, but Neil Young and anyone who does bodywork will tell you: rust never sleeps. I can do a great impression of a mechanic, but welding isn’t something I’ve done before. On top of that, I had zero interest in performing the prep work necessary to permanently solidify the floor in what had been, in all honesty, an absolute lemon for us. I cut out the worst of the rust, treated what remained, and patched the holes to keep the carpet dry.  Other issues arose as well.  If you have an unreliable vehicle and are on the fence about a AAA membership, I can confirm it’s worth every penny.  It got to the point where every wrecker driver seemed to know where my dad’s garage was.

An all too common occurance

We were really about 3 years out from being ready to buy something else, but the time had come to replace the Heep. This situation gave me pause. With the variety of choices out there, what would best meet our needs and improve on the aspects where the Jeep fell short? The answer came surprisingly quickly. I had been in love with FJ Cruisers since seeing the concept model in 2003. We began shopping in earnest, but we were having a hard time finding what we wanted. One was rusty.  One was 2WD.  Others were way overpriced or ugly colors.  Feeling disappointment over the limited inventory, I told Shannon I’d settle for a 4Runner, Taco, or Xterra. She said, “I don’t want you to settle. You’ve wanted an FJ since you first saw one. That’s what you’re getting!”

The 2003 FJ Cruiser concept

In May, we ended up finding an 07 in Richmond. It was great shape, with only 80,000 miles on it. It had A-TRAC, the rear locker, the dash-top accessories, and a roof rack. Those were all the must-haves on our list. The seller had installed rock rails, a rear receiver, a Rough Country lift, and new tires. The only issue I could find was that the OEM door speakers were blown. I was in love! The test drive went great, and Shannon and I went home to work out our finances. I texted back and forth with the seller to finalize the price and keep him updated on our plans to return. The banks and the DMV made the process a pain in the ass, but the seller was great. I still send him texts every so often when we go somewhere cool.

The photo from our FJ’s Craigslist ad

The FJ has been nothing short of amazing. The only items unexpectedly needing service where the jamb switches that cut on the interior lights when you open the door. We’ve added a snorkel, a large transmission cooler, a rooftop tent, side and rear awnings, auxiliary lighting front and rear, LED dome lights, underhood LEDs, an upgraded battery, a Cobra CB with a Firestik antenna, a passenger seat armrest, some additional creature comforts, and 30,000 miles of making memories.

Is a morning you wake up with your wife in a rooftop tent ever not a good morning?
The obligatory pic of your feet and the view from your tent
A 5 year revisiting of the spot where we got engaged <3
Stopping to admire the view of WV on our way up to Reddish Knob

After the years of problems with the Jeep, in the FJ we’ve found reliability. We’ve found equal parts of comfort and capability. We’ve found adventure. And we’ve found our Serenity.

We’re fans of Firefly…and of feeling calmly untroubled

New trail coms!

We were given a Baofeng UV-5R for Christmas by my sister and brother-in-law.  I’ve read about them in passing, but had yet to do any research on them.  Between a cell phone, CB, and inReach, I felt we had a solid grouping of options when it came to our communications options.  At a minimum, this little device adds FRS, GMRS, and HAM capabilities, and it would appear even more useful than that.  Look for a more in-depth future article as we learn more!

The Car is a Character

Growing up in the 80s, there was no shortage of TV shows in which the heroes teamed up with a driving machine so remarkable that it became a character in its own right. The most obvious example of such a pairing is Michael Knight and KITT, as the car could speak, but we proffer that even non-verbal vehicles easily met this criteria. The Duke boys drifted the General Lee around every dirt road in Hazard County. The Fall Guy flogged his pickup on every hill in Hollywood. The A-Team toured in their black van. Hardcastle & McCormick hurried about in their Coyote X. Magnum mozied around in Higgins’ Ferrari. And we haven’t even cracked the book on the unforgettable big screen rides.

A customized vehicle given a voice would easily able to tell its own stories. Like Dr. Frankenstein animating his monster, the modifications you make, the miles you travel, and the TLC you put in all combine to transform a rig it into an entity all its own. Rather than just taking you somewhere, it goes along with you.

A comfortable seat, a beautiful view, trouble-free transportation to somewhere new, speakers filled with your favorite songs, a dry place to sleep, a hot meal, or some light in the dark – all of these things have been provided by our FJ with the same feeling of a friend handing you a cold beer at the end of a long day.

It makes us glad that those we travel and explore with all have something different than us. For us, it really is “the more, the merrier” when it comes to vehicle builds. In the process of making a vehicle your own and completing various adventures with it, it becomes a companion that travels the trails with you. The rig you’ve built yourself is an integral character that heavily influences the the stories your experiences together will lead you to tell.

99 Bottles

We’ve always had a bottle opener mounted somewhere on our rigs. So much of the exterior on the FJ is plastic that the usual options weren’t available. On a whim, we searched for a low-profile bottle opener and came across the Yeti Molle Bottle Opener. As you’ll see below, it happens to fit perfectly in the door jamb of an FJ.  Installation took only seconds with four self-drilling wafer-head screws.  Finally our FJ received the one basic mod it has been missing!

ОѴƦԼχƝƊ.com

Welcome to our work in progress!  We were content with just using social media and forums to share our stories, but Photobucket’s recent attempt to extort its users with a ridiculous price point motivated us to take responsibility for hosting our images ourselves.

We used 1and1.com to purchase our domain and to manage our hosting.  For a standard package, it’s only $12 for the first year.  If this doesn’t work like we want it to, no big deal, we’ll do something different next summer.  Regardless, we weren’t about to continue to do business with Photobucket.  Rewarding their tactics is the last thing anyone should do.

Enough ranting!  We’ve just bought the domain and began setting things up.  We really have no idea what we’re doing, but we’re learning as fast as we can.  Wordpress has a vast selection of excellent themes.  We’re experimenting to find a style we like with the features we need, so expect plenty of changes until that gets settled.  We’ll also be working on restoring photo links on various forums, starting with our build threads.

Thanks for stopping by.  Tread lightly, and we hope to see you on the trail!

Kevin & Shannon