STARTING ON TWO WHEELS
I started riding dirt bikes when I was a kid. I went from an 800cc Yamaha in 1978 to different bikes over the years. My last bike was an XR650, which I got rid of about 12 years ago. Over the years, I’ve owned different off-road vehicles and have been involved in off-roading in one way or another. The first off-road vehicle I ever built was a 1996 80-Series Land Cruiser and the reliability of it was the best thing about it.
I picked up a Jeep Wrangler a few years ago because their Rubicon version was a solid base to start a new off-road build. My OVRLNDX Jeep JKU is actually my second Jeep. My first Jeep was my dad’s old XJ that I loved to drive everywhere back in the day. So, you can say that I’ve always liked Jeeps.
ONE THING LEADS TO ANOTHER
Besides off-roading, my other passion is photography, which is another reason why I purchased the Jeep. I wanted a vehicle capable enough to take me and my cameras to those awesome shoot locations. I’ve been interested in photography ever since I got my first Minolta AE1 and I also love camping and exploring, so the Jeep is perfect for that, too.
I do a lot of research when it’s time to pick parts for the build. I also tend to go with brands that have a good reputation in the industry. I do most of the work myself, but not when it comes to fluid changes. It’s kind of a hassle to dispose of old fluids without harming the environment so I leave that up to the professionals.
My Jeep also does have a lot of custom parts like the drawer system in the back which I designed and built myself using aluminum extrusions and bracketry, wood and carpet lining materials. Also in the works is a custom air down/up system that I’m working out the kinks on. My favorite mods on the Jeep would have to be the wheels, tires, and suspension. Oh, and the rooftop tent. I can safely go to remote, picturesque and uncrowded places without the risk of getting stuck and I can spend more than a day doing it by having a safe and comfortable sleeping area. As a member of the overland community, I’ve learned a lot from others in the scene over the years. This community is like a family and I’ve met the most wonderful people ever! I’ve met several of my best friends through overlanding.
I can’t over emphasize how much I like the Teraflex long-arm suspension because it offers the best on- and off-the-pavement ride and performance. The Genesis dual battery system also gives me so much peace of mind that my Jeep will always have enough juice to crank up even in Arctic weather. Recently, I went to 38” Milestar Patagonia tires…come on 38s! Although I like how my Jeep is set up already, there’s no end when building a Jeep! I’ll probably do a motor swap in the future given this Jeep already hit the 114K-mile mark on the original engine.
ADVENTURES OF A LIFETIME
One of my most memorable trips with the Jeep was a 10-day camping trip to Utah and Colorado. We camped in 100-degree weather in Utah and 29-degree weather in Colorado. We were wheelin’ in the most epic red rock trails in Moab and driving through astonishing mountain passes in Ouray. But when it comes to a local hangout, Anza Borrego is where I go. That desert is just full of beauty, with its amazing sandstone canyons and beautiful desert plants that look out of this world. It also offers hundreds of miles of off-road trails and numerous camping spots.
I’ve been to a lot of places, but the most challenging trails I’ve ever done is Black Bear Pass in Colorado. Even though it’s not technically challenging, it sure is mentally tiring. My Jeep didn’t suffer any scars during the trip, but I was exhausted after coming down those narrow switchbacks. There were a lot of white-knuckle moments on that one!
FAIL TO PLAN, PLAN TO FAIL
Even though the destination isn’t always set in stone, I do plan a route, download any maps needed, determine fuel and supply stops and mark waypoints and camping spots. I also check for camping rules for the area to know beforehand. It’s also important to determine the number of vehicles in the caravan. The group has to tread lightly to prevent any trail damage.
I usually always check everything all the time, especially the suspension components that tend to come loose after an off-road trip. It’s also important to bring extra nuts and bolts, fluid and tools, just in case.
It’s also important that you don’t go alone. I always travel with another vehicle as capable and prepared as mine. Bringing some type of communication device is also very important. Never go alone to places that you are not familiar with. Know your vehicle’s and your own limitations. Let someone at home know where you will be at all times.
Get familiar with the trails and tread lightly. Have a “pack it in, pack it out” philosophy. Educate yourself and understand why you are not supposed to bring firewood to camp. Instead, buy it where you’ll burn it or gather firewood on-site, if permitted. Learn about human waste disposal, too!