I was never the child that pushed the limits of outdoor play. I spent as much time outside as possible, but did not climb the tallest trees, jump absentmindedly into a creek, or dig a snow cave. I am a dip the toes in, obtain sufficient data, and develop a plan of attack kid to this day. This makes overlanding a unique challenge for me. The whole point is to not really have a plan, just maps and general sense of ambition.
We are new to this. We spent 20 years sleeping in campgrounds or backpacking. Stopping your truck in the middle of nowhere and flipping open the cliff palace is liberating but not without pitfalls. Aside from the learning curve of figuring out how much you can really keep in a roof top tent and still get it closed, how to pack the pantry for impromptu weekends, and the best way to have cocktails at the ready; we must figure out the art of parking.
It sounds simple, use an established overland location and park in the most level spot. The problem is this—the sites have been established because they are in scenic locations we all want to dream we own for a night or a few. There is a dazzle factor when you turn a bend in the remote road you have been travelling and there it is, home. You know it when you see it.
Here’s our misadventure teaching moment. Driving around in your newly discovered paradise until your truck “feels level” is not the appropriate method. Your brain is momentarily distracted by all the trout you imagine swimming in the pool of the river just below, or by thoughts of the nap you are going to take under the giant cottonwood next to the beautifully sculpted sandstone wash. You are not paying attention to what is in front of your tires. Then you experience a bump, hear a horrible sound that is some odd blend of rushing air and dumping sand, and hop out to find a completely deflated front tire in the middle of your nowhere joy. Add an over-tightened lug nut that snaps so you cannot even put on the spare tire, and you are looking at the unique experience of a backroad tow with two pit-bulls in a rain storm as the sun disappears. Your perfect campsite has evolved to definitely not level parking in the street of a mountain town outside the tire shop on homecoming night for the local college, i.e. not the quiet babble of the river. Happily, our little misadventure ultimately all landed right side up and, unlike when I was a child, I took all the plot twists in stride. I even got an hour of fishing on the Taylor while we waited for the tow truck.
We learned a big lesson and have implemented the new method. It just takes a little bit of extra time and tends to get us better positioned for enjoying our little slice of wild. I am still the kid that prefers things to go according to plan, but the guy I married is more of a leap first, then either enjoy the reward or suffer the consequence. Overlanding is teaching us to find the balance.