After years of talking about the NorthWest Overland Rally, I was finally talked into purchasing a ticket for this years rally by my buddy Anthony. We then did absolutely nothing to prepare for it until a couple of days beforehand, because that’s how we roll. I spent a couple of hours each night beforehand working on a sleeping platform and then some basic maintenance on the 4Runner the night before and morning of, which basically was checking all the fluids and doing a quick drain/fill on the transmission, which took longer than it needed to.
So we get on the road around noon, make a stop to fill up our new cooler (RTIC 65) with food/ice and press on for Plain, WA. We pulled in around 4pm and quickly got settled. With us using the sleeping platform, we decided to throw a tent up to hold all of our extra stuff. So basically a mobile shed, pretty cool. My sister/brother-in-law has already arrived and saved two other spots, one for us and one for Anthony and his posse. So we had a nice spot on the back row, kinda near some bathrooms and showers. Dani and I did a quick lap of the vendors setting everything up and drooled over all the rigs we would have to walk by multiple times over the weekend. Either rigs brought by vendors or rigs by people attending the event. We got back, had a quick bite to eat and then cruised back over to the vendor area for an evening story/adventure and then raffle time. Our first raffle of the weekend and our first experience with the term, “BurnIt!” What a good time. I won’t give away too much about that because I feel like that’s something you have to experience yourself, but makes for a good time for sure. We all sat around our propane fire (no fires on site) and enjoyed some chat about the upcoming weekend for an hour or so and then we settled in to the 4Runner for our first night of rest.
Wake up and have some breakfast. Bacon and eggs, like every morning on this trip. Perfectly fine with me. Took a stroll to check out the vendors again and new ones showing up. Left the wallet back at camp thankfully, figured I should at least wait until the final day to try and sneak new items onto the rig while under the watchful eye of the missus. I had wanted to take a couple of classes, but the sun was blazing, so we decided we’d all shoot over to Lake Wenatchee and take a dip. We started our search on one side of the lake. Super windy and cloudy, so we thought by some random chance we’d have more luck on the other side, nope, so we go back to the original spot and make the most of it. Which basically resulted in us watching the little ones play in the water and throw sticks at each other. After finally giving in to the wind and clouds, we got back to camp to have some fajitas and get ready for the raffle. I went and talked to ARB about getting an awning and was bummed to find out they didn’t sell direct, but said Mule Expeditions had a rally discount for them and might have one. They didn’t have any either, but offered the discount if I stopped in to the retail location in Issaquah later in the week. That seemed like a good idea until my buddy Anthony suggested seeing if CVT had any with them. Duh! I went and talked to them and while they didn’t have any right there, they had someone coming from Bend the next morning and would bring one with. Score! At the raffle I won a little prize pack with a couple of shirts and a tembo tusk wine tote. The Burn It folks were pretty rowdy this evening and it was a blast to watch it all go down! Having had to dis-assemble the sleeping platform for the drive to the lake, we opted for the “shed” on the second night.
Well, not going with the tent option ever again. When you have a vehicle or camper to sleep in, you kind of forget that people wake up at all different hours, make all sorts of weird noises and honey bucket cleaning trucks will show up at 7am to blast NPR over the noise of the pump. Oh boy, we’re off to a gallop on Day 3! Todays plan involved a drive in the mountains above Plain. We started our way via the highway down to Cashmere. Topped off our tanks, witnessed a nice rear end collision and then made our way to the Nahahum Canyon Road. (47.525549, -120.463343) A nice drive with views of the rolling hills turning into small mountains. The drive is pretty steady and turns to gravel after a good 15 minutes or so. In continues at a steady climb for another 10 minutes or so before you crawl into the forest for a much needed break on the rigs. (47.595772, -120.425292) And of course, after doing a drain/fill on on the transmission before leaving, I get the dreaded transmission light at the top. So we chill for a minute and decide to push on. The light goes off and stays off for the rest of the trip. Thinking back, it was a steady climb, gaining over 2500′ feet in a half hour or so. I’d suggest using that first stop as a place for a nice break and to set a plan for the rest of the trip. But since we didn’t do that, we pushed on and made our way for Chumstick Mountain. I don’t remember how long it took us, but we took turns leading/eating dust and enjoyed the spectacular views. The 4runner had a minute of trouble making the last sharp turn towards the summit, but engaged the rear locker and got through it, the rest was easy stuff. Got up the top and wow, what a view. (47.650536, -120.451199) 360 views of the valley around us and quite a few people up there as well.
After hanging for a few, we decided to push on for Sugarloaf Peak or the Sugarloaf Fire Lookout. We missed a turn and then google maps showed a wildly long detour. Tried the maps app with the iPhone and it showed a much more direct route, so instead of turning around, we pushed on before taking a short rest for the kiddos at a bathroom we ran across. (47.706470, -120.514210) Back on the road towards the fire lookout and what a fun part of the drive and so interesting to see the change in landscape. Kind of eerie honestly with all of the dead trees and the dark clouds that were rolling in. Got to the lookout without too much trouble and spent about ten minutes wandering around and trying to find a place to hide from the howling wind. (47.757654, -120.528295) Quite the busy spot with vehicles coming and going and quite a few motorbikes as well. We discussed back tracking a little to the bathroom from earlier, but decided to keep northward on the Entiat Summit Road until it finally dropped down towards Plain. The last part of the trip had some nice views, but was fairly boring. Would like to have stopped at a few spots, but I think everyone was tired of the off road shaking and wanted to find pavement ASAP!
Once back to camp we all had a quick bite to eat and I walked over to the CVT tent to ask about the awning. They had it, made the payment and got back to camp to get the thing installed. We made quick work, but had to run over to the hardware store for a few carriage bolts, which they had in stock luckily. Including the trip to the hardware store, it probably took us 30 minutes to get it installed on my rack. So stoked! I’m sure I’ll go a little more in depth on the awning once I get a chance to use it a few times. Perfect timing to get some chairs setup and try to win some stuff for our final raffle of the trip. I think three of us ended up getting called up. Nothing super exciting, but fun to win some items regardless. I was confident I was going to win a RTT, but I suppose it wasn’t meant to be, lol. We all made it back to camp, got everything ready for bed and then sat around the propane fire to talk about the trip, the raffle and our plans for the morning. Before long, I was crawling into the back of the 4runner hoping for a little better sleep than the previous night.
Sleep went better and it was mixed feelings all around as we started to break down our mini-camp and start thinking about routes home, etc. I think the organizers wanted everyone out by 11am, but I think Dani and I were on the road by 9. We made our way through Leavenworth and down towards Blewett Pass. We kept talking about stopping for food, but nothing seemed right until we got to Twin Pines Drive In. We had to wait about 15 minutes for them to open, but the shakes were good and the hot dog wasn’t half bad either. After that stop, it was smooth sailing for the next hour or so before pulling in to our driveway with a total of 425 miles on the odometer.
Super glad I finally made the choice to get over to the rally. It was a great time, but I can’t help feeling like I left a lot on the table. I didn’t take any classes, didn’t drive my rig through the course and didn’t really talk to any vendors I wasn’t familiar with. I was busy and had a ton of fun, but may have been a little overwhelmed by everything that was going on. I’m pretty sure I’ll be back next year and will plan to take a few classes and try to get out and talk to people. Talk to vendors about my rig and what they have going on for it, whats in the works, etc. Also hoping my rig will be better suited for the rally next year. I need to do a little suspension work, get some new tires and just work on making it a little more camping friendly. I think the awning will be a great start! See y’all next year!