The Yamaha has a brand new rear tire, I dug the saddlebags out of a moving box, Anne made an electrical supply for the GPS and a loader for the camera battery, there’s an empty SD card in the camera and new oil in the engine block. It’s time for a test ride.

Destination: Flagstaff, Arizona, where the yearly Overland Expo is being held. We should be able to make it in seven days; three days to get there, one day to have a look around on the expo, and three days to ride back to Boulder. Pretty tight schedule, but it should be possible.
After two and a half days riding -including the inevitable tinkering- we finally leave the enormous state of Colorado. At the end of the third day, we arrive in Flagstaff, our butts feeling like lifeless wood.

Just south of the city, in the wooded area around Mormon Lake, is where the expo is being held. Everything that has anything to do with overland travel is gathered here; special (camping) trucks, an off-road practice course for 4×4 cars, a motorcycle off-road course. You can find many stands where you can buy anything you can think of that you could possibly need on an overland journey. There are travelers, some of whom have brought their own vehicles and share their stories and experiences. There’s also a special tent for travel writers and here I meet my heroes Ted Simon, writer of ‘Jupiter’s travels’ (together with ‘Blue Highways’ the best travel book I know) and Lois Pryce, writer of ‘Lois on the Loose’ and ‘Red Tape and White Knuckles’, both a big inspiration. A tent printed with the name and photograph of Charley Boorman (‘The Long Way Round’) suggests that he’s also one of the guests, but in the time we are at the expo, there is no Charley to be seen.

In a little wooden building right next to the Expo terrain, films are shown as part of the Adventure travel film festival, the theme of course being overland travel. Here we see a fantastic film about 4 Czechs traveling in two Trabant cars from Prague to South Africa and we witness the premiere of ‘Mondo Sahara’, a project of the flamboyant Englishman Austin Vince. This film is the story of seven men, three Americans and four Brits, who travel from England to Mauritania on second hand Honda off-road motorcycles. It’s not only an adventurous motorcycle journey through an exceptionally wet summer in Europe and a stinking hot but beautiful Sahara, but also an acquaintance with the ‘dangerous’ Islamic country of Mauritania, which doesn’t turn out to be as dangerous as we think it is. Another point Austin Vince is trying to make with this film is that you don’t need a 20,000 dollar BMW GS with all the Touratech accessories that money can buy to make a fantastic trip. An inspiring and at times hilarious movie.

One whole day of adventure is more than enough for Anne and me, so on Sunday we climb on our bikes again to start our trip home. We have 750 miles ahead of us, but on the way back we decide to take a few off-road detours. After all, this is a test ride we’re doing here.
In the Manti-La Sal National Forest in Utah on our way to Monticello, we stumble across a couple in an enormous four wheel drive that’s stuck in the snow. The four of us eventually manage to turn the truck around and they go safely back to civilization. Something we should have done too, but we decide to go on down the road. There can’t be more than a few patches of snow ahead, we think, since it’s almost June.
One and a half hours later we come slogging out of the last snow, wet and tired. Lesson learned; test riding is hard work, and spring in the mountains doesn’t fall in May.