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The OE Blog

The OE Scrambler rises

It seems that life can move by pretty fast. Super fast, actually. And when you throw in managing a business, attending shows, doing pop-ups, building a 4Runner overland rig, and then of course the good stuff—adventures, trips, family time, etc.—well the months can go by before you even know what happened. And that's where our little OE Scrambler project comes in. It had been bearing the brunt of a busy life. Sitting patiently in the corner like a dog waiting to be noticed by his owner. Well no more. She has been noticed.

Overland Empire Scrambler

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Citrus WMA

It's sort of a confession to admit that not every adventure can be a full-blown weekend getaway replete with amazing food or nights spent under the stars. At times it can be an accomplishment just to be able to sneak away for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon and get some dirt under the tires. When a new friend reached out to join us on an upcoming adventure, we decided to make an afternoon run up to what ended up being an off-road paradise of sorts—Citrus WMA, in the hills just north of Brooksville, Florida. For only being a couple hours drive, it felt like we were in another state. Just the kind of backyard expedition we needed.

Citrus WMA is one of Florida's many Wildlife Management areas—an area managed for hunting and conservation. You may remember our dual sport trip through another one of Florida's WMA's, Green Swamp. We're fortunate to have these dedicated lands at our disposal, otherwise we may find the urban sprawl of Florida taking over most, if not all, of our public land.

So we headed north on a cloudy Saturday, meeting up with our friend and his Defender 110 at around two o'clock at one of the campgrounds in the area. We immediately set off to explore the woods, with no map, no plan, no thought other than to just drive around. One of the best ways to spend an afternoon. We drove through soft sand, standing water, some mud, and red clay—the clay being a nice change from the white dirt roads we find close to home. The elevation of the area also helped make us feel farther away than normal—Florida is usually so insanely flat, any change in elevation is welcomed.

For a good while we didn't come across one other vehicle or person. After setting down a certain trail with a good swath of mud, we met up with some Colombians in a couple FJ80s, an FJ Cruiser, and a converted Chevy Tahoe. These guys were well equipped and having a great time in the mud, apparently trying to get stuck or come as close as possible. They were excited to see the Defender 110, and all posed with it for a couple pictures.

They followed us through the trails until we reached a fork in the road. Straight ahead was about 30 or 40 yards of standing water, at least a couple feet deep. To the left was a nice clay incline and no water. We decided to go left with the Land Rovers—neither one of us wanted to get flooded with water—but we knew the other guys would go through the water, so we decided to park and stick around for the show. The lesser built of the FJ80s attempted the water crossing first, getting about two-thirds of the way through before getting stuck. So the built FJ80 backed in and pulled him out. Three times. After the last time the stuck truck opened his doors to allow an inch or two of water to find their escape. Exactly why we didn't want to go through.

We continued through the trails, taking turns at the wheel and behind the lens. There's nothing like sharing moments like these with friends—being with guys (or girls) that enjoy the simple joys of being outdoors. Summer in Florida is so hot that these overland expeditions are a perfect way for us to get outside, have adventures, but not have to deal with the miserable heat or unbearable mosquitos. So we drive, and we enjoy every minute. 

Before long we come upon a fun little area with some climbs that will challenge our driving. The Defender goes first, climbing a tight incline with not much of a problem. 

Next we take the Discovery up the same incline, and it takes it with ease. We take turns driving, and we have a great time. We almost get the Disco stuck going up one of the climbs, but after a little advice and thinking, we bounce right through it. These Land Rovers are incredibly capable machines.

After some fun in that area we keep driving. There are caves somewhere around here, and we'd like to find a couple. So we drive and search, and never find any. That's ok, it gives us an excuse to come back. As if we needed one. We'll be back for sure. This place will be perfect for a night or two of camping, some amazing food and drink, and plenty of time to explore the trails. An Overland Empire adventure if there ever was one.

So as we look forward to bigger adventures—multiple days and nights, food and friends, and epic stories—we remember how important it is to get out for any adventure we can, even if it's a long afternoon not too far from home.

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Adventure 002 - Dual Sport Ride

We've always had a love for two wheels. While you can bring everything you need for comfort in a car, SUV, or truck, nothing strips you down to the bare essentials of adventure like riding a motorcycle. Especially an offroad motorcycle. This adventure was taken on to prove that even in an area overcome with urban sprawl, adventure riding could be found just miles from home.

To get off the paved road and explore dirt roads is liberating. It transports you to a time and place that may only have existed in your imagination. But it's there, and it's real. And it's right in our backyard. No traffic, no red lights, no trains. Only dirt, blue sky, and endless possibilities. This is what we came for. To get away and yet to be right here.

We aim for something more than a Sunday drive. Sure, it may be as easy as getting on your bike (or in your truck or jeep) and going for an exploratory ride, but we like to take it up a notch. To plan a route worth photographing, worth slowing down for, and one that will literally take us all weekend. The planning can be consuming—hours spent clicking through Google Maps, more hours scouting and coming across dead ends, private land, and locked gates, and still more hours preparing gear and equipment.

Then there's the food. For us, food is the tie that binds. An impromptu cookout after a scouting session rather than dinner out. A legitimate hot lunch on the trail rather than a granola bar or pre-made sandwich. Great food is such a tremendous part of our lives. We grew up in households anchored by a home-cooked meal, and that is one legacy we each pass along to our families. A scratch-made meal is always worth the extra effort, be it at home, at camp, or here on the trail.

And so we now find ourselves huddled together on a particularly frigid Saturday, going over our route and plans in the dark space between night and morning. While a vehicle-dependent expedition can be had with only the necessities required for your length of adventure, we decided early on that we would have a support truck. The video needs required to meet our critical eyes, along with the food and equipment involved in putting together meals worthy of sharing, helped make this decision a rather simple one. Now as we stand and eat homemade pop-tarts and bulletproof coffee, we laugh about how we get excited over a good break of pastry, or the perfect mug for a photo. Six men with a unified purpose—to have an adventure worthy of pictures, and pictures worthy of an adventure.

After a delicious and protein-rich breakfast we quickly load up and ride out, a race for the rising sun. Two motorcycles and a truck, all off-road ready and built for this type of adventure. There's an excitement to setting off on any sort of journey, much less one that's been anticipated for weeks, even months, on end. An excitement that can barely be matched, and we feel it immediately. We drive a carefully planned route from one of our homes, driving back roads North towards our destination. The planning pays off in spades. Almost zero traffic, easy navigation, and picturesque vistas that remind us of the aforementioned goal—to enjoy an area less developed, before time and growth catch up to it and spoil it for good. So we pass country homes, pastures full of cows, and beautiful groves full of peach trees just beginning to blossom, and we make sure to enjoy it.

The cold cuts hard through our clothes, and the sun does little to make a difference. Thankfully there is only one stretch of road that requires highway speeds, and we get through it quickly. By the time many are just wiping the sleep out of their eyes we've reached our first waypoint, our destination for all the dirt roads we can handle: a Wildlife Management Area consisting of 50k+ acres that crosses three counties. And it's our home for this portion of our adventure.

When many hear the words "Wildlife Management Area" they may immediately think of deer hunters and tree stands. And they would be correct. As we enter this area on the last day of general gun season for deer, we see our fair share of rifles and blaze orange. However we're the ones that receive the odd looks today, "hipsters" in our funny clothes. We get a laugh from the looks we get, but we know many are well deserved. It's not everyday you see a guy with a GoPro on a four foot pole strapped to his back. Now we roll off onto this leg of our trip, feeling the dirt beneath our tires. We explore the forest, finding a lake, smoking trees, and yes, plenty of hunters. We drive until we find a spot for lunch, a grassy site with plenty of sun and a break from the wind. We set up our temporary camp, with our field kitchen and cooking supplies, and quickly set to work on making a hot lunch. Homemade vegetable soup, made from scratch right on the trail, along with Shao Bing chicken sandwiches and some much needed beverages. We enjoy our break together, standing in the sun to get warm, telling stories, talking shop, and just being guys. We also have a good time making fun of ourselves, imagining the conversations in passing trucks as they see a bunch of dudes taking pictures of each other. A strange world indeed.

After lunch we're off to lay tracks in the dirt, enjoying the sky above our heads and the dirt 'neath our feet. There are few things in life so simple as this, to enjoy our surroundings, the Earth as it was made. As we traverse our route, making wrong turns, dead ends, running out of gas, and burning leather on hot exhaust pipes, we grow stronger in our ties. These adventures of ours become our signature, an inscription of our time on this planet and our lives together. For as much as one can accomplish alone, we know of our strength in numbers. Our wisdom lies in our collective skills. Friends joined by purpose, bonded by story and adventure, and clear in intentions. As society hurtles on in progress, gobbling up our land and open spaces, we are sure to enjoy what we have around us, while we have it. Be that the outdoors, friends, or family. In our case, it's all of those and more. Nothing can replace our time together, our time doing what we enjoy.

So while today's road takes us to a remote lake house where we'll meet up with family and enjoy a delicious dinner spent around a campfire, tomorrow the road takes us somewhere completely different. And that, our friends, is why we do this.

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