Day One of Overland Expo East (OEXE) has arrived and what a difference from last year. The first thing that will strike you if you plan on attending OEXE this year is that the Biltmore Estate is not Taylor Ranch. Not that Taylor Ranch was a shit show less than desirable location… it’s just that the Biltmore Estate is that much better.
Why is the Biltmore Estate so much better, well… let’s run down a few reasons:
- The location for the Expo is right along the banks of the French Broad River, which is scenic and actually feels like someplace you would want to camp.
- The location is flat… let me repeat that again… the location is flat.
- There is plenty of room for vendors, staff, campers, training, driving courses, etc.
- There is an actual catered food facility with lots of food options and not just a crappy less than award winning BBQ food truck.
- The Biltmore fully understands how to host an event, after all there is a reason that Land Rover has their driving school here because there is a dealership close by for repairs.
So far Day One has been great. The event started off at 9:00am this morning with quite a few people arriving either as day attendees or as campers. One thing that struck me is that there seems to be a lot more families and kids attending than in previous years. That may be because the Biltmore Estate gets close to 10,000 visitors over the course of a weekend and I am sure some of them were drawn over to OEXE by all the cool vehicles and LED lights. In fact, the children’s adventure area looked downright packed.
The organization of the event struck me as being more organized than in previous years. The day parking area was located logically in front of the registration/entrance and vendors were immediately behind the registration area. In addition, there were clear lanes of traffic and directional changes appropriate for the event. All in all it seems that the OEXE staff has learned a few things from the last few OEXE events and they’ve made some positive changes to make the event more efficient and user friendly.
The larger facility and event grounds allowed both BFG and Land Rover to have large driving courses, with the Land Rover course going so far as having a true log bridge. These are the first driving courses at OEXE that actually have me contemplating puttering through them.
Now, what everyone really comes for is all the cool stuff being displayed and in most cases for sale. Cascade Vehicle Tents (CVT) showed up like they were ready for a NASCAR event. Their area looked quite capable of not only selling any RTT that you could think up… but, also installing said tent with a NASCAR pit crew. Global Expedition Vehicles brought one of their small large off-road capable vehicles compete with a RTT over the cab (seriously). AEV brought one of their drool worthy Dodge Ram 2500 Prospector XL vehicles amongst a few others. Cummings is showcasing their diesel engine conversions, and Mainline Overland has filled a niche in the overland market by bringing Norweld from Australia to the USA. If you aren’t familiar with Norweld and their series of truck trays and canopies… you should be because they are incredible.
Based on mid-day Day One impressions it looks like OEXE is off to a good start with strong attendance, full classes, some great vendors, and finally a location worthy of OEXE.
Oh yeah, OEXE wouldn’t be complete without some rain, but this time it’s just a light rain and not a record setting torrential downpour that made people contemplate building an arc.