Inside Outside Van

Down and Back: Our Brief Trip into America’s Southwest

Writing these blog posts describing team trips and media excursions requires finding the right balance of creative inspiration, mental recouperation, and overall timing. When newly returned to the office after 13+ days on the road, it’s not surprising one would feel a certain amount of overall fatigue and require a bit of distance from the recent adventures. Especially when those days include the required mental cognition for driving company vans, navigating traffic, learning new types of communication styles while in the field with coworkers, lots of patience, and energy to still accomplish some tasks of your regular office job. However, you may run the risk of waiting too long to recall and write about feelings, conversations, and emotions shared while on the road. Before more time slips by us and it’s a brand new year, we’re recounting our journey through California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah to participate in Overland Expo West followed by an extensive media shoot for Tails.

Planning for this event started in November 2021 and changed direction several times. One option had us meeting with our Outsiders Collective members at various stomping grounds and leisurely taking our time. Another alternative had our team driving south at a blistering speed. Our final planned amounted to a hybrid of both, strategic stopping points with moderate hours spent driving each day and saving our Outsider meet ups for times not sandwiched between a major event and media project.

In mid-May the team left Portland, OR in Tails, Trillium, Stingray and our new overlanding trailer on a dreary Saturday morning. It had been one of the wettest springs on record, so everyone was eager to warm up and soak in any amount of vitamin-d. (Yes, we did burn while in Flagstaff. Yes, we used lots of sunscreen. We’re built different in the Northwest.) Here are selected highlights from our trip journals. We encourage everyone to check out these locations, write reviews on iOverlander, and always leave your campsite better than you found it.


Day 1 – Sat., May 14: Outside Van to Tuelake Basin, CA – (6 hr – 390 miles)

  • Spirits high and excited. We were eager to crush the first significant chunk of mileage and drive time.

Day 2 – Sun., May 15: Tuelake Basin, CA to Moon Rocks, NV – (3 hr 37 min – 186 miles)

  • The team was tempted to explore the Lava Beds National Monument, but decided the responsible choice was to press on.
  • Having scheduled a shorter travel day meant we were able to take our time exploring the Moon Rocks area. We spent an extra hour going into the area through the longer back way, with many more washboard features to rattle across. There was still time in the day to decide between campsites. It’s important to find a balance of proximity to others while not being too close.
  • The team played a few rounds of corn hole before making gyros for dinner.
  • BEAUTIFUL sunset.


outside van conversion mercedes benz sprinter travel moon rocks southwest
outside van conversion mercedes benz sprinter travel moon rocks southwest


Day 3 – Mon., May 16: Moon Rocks, NV to Alabama Hills, CA – (5 hr 13 min – 289 miles)

  • Breathtaking and humbling respect for Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.
  • Rolled into Alabama Hills to watch a Rivian commercial shoot and briefly shared a space with a Tesla outfitted as an off-grid camper.
  • Late night photography, few hours of sleep, early morning sunrise photography and video capturing.


outside van conversion travel Alabama Hills


Day 4 – Tues., May 17 Alabama Hills, CA to Big Bear, CA – (3 hr 37 min – 213 miles)

  • Our team decided to take a well-deserved physical and mental break. However, changing plans brought along a new itinerary. After trekking up and over long, winding, hot single lane roads dotted with construction crews through Barstow and Lucerne Valley the beautiful albeit evaporating sight of Big Bear Lake came into view.
  • Made carnitas burrito bowls inside Tails on a dusty shoulder turnout with a view of the lake.
  • Changing plans is a fun opportunity but also presents a challenge when finding a place to stay. We attempted to settle in at two separate spots but weren’t sure about private land use and saw advisory notices for timber fungus. Our decision to leave came when we collectively noticed lots of downed branches and didn’t want to risk any damage to the vans before the expo.
  • As it got dark we ended up splurging and spent money to stay at the Serrano Campground. Lesson learned, but a great opportunity to use real bathrooms and take a shower.

Day 5 – Wed., May 18 Big Bear, CA to Kingman, AZ – (4 hr 52 min – 299 miles)

  • Back through Lucerne Valley and Barstow, traced along the southern part of Mojave Desert.
  • Captured epic Route 66 photography.
  • Another lesson: Be careful and respectful when setting up camp. We went too far beyond the iOverlander coordinates we had been tracking and wound up on private property. The owner was nice but it could’ve been more worrisome with a knock on the window late at night.


outside van conversion mercedes benz sprinter travel Route 66 southwest


Day 6 – Thursday, May 19 Kingman, AZ to Flagstaff, AZ (2 hr 2 min – 128 miles)

  • Up and early to get the event weekend going!
  • Met up with coworkers who had flown into Phoenix and drove to town that morning.
  • All hands on deck to wash and detail vans. Trillium’s AC shroud smacked the exit of the carwash resulting in slight damage to the building. Accidents happen and everyone has to get their first battle scar, but it didn’t feel good.
  • Staged vans at the expo, experienced beginning of ongoing dry dust storms.

Days 7-9 – Friday through Sunday – May 20 – May 22: Overland Expo West


outside van conversion mercedes benz sprinter travel Arizona Flagstaff Overland Expo West
outside van conversion mercedes benz sprinter travel Arizona Flagstaff Overland Expo West
outside van sprinter conversion mercedes benz travel mexican hat ut


Day 9 – Sun., May 22 Flagstaff, AZ to Mexican Hat, UT (3hr 5 min – 181 miles)

  • Packed up the booth after the expo and headed north.
  • A highlight to the day and a favorite memory from the trip was an incredible sunset sprawled across many buttes we saw while entering Utah. The horizon and the colors blanketing the area were unlike any views we had previously seen.
  • Met up with Freespirit Recreation at a campsite, everyone was exhausted from the weekend.

Day 10 – Mon., May 23: Mexican Hat, to Gold Bar Campground, UT (2 hr 27 min – 139 miles)

  • Technically this was one of our shorter drives to our destination, but wound up being one of our longer days spent in the vans due to location scouting for the Tails shoot.
  • Palms sweaty, knees weak while descending down the Shafer Trail.
  • AGAIN, we decided to call an audible and change plans. See a theme here? However, this resulted in the incredible imagery we were able to capture while exploring Canyonlands National Park on our way to the famous Thelma and Louise Point, but it wasn’t without some stressful moments when finding a place to camp and regroup before two BIG media days.


outside van conversion mercedes benz sprinter travel Utah southwest canyonlands national park


Days 11-13 – Tues. through Thurs. May 24-May 26 Media Shoot

  • Captured over 45 GB of photography and over 19 hours of video content.
  • Turned lots of heads and received curious inquisitions from park visitors.
  • Wrapped up with night photography outside Canyonlands National Park.
  • Dropped off a coworker at the Moab Airport, a one terminal venue fit for puddle jumpers, before the rest of the team carried on north!

Check out the complete Tails gallery for more imagery and conversion details or watch the Van Spotlight! The journey home to Oregon by way of Wyoming and Idaho is another story for a different time. See you on the outside.


outside van conversion mercedes benz sprinter travel Utah southwest canyonlands national park tails
outside van conversion mercedes benz sprinter travel Utah southwest canyonlands national park tails
outside van conversion mercedes benz sprinter travel Utah southwest canyonlands national park tails