Horizons Unlimited Virginia – April 2015

I have been waiting for this for months, my first Horizons Unlimited Travellers Meeting, and lucky for me the meeting is right here in my home state of Virginia, just a few, short hours away. For this inaugural Virginia meeting, organizers chose the Holiday Lake 4-H Camp,

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which was near Appomattox, site of the April 1865 surrender of General Lee to General Grant, ending the Civil War. As a happenstance, this meeting coincided with the 150th year anniversary of the famous surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, which is only a few miles away.

The reason I was looking forward to the meeting is that I had learned many great things on the Horizons Unlimited website and forums about overland travel, especially about overland travel by motorcycle. The stories I have been reading had captivated me and this meeting was a gathering of some of these very over-landers and world travelers and I wanted to learn from them about their adventures because I hope to take off for an extended period around the world on one of my own adventures soon.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 4.34.16 PMTheir website, and the forums, are I think the richest, curated resource on the Internet for overland travel – everything you need to know, from how to choose a bike to what and how to pack all the way to getting through various borders around the globe. I highly recommend you visit their website if you have not.

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The Appomattox meeting, to me, was like a website that come alive. The people I followed and read about online were right in front of me, shaking my hand, smiling, and sharing stories and presentations about their triumphs and challenges, the good and the ugly, everything, as well as so many tips and tricks that I lost count (glad I had a notebook and a good camera!!). But, you learn just not from presenters, but from fellow travelers, too. The way they tell their stories and their openness to your questions simply thrilled me.

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And oh, wow, these presenters and traveller were from all over the globe! I met all sorts of folks and they were the nicest, friendliest, most awesome people I think I have ever met.

The meeting took place from Thursday to Sunday, with activities planned right after check-in on Thursday at 1pm. The day was overcast and planned to be so through Saturday, but that dampened no ones’ spirits apparently, including mine. My ride from Chesapeake, Virginia was overcast with a few spells of heavy rain, but I kept motoring. I arrived just after check in started to find a line of folks waiting.

Grant and Susan (the founders of Horizons Unlimited) apparently were doing most of the work. After a volunteer or two appeared, things went smoothly and I had my name badge (with the white string that you must acknowledge having receiving instructions for, haha), meal tickets (I paid to be fed all weekend), the wi-fi credentials (there was no cell coverage in the state park) and the lay of the land (where to park and put my tent – which I chose a spot overlooking the lake).

After getting my tent and gear situated, I went to explore the property more. After spending an hour or so getting my tent up and gear stowed, I first noticed all the motorcycles. While HU caters to all who wish to overland, there was preponderance of motorcycles, more specifically ADV motorcycles, from BMW, KTM, and others.

Most of the sessions over the weekend were in this building, both downstairs in the main dining room and upstairs in a large meeting room. Often times, there were simultaneous talks going, but schedule had repeats of the anticipated more popular presentations.

My first session was just before dinner on the first night. Grant and Susan tag-teamed to give a presentation on how it all started for them. The essential theme is that you should just follow your heart and intuition and do it, as you never know what future obstacles might stop your plans one day. Their obstacle was money… running out of money, so they would explore until funds ran low and then figure out how to replenish the kitty – working, selling some stock, whatever it took to get back on the road. Their initial journey took them 11 years, but they covered most of the world, including Antarctica. Amazing.

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After dinner, the cool breeze off the lake sent a chill through me. I was starved and ate voraciously the chicken fajitas they served us buffet style.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASaturday was a cool group ride over to the site of the Battle of Staunton River Bridge, where the Confederates repelled a Union force aimed at cutting off Lee’s supply lines, where he was entrenched in Petersburg.

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It rained heavily later in the afternoon, a couple of inches in as many hours and made everything a wet, muddy mess. But again, that dampened no ones’ spirits.

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Later that night I got meet and chat with Alex Chacon, famous for his viral YouTube 360 degree selfie video.

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There was a huge bonfire afterwards, but I was exhausted and with some earplugs headed off to sleep. I got up early, packed, and took off the next day before breakfast, eager to get home and fry out.

If you haven’t seen it, you must check out Alex’s video below.

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