This is not your typical camping trip. Each fall the EarthRoamer community – owners of extreme, all-terrain recreational vehicles built on the shoulders of a Ford Super Duty® chassis* – gathers for an off-road adventure held by EarthRoamer founder Bill Swails.
“The rallies are a personal highpoint of my year,” says Lt. Colonel Jonathan Howell of Vicksburg, Miss., who bought his vehicle in 2009. “I feel the same kind of bond with the other owners that I do with my Army brothers. We share a deep love for the outdoors and a respect for the natural attributes that make America special.”
Destinations have ranged from Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park to Utah’s Canyonlands National Park with its brutal Shafer Trail. The 2013 event, held September 30 through October 4, drew more trucks (23) and owners (47) than ever before. Their destination: the spectacular – and restricted to the general public – Navajo Nation’s Monument Valley Tribal Park in Utah.
“This was a unique experience for our family of drivers, because we were taken by guides from the Navajo Nation to places the public can’t usually access,” says Swails from his Dacono, Colo. office. Like each past EarthRoamer rally, the trip navigated steep cliffs, rough trails, deep sand and high grades. “We helped each other get through, and once we were at these spectacular locations, everybody had the chance to bond over what we were doing – and the vehicles that got us there.”
Swails says the fact that the four-day event, which this year covered more than 200 miles of some of the toughest off-road terrain in Utah, keeps growing validates not only the demand for these “Expedition Vehicles,” as he calls them, but also the fact that people love what these ATVs can provide.
“We really appreciated the opportunity to share our experiences with other owners,” says Bill Jevene, who travelled from Washington state to the rally with his wife, Juanita. “We each use these vehicles differently, but we all know that we can rely on them.”
This year’s event also offered the opportunity for the group to spend time with a Navajo guide who was one of the code talkers who – through radio communication in his Native American tongue – stymied the Japanese in the Pacific during World War II. “The man was amazing,” recalls Swails. “He was about 16 when he did this during the war and just listening to him made all of us realize how much these people meant to our victory.”
The caravan continued to the breathtaking Valley of the Gods and the Muley Point Overlook where owners gathered around the campfire to share contacts and plan future adventures.
“That’s the beauty of these events, they inspire these folks to connect in less formal ways, to plan their own expeditions together or visit one another when they’re in each other’s part of the country,” says Swails.
And for the future, Swails says he’s looking for next year’s rally to tackle the full length of the Continental Divide between Wyoming and New Mexico. “We’re also planning a 2,000 to 3,000-mile round-trip guided adventure from Bellingham, Wash., to Alaska next June and July,” he says. “That one will be for real adventurers, and we have more than our share in the EarthRoamer community.”
* Trucks shown have been modified with aftermarket equipment. The Ford New Vehicle Limited Warranty does not cover any damage caused by: alterations or modifications of the vehicle, including the body, chassis, or components, after the vehicle leaves the control of Ford Motor Company; tampering with the vehicle, tampering with the emissions systems or with the other parts that affect these systems (for example, but not limited to exhaust and intake systems); the installation or use of a non-Ford Motor Company part (other than a certified emissions part) or any part (Ford or non-Ford) designed for off-road use only installed after the vehicle leaves the control of Ford Motor Company, if the installed part fails or causes a Ford part to fail. Examples include, but are not limited to lift kits, oversized tires, roll bars, cellular phones, alarm systems, automatic starting systems and performance-enhancing powertrain components or software and performance ‘‘chips.”