BRIAN RANDOLPH: RIVER ROCK OVERLAND
By Paul Strubell of Dirt Orcas – 9/5/17
For the forty forth installment in our ongoing interview series here at Dirt Orcas, we are very pleased to speak with Brian Randolph about his overland adventures with his family in their 100 series Land Cruiser. You may know them as @riverrockoverland.
Brian and his family have been tearing up the trails and forest service roads around the United States. I came across their Instagram account called @RiverRockOverland and it’s really a fun one to check out. As with many of the overlanders we interview, this group is all about family fun. Overlanding and camping is a great way to spend time together. This really shows through in Brian’s photo’s. There is specific focus on the family, the kids and their involvement in the travels.
The description on this Instagram account reads “Six people, one goal. Trans America Trail 2019, with smaller adventures in between. We will document our vehicle choice, gear choices, and build.” and that is exactly what you get. They have a great nose for adventure photography while also capturing the wholesome nature of a family trip. It’s a refreshing alternative to some of the other galleries out, there that focus only on shots of suspension flex and ways to highlight the latest $1000 addition to their build.
@RiverRockOverland is a great inspiration for those with families who want to spend more time in the outdoors. It isn’t always easy but with the right frame of mind you can really build a lot of great memories.
Check out our interview below.
What do you consider to be your place of work?
During the week, I am a field consultant for a software company that requires travel. It’s funny…as much as I like to travel, I don’t like it as much for work because of the distance it puts between my family and I. We work really hard to balance that out.
Tell me about your vehicle. What do you call it?
It’s a 1998 Toyota Land Cruiser 100 Series and prior to children I never once named a car or anything that didn’t have a pulse. However, it seems like children love to name things and we have named this thing River Rock. It’s kind of cool, we had to upgrade to a vehicle that would accommodate our 4th child and her name is River. Coincidentally, we picked a Land Cruiser with the paint code River Rock Mica. So…River Rock it is.
When and how did you get it?
We bought this shortly after River was born in April of 2016 and it was a craigslist find out of Knoxville. It was pretty hammered on the inside and took a ton of cleaning to deem it livable. In addition, heavy maintenance was required to get it back to baseline.
What other vehicles did you consider and what made you ultimately pull the trigger on the one you bought?
We had to have a third row to accommodate 6 people and I didn’t want to leave the Toyota brand, so it was either a 4Runner, Sequoia, or Land Cruiser. The 4Runner is just too small of a third row, not enough aftermarket support on the Sequoia, and neither of those possess the same level of build quality as the 100 Series, in our opinion. We looked forever and we had a small budget – two reasons I bought this one…1) It was very affordable and 2) Rear diff lock.
Have you made any upgrades or changes to it?
Yes, some of it is necessary for the overland travel that we do and some of it was only for aesthetics. Like the snorkel…not a necessity for what we do, but man does it look cool – haha! We have invested in tons of armor (bumpers, brush guards, and sliders), OME heavy suspension, BFG AT KO2’s, Smittybilt winch w/synthetic line, DIY storage drawer, DIY homemade roof rack, lights (light bars, fogs, rear work lights), ARB awning, ram mounts, seat covers, DIY dual battery system, led interior lights, storage attic, limb risers, upgraded h/lamp bulbs, hood black out, and I am sure that there are several things I am forgetting right now.
What is your favorite part about it living/working out of your vehicle?
If we are living out of it, it is typically short trips – the longest one was 10 days. I absolutely love it when we are all together going new places to explore. The family seems happier and closer and we are all together with the same goal in mind, which creates a special feeling of unity that we don’t get anywhere else.
What is your least favorite part about it?
Unpacking because that means the trip is over.
How many miles have you put on your vehicle?
We purchased it in April of 2016 with 240K on the clock. Today, it has 265K, so we’ve put 25K on it in 14 months. Keep in mind that this is not a daily driver – its typically used only for adventures and weekend driving.
What is the best place you have taken it?
Southern Utah. Period.
Is there just one?
No. Every time we get home, that was the best trip. And it’s funny, when you are living outside in the elements you may be up against a tough wind, cold, rain, snow, excessive heat, or all the above and it seems miserable at the time, but the extreme elements absolutely make the best memories.
Favorite road you’ve driven?
In the evening as the sun sets and you’ve been driving all day, you just caught that second wind and you don’t ache anywhere, you’re not tired, the tunes are just right and almost everything else is grayed out. I used to cycle a lot and sometimes I’d get what I thought was a “runners high.” Maybe I am describing a “traveling high?” Whatever it is, that’s the best road I’ve driven whether its dirt, rocks or asphalt and it doesn’t matter if it’s in the middle of the flats or a section of the Kokopelli Trail.
In one word, what describes your approach to life?
If you could give a person one piece of advice when thinking about living from a vehicle, what would you tell them?
I can’t advise on long term living, but I certainly can on the short term. And it’s hard to give one piece of advice…it would be either to pick a reliable vehicle and maintain it so you’re not overwhelmed with fear that it will break down in remote areas, or to make organization your top priority.
It takes a special kind of person to recognize that the journey, not the destination, is the point of life. Travelers know this. Was there a point in your life where you became conscious that you were one of those people?
Probably in my mid 20’s, I lived in Breckenridge, CO and was an avid whitewater kayaker. We traveled everywhere to find whitewater in some of the most remote places in the country. Looking back, I remember more about the journey… getting stuck in the mud, locking keys in the car, mechanical breakdowns, running out of gas, dead batteries, on and on, but don’t remember why we were out there or what river or creek we even paddled.
You have found a strong place in the community of travelers. What values do you think your home or family instilled in you, that you take on the road?
My parents weren’t afraid to road trip. I remember them taking an old 70’s Buick and towing a camper all over the place. The car would overheat or simply breakdown nearly every time and I knew it was stressful for Dad. But he did it (seemingly) with a smile, even when we were stranded at a mechanic shop in the heat of the summer with a breakdown. I have always enjoyed traveling by automobile.
I admire your outside the box approach to career and home. Do you see yourselves as people who took a leap of faith to live in an unconventional way or do you think it kind of just happened?
Well, the career and home are pretty much inside the box, but the sense of adventure has always been there and now I just have a family to share it with.
Where do you want to go next?
Trans America Trail in 2019 with the entire family and several smaller trips in between! We will have a 13 year old, twin 11 year old’s, and a 3 year old at the time. Given fact that the TAT is so long, we will probably hop on the trail somewhere in the middle, maybe Oklahoma, and take it to Oregon. Originally, we were going to do an AK trip, but I’m just too nervous taking 4 small kids into grizzly country and camping every night. We could prepare for it, but I think it’d be stressful.
At some point in my career, I’d absolutely love to have something that was a little more virtual and did not require my physical presence all over the country. Entirely possible…and I look forward to it.