One-Tank Adventures: Roundtrip Journeys, Only Fill Up Once

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Kickstands & Kevlar is a blog hosted by Overland Expo’s own Motorcycle Community Ambassador, Eva Rupert.

Follow Eva @augusteva.

Considering all the current shelter-in-place measures, please do your research before heading out on a One-Tank Adventure. I’m not an authority on traveling during the pandemic. Depending on where you live, scooting out on a socially distanced campout right now might not be the right thing to do. If that’s the case, save this for when things loosen back up.

So often we set our sights on far-flung journeys. We want to go big, cross continents, sublet our houses and hit the road for months at a time. Alas, now is not the time to cross state lines, let alone set out on the transcontinental journey of our dreams. But please keep those dreams going, the time will come!

One-Tank Adventures (OTAs, for short) are all about leaning into your immediate locale. Even when there isn’t a pandemic going on, OTAs are awesome. Get your weekend warrior fix. Nab a mini-adventure when you can’t steal away on a long journey. Use it to take your camp craft to the next level or dial in some new gear. Explore the overlooked corners of your own backyard — there’s more there than you might realize.

Think about that feeling when you first travel to a new place … You know nobody. You hardly speak the language. Everything feels new, a bit off kilter, exciting. When we go on our big trips, we show up with wide eyes and a hunger to explore. When you set out on a micro adventure, tuck that sense of awe and awareness into the seat pocket in front of you for easy access, despite the fact that you’re not flying halfway around the world. Pivot your perspective and find that freshness, even if you’re close to home. 

Your OTA is an overnight dose of location therapy, guaranteed to bring luster back to the well-worn patina of daily life. Burnish that shine by leaning into the subtleties and appreciating your home turf in a way you never have before.

In writing this article, I felt that it was my duty to do some hands-on research and take an OTA specifically to test my theories. So I hit the road into the Dragoon Mountains with Sterling for an 86-mile, 24-hour, eight-gallon round trip. Was it the high-adrenaline adventure of a lifetime? Certainly not, but between the beautiful drive, running with my dog, cooking steaks on the fire, and catching shooting stars from the Lyrid meteor shower, it was a great success.

I highly recommend heading out on a similar jaunt and here are a few tips to make your One Tank Adventure the best overnighter since summer camp.

1. Home On the Range 

Photo credit: Eva Rupert

Photo credit: Eva Rupert

The idea of an OTA is that you need to leave and return home on the same tank of gas, so you want to start with determining your range. There’s no sweating about running out of fuel on an OTA. You’ll be back in the driveway before the gas light comes on. 

So, get out the maps and start scouring all the places within a 50- or 100-mile radius of your home. I often start with Google Earth for the birds-eye view and then cross reference with the Gazetteer to dig into the nuances of the roads and terrain. Obviously, you can make your plan with whatever mapping system that suits you best, but I personally think paper maps are perfect for planning; they’re old-school and tactile. The goal here is to avoid the same old routes you usually take and hone in on those in-between spots that you tend to skip over.

2. Pack Like a Pro

You’re only going to be gone for a day on a one-tanker, so this is a perfect time to dial in your gear. We’ve all ditched stuff on long trips, often because an item doesn’t live up to its promises. Since you’re not trying to set a distance record here, this is the time to demo a new piece of equipment. Field test your new camera, truck awning, or hammock that charges your cell phone as you swing (a million-dollar idea, if you ask me). 

Photo credit: Eva Rupert

Photo credit: Eva Rupert

Remember, this is not the overlanding olympics. Think of this as high-intensity interval training to dial you in for that big trip you’ve been planning since the start of the toilet paper shortage. Use your OTA to keep your skills, systems, and gear sharp. Being so close to home means low stakes (in theory, a little more on that later). This is a time to decide what to bring along or leave behind on the post-quarantine journey we’re all daydreaming about. 

3. Take the Long Way

If you’ve only got 24 hours and one tank of gas, taking the long way might be a bit of a misnomer. However, the perfect OTA blends awesome riding/driving and mellow campsite chill time. So, get creative with linking forest roads, exploring the detours, and selecting routes that slow you down somehow. 

That said, going back to the aforementioned low-stakes of an OTA, keep your limits in mind. No need to practice your trials skills on your GSA or stage rallying your Sportsmobile during quarantine. This is not the best time to be burdening the local search and rescue team and hospital resources because you pulled an Evil Knievel on an overnight campout. Pick a route that looks interesting, gets you into camp early, and won’t get you into (too much) trouble.

4. Campsite Feng Shui

Photo credit: Eva Rupert

Photo credit: Eva Rupert

I don’t actually know anything about the ancient Chinese practice of feng shui, but I do know a sweet campsite when I see one. Because you’re probably less than 100 miles from home, you should be getting to your destination with plenty of time to select a stellar spot and make it extra awesome. 

If you’re truly doing a one-tanker, you’ll have a fairly short day of travel. That means you’ll have plenty of daylight to pick the perfect plot for your tent or truck. Once you’ve found your home for the night, get classy with it. Stretch some string lights across your handlebars. Hang up your hammock, pull out the camp chairs, table, lazy boy recliner, and set it all up nice. You’ve got plenty of daylight and lots of time to enjoy it.

5. Make It a Multi-Sport 

Going multi-sport on your one-tanker makes the whole thing feel richer and more multidimensional. Take advantage of the daylight after you get into camp and hit the trails on foot, crush a couple miles in a new location, or mess around with one of those toys that’s been gathering dust in the garage for too long. 

If you came in your truck or van, you may have a few more options for a 24-hour multi-sport trip than if you came on your motorbike. Either way, bring your mountain bike, paddleboard, binoculars, running shoes, hiking boots, pogo stick, or whatever floats your boat. Mixing up multiple activities is like eating tapas; lots of bite-sized goodies make for a great meal.

6. Chill Like a Champ

Photo credit: Eva Rupert

Photo credit: Eva Rupert

You’ve had an amazing ride, discovered a hidden gem of a campsite that looks like it belongs in the Patagonia catalogue, your trail run was top notch, and now it’s time to take a deep breath and relax. Break out a good book, write in your journal, take a nap, scroll through your plant id guide, kick back and watch the stars with your dog next to you. 

While you’re hanging in your hammock, take some time to notice the nuances of the natural world around you. Remember, this is a different kind of trip. This one is about the subtlety and slowing down enough to appreciate the good things. The world is a little crazy right now and, if you’re out on a One Tank Adventure in the midst of this pandemic, you’ve surely earned some quality chill time. Enjoy it.

7. Cuisine de la Campsite

Photo credit: Eva Rupert

Photo credit: Eva Rupert

Get gourmet on your OTA! One of the benefits of a quick trip is that you don’t have to worry about produce spoiling or getting your nourishment from gas station snacks. Plus, everything you need food-wise will easily fit in one cooler, along with some frosty cold beverages.

Before you head out, do some kitchen prep to simplify a Michelin-worthy meal ahead of time (this has nothing to do with your tires, but you should check those too). I’m a big fan of marinating meat in a plastic bag, chopping veggies to the right size, and planning cocktails to pair with my menu. 

Try your hand at shish kebabs over the coals, assembling a charcuterie board, and experimenting with dutch oven peach cobbler for dessert. Unleash your inner mixologist — especially since you’re not driving anywhere tonight.

8. Play with Fire

Photo credit: Eva Rupert

Photo credit: Eva Rupert

The cornerstone of any great campout is hanging by the campfire. Now, I know you’re all pro’s at making a great fire, but here are a couple things to take into consideration when sparking the evening’s entertainment.

Location, location: If there is an established fire ring where you’re camping, use that. Otherwise, select a site away from dry brush, your extra gas can, or anything you don’t want to burn. Scrape the area clear of debris and maybe ring it with rocks. Bringing along a fire pan is another good option, especially in sensitive areas. 

Gather the goods: Tinder, kindling, and fuel are the holy trinity of a great fire. When you’re gathering wood, cover a wide area and make sure you’re not leaving things noticeably impacted. Find some bigger branches for making cooking coals, as well as extra kindling to toss on throughout the night. Your campfire is, after all, the feature presentation for the evening. Juicing it up with smaller sticks has a way of ramping up the mood and keeping you entertained. 

Put it out: Nobody wants to be the guy who burned down the forest. Smother your fire or douse it with water, depending on what’s available. And while you’re at it, practicing a little LNT is always a good idea. Even if you’re in a developed camping area, you have the opportunity to leave the place better than you found it. Obviously, you’re going to pack out everything that you brought along, but you should also scout around for nano-trash and erase all traces of your fire scar from the night before.

9. Wash, Rinse, Repeat

Photo credit: Eva Rupert

Photo credit: Eva Rupert

When you’re back in the driveway, refuel and replenish anything that you depleted overnight, fill your tank, and do some vehicle maintenance. Once that’s all done, might as well get out the map and start scheming on your next trip … like, how about tomorrow?

Whether for pleasure or necessity, being able to head out at the drop of a hat is a skill worth mastering. Think of One-Tank Adventures as training runs for that overland marathon you’re planning. When the time comes again for big trips, all your systems, skills, and gear are in peak condition. Also, not to get all survivalist on you, but there may come a time that you’ll be glad you’ve got extra rations in your AluBoxes and you’re fully prepared to quickly take the high road if things go south. 

We do micro adventures to keep our skills honed, muscles flexed, and senses sharp. I’m not saying that a One-Tank Adventure will qualify you for hazard pay or be the trip of a lifetime, but heading out on a quick overnighter is a ton of fun and way more productive than another quarantined night of watching vehicle builds on YouTube. If you play your cards right, you’ll return home invigorated and stoked for another adventure. Maybe next time you’ll even get to burn two tanks of gas.

Header photo credit: Eva Rupert

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