Overlanding is now the name for camping out of your rig while traveling. We've done it all our lives and know that it's a special journey. As a rule, it's the journey that matters rather than the destination. However, recently both of those things mattered, and we threw in some adventure and peril as well as we crossed the Australian Outback. Our goal was to retrace the famous journey from 50 years ago in Jeeps; the expedition took five hardy souls in three vintage Jeeps from the east coast to the western edge of the continent—some 3,500 miles in all. The most difficult part would be the most important: crossing the Simpson Desert.
Located in the heart of the Outback, Ted Colson was the first European to cross the Simpson Desert in 1936, and then it was crossed by a scientific expedition in 1939 led by Dr. Cecil Madigan. Since Madigan's crossing, no one had trekked the vast wasteland until 1969. At the time, Ian McDonald operated a desert expedition business and had hosted a Jeep executive on vacation. The two hit it off and together they cooked up a marketing plan to promote the new Jeep Overlander, which was just being introduced and built in Australia. The crazy idea was a transcontinental, unsupported Jeep adventure from east to west—straight through the Simpson. Fortunately for all concerned, the crew conquered the Outback and made the epic trip, and their incredible deed faded into history. Until now, that is.
When Vaughn Becker was a lad growing up in Australia, he followed the epic journey of the Simpson Desert Expedition and vowed that one day he too would stand at the geographical center of that desert. Some 50 years later, he figured that there should be some sort of a memorial or anniversary event and contacted Michael Bowen, then-publisher of Jeep Action Magazine in Australia, who readily concurred. Soon afterward the current publisher, Ben Davidson, and renowned adventurer and photojournalist Chris Collard of Adventure Architects dreamed about actually retracing the route in Jeeps, and the BFGoodrich 50th Anniversary East West Australia Jeep Expedition was born. We immediately agreed to participate, and journalists Justin He and Sue Mead were tapped to join as well. Aussies Alan and Karen McMullen and Paul Graham joined the team, as did historian Derek Redmond from the famous CJ-3B page to round out the troupe. But the icing on the cake was that two of the surviving three original members of the first expedition were keen on joining as well. Although in their eighties, leader Ian McDonald and filmographer Ian Eggleston agreed to cross the Simpson again and give us as much guidance and help as possible.
So began at the BFGoodrich 50th Anniversary East West Australia Jeep Expedition, a trip that would cross the continent with five Jeeps and 13 souls. Over 3,700 miles were traveled in the 15-day crossing of the continent, and nearly half of that time was spent in the isolated Simpson Desert. Follow along for a taste of how incredible a trip it was—and to energize yourself to go farther in your own quest for adventure.