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Blog Posts (10)

  • Gaia GPS: The Ultimate Beginner's Guide

    Ahemmm, Get The App The Gaia GPS app has been my go-to mapping source for three years now. Our first tip is simple: get it. I've been overlanding and exploring in a Jeep since 2005 and I've had just about every type of route-finding device out there. Starting from hand-held and mounted GPS units from Magellan to Garmin and even a Lowrance Chart Plotter for a short while. I have multiple mapping apps on my iPhone for overlanding and mountain biking. These include Gaia, of course, but also Trailforks, LeadNav, Polaris, AllTrails, Geocaching, and MTB Project. The one I always return to is Gaia GPS when the plan is to explore. Wanna know why? Read on to find out ~ Incredible Platform Gaia is designed to work with your smartphone, in this case my iPhone, and with the GPS hardware and software getting better, it makes little sense for me to invest in a secondary device. Your smartphone is essentially a GPS, without dropping more money on a separate device. Now, Google Maps serves me well to get to more obvious locations, but once we get off-grid I lean on the Gaia app. I downloaded it onto my iPad Mini and once logged into my account and sync'd, all of my information is right there. The iPad is older and I deleted the majority of apps that were on it. It's now a dedicated platform, mostly for Gaia, and when mounted on to my BulletPoint hardware it's incredibly functional. Since the iPad is wifi only I bought a Dual Universal GPS Receiver and it integrates with the iPad perfectly even showing on the GPS receiver app how many satellites I'm connected with. Navigation When planning a route or wanting to see something you can manually insert a waypoint and save it. If I want to explore an area I'll open Gaia and Google Earth, both on my laptop and drop waypoints at all of the spots I want to stop at or potential places to camp. Google Earth has more clarity when zooming in and I'll use it to identify existing camping locations or routes, then drop a waypoint. I'll copy the lat/long from Google Earth, paste into Gaia, and then save it. Say your buddy sends you a lat/long of where he is set up to camp. You simply copy/paste the coordinates into the Gaia search bar and the waypoint icon will show you on the map where it's at. Tap "Route To" and you have turn-by-turn directions. To the left is the end result of a recent excursion I recorded. I had specific routes but we did not use all of them. No extra chargers Purchasing a secondary unit requires bringing along that devices charging cord. Since I already keep multiple iPhone charging cables in my vehicle I'm already prep'd the next time I head out. Laptop integration A big feature I like; I can plan routes and set waypoints from my laptop by logging into my account. At 55 years old the thought of trying to build a route from my phone or iPad is painful. I know kids today can do everything on their devices. Not me. I like the larger screen, real mouse, and real keyboard! You sync your phone and your plans drop to your device. Sharing info from secondary devices (Dedicated GPS units) To sync your trip in Gaia go to your settings, tap on your account, and tap on the sync button, that's it. You can do that with secondary devices but I had trouble then sharing plans with others who didn't have, say, the Garmin app. Maybe that's been remedied, but I'll never know. When the route is planned I download the area and share it with the guys. Search and Save Routes You can easily search for individual destinations, tracks, roads, trails, waypoints, etc. and save them. Once you have saved an item you can access it from your saved items. Once you've completed a trip or visited a particular waypoint, toggle the "eye" feature and it is then hidden from the main map. You can avoid having potentially hundreds of waypoints and routes clogging your view as you plan another trip. Upgrade Options You can use the app free, or, as I did, upgrade to the Premium version. The best part of this feature is you now have over 20 different maps and layers you can apply while setting their transparency. In other words, how much you want them to "show" on your device. To the bottom, left is a photo of the different overlays you have access to with the Premium version. A Mildly Challenging Learning Curve In other words, you have to use it to learn it. It's not Google Maps where you put in an address and your phone tells you where to turn. You have to actively engage the app with planning, dropping waypoints, creating routes, etc and learning the minutia of this platform. Battery life Since you will be using your smartphone more, its battery will drain much faster than sending a few texts. You should make sure that your smartphone is weatherproof and shockproof with a good case since you will be using it more. Privacy Let's say your driving along on a remote forest road. On Gaia you see a "road" and it looks like it takes you to a potentially great camping spot. On your Gaia map you see that the road is approaching and you take it. The Grid feature on the app shows it to be about 1.5 miles to the end. The track hasn't been used in some time and the grass is starting to cover it. But, at the end, you encounter an epic viewpoint with a fine fire ring that is already built, great cover from the elements, and several slightly used camping areas. What the hell? This is exactly what happened to us and we spent two nights there. And with the waypoint/track set to "Private", no one else will find it. That is, unless they really look for it! In the pic to the right you will see the Privacy setting at the bottom. Offline Use If you are worried about your mobile network coverage or data use, simply download a section or sections of a map and use it offline. You can download up to 10,000 tiles. Below is an example of the window showing download status. Route/Waypoint Finding Tip When I know an area I want to check out I'll start dropping waypoints such as great viewspots, potential camping spots, checkpoints and other points of interest. When I get into the nitty-gritty I'll have Google Maps and Google Earth open and will use both to check routes and camping spots. Google Earth seems to be clearer when zooming in so I'll use all three as I plan a trip. Gaia Wrapup There is so much that Gaia GPS offers. And not just for the overlander, but the hiker, biker, or any other activity where you cover a remote distance and need help. And what's not to like. The app is free and the entry version is free. Geez! It's at least worth a look! Thanks for the read and we look forward to seeing you, "out there"! Be sure and drop a comment and share!

  • Grand Canyon: The North Rim - A Must Read to Plan Your Adventure

    It's All In The Journey...sometimes! Crazy Jug and More - Tips & Tricks To Have a Safe and Fun Experience What Are You Waiting For? It's All In The Journey...sometimes! In the world of Overlanding the journey is considered to be as much a part of the adventure as the destination. It's not supposed to be a mad dash to your camp spot but rather routing yourself to view points, exploring back roads, and taking in the scenery. And we try. As soon as we get into our general area the dirt roads beckon us, some legit, a lot that aren't! All those we pass by are looked at with a questioning eye wondering, "Where do YOU go?!" This has been the scenario for many adventures and to some degree, the one I'm writing about here. The difference with this one is a viewpoint on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon called, Crazy Jug, which was on our agenda. The journey was great, but the destination stole the show many times over. Read on to help you plan your next excursion and consider a visit to this amazing viewpoint. Despite the drive, you will not regret it! Crazy Jug and More - Tips & Tricks To Have a Safe and Fun Experience Epic. Stunning. Grandeur. Living three hours south of the Grand Canyon I have visited the South & North Rims countless times. Some to hang out for a weekend, others when we were A remote section of road near the Vermillion Cliffs completing Rim-to-Rim traverses. It's beautiful. Everywhere. But being alone with a few friends in a remote location is quite different. Getting off of a packed bus is fine, and I've done that, but to experience the vastness with no noise or crowds of people is beyond description. Enter Crazy Jug Viewpoint. Google Maps easily navigates you and after a roughly 2 hour drive on 30 miles of forest roads from Jacob Lake, the track ends at a small cul-de-sac that circles around a patch of trees and bushes. On the south side of the turnaround is a fenced area clearly stating this viewpoint does not allow camping beyond the simple, wooden fence. Crazy Jug Sunset Since you will probably be the only humans around park and prepare to be taken away. My first sensory observation was the noise. As in, there was none. There weren't any aircraft flying over head, wildlife was still, and there was none of the noise we are accustomed to in our everyday lives. Walking through the small opening in the fence you are quickly greeted by the Grand Canyon where you witness Crazy Jug Point. It felt as if I could reach out and touch what I thought was a painting. The colors were intense as I looked at each layer of the Canyon. The light snow still on the ground added an element of calmness. With pollution not prevalent in the area the air was cool and crisp. Off to the right there is a trail that takes you about a 1/4 mile to another overlook that will leave you thunderstruck. Depending on the weather conditions the road is farely user friendly. Despite this there a few things to consider when getting out this remote. Crazy Jug courtesy of Google Earth First, there is no cell signal, and don't plan on having one either. Always let a third party know where you're going and the route you plan to take. Consider bringing along a GPS if you have one or see if you can borrow one. Gaia GPS is a great app with a free option. You can easily create a route and drop waypoints and share this with a friend. Second, you don't want to drive a beater out here. Yes, I've read about loners driving their 1986 Toyota Corolla around the globe, but let them be them. For us, make sure your vehicle is in top condition. Our trip there was a part of a larger excursion. We were in well-built Jeeps, off-road trailers, and plenty of gear. Third, pack a bag with extra food, water, and survival essentials dependent on weather conditions. Bring extra clothing and warm gear. You are at elevation and even summer nights will be much cooler. Plan on a solo trip. We were in the area for three days and saw two vehicles. Should something happen to you or your vehicle you will more than likely have to figure a recovery plan on your own. Fill up your tank prior to hitting the dirt roads. Jacob's Lake has a gas station. You don't have to be a meteorologist, but make sure you are aware of the weather. Snow and rain turns the area closer to the point into a muddy slop. Be prepared. And finally, slow down. Yes, the road is curvy and you may encounter another vehicle, but moreso to enjoy your surroundings as you head out. What Are You Waiting For? Seriously, go! Reserve a cabin at the Jacob Lake Inn, Jacob Lake Campground or one of the other campgrounds in the area and prepare for the day trip of your life! Make it an early morning and watch the sunrise, or slow roll and watch the sunset. Thanks! Please feel free to leave any comments or words of wisdom I may have missed!

  • 5 Top Things To Do In Sedona, Arizona!

    After 33 years of being a homegrown Cajun from Louisiana my wife and I decided it was time for a move. Her career aspirations were aggressive and after doing some digging she learned Arizona was exploding, particularly Phoenix, and in 2000, we found ourselves in our new home in our new state. I preferred to run and loved running trails which I did when I raced. You'd be hard-pressed to find amazing single-track in SouthWest Louisiana so the move to Arizona was a great fit. Fast-forward to 2022 and I can say I have scoured Central and Northern Arizona via trail running, camping, exploring, overlanding, and mountain biking. Arizona has no shortage of epic places to visit with epic travel in between. The Grand Canyon (duh!), Mogollon Rim, Flagstaff, San Francisco Peaks, Crown King, Senator Highway, Perkinsville Highway, Jerome, Prescott, Payson, and the list goes on. One of my favorites is Sedona. Entering Sedona via AZ Hwy 179 the Red Rocks hit you as you round a corner just south of Oak Creek Village. From there the views just get more spectacular. As with most visitors, they have a limited amount of time to explore the area. Most are only visiting for a day or two as they navigate to other areas of the state. To help with some of the decision-making Gear Werks has put together a list of top 5 things to do whilst visiting this incredible area. With the exception of two in this list I have done all of the others. For the remaining two, friends and family have participated in those and left with nothing but fabulous memories and experiences. So, what's in this list? Pink Jeep Tours Pink Jeep has been around Sedona for a long Camping near the top of Schnebly Hill Road with Sedona in the background time. I've watched them grow from a small base in Sedona to offering a plethora of experiences and services. Not just in Sedona, but in other locations as well. I had family members enjoy one of their tours and they raved. But why Pink Jeep? Well, there are other tour operators but if you want to see Submarine Rock and Chicken Point, there the only outfit that can take you on your tour of this area. You can get more info here. Mountain Bike It's really cool that when talking about top US Mountain biking trails in the US Sedona is front & center. On my first trip to ride there I was every bit a novice, but some of the guys in our group were extremly capable riders and I let them convince me to ride Hiline with them. Oh, geez! If you like exposure, as in a narrow trail with a rock wall on one side and a sheer drop on the other then this one's for you. Depending on what your plan is flats are my choice for the more challenging and technical trails. If you have a climbing day in store I prefer clipless. On another trip I rode up Schnebly Hill Road while eating the dust of Jeep tours and side by sides. Coming down I jumped onto Hangover and had a great time descending back into Sedona. Choose your trails wisely. If it declares it's an expert trail, it is! In fact, Hiline and Hangover are rated "Professional" in some reports. The app, is a valuable tool to help you decide. If you find yourself in need of a solid mountain bike to rent stop in at Sedona Bike & Bean. They'll get you fitted and out the door in no time. Drive AZ Hwy 89a Whenever friends & family pay us a visit they'll often make their way north. Of course, Sedona is on their list or, they'll visit Flagstaff. Either way I suggest they take the meandering 89a which leads north out of Sedona and back to I-17, or catch it south of Flagstaff and back into Sedona. It follows the beautiful Oak Creek Canyon with tight switchbacks on the northern end and beautiful views of the creek. To catch it in Sedona it's easy to find as you make your way through the touristy downtown area. Just follow the signs. If you're Southbound from Flagstaff you'll take the Ft. Tuthill exit west and follow the signs. Cornville, AZ Wineries For our 25th Anniversary the wife and I made Sedona a long weekend and just south of there is the community of Cornville. She had explored Cornville, AZ once before and wanted to take another peak. After an easy Saturday morning we splurged on a car service that took us to several wineries there. It's a sleepy, two-lane road with plenty of opportunity to see Oak Creek and explore. Our still favorite winery is Page Springs Cellars. With a glass of Pinot Noir in hand we walked the grounds and enjoyed the overlook purpose-built near Oak Creek on their property. The place is very inviting with friendly staff. Rent a Jeep You can't come to Sedona and not experience the trails in a rugged 4x4 Jeep. If you choose to drive one yourself Barlow Adventures is where you can do just that! Instead of a scheduled tour, create your own! Take your time on Schnebly Hill Road, Broken Arrow, or Soldier's Pass all on your own schedule! And with excellent Jeep Rubicon rentals and knowledgeable staff you're guaranteed to walk away with great memories. I could go on & on about staying busy in Sedona. From hiking, visiting The Chapel of the Holy Cross, experiencing a Vortex, food, festivals, and so on you just can't go wrong. I've listed my top five. Drop a comment to offer your best experiences!

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  • About Us | Brand Names Direct

    About Us SHOP Brand Names All Direct is powered by Josh & Jake who simply want the best for their customers. We are about being better than the rest. Buyers today are surrounded by e-commerce options and there’s only one way to stand out. Great prices paralleled with great service. As full-time liquidators Brand Names All Direct buys in quantity and passes those savings onto you, the customer. And, due to Jake’s Autistic challenges, we happily donate a portion of BND profits to charities who support research efforts in this area. ​ Josh and his wife have a daughter and live, work and enjoy the Arizona outdoors. As a former Marine with service in Desert Storm and later, Iraq, Josh’s outdoor adventures range from trail and endurance running, camping, overlanding, and mountain biking. ​ Jake knows all things Anime, gaming, and comics. He enjoys working out every morning and he, Josh and Josh’s daughter have ventured on a few camping trips. Jake’s primary responsibilities with BND includes order fulfillment, product listings and inventory. ​ Josh & Jake first met in 2008 when Jake entered 4th grade. Josh transitioned from law enforcement to teaching and began working with Jake. When Jake entered high school Josh worked with him towards graduation in 2018; the same year they became owners of Brand Names All Direct. To date, BND has grown and we look forward to adding top active wear and outdoor clothing. Stay tuned to see what we can offer! ​ With that being said, thanks for stopping by and we appreciate your business!

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