For U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Oscar “Ox” Rivera, the journey has never been about the destination. It has been, and still is, about the sights, sounds, and experiences along the way.
After more than three decades serving America around the world, Ox knows how to pack for just any situation. He first saw ZARGES used by the German Army, which carefully packed the cases with necessary medical supplies. Subsequently, he saw ZARGES cases delicately transporting radios for NATO.
“I had seen lithium ion batteries transported in plastic composite military boxes before,” recalled Rivera. “Those composite cases were three times bulkier and heavier than they needed to be, and they were just as heavy when they were empty as they were full. When I saw a lightweight ZARGES transporting lithium ion batteries, I decided that if it was good enough for lithium transport, it’s good enough for me.”
In retirement, Ox is considered an overlander, though that isn’t what it was called when he started. “We were overlanders before it was called overlanding. We called ourselves car campers.”
His retirement journeys have taken him from home base in El Paso, TX, to Washington State, where he and his wife waited out the weather before venturing north on the Mackenzie Highway to the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway - and finally to Tuktoyaktuk, a tiny hamlet on the Arctic Ocean. His ZARGES case accompanied him on this odyssey, just as it has through the winter in Thule, Greenland; monsoon season in the Philippines; and assignments in Panama, Spain, and Puerto Rico.
“In the Philippines, when it rains, it pours. Every day, it rains like clockwork. The case never leaked,” boasted Ox. “On our trip north of the Arctic Circle, we were constantly pounded by rain, snow, and mud. We used the case to store our bedding, and every night it came out dry. We never had to change any seals, the box just kept the elements out.”
Ox takes pride in the fact that his first overlanding excursions weren’t accompanied with small luxuries like GPS that are often taken for granted. “We just got maps from ranger stations and made educated guesses, which is an oxymoron if you think about it; we made our decisions based on the best possible information we had.”
For years, his ZARGES case was transported using the best possible information available: strapped to the rack on top of his Toyota truck. Several years ago, he saw roof rack mounts at Overland Expo West and inquired about how the mounts could be used to transport his K470.
It wasn’t just any K470.
It was his beloved K470 that had withstood monsoon season in the Philippines, been dropped on countless occasions, rolled out of a truck and tumbled down the street, and seen many other instances of tough love. The same K470 that has dutifully served Ox for a decade and a half.
Ox made the decision to sand the edges of his cherished K470 to ensure that the roof rack mounts would function as intended. And they did. “The mounts are the sturdiest mounts I’ve ever had on a vehicle,” he boasted. “I sanded the edges a bit, and it worked like a charm.”
Ox’s next adventures will take him on the Continental Divide in 2023 and all the way to Tierra del Fuego in 2024. His ZARGES will again play an instrumental role as he navigates the complex geography of North and South America. “I take these trips so I can experience what is between point A and B. It is not about the destination, it is about how I get there.”
However he gets there, there’s no doubt that his ZARGES will play an integral role.