Bear with me for a bit? Sometime in the early 1980s I happened across an intriguing article in a U.S. four-wheel-drive magazine. In it was a photo of a fellow standing in a sandy expanse of desert, next to a very early Range Rover. A line bisected two words scrawled in the sand: ‘Mali’ and ‘Algeria.’ The fellow leaned on a shovel, apparently the tool used to scribe this middle-of-nowhere border.
That was my introduction to Tom Sheppard, ex-Royal Air Force test pilot and the leader of the first west-to-east crossing of the Sahara Desert, the Joint Services Expedition, in 1975. In the years to come I followed his (frequently solo) excursions through the most isolated regions of the Algerian Sahara, often completely off-tracks. In 1999, when I heard he had published a book called Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide that would be available at Land Rover dealers, I drove 120 miles to the swank showroom in Scottsdale, and stood in line to pay for a copy behind wealthy urbanite Range Rover buyers picking out Africa-themed spare tire covers.
Fast forward eight or nine years, when I was fortunate enough to work with Tom during my time as editor of Overland Journal. A year or so later, Roseann and I had the opportunity to meet him on a trip to England. To my amazement, there was not a trace of the ex-test-pilot-Sahara-explorer-RGS-medal-winner arrogance I would have expected. Instead, we were welcomed by a quiet, humorous, and steadfastly self-effacing man who doted on the horses and sheep that grazed on the farmland adjacent to his modest cottage. Over the next few visits we became friends.
Fast forward again to 2014. We’d been trying to convice Tom to publish a fourth edition of VDEG (‘veedeg,’ as he and everyone refers to Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide). The third edition had sold out in half the time he expected. He agreed it was needed—but then sent me a mockup of the proposed cover, which (as you can see from the header image) was a complete shock.
So now, after seven months of exhaustive research and writing on both Tom’s and my part, I can announce that the fourth edition of Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide, by Tom Sheppard and Jonathan Hanson (woo hoo!) will be out in mid-May, with copies also available at the Overland Expo. This edition has received the most extensive updating and expanding since the original, with much more content specifically relevant to North American readers than in previous editions. Total content is up by nearly 20 percent—it's now a 600-page book.
Any verbose attempt on my part to explain what an honor this is would be futile. So I’ll just say I’m thrilled and humbled to have contributed in a very minor way to a classic in the field of expedition literature. If you don’t yet own a copy of VDEG, or if you have previous editions and need to complete your collection, please follow this link and put your name on the waiting list. As before, VDEG 4 will be produced by Tom’s one-man publishing enterprise, Desert Winds, and quantities will be limited.