Risk & Reward: Growing New Mexico Backroads

Virgin River Cottonwoods at Zion National Park - Five years ago, this photo was featured in the Overland Journal; it was one of my first published images. Beyond the tangled branches, dying light, and radiant rock, the photo represents the humble beginnings of New Mexico Backroads [NMBR]. Back in 2008, I was challenged by my brother-in-law Phil Byrne to start a blog that featured my images and explorations of New Mexico, to build a presence in the 4WD community and inspire enthusiasts and companies to enlist my services. At the time I was struggling to build a niche business from nothing and looking for guidance. It would take a few hundred NMBR blog posts, accompanied by a few thousand photos, before I received my first photo purchase inquiry. That first inquiry fell through, but soon I began selling $35.00 8X12 prints [printed at Sam's Club for $1.99] steady enough to keep my ambitions kindled and bank account in the black. It would be a few hundred more blog posts before the Overland Journal reached out to me for photos. 

As for the guiding and scouting, during the early years (2004 to 2008), I was learning the ropes of building, breaking, fixing, and maintaining a 4WD vehicle. I was leading small trail runs and weekend trips across the backcountry with my local club and other enthusiasts. I was traversing and learning the backroads along the US/MEX border—now one of my biggest specialties. Driving and vehicle recovery were skills that were earned over the tens of thousands of miles of dirt travels. Cutting my 4WD teeth was a long, painful and rewarding period. 

With constant forward motion, determination and ample blessings I've been able to turn it all into a livelihood. Most importantly, I’ve had unfaltering support from my wife Meghan. The Virgin River Cottonwoods image represents the start of a professional career I once dreamed about—a reality now. NMBR services have expanded to include: adventure and landscape photography [for commissions, prints, digital media & publication]; photojournalism [including wildland fire, US/MEX Border and other high-risk assignments]; scouting and consulting for backcountry film productions and commercial photography; overland, expedition/overland and rock crawling guiding services [for New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah and Texas]; and off-road driving and vehicle recovery skills training. While each job I do in the field is unique, all of it is rooted in providing strong customer service and support. 

Imagine loving what you do so much that you don’t constantly watch the clock, wait for the weekend, surf the net for hours looking for a visual fix, or yearn for vacation days to arrive. Life is too short to dislike your profession. Take a risk, work hard and go boldly. If the job isn’t out there, make a career where one does not currently exist. Going out on your own will likely double your work hours, slash your income and may result in failure and/or divorce, but the rewards (even with failure) will be immeasurable. Are you ready for your next great adventure? It’s out there…


NMBR’s 2016 Ghost Divide Expeditions [GDE16] - Overland Expo West Based Expeditions

Ghost Divide Expedition [Original] – Overland to the Expo - Sunday, May 15th -19th, 2016 
Ghost Divide Expedition II – Overland from the Expo - Monday, May 23rd - 27th, 2016

Overview & Invite:

If your prospective 2016 Overland Expo WEST trip involves copious amounts of pavement, consider airing-down, engaging 4WD, and taking the path less traveled with New Mexico Backroads.

Updated 11/9/15 - Due to high demand, NMBR will be guiding two separate five day [500-mile] expeditions that will traverse some of New Mexico and Arizona’s loneliest backroads. 

The Ghost Divide Expedition [Original] will lead to the 2016 Overland Expo WEST; the Ghost Divide Expedition II will lead from the 2016 Overland Expo WEST.  Both Ghost Divide Expeditions will follow the same route and cover three unique areas—Gila National Forest, White Mountains, and Mogollon Rim.  Over two-thirds of the Ghost Divide Expeditions route will be comprised of unpaved roads.  The Ghost Divide Expeditions will provide a demanding [yet rewarding] experience—the days will be long, the roads will be unforgiving, and the pace will be brisk.  The Ghost Divide Expeditions will require participants to be self-supportive with regards to vehicle, equipment, meals and supplies.  All nights will include camping and enjoying the company of fellow overlanders, deep in the backcountry. 

For the Ghost Divide Expeditions, New Mexico Backroads seeks the most self-sufficient, open-minded, and good spirited overlanders.

Where & When: 

The Ghost Divide Expedition [Original] will take place during the week leading up to the Overland Expo WEST—Sunday, May 15th through Thursday, May 19th.  Participants will meet the morning of Sunday May 15th in Southern New Mexico; the exact time and departure location will be announced to participants on April 1st, 2016.

The Overland Expo WEST begins the morning of Friday, May 20th and ends the evening of Sunday, May 22nd

The Ghost Divide Expedition II will take place during the week following the Overland Expo WEST—Monday, May 23rd through Friday, May 27th.  Participants will meet the morning of Monday, May 23rd at Mormon Lake [site of the Overland Expo WEST]; the exact departure time will be announced to participants on April 1st. 


The Ghost Divide Expeditions will require participants to be self-supportive with regards to vehicle, equipment, meals and supplies.  All nights will include camping and enjoying natural surroundings, deep in the backcountry.  Services of any kind, including cell, fuel, or anything remotely civilized, will be unavailable for stretches of up to 225 miles.  In the time leading up to the Ghost Divide Expeditions, participants (or Ghost Dividers) will be provided with helpful and extensive information on how to prepare for the adventure and what to expect.  The self-sufficient aspect of NMBR guided expeditions [and other 4WD based adventures] challenges and prepares participants for their future 4WD based endeavors—to go boldly, prepared, and with confidence.   

The Experience:

2016 will mark the 5th year New Mexico Backroads has guided the Ghost Divide Expeditions in connection with the Overland Expo WEST; this year’s route will be the longest, roughest and best yet.  The 500-mile Ghost Divide Expeditions will include a diverse range of scenery and terrain including desert, grassland, chaparral, forest, rivers, canyons, creeks, lakes, and wildland burn scars.  Road types and conditions will include canyon bottom narrows, washboards, rutted two tracks, primitive non-maintained, graded, mountain shelf, and [least of all] paved highway.  The Ghost Divide Expeditions will feature outstanding vistas, dozens of water crossings, historic landmarks, wildlife viewing opportunities [including Mexican grey wolf territory], and aggressive elevation contours [between 4,000 and 9,000 feet].  For those that join in, the only guarantee is that they will conclude their adventure with new friends, dirty rigs, big smiles, and stories that will make their fellow overlanders envious. 

Ghost Divide Expeditions Resources & Features:

NMBR’s Ghost Divide Expeditions photo gallery LINK

TCT Magazine Article - Writer and photographer Phillip Jones recounts his experience on the 2015 Ghost Divide Expedition. LINK (GDE story starts on page 6)

MOTUS Article -  Zach Berning, Digital Editor at Motus, previews NMBR’s 2015 Ghost Divide Expeditions. LINK

REVOLUTION EXPEDITION Article - Adventurist Terry Baker recounts his experience on the 2015 Ghost Divide Expedition. LINK

Perspective from a 2015 Ghost Divider -

     "Just finished the Ghost Divide Expedition II with Jake Quinones, our guide at New Mexico Backroads and I just can't say enough of what a great time I had. The trip was seamless, the scenery and backcountry was just absolutely beautiful. But our guide made all the difference in the world. His knowledge and history of all the areas were outstanding, making the places we saw come alive. I never questioned his capability or his professionalism at any time. I would and will travel with NMBR many more times in the future! One trip off the bucket list. Now for the rest..." - Debbie W., Northern Arizona
The Next Step

If you are interested in joining one of the 2016 Ghost Divide Expeditions [Original or II], please email nmbackroads(at) for full details, pricing and registration information.

NMBR’s Long-term BFGoodrich KO2 Review: 15,000 Mile Report

In March, New Mexico Backroads [NMBR] began the 2015 guide season with a new set of BFGoodrich 37x12.50R17 KO2 tires mounted on the NMBR Rubicon for a yearlong review. “Is it time to come back to an all-terrain tire?”—this question would serve as the running theme for New Mexico Backroads’ ongoing review and feature of the KO2. Would an overlanding based professional or enthusiast be willing to give up their big block mud-terrains for BFGoodrich’s next generation aggressive all-terrain tire? As of November 2015, the KO2 tires have over 15,000 miles of use, the majority of which has been off pavement and on dirt at 14PSI. NMBR’s 2015 adventures have included an expedition hosted for American Expedition Vehicles, two Ghost Divide Expeditions, traversing the historic Butterfield Trail with Overland Journal, the Gila Legends Expedition, the Camino del Tesoro Overland and a host of other rugged field work across the backcountry of the Southwest. The tires have been subject to every possible surface condition with the exception of ice. As mentioned in the (May) 2,000 mile KO2 review, the tires provide exceptional traction in a variety of challenging conditions and terrain while still maintaining excellent pavement manners. These strong characteristics have remained unchanged over the past eight months and 15,000 miles.
Tire Review Background: Coming from my excellent experience (zero failures) with a half dozen sets of BFGoodrich KM2 Mud Terrain tires since their 2008 release, the KO2’s had some big shoes to fill. My early expectations for the new KO2 All-Terrain tires were that they would be a better all-around tire, but could possibly fall short of the KM2 in the most challenging situations or terrain. So far, my early assumption has been proven wrong—read on. Sidewall Durability: In technical off-pavement driving situations where the tire tread is not in full contact with the terra firma, and using the sidewalls for traction is necessary, the BFGoodrich KO2’s sidewalls hold strong. The KO2’s sidewalls feature sipes, a serrated shoulder pattern and an aggressive side lug design that provides ample bite when steering precision is critical. The sidewall material has been improved over the previous KO tire with BFGoodrich’s new Coregard Technology which provides a more durable rubber composition that resists bruising and cutting. For added protection, the durable sidewall rubber compound and side lugs of the KO2 extend farther towards the center of the tire. Hundreds of miles of both dry and flowing riverbed roads have been traversed by the NMBR Rubicon with the KO2. Hundreds, if not thousands, of rocks (football to VW Bug in size) have manhandled the sidewalls. When airing up, I always inspect the vehicle’s underside and tires for damage. Despite the heavy rock rubbings that lead all the way to the wheels; the sidewalls show no sign of cuts or gouges. Some of the harshest sidewall contact has come from fallen ponderosa snags in burn scar areas, where baked branches extend onto the trail like spearheads. While driving over such hazards on purpose is not advised, the splintered timbers have not compromised the KO2’s sidewalls. It was noted in the May 2,000-mile review that the KO2 sidewalls were stiff and the preferable off-pavement PSI was 12.5 PSI. In the months since, the sidewalls have broken in a bit, providing greater flexibility and a more pronounced sidewall “bulge” at low PSI. At 15,000 miles, 14 PSI now provides optimal (overall) off pavement stability and tractionfor NMBR Rubicon. 

Traction, Tread & Mileage: It is official, the BFGoodrich KO2 has equal or better overall traction characteristics as the BFGoodrich KM2. While the majority of the mileage I log is off-pavement, 4WD is only engaged when necessary. Many of the routes NMBR covers are three or four hundred miles between fuel stops where fuel conservation is critical. With the KO2 tires, I’ve been able to travel more miles in 2WD than with the previous KM2 tires. Whereas with the KM2 tires I used to arrive in Reserve, NM for refuel on fumes, after three days traveling along the Gila Legends Expedition route, I’m now arriving on a bit less than a quarter tank with the KO2 tires. The increased mileage could be attributed to enhanced traction and reduced 4WD engagement and the tighter (lower rolling resistance) tread pattern of the KO2—when comparing to the KM2. Either way, I’ll take it! Traction while climbing loose steep inclines is on par with the KM2. Spin out and breakaways are minimal when the differentials are both open in 4-low and non-existent when the differentials are both locked on the loosest and most angled terrain. The quality of traction the KO2 tires provide in these difficult conditions rival that of the knobbiest mud terrains on the market—a big statement for an all-terrain tire. The extensive siping found throughout the KO2’s iconic interlocking tread block pattern provide enhanced traction beyond the aggressive treads themselves. While the tread edges remain sharp and unphased after 15,000 miles of hard use, the sipes edges themselves display slight rounding—this indicates that the sipes are working hard and essential to the tread pattern’s performance. Between the treads are small pyramid shaped risers that promote the ejection of stones and debris to optimize traction by keeping the tread gaps open and prevent drilling (or embedded stone caused tire damage). Pavement Manners: The BFGoodrich KO2 remains predictable and stable. Cornering is excellent for a 37-inch tall tire. Since the May 2,000-mile review, the preferred street air pressure has come down to 28 PSI. This puts all but a quarter inch of the tread in contact with the pavement while providing a decent ride on New Mexico’s pothole riddled byways. While the tires were fairly quiet rolling down smooth highway when brand new, they produce slightly more noise with 15,000 miles of use—not really a concern or complaint, just an observation. The KO2’s are still quieter than a new set of KM2’s. Balancing has been undramatic; no tire cause wandering, negative feedback or vibrations can be detected.
Tire Wear Characteristics: While keeping the basic overall interlocking tread block appearance of the previous KO all-terrain tire, BFGoodrich has heavily modified the tread rubber compound of the KO2 to provide a 100% longer on dirt tread life expectancy with the new KO2—a figure derived from extensive Baja development and third party testing. Given the hard life the NMBR Rubicon’s BFGoodrich KO2 tires have lived in a relatively short period if tune, the treads are in good condition. The tread depth of the tires new was 15/32 of an inch, at over 15,000 miles; they now measure an impressive 12/32 of an inch. It should be noted that the spare is still unused and will not be included in the regular 3,500-mile rotation and balance schedule. The NMBR Rubicon’s frontend alignment schedule has been every 5,000 miles. As far as trail related wear, only a half dozen nicks the size of a fingernail are present in the tread blocks—no chunking, splitting or cutting is evident. The tread block edges are still sharp and unphased. The siping within the tread blocks display minimal rounding—evidence the sipes are hard at work providing maximum traction. The wear exhibited so far would be the best I’ve seen of an aggressive all-terrain tire. The 15,000 mile KO2 review photos (displayed here) provide the best feedback on wear—the images say it all. The NMBR Rubicon’s KO2 tires are not even halfway through their service life.  
Rough Roads Ahead: As the fall sets in on the Southwest and temperatures cool, NMBR will be heading into the desert and hitting the rock strewn trails of Southern New Mexico. Will the KO2’s hold their own as the underdog all terrain or will the KM2’s be going back on? Stay tuned for the next installment of NMBR’s yearlong test and review of the BFGoodrich KO2.

For full BFGoodrich KO2 All-Terrain tire speciefications visit BFGoodrich's website HERE. For more information about New Mexico Backroads upcoming guided expeditions and overland adventures email nmbackroads(at) or visit NMBR's trip planning page HERE

Editor's Note: In early 2015, NMBR reached out BFGoodrich to provide (at no charge to NMBR) a set of (5) KO2 All-Terrain tries in order to conduct a year-long detailed, candid, and subjective review of the tire. BFGoodrich agreed to NMBR’s long-term review and provided a set of (5) KO2 All-Terrain at no charge. Since NMBR’s final 1-Year (25,000-mile) review conclusion, the tires (as of September 2016) passed the 40,000-mile mark on the Dusy Ershim Trail. NMBR has since purchased at their own expense (and at no discount) two sets of KO2 All-Terrain Tires—a replacement set for the NMBR Rubicon and a set for the new NMBR Prospector.


New Mexico Backroads 2015 Camino del Tesoro Overland

Camino del Tesoro Overland | Fall 2015 | 4 Days | 350 Miles | Elev. 6,500 to 11,200 ft. (will be offered in the summer and fall for 2016)