Raising Kids, Riding Moto and Building Overland Dreams
Walt Wagner's southern drawl is friendly and reassuring. It makes him immediately likeable and easy to trust. It's also a little out of place in New Mexico where he now lives. Raised in Florida and North Carolina, Walt came to New Mexico for a federal law enforcement job with the DOE that involved guarding special weapon systems—that's all we can say about that—and he ended up staying and starting a family. He's since left law enforcement and now owns an Albuquerque-based shop that builds some of the world's most beautiful and capable adventure vehicles. He still looks like a guy who could guard America's most important weapons (his arms are as big as your legs), and he still teaches an occasional weapons class, but most of Walt's time nowadays is spent at his shop where he and his team pump out high-end trucks, side-by-sides, and adventure motorcycles that people use to explore the most remote parts of the world. We called Walt up because a Kali friend recommended him as the best adventure guide for the Albuquerque area. Luckily he was free and we were able to follow him out to the Rio Puerco west of town for a wet afternoon of adventure biking.
Kali: Walt it is great to meet you. Can you give the quick run down how you ended up in New Mexico building Overland vehicles.
Walt: was born and raised in Florida until my tenth birthday. We then moved to Wilmington NC where we pretty much put down our roots. We moved to Guam for about a year and then back to NC. After graduating high school one of my two younger brothers and I decided to join the Coast Guard. That is when my career path took me into the search and rescue, law enforcement field. After the Coast Guard I moved into the nuclear security world and that is how I ultimately ended up in New Mexico as a Federal Agent with the NNSA.
Kali: Sounds like you have lived a pretty colorful life.
Walt: My entire life was spent exploring, surfing, fishing and building our vehicles or boats to take us to the remote places that we loved so much. My entire professional career also allowed me to continue to pursue my passion for adventure. I was never really happy with what was available in the offroad industry for building out vehicles with expedition use in mind. So my wife and I strongly felt like we had something to bring to the table for the industry when it came to building four-wheel drive vehicles, motorcycles and UTV's for a clients specific needs. There came a time when we had to decide between my law enforcement career and the new company. When that day came we went all in on Tactical Application Vehicles and have been running it for about seven years now. My top priority for doing this was to be there for our daughter. She was new born when we decided to start the company and if I stayed in law enforcement I would be gone for most of her childhood. I had a blast as a kid going exploring with my parents and brothers and that is what I wanted for her. She has now covered almost every state in the country and been to Baja a couple of times and she's only 6-years-old.
Kali: Do you remember your first motorcycle?
Walt: I will never forget my first dirt bike. It was a Yamaha enduro 100. My mom found it at a garage sale and picked it up for $35. She said the first one of us that gets hurt she would sell it. About a year later I badly broke my radius and ulna in my left arm. So my dad fixed that bike and we bought two more. Mom didn't mind because we could all ride together. Many years later I've narrowed down what I really look for in my bikes both pedal power and motorized. Not sure I ever had that one that was my favorite because they were all special to me. If I could go out right now and get any bike I wanted it would have to be two different bikes. Light adventure/ dirt bike would be a 2021 KTM 500 EXCF and larger adventure/ daily driver would be a KTM 1090 adventure R or the KTM 1290 adventure R. I would be equally stoked for either one.
Kali: What does a perfect day look like for you?
Walt: The perfect day is tough. I'd love to be in a cool area to camp with my family and we could all ride from there. Have a great day riding with them and then hit the harder stuff with my brothers.
Kali: What is your dream destination?
Walt: The list of places I'd love to ride is pretty big. But a few places I'd like to get back to would be around the Moab area, over to Colorado and run a bunch of the passes again camping along the way.