Author: Audrey Byrd
My adventure began long ago, but for this Wild Wheeling Weekend it started by entering the 2017 Ladies Offroad Challenge. I made it down the top 30, but not into the top 10. This is where luck was on my side. Charlene decided to spice things up and choose 10 ladies to come down to Mesa, Arizona where she lives and stay with her for a long weekend of offroading and getting meet the other 9 awesome ladies.
In the last 2 years, I have been offroading and traveling as much as financially possible to 4 states surrounding Nevada. Originally I was going to tow my jeep to Arizona with my truck, but then I found out about another small 4x4 gathering the following weekend in Flagstaff, AZ. So I decided to pack a small bag with clothes, an air mattress and bedding and a few other necessary items (Salsa & Snow-Cones, lol) in my jeep, and I keep my RV pretty much packed for all types of weather and climates.
Early Wednesday morning I left my home in Henderson, Nevada. I drove my RV, towing my jeep on a trailer down to Mesa, Arizona. I arrived at Bonnie Lake’s home in the Northern part of Phoenix. She graciously let me park my RV & trailer there while we both headed to Mesa, AZ. I unloaded my jeep, loaded up some Salsa in the jeep along with my camping supplies. Then I followed Bonnie in her Jeep and we drove approximately 50 miles down to Mesa to meet up with Charlene Bower and the other ladies.
Bonnie and I arrived around 3pm at the home of Brian O’Day who graciously loaned it out to all of us ladies for the weekend. There were already a couple ladies watching a video on learning about compasses and navigation. I unpacked and set up my air mattress as did all the other ladies that arrived shortly after I did. The rest of the evening consisted of getting to know the other ladies, eating a home cooked meal by Charlene’s mom “Deanna” out at the pool and preparing for Thursday’s long day of wheeling.
Thursday started out early loading the Jeeps and Toyota for the day's wheeling adventure. We took off at 8am to drive approx. 60 miles to the start of trail called Crown King. Before hitting the dirt we stopped to fill up on fuel and while some of the ladies were inside the store, one of them noticed a jeep belonging to Jessica Chasse was overheating. It was decided to leave the jeep at Bonnie Lake’s home as it was only a couple of miles there. So we rearranged seating and took off again. We got to the trail and traveled several miles when we pulled over because another jeep belonging to Bonnie Lake was having overheating radiator issues. While it cooled down so we could assess and possibly repair it, we set up an awning off of Elisa Burke’s jeep, had lunch, relaxed and discussed our recovery options. The jeep ended up needing to be towed back to a paved road so it was turned into a training and learning exercise in towing. We ended up taking turns at towing the jeep back to the start of the trail and then waited for Bonnie’s husband to bring his truck and trailer, after which we rearranged seating again and loaded everyone up and all headed back to Mesa.
Friday morning we had a Hi-Lift jack and Pull-Pal Recovery training class. I learned several thing about the Hi-lift jack that I didn’t know and had never seen the pull-pale close up but only on a TV show where it was used in mud. After getting ready to head to the trail we had 2 more jeeps arrive to go with us. It was Andrew McLaughlin of LetzRoll Offroad and his co-driver, Sally. We headed to the trail called Box Canyon. Not too far on the trail when we had Tonya Mercer’s Toyota had a brake issue. So we turned this into another mechanical training and learning exercise. All the ladies jumped in and took off the wheel and clamped the brake line and remounted the wheel. Andrew checked our trail repair work and approved it and off we went for more fun. Then after the trail, Charlene took us to Andrew’s shop, which we didn’t know until we pulled into his lot. Matt who happens to be Charlene’s boyfriend works there was our welding instructor. I will say that I didn’t make a very good welder and I don’t think I’ll be hired to do welding anytime soon, but it sure was fun to try my hand at welding. It makes you realize that learning to weld properly takes a lot of time, practice and finesse. We also got to tour the shop and checked out Andrew’s Ultra 4 race buggy. We then traveled back to the house to have another home cooked meal prepared by Deanna and watched the lightening show in the desert.
Saturday. We headed back to Crown King to run the full trail. It was an awesome day. Several of the ladies got to try their hand at being a spotter, a trail leader and also a co-pilots job. For spotting, Charlene stood next to them and properly trained them on correct hand signals and verbal commands. Later on the trail we had a winch training course. Charlene explained how to work and recoil the winch line correctly, she explained the strength of winch cable verses winch rope and a lot more. Then as we rounded a corner on the trail we came across a side-by-side that had some sort of accident as the driver’s side rear whole wheel was missing. But the crazy thing was, they were being towed by a jeep and they were just dragging the side-by-side down the trail without anything under the body or any protection under the a-arm and shock area. After passing them we stopped in the village of Crown King at the little bar/restaurant for a coke (no alcohol as we were still driving) before heading down the rest of the trail. We got to the end of the trail and aired up our tires and changed our shirts and took off down the Hwy to the famous Roadrunner restaurant/bar & outdoor rodeo area. We ordered steaks and hamburgers and watched lots of people headed to the outside area, so after dinner we also went outside to see all the action. We listened to the music and watched all the activity. Me, being raised country, I was in heaven with all the cowboys and music. We arrived back at the house approx. 11pm.
My overall adventure was just that, a Ladies Wild Wheeling Weekend. I got to meet some amazing ladies and to really get to spend quality time with a couple of them that I’ve met before and now can call them good friends. I learned a lot more about recovery equipment including winching. I had an awesome time at LetzRoll Offroad trying my hand at welding. I didn’t do a very good job at welding but at least the 2 metal pieces stuck together, lol. I always love spending quality time with Charlene and her mother Deanna, whom I call family after meeting them about 4-5 years ago. Thank you Charlene for everything you do to help ladies in every aspect of the offroad world come out of their shells and get out there and just do it. Thank you to the other 9 ladies for being you and coming to this event and getting to know you all. See you all on the trail and at the next event.
PS. I just want to say to all the ladies everywhere, If you think you can’t do it, you’re wrong. If you're always the passenger and never the driver, it’s time to get you in the driver’s seat. I’m almost 58 years young. I have several physical disabilities, I’m overweight, need reading glasses, am a mother of 2 grown sons and a grandma of a 15 month old cutie pie, I’ve been single for many years now, YET, I load and strap down my jeep onto a trailer which I hook up alone to the back of my 36’ RV, making my rig approx. 67’ long going down the Hwy. and residential streets too. I pack & unpack, clean and shop for my RV alone all the time. I believe what really made me strong enough to try new things was going through a nasty divorce and the last hateful words he said to me was that I’d never get to go back to the sand dunes or desert camping as he supposedly did everything and I didn’t know how to drive the RV we had back then. So I took his words and turned them into a challenge for myself and I silently say to him all the time; look at me now and I just smile. So if I can do this, I know you can too.
Author: Audrey Byrd