"Brianna's off-road experience started as a child when her step-dad found abandoned land on the way home from school. As teenagers, Brianna and her sister would venture onto the trails, and recently her friend has taken a liking to off-roading so they have gone out. Most of her offroad experience these days is in a M113 as a tactical commander in the Army giving the driver instructions, helping recover other vehicles and driving with night vision. While in the Army, her travel has been extensive, but she really enjoys exploring AZ and NM with her husband and 7yr old mutt. In the little free time she has, she enjoys spending time crocheting, painting, and reading. "
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I have been a medic in the United States Army for going on eight years. Through my career, I have been able to travel the World. I have even been lucky enough to compete in a half marathon in Norway, live in Germany, off-road in France, see most of Europe, and even spend a little time in the Middle East. These days I enjoy traveling (mostly to Arizona and New Mexico) with my husband Alex and our 7 year old, chubby yet adorable, mutt. Between going to the desert for training, taking care of soldiers and day to day tasks. I don’t get much time to really explore different hobbies. When I do get free time, I tend to attempt off-roading.(which I’ve learned is quite different in sand) or explore the Franklin Mountains here in El Paso. I also enjoy crocheting, painting, and reading anything from Kurt Vonnegut to Tim O’Brien to Jodi Piccoult (which, if you haven’t read The Things They Carried, I highly recommend it).
I remember off-roading as a child with my sister’s dad. We never did anything too crazy (my mom is a nervous passenger), but if we went camping or fishing, we usually found time to do some wheeling. I never personally drove off-road until I was 22. I was living in Fort Carson, CO at the time, and every weekend a group f us would go on adventures up in the Rocky Mountains.
How did you get into offroading?
I think growing up as a tomboy, and being around a family that went offroading contributed to my love for it. My best friend Tristan taught me how to ride a dirtbike, and close family would drive my sister around in their Jeeps or Blazers. Once I joined the Army, I never really thought of going out , let alone buying an off-road vehicle. It wasn’t until after my Deployment to Afghanistan in 2012 that I picked it back up and started to really learn. Being out in the wilderness took my mind off of my previous deployment. I got to go off-roading with an amazing group of friends and make a ton of memories that I will never forget. In 2013 I moved to Germany, and all I could think about was finding places to go on an adventure. Unfortunately it is illegal there. So I spent three years just day dreaming about off-roading. When I moved to El Paso a little over a year ago, I caved in and bought a Jeep. Now I am unstoppable!
I currently drive an all white 2016 7th Anniversary Edition Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. It is a manual which presents a whole new set of challenges off-roading. I had originally bought a 2015 Willys, but had numerous issues with teh dealership and the vehicle, so they replaced it. My Jeep’s name is Rudy (after the movie) uke (after George Lucas) Mcfarland (named after another amazing under-dog movie). But we just call him Rudy. I don’t currently have any major upgrades during/after my upcoming deployment. I definitely need to start with tires because my current ones aren’t getting me very far. It is my first Jeep! Before I bought it, I had only really ever owned Honda Civics.
The summer before my sister left for the Navy, which was 2014, I went home to visit and spend time with her. We spend an amazing week in Darrington, Washington with family and friends. We went to the river almost every day, and we were constantly off-roading. One night though, EVERYTHING, went wrong. But it made for a hilarious and unforgettable time. At the time she was driving an old blue Toyota Tacoma that never wanted to go into gear. We were headed to the river and decided to take a different path than we were use to. Well, it had apparently rained earlier, and the next thing you know we are stuck in mud all the way up to half of her window! We both managed to climb out, but we were presented with the problem of getting the truck unstuck. We definitely weren’t there alone and had a friend with a winch on his Jeep. When we were just about pulled out, the Jeep ran out of gas, and we were stranded. We spent the night camped out and sharing old memories. The next morning a friend brought us gas and we went on our way. It definitely taught me to be more prepared, it also taught me the importance of not going off-roading alone. Who knows how long we would have been out there had we not had our friend out there with us.
What was your most exciting offroad achievement?
My most exciting off-road achievement recently took place while driving my military vehicle. Our M113 tracked vehicle is a little machine, and can get through some miserable terrain. My crews M113 seems to break down a lot, so we never really got the chance to push it to its limits until recently. We conquered any obstacle we came across, never broke down, and even recovered quite a few other crews. But the best achievement was making it a whole might driving with nothing but night vision and making it through some rough terrain. I had a few moments of panic, specifically because it’s hard to tell depth perception with night vision, so I never really know just how big the sand mound is that I am about to go up. But my driver and I worked together as a team, with me navigating and giving him directions. By the end of the night we had complete confidence that we could medically evac our battle buddies no matter their location.
I think what excited me the most about off-roading is being able to go explore parts of this beautiful country that a small percent of the population has been able to see. I love being outdoors, if I could live outside, I probably would. Having my Jeep means that my husband and I get to go to uncharted territory. If we want to drive down to a desolate part of the river we can, if we want to conquer the hill and watch and amazing sunset alone, we absolutely can. Getting away from civilization and taking in the sights makes it all worthwhile, and what I look forward to most.
What do you think is the most challenging aspect of offroading?
I believe the most challenging aspect of off-roading is having the confidence to get through an obstacle that I have never tackled before. I know my boundaries and my vechicle’s boundaries, but many times, I find myself questioning what I can really do. I get comfortable in a specific terrain and have a hard time wandering outside of that. When I first got to El Paso, I had never really driven in sand before, so that was a significant emotional event in mine and my Jeep’s life.
Which aspect of offroading do you think is the most fun?
The best part of off-roading is getting to meet and hang out with people who share my same interests. I have always had a blast off-roading to remote locations and camping out with close friends. Nothing beats a bonfire by the river where you know most people and vehicles can’t reach. Then waking up in the morning to the sun rising and getting to do it all over again.
In my job, it seems like we go on major week-long adventures every month. While these adventures have been emotionally and physically challenging, I have learned a lot when it comes to prep work and what it takes to be repared for whatever the adventure can throw your way. The Army has taught me that preventative maintenance and checks are extremely important and can save you a lot of headaches and money down the road. Even if we are just going on a small road trip, I like to ensure that the Jeep is 100% ready to go. It may seem like things such as checking oil or coolant, but it really does matter. I am also now very OCD about packing and placement of everything that I bring, even on personal adventures. I am all about ease of access and not overpacking. I always try to be prepared with medical equipment and at the very least water and gear for potential temperature drops. These past few months, I have been on so many adventures that prep work seems second nature.
I would absolutely LOVE to make it to Moab, but I am going to start small and hope to make some off-roading/Jeep meets. I really want to get into a club eventually make it to the point where I can always travel to the best trails n the nation and the world!
Tell us about your typical offroading companions.
I usually head out to the sand with my good friends John and Christina. John drives a 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro and Christina drives a 2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro. CHristina just recently got into off-roading. My boo thing, Al, is always there as my co-pilot, although I can’t say that he enjoys the ride as much as I do. John is definitely the dare devil. I am usually on stand-by to recover him. I am hoping to meet more people here in El Paso to wheel with, but it can be difficult because I move so much with the Army.
My dad has always told me to trust my gut, every since I can remember. While it applies to everything in life, I think it is extremely important to off-roading. While it is important to push and challenge yourself, if you get a nagging gut feeling that something isn’t right, then something probably isn’t. Oh, and to always be prepared for anything. That way when something crazy happens, don’t stress out.
Do you have anything else you would like to add?
Thank you Charlene for the amazing opportunity. I really appreciate being able to read and talk to such strong women who share my interests and values. I hope I get the opportunity to meet everyone sometime in the near future!
Click here to see all the 2017 Ladies Offroad Challenge Entries.