Author: Jacki Maybin
My name is Jacki Maybin and thank you for joining me and my family on this special adventure. My adventure actually started back at the end of April 2017 when I kept seeing posts on Facebook from Charlene to apply for the 2017 Ladies Offroad Challenge. Up to this point I had thought the LON Challenge was for hardcore racers and that it didn’t really apply to me, but it sure was awesome and empowering watching these amazing ladies get out there and do things I would only dream of. I didn’t even share with anyone that I was actually considering applying. Once again, Charlene posted that it wasn’t too late. I read through the whole thing and wow, my heart came alive when I read about the Achieve Tahoe event held on the famous RUBICON TRAIL. This particular event hits close to me because it serves the special needs community in a very unique way and I so wanted to be a part of that.
I am incredibly fortunate to be the mom of two very special young men in the making. My oldest, Noah, who is 14, is on the Autism spectrum. My youngest, Luke, who is almost 13, has pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). Both of my boys are incredible. They don’t often like situations at the same pace as other kids their age. In my world, this means think outside the box and more often than not, we choose to create different family outings than others and have an incredible time in the process. My sons are most often comfortable with technology-based fun that requires an electrical charge source to function. They are so very talented but don’t often feel comfortable sharing that with others. They come across as shy but have plenty to say when they feel comfortable. I have made it a goal of mine to get them outdoors and try to get them comfortable in settings that take them out of their comfort zone to increase opportunities for them as they grow up. This requires a lot of planning, patience, and an attitude of baby steps and do-overs for success in the long term.
Knowing first-hand what participating in an adventure for special needs would entail, I really wanted to be chosen for the Achieve Tahoe event so that I could give back because selfless individuals have given to my family for the last 13 years. I carefully read that STOCK Jeeps could even do it. This was a huge surprise for me considering everywhere you turn, you are told you need 2 lockers, 35" tires, at least a 3" lift, and a ton of armor to complete the most challenging trail in California and a sure rite of passage for any serious off-roader. Charlene has a different perspective and skill set, and if she says my Bumble Bee can make it, then I’m going to believe her. So, I sat up all night on the last night before the submission deadline and filled everything in and ta-dah, I was in a contest. EEK… Never saw that in my future but now it was a reality.
With phase 1 of the contest behind me (getting brave enough to actually enter), phase 2 was getting votes of confidence (social media exposure). Well, I’m on Facebook all the time, so that was pretty easy to reach out, but Instagram wasn’t something I ever used and am not very involved in. Reaching out and asking friends, family, Facebook acquaintances, and just people on the street certainly wasn’t in my comfort zone. I happened to be attending the Annual Big Bear Jeep Jamboree during the votes of confidence phase, so I went around to people I didn’t know asking them for their vote and that the top 30 would be announced that weekend while we were there. I was overwhelmed seeing so many amazing women entered. Surely, I wasn’t in the same playing field as they were. I decided to have a blast and know it was an honor to simply be included with this group and go for it. On Saturday night, I was getting texts left and right saying Charlene was announcing the top 30. I couldn’t watch live, so I missed most of the live announcement but WOW… I made the next round. What? Me? Oh my gosh, this is real.
By this time, I had looked carefully at the requirements needed to be eligible to actually go any further, like if you make Top 10 you have to travel to Arizona (during the school year). Well, as a single mom of two amazing young men, that would be impossible to do alone. For this phase, I need to give a major shout out to my boy’s dad. I reached out to him, told him what I was trying to win and why, and that I couldn’t do it without his help if he was willing to help with our special boys on a couple of school days and longer than normal. Mind you, it takes him over an hour to drive in the morning from his home to their school and is a pretty big inconvenience with unpredictable traffic, but I asked. I was overwhelmed with his generosity and immediate response, "Of course, that’s awesome. I hope you get it. Let me know the dates, so I can let work know.” Not a typical response from an ex-spouse, but I am blessed to always have his support in the adventures I propose for myself and, especially, situations that stretch our sons to experience the world around us. To my ex-husband, Curtis, you rock… That was really very cool of you. Knowing I had his support behind me, I was ready for the 3rd phase - the Phone Interview.
The day had come. I had my appointment all set to actually get to talk to Charlene. I was so nervous, but she was so amazing. This made me want to win even more. Getting to spend time learning from her would be fantastic. She asked about my Bumble Bee. I was so uneasy, but she said, “I would have made mods a requirement if I knew a stock rig couldn’t make it. YOU’VE GOT THIS." She did say, “I am concerned that you don’t have a winch. That should be your first priority over any other mods. Even if you are with the best group, if you get stuck in a situation that they can’t get back to you or up to you (especially on the Rubicon), you are STUCK.” After that, she spent a lot of time asking about my boys. I was excited that she wanted to know about them, but I expected more about my qualifications and offroad experience. She wanted to know about my world, and I found that to be amazing. With a wonderful talk behind me and a new friendship, I went on my merry way thinking, "Wow, that was great." I took notes and realized that if I get to the Top 10, I better have a winch. Enter the next phase, #GOPREPARED, and get a winch for Bumble Bee in case I advance forward (which I so wanted to do).
Find a way to get not only a winch but a bumper to replace my stock bumper that could withstand the pull of my Jeep and not come off in the process. This wasn’t anywhere on my priority list but Charlene taught me so much in our conversation. I understood I had to get my rig ready to recover myself if the situation was ever needed (a possibility on the Rubicon). Of course, my only brand of consideration was Warn Industries. I consider them the best for this item of need. I am so thankful for their support and assistance in picking out not only a winch, but the perfect WARN Rock Crawler Stubby Bumper to support my WARN ZEON 10-S Winch. Bumble Bee is a completely different looking rig with her new accessories. I am forever thankful to WARN for looking out for my rig and my safety. Thank you to Brian Cole of BDCPerformance for doing the install and teaching me all the parts.
Phase 5: This is the - WHAT THE HECK JUST HAPPENED PHASE.
The live announcement of the Top 10 was here. I got online early with the boys watching. My nerves were going because Charlene had said she was starting with kicking some ladies out of the Challenge. Would it be me? Was my schedule not going to work? Regardless of the outcome, I was proud of what I had learned and the new friends I had made all because I entered this challenge. I have found a forever friend in another mom with a kiddo on the spectrum that GETS ME. I have found another friend who selflessly serves our country to protect my family’s freedom so that we can go wheeling while she sits in fields for up to 21 days at a time. I found yet another amazing and very capable Jeeper right in my backyard and we could have some fun together right here in southern California. It didn’t matter if I moved on in the Challenge, I learned that the Ladies Offroad Challenge is about every kind of woman and empowering her to be the best version of herself as possible. I fit in. I already won in my mind. So, bring on the announcement… I'm so excited. Sometimes, there is a challenge with livestream technology. It took three attempts to get a consistent video stream, and I kept bouncing back and forth from lap top to phone. Finally, I was watching, and Charlene was saying, “Jacki Maybin, I know you are there watching with your boys. Where are you?” She was looking for me… I’m typing, “I’m here.” My reaction at that moment was, “Darn, she’s announcing kicked out people first, and she’s saying my name.” My heart sunk. I quickly guarded my sons from watching as I wasn’t sure how they would take mommy getting kicked out. It’s one thing not to win, not to move on, but to get kicked out may have upset them. So, I missed part of the announcement while trying to put in ear buds…. What? I’m kicked out and have instead been awarded Special Participant on the Achieve Tahoe adventure, driving my own rig and wait, MY NOAH AND LUKE GET TO GO, TOO!!!! I immediately started crying. Luke, my ever so emotional, caring young man ran over saying, “Mommy, what’s wrong? Are you okay?” I’m typing on the live feed by now crying, comforting my emotional son, and trying to explain that we won. My boys are super smart and said, “You won Top 10?” I replied, “No, I’m kicked out, and we WON the trip I was trying to in the first place, only YOU BOTH get to go, too.” I am forever humbled that Charlene, in all her stealth questioning, must have been thinking about this moment for a bit at least. What a tremendous gift she has given. Little did she know, my written goal for my boys this year was to get them to camp overnight in a tent (never have done that), and she was making that happen. I am here to tell you if you ever have the chance to get kicked out by Charlene, you are incredibly fortunate. This was the best kickout ever.
Phase 6: The wow, I have a lot to do to prepare and front load my boys for this to be a success phase.
After I won, I was overwhelmed. I was personally prepared for the adventure but never in my wildest dreams would I consider attempting to take my boys on this trip. I called their dad and told him that I didn’t need help for school days. I explained that we won and asked him what he thought of the boys doing it. Once again, I think he was more excited about the adventure for the boys. Since then, he has been helping me start the process of prepping them for this 3-day, 2-night camping in a tent adventure on an off-road trail without the comforts of home. This alone gave me confidence to start preparing and make this a reality. This is where things progress differently than a more traditional family dynamic. I have been experiencing the adventure of autism for almost 13 years now. One doesn’t just throw a kid into a new situation and expect them to handle it. If handled or prepared poorly, it can have traumatic outcomes that last for many years after. I have to think of the unexpected, plan for the things that never happen, and start prepping the boys immediately, not two weeks before. This involves having them spend a night in a tent to test what works and what doesn’t and adjust accordingly.
Part 2 of my journey will discuss specifics of my rig and equipment, plus my emotional preparations to make our grandest adventure come to life. Stay tuned for more to come.
Click here to read more about Jacki.
Author: Jacki Maybin