Author: Jacki Maybin
Phase 7: The what camping items and Jeep items do I need with my special boys in mind phase.
The first item was a tent. My last one got ruined many years ago and the boys weren’t ready before now. So, I got a nice one to hold all 3 of us comfortably that also allowed for a porta-potty to fit inside. Not something people think about, but my boys are really scared of noises and things in the night. If I had to take one outside and the other woke up it could create a whole other set of challenges like waking the whole camp, so a big 12 x 12 tent won. The fun part is my annual goal I set for the boys this year was to get out camping in a tent. So, this is perfect. Charlene said my main focus is to fit camping gear for 3 of us in my Jeep. Sleeping bags check, Tent check, clothes for us warm and cold check, chairs check, lots of lanterns lights a must. My personally HUGE challenge was/is electrical source to charge their electronic devices (iPad, phones, Nintendo Switch). I have had numerous comments of why bring all that stuff? You are camping that should stay at home. Autism world is different, especially when you are trying to pull the child out of their typical comfortable world. Any time you push boundaries to grow and desensitize a special child into an unfamiliar setting, you MUST ALWAYS have the most preferred comfort coping item in a large quantity. In my case, my boys are tremendously gifted and comfortable with technology from writing code and their own video games to playing games with (real live friends) somewhat equal to a let’s hang out day is their comfort zone. Not all kids feel comfortable face to face socially. What they can’t say or do with anxiety pounding away, they become very open in an online game with their real-life friends. Because I was asking them to trust me and take on the biggest challenge I had ever presented, you bet I plan to provide them with every comfort item I know of.
Before getting this charging item, I need to make sure I have enough battery in my Jeep to handle it. My ultimate setup is for sure going to be sPod. I have had the honor to spend some time with John and Cinde of sPod. Many thanks to Charlene for my special invite to join her garage weekend winching/pulley/recovery clinic that had Max from Pull-Pal as well as hands on instruction on using my WARN winch properly, how to choose and properly pick a recovery point using a Pull-Pal and pulley (not snatch block) and my personal favorite, how to use a Hi-Lift that I never thought my body could do by myself. I have to make some minor adjustments that Cinde and I spoke of in my Jeep to fit the S-Pod set up but wow, I can’t imagine Bumble Bee without their equipment. Thank you, John, for taking extra time with me when I told him I had 2 iPads, 3 Phones, a Nintendo Switch and controllers along with needing to charge a food storage item as well, he was wow…. That’s a lot. This takes some thinking to resolve. Additionally, because my younger son, Luke, is a pretty picky eater, I need to have a cooling source for food for him for 3 days. Wow the search for those was quite pricey. In walks my great friend, Tim Heaslet, from America’s Children of Fallen Heroes. He and I chatted about my progress and what I still needed and that I was worried about keeping Luke’s food cold. He loaned me his foundations ARB Fridge/Freezer. He knows my boys and their needs and immediately jumped at the chance to help them be all set. I am clearly blessed to have so many wonderful people around me supporting and encouraging me. With my needs list for “camping equipment” in process time for the next phase.
I have heard of stock Jeeps making it through the Rubicon and Charlene said, "You’ve got this, but you have to follow my spotting." If it were just me going, heck yeah, I’d probably have gone for it with just my beautiful WARN winch. However, what I carry in my heart is I am in my daily driver, Bumble Bee, carrying the two most precious gifts in my life with me every day and planning to go on the famous Rubicon trail. If there was anything I could do to minimize getting stuck (which would also terrify and traumatize the boys - scraping, banging, sudden moves have really messed them up at times), analyzing Bumble Bee had to be done from my perspective. I can’t afford going the to the ideal 35s or larger or getting lockers for even one, so protecting everything below the axle is a priority, and raising everything above the axle without having to re-gear was the decision. There are many great companies out there with lift kits. I have to say my personal favorite due to the personal family feeling of watching out for me and other newbies on the trails when I first started wheeling was Joe Thompson from TeraFlex. He helped spot me just because I needed the help and without hesitation jumped in. That was my first exposure to TeraFlex. Then, driving on the trails right behind him I watched his awesome Jeep maneuver so beautifully over everything. That day he listened to what I wanted long term and gave me suggestions. So honestly anything else considered has always been 2nd to my first choice TeraFlex. I trust the people and they have an amazing line up of products. To help me figure out what would work for my Bumble Bee with their newer line up of products considering options to grow more later as I could came Jeremy Pool of TeraFlex. We also met at Big Bear Jamboree and he too saw my Bumble Bee so had first-hand knowledge of what I wanted and needed to fit my long term goals. We went item by item and he suggested items that he was making sure his fiancée at the time got on her Jeep (now his bride Cara). My Bumble Bee now sits with my TeraFlex Alpine CT3 Suspension System that includes a 3in lift and is fully loaded with everything you need including SpeedBump bumpstops, front track bar, exhaust spacer and 8 fully adjustable Alpine flexarms. I also got the beyond amazing Falcon 3.1 shocks. We chose this because I am a weekend warrior and Bumble Bee is predominantly my daily driver or long road trips. This setup allows for me to grow into my 35s someday when I am ready. This literally raised me up 3in all around no slacking on height with a true 3in lift. I got everything and more than expected. Because of my set-up I needed wheel spacers until I can get proper offset wheels. TeraFlex had those as well and they mounted beautifully. Now to look what hits below the axle. My stock differential covers would be highly vulnerable over the big Rubicon boulders. TeraFlex of course has terrific ones and I am forever grateful for being able to putting one in front and one in the rear. I couldn’t have gotten this amazing system without the encouragement and support from the whole TeraFlex family.
Since I have been driving with my new big girl stance I feel like I am in a luxury sedan on and especially off the pavement. My boys noticed immediately how bumps weren’t as bumpy and it was seeming to be smoother and quieter now. I wish I had done this earlier because their comfort is high on my important list.I just think they like how she looks. I recently tested her out on Cleghorn, one of our local mountain trails that I have done on more conservative trail lines previously. This most recent time it felt like I was gliding over everything. I actually described it as like spreading butter on bread. Just this week, I got stopped 3 different times in one day, once in a parking lot and twice on the street. The final guy stopped traffic to get alongside of me and ask about my lift. Of course, I shared the tremendous ride feeling and especially the handling and fun articulation off road. He drove away in his mini-van saying I need that lift on my Jeep…. Yes, he does. I already have some armor under my Jeep but the lowest point and vulnerable again with lower sitting 285s was my brand new TeraFlex control arms. Now this is a very reasonable easy mod to do with a huge bang for your buck in protection. I opted for Rubicon Express Lower control arm skids. I still need a couple more skids but this is a great addition to protect my investment.
This has by far been the most challenging and long-lasting phase even as I type this. When this special participation was gifted to my boys and myself, up to that point never in my wildest dreams would I have even considered taking them to this location. They haven’t grown up off-roading. They’ve been slowly, and I mean baby step slowly, going on longer days and more challenging trails for the last 22 months. I wanted this so badly for all of us. I have tried to eliminate the past obstacles that have made the boys uneasy in my preparation. My lack of personal knowledge of the actual trail has been a hindrance in helping me plan but I’ve been asking questions as best I could when I realized I had one. I’ve been talking to the boys about expectations and story-boarding what will happen along the way. Autism likes predictability and routine. This adventure offers neither. I do know that this is a very technically demanding trail and I need to be able to fully focus to keep us from breaking down. At first, the boys were excited. I showed them pictures and got ooh cool. Their dad encouraged them about their upcoming trip. He encouraged me in taking them camping. To raise a child on the Autism spectrum takes an entire village of beyond patient people who think outside the normal patterns. So far, this summer, I took the boys on a 1000-mile road trip saying this is about the distance we will go for the Rubicon just on the interior of the state and we get to see the deepest lake and some of the most beautiful area our state has to offer. I prepped them for having no Internet and intentionally cut it off on our priming road trip to see how they handled it. I piped A/C into the back seat (Wranglers have no vents in the rear so I added a Noggle last summer and it cools it down nicely). Irritability is one of the worst challenges so keeping things cool is essential.
Some of the challenges that haven’t gone so well are frustration, impatience, and anxiety for my older son especially. He is at the age where his body is changing drastically and what was easy going even 4 months ago is a whole new world in recent weeks. If there is any challenge that stops a special needs mother in her tracks is seeing her child in full panic expecting their world to crash. Things that bother them or comfort them change as they change, and it’s a parent’s job to keep up with the new anxiety of the month. My Noah over the last couple of months has grown especially afraid of flies. He panics if I have the window down for spotting or even to order food at a drive thru. This may not seem like a big deal but everything about Autism has sensory impact. A fly is fast, it lands on your body and touches you. It makes a very annoying noise that bothers people but to a sensory sensitive child it’s like nails on a chalkboard that is unbearable for them. If it is one of their sensory challenges at the time, it is paralyzing for them to cope with. I have grown increasingly concerned if Noah would be able to handle this trip camping for 3 days and be on a very rock filled trail (not his first love) and away from the Internet that helps him cope with this. I’ve been hopeful but when reality sets in, it is what it is. I took the boys on a fly zone off-road test recently to see how he would be in my preparation. My precious son was so panicked that he was crying going up the trail because 2 flies got in the Jeep while I was airing down. This created a safety issue inside the Jeep while I was driving and I, of course, stopped. It took some fast fly killing skills and making sure no windows were open to resolve it. Once the sun set and the flies were gone a totally different young man emerged. He was laughing and enjoying the city lights driving back down the mountain on his very first night run. This new perspective has put me in a position to pause and reflect on what the goal of this adventure was.
Charlene wanted to give the boys an amazing gift and trip of a lifetime that they would enjoy and remember always. As often happens with Autism, our best laid out plans, hopes, and dreams can be snatched away. I, as a special needs parent, although sometimes bummed have been blessed to have the honor, privilege and responsibility to raise and equip my sons to grow into the best versions of themselves possible. That’s every parents goal. Today, my plans have to be set aside to insure the long-term success and continued growth outside my very special sons comfort zone. Sometimes we have to take 2 steps back to make 1 step forward. It’s not the speed in the journey that makes the difference it’s the joy found in the journey no matter what pace. Our journey to venture the Rubicon won’t be happening this time around. We’ve tried to prepare and it is simply too much to push right now. However, our journey isn’t done for this summer. We’ve done more off-roading this year than the prior year. Don’t forget that tent camping. Yes, as you read this, we will have just come back from our very first overnight tent camping trip. This, in itself, is HUGE. See the camping photos below. I am so excited to get them going 2 nights the next time. I am so thankful that now the trails we will go on won’t be as uncomfortable because of the mods I have made. Their heads would bang around even with pillows on blue rated trails before. Now my lift and shocks will give us even more opportunities. I am beyond sad that I am having to share this with all of you who have prayed for this trip to happen and encouraged me in my process of preparation. I am especially thankful for all who have stood by me through my constant tears of this last few days realizing this just wasn’t going to work for my boys now and of feeling I have let everyone down by not going. As much as it is my dream bucket list (I will go someday) it’s just not going to be this day because my boy’s needs, comfort and safety always comes first and they are so worth every side step to get to that end goal. I look forward to sharing more of our journeys along the way including our black diamond adventures in our local mountains that we will continue to work towards. Thank you, Charlene, for your unwavering support and understanding in this situation. You have been so gracious in putting my boys above all else. Thank you for this journey that has grown my whole family. Here’s to many more of Bumble Bee’s Adventures. Blessings and happy journeys to you all.
Our long awaited 1st overnight campout is finally here. I have been working towards this goal for over 6yrs with my sweet Noah. I chose someplace close to home in case everything fell apart and was too much so off to O'Neill Park we went.
Camp set up went great with both boys helping. It wasn't until I had some food unpacked these bee colored insects arrived (that werent interested in us just our food). We got incredibly lucky because what I thought was some harmless fly type insect turned out to be at any given time 20 to 30 wasps all around us. They made Noah very anxious so off to the tent he went while Luke and I got everything finished setting up camp. While getting air mattresses set and dinner started Luke made himself thrilled playing in the rocks and shooting off his air rockets laughing all the way. Dinner was a hit with both boys except for the wasps. Once the sun went down, our little friends went to sleep. I couldn't get Noah to come out for more than a few minutes at a time. This is often common with Autism. It only takes one bad experience to make future attempts not likely and sometimes so overwhelming it could be years before trying again. We set a fire which they loved. A new item gifted by our camping neighbors was marshmallows to roast on the fire. Noah cautiously came out saw the fire and my roasted marshmallow. Ta-dah, ate it and loved it. Back to the tent but Luke and I enjoyed the fire.
Noah's feedback: It was fun except for the bugs and that darn air mattress. Luke would like to go again without bugs and for sure a better air mattress. First Campout was a success.
Author: Jacki Maybin