Author: Kristin Conrad
As I sit and reflect upon my time with Charlene Bower and my fellow sisters of the Ladies Offroad Challenge, two words come to mind:
- Fortuitous: Happening by accident or chance rather than design.
- Intuition: A thing that one knows or considers likely from instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning.
My journey began as I was randomly scrolling through my Instagram. I enjoy following all things offroad, MX, rock crawling, and basically all motorsports. I was not a follower of Charlene Bower (at the time), nor had I heard of Ladies Offroad Network. But what I did know is that I was one of those girls who is always asking “Where are the other lady drivers at?" The moment I came across the post that mentioned a Ladies Offroad Challenge, my heart skipped a beat, and the voice in my head started screaming at me. I read and re-read the post, then commented, “This sounds awesome." Within minutes, there was a reply that said, “Apply!" HOLY COW! The post talked back! I noticed that I had less than a day to get my application in, with a deadline that Friday night at midnight. I was at the Pala MX track in southern California with my family for the weekend because our son was racing in the King of the West finals. I sat in the motorhome, at the track, and filled out the requested application with photos. Thank goodness for our Internet hot spot! I got the application in with hours to spare.
I was thrilled when I found out that I had made the competition,and hit the ground running for the Votes of Confidence phase. I am not part of a club, and I have no following, so I knew that I had to get creative to succeed. I felt that if I could get through the voting phase, I could then rely on my own skills and abilities from there. I pulled together my resources, and was touched to see how my fellow off roaders, friends, and family were there to help the cause. I was made the coolest flyer with pics and info which drove home the rally I had behind me. I walked that flyer into all local motorsport sales stores, part stores, and even hit up anyone I could get to listen. The local interest and support was amazing. Having this platform really gave me the confidence to start conversations about being a female driver in the sport. When the top 10 finalist were announced, I started to feel that all my intuition may have been right. I was moving on!
The trip to Arizona could not have come fast enough. I was already bonding and connecting with all of the entrants, and the excitement was at a high. I did not know what we were going to be doing, or where we would be going once there, but who cared?! I was right where I wanted to be in this moment of time. It is not very often you can submerge yourself in something you love so much, with like-minded people, be treated to fun activities, and not have any control over the schedule. Sounds like a dream vacation! It was. Don’t get me wrong, it was a lot of work, with a little bit of sleep, but heck that was all fun too. The ladies in the challenge were all very different, and came with different skill sets, stories, and backgrounds. We all learned something new from one another. The other ladies learned that I am quick to joke and be playful. My feature had warned, harmless pranks are usually par.
The weekend's activities focused on team building, learning, supporting one another, and skill building. Challenges were planned throughout with specific goals. The activities all had built in learning, and created broader thinking. We were quickly swooped up the first night and taken to Create at the Arizona Science Center. We were asked to play with motors and circuits to make a ball move six inches. We split into teams, and fabricated some amazing vehicle style builds. We not only moved those balls more than six inches, but they climbed. Challenge accepted, mission accomplished. We soon learned that our whole trip would be speckled with these moments, and we were always up for whatever task Charlene had given. And there were many.
An example of this was during our shop tours. So, I pose this question: can the winner of the Baja 1000 event really be successful in helping to promote the media package without having a better understanding of the teams, classes, rigs, and knowledge of Baja? The answer is yes, but would that person feel comfortable and prepared? No. This is why we learned live broadcasting, and honed our individual interview styles. Charlene did an outstanding job of giving us all a crash course on the mechanics of the media end of this event. People and situations are not predictable, you need to be fluid and flexible. We also learned what information is important to gather in order to best represent an individual, company, or industry in the best light. We are there to tell their story. The ladies who wanted to be picked for the Baja 1000 were asked to do a write up on one shop that we toured. This was important as writing will be a big part of the Baja experience. I was pleased to do a write up on the Jagged X fabrication shop and race team, which you can read here. For our next stop, we enjoyed seeing and learning all about the trophy trucks at Geiser Brothers. Many of trucks had just come back from the Baja 500. Wow was all I could say. Our next stop brought us to meet the fabulous Johnny Angel at UTV Inc. While there, we learned more about aftermarket fabrication. Last but not least we went to SDHQ. A race store paradise. I finally found the hood pins I had been looking for, but was glad I had left the credit card at the house! The day of tours was long and exciting. However, Charlene was not done with us yet. We got home, slammed dinner in 10 minutes (it was so good), and went to the garage for a night of hands on learning. Activities included changing tires off of beadlocks, plugging tires, recovery methods, winching, high lift techniques, and more! My confidence in these areas has blossomed.
On Saturday we all about lost it when we finally realized that the van was entering Sedona! WHAT? We are wheeling in Sedona?! I could have hung up my hat on that one. We were greeted by the lovely Nena Barlow of Barlow Adventures, and sent on our way. While out on the trail, our skill sets were challenged. The terrain we went on was similar to what the winner of the Achieve Tahoe Rubicon would experience. A great moment to play on hill climbs, practice hand signals, spotting, and other techniques. My learning curve was tested as we were told to drive with both feet. The rigs I drive are fabricated rock crawlers and have standard transmission. I do not have three feet for three pedals. Driving an automatic was different, but using the brake and gas petals with two feet was a foreign concept to me. I may, or may not have hit the brake a bit hard a few times. The point to this is to have quick reaction time, or to build momentum when needing to bump up a boulder. The split second reaction time when crawling obstacles can determine success. I have also never gone offroading in something that was stock-ish. Wow, was I impressed at what limited upgrades can do.
The wheeling ended and in true Charlene fashion, our day did NOT end there. We hit the Filiberto’s Mexican drive-thru, ate in another 1o minutes, then pulled up to Shooter's World. She is not letting us hang our hats yet! Wheeling and shooting?! We all started to pinch each other. This is surreal. We took that range over. How does this apply to anything we are doing you ask? Fury Rode. On Friday, we had a group chat with the event organizer, who had told us that one of the mini challenges in that competition would be shooting a paint ball gun out of a moving vehicle! Of course we needed to practice for that. There is an impression that the offroad culture and guns go hand in hand. I can’t verify that for sure, but EVERY lady could shoot, and shot well! Talk about a bunch of smiles for miles.
As we woke for our last day of events, I think we all were starting to feel that we would be missing each other. We had bonded, and bonded hard. I personally wanted to stop time, and savor it all. Charlene had put us in to many situations. It is day 4, what in the world could she have up her sleeve now? Oh right….. a 14 mile kayak ride down the Salt River. This was our final mission. We all had different skill levels. Some ladies had never been on a kayak, and this was trial by fire, others had more experience. The goal here was to get through the 14 miles as a team. Charlene drove the van, and met us at pit stops along the route. During these breaks, we evaluated our team work. We eventually found our rhythm and completed the kayak ride in great time. The headwinds were tough, on top of already being on limited sleep. But the feeling of accomplishment was huge. We were a team, we are now sisters. We leave nobody behind, and when one falls we all fall, when one succeeds, we all succeed. Of course, as we pulled ashore, there was Charlene waiting with her live feed. A time to reflect. All I could reflect on was the amazing views, wild horses, and a moment of learning when Charlene asked us to think how we could read rocks and water to get a rig across.
On our way home from kayaking, we learned Matt was at the house preparing our final dinner together. We were starving. When we got to the house were asked to clean out the van before coming in. This was really Charlene being a “secret squirrel”. This was her M. O. all weekend. When we finished cleaning, and entered the house, we were surprised by loud cheering and a receiving line of supporters. Emotions at this point spilled out, and our journey was summed up in this moment. All these wonderful folks represented the broader population of people who helped us get here, and who had supported us from the beginning. We are all so grateful. It took a village to pull it all off, and it had felt so seamless, minus the mini spot challenge I created by locking the keys in the van.
Our trip to Arizona came to an end with a night of fun, friends, laughter, tears, and chatter, sprinkled with a few last pranks I had up my sleeve. We met new friends that had come from as far as Nevada to see us, and told stories of our adventures. The evening ended as we reflected, and planned our next trips to visit each other across the United States, all while snacking on homemade Jalapeño jelly with cream cheese. The perfect midnight snack to end the perfect trip.
To this day, I am not sure how I came across the post for the contest as I was scrolling my social media. What I am sure of, is that it was fortuitous, and I feel stronger than ever that listening to my intuition is important. Had it not been for those two words that defined the beginning of my journey, I would not have had this life changing experience. I can’t wait to see what is next, and I am excited to see where my offroad future leads. Many thanks.
Click here to read more about Kristin.
Photo Credit: Lori Palmer, The Adventure Portal
See all the action from the training weekend:
Day 1 - Welcome to the Van: http://bit.ly/2te8RRE
Day 1 - AZ Science Center: http://bit.ly/2suLkPU
Day 1 - Photos: http://bit.ly/2rT25CV
Day 2 - Jagged X Shop Tour: http://bit.ly/2suvJ2L
Day 2 - Geiser Bros Shop Tour: http://bit.ly/2sgia6z
Day 2 - UTV Inc Tour: http://bit.ly/2suAKbF
Day 2 - SDHQ Shop Tour: http://bit.ly/2rj5cpi
Day 2 - Recovery Training: http://bit.ly/2rT9HW9
Day 2 - Photos: http://bit.ly/2suFRs5
Day 3 - Wheeling in Sedona: http://bit.ly/2sleFMO
Day 3 - Drive-thru: http://bit.ly/2sl0Yxr
Day 3 - Shooter's World: http://bit.ly/2rjvXcY
Day 3 - Photos: http://bit.ly/2rod83J
Day 4 - Kayaking: http://bit.ly/2ro4qmd
Day 4 - Pool Party 1: http://bit.ly/2sUN2at
Day 4 - Pool Party 2: http://bit.ly/2ro6KcD
Day 4 - Pool Party 3: http://bit.ly/2rnCtea
Day 4 - Mannequin Challenge: http://bit.ly/2slpXkb
Wrap-Up - http://bit.ly/2rcmSP6
Author: Kristin Conrad