Author: Michael Smith
For 7 days during Easter Jeep Safari, I’ve been on a mini adventure in Utah and got to do it in grand style. Over the holidays I was invited to join my Uncle, Aunt and Cousin at the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. Here’s the twist – My Aunt and Uncle have been heavily involved in the offroad motorsports world for 40+ years and my cousin is Charlene Bower of the Ladies Offroad Network. I was offered the opportunity to wheel with and learn from Uncle Ben, be fed and cared for by Aunt Deanna and to see the behind-the-scenes working of Charlene and her network of ladies and industry contacts. Charlene asked if I’d share some thoughts on the week...
First of all, let me put it into context. My wife Diane and I have been married for 28 years and we have three beautiful daughters. All four of “my girls” are accomplished sportswomen and enjoy the outdoors. And they’ve all owned Jeeps. However, other than family chatter and the Not Just a Girl SWAG Charlene shares, I don’t think any of us understood the what the Ladies Offroad Network is all about.
Pandora’s box has been opened to me and this week as Charlene and the Network organized access to some of their amazing events. There was the exclusive Ladies Offroad Network VIP dinner at the Red Cliffs Lodge hosted by Raceline Wheels where Greg Mulkey of Raceline discussed the theory and use of beadlock wheels and fielded great questions like offset vs. backspacing and wheel diameter to tire size. Tuesday night was the Ladies Offroad Experience where the Ladies participated in a hands-on skills coaching event at the BFGoodrich Tires Garage. WARN Winch presented winching skills and had the ladies pull and properly re-spool the line. Hi-Lift Jacks demonstrated use of a bumper jack and had participants properly jack up and lower a vehicle. BFGoodrich discussed changing a tire on the trail and had everyone remove and replace a 37” tire. Finally, Pull-Pal showed their new anchor re-designed with light-weight alloys for NATO and discussed proper anchor points when winching. Wednesday night Charlene put on a sponsored social event where we all rubbed elbows with industry VIPs and personalities and had a shot at some incredible prizes. Quick note: I mention the brands and sponsors not for the gratuitous plug, but to reinforce that the Ladies Offroad Network is more than a club or sorority (though the camaraderie is sure there). It’s a significant organization that is being embraced and supported by the offroad industry.
And then there were the women. . .
- I spent time with an Army veteran who was injured in the line of duty and is dealing with the potential of loosing the use of one of her legs. She just sold the last in a line of progressively well-built Jeeps to make room for her extreme buggy build – complete with hand controls in case she needs them.
- I had a wheeling partner/spotter who has organized an all women’s jeep club that not only hits the trail on a regular basis, but serves as the catalyst for bringing all the offroad clubs in her area together for social and fund-raising events.
- I enjoyed the campfire with a successful business women who is a mother and grandmother-to-be while we talked about family and wheeling. She was excited to share that she had just come off a trail where she successfully ran an extreme section unaided while others in the group were having to pull winch cable. (Something about a “magic button” in the console of her new Toyota!).
- I met lady weekend Rally drivers and winning KOH racers.
- I talked to knitting grandmothers, cooking moms and regular women who just really enjoy the outdoor/off road lifestyle; all involved with or supporting the Ladies Off road Network.
For the boyfriends and husbands out there, I heard Charlene make a great statement while being interviewed by Fred Williams for Dirt Every Day. To paraphrase - When your partner has a good grasp of the capabilities of the vehicle and equipment; when she has driven the family rig and has felt the challenges of the trail, she’ll have a better understanding of why you might want a WARN Winch, or Hi-Lift jack, or wheels and BFGoodrich Tires with more clearance or less sidewall flex.
My wife Diane has often said that she doesn’t like driving on the trail because she’s worried about breaking “my” Jeep. The reality is it’s OUR Jeep and she has just as much time and money invested in it as I do. This week I learned the value of a network that engages, educates and encourages women to participate fully in the off road world and saw first-hand the result. (By the way, Di, I had a great conversation with Greg at Raceline about some new wheels for “our” Jeep…!)
Charlene, Ben, Deanna and the Ladies of the Network, Thank You for a wonderful week! I’m proud of the work you are doing and excited for the opportunities you are creating for women like Diane and my daughters.