Author: Brenda Nichols
As I sat there contemplating whether or not to submit my application to Charlene for the Ladies Offroad Challenge after her talking to me on the phone and asking where my application was and why it wasn’t sent in yet, I took a deep breath, started typing and gave the questions a shot! I mean, what could I lose? If I didn’t submit it, I would never know that’s for sure. So, I finished it up and sent it in.
Never thinking in a million years that I would make it to the first round of ladies, I was so excited to see my name on the Top 41 Finalists for the media competition. I knew I was pretty good at that part of it and had a lot of ladies from my Jeep Girls of Florida community that would support me along the way to help get my numbers up there to win this! After only sharing it a few times myself the rest being my family of Jeepers I was astonished at the outpouring of support I was getting from people I knew and those I didn’t but thought a girl from Florida should have a chance to be in the race for the Top 10. A few days later I was ultimately picked for the Top 10 on a live video feed by Charlene that had me jumping for joy!!! I had never been to anything like this before and was so over the moon with emotions. Most of them being, what have I gotten myself into? The others being super stoked about having the chance to do something this amazing and out West!!! At that point, I was then hit with the reality of how was I going to get myself out there?? A plane ticket round trip was what I needed and after expressing to my ladies that I really couldn’t afford to do this and never actually thought I would win and get to go. They took it upon themselves to set up a donation event for my trip on social media. Within days I had so many people donating to help get me there that it was just an overwhelming feeling I couldn’t comprehend. Did that many people believe in little old me?? My heart was just so thankful and filled with emotion.
I was born and raised in the State of Florida and haven’t left it many times to venture out to other places, with limited wheeling experience other than my own back yard area and mostly being a spotter at local events I wondered how I would be able to measure up to all of the other entries. I began to read all of their features and was then very apprehensive about taking this trip to Arizona. I feared that I just wouldn’t be able to measure up to experienced wheelers and racers like these ladies. But after everyone helping me get there I wasn’t about to let any of my fears get the best of me.
As I arrived in Arizona, I was pleasantly surprised to meet some of the other ladies and some of my fears quickly went away. They were also worried about other aspects of the challenge that they may not have been as experienced at like water activities, never been kayaking and so on. From the previous year’s challenge, we all were expecting these things to be part of it in some small way if not more.
Our first night out we all got into our fancy pants and headed out. We were pleasantly surprised to see the van pulling up at the Arizona Science Center. We got to pose for pretty pictures and then go inside to meet our first challenge. We had to work as a team with ladies we had just met to make a plastic ball go at least 6” with the materials we had and Little Bits , which turned out were super cool to work with. Our team did such a great job working together and learned a lot about ourselves and the other ladies while doing it.
We had an early morning the next day and of course, weren’t told where we were going, but I was excited for what the day might hold for us. We were told as we got close that we were going to tour some of the local shops around Phoenix! Of course, I was so excited until she said we all had to write stories and interview the owners live on social media! I have never done anything like that but was willing to give it a whirl. Upon arriving at the first shop, Jagged X Racing, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The cool stuff in that little shop was just one of the best experiences I have ever had. With me not really being around much racing in Florida this was a once in a lifetime experience for me. My Dad was into racing as I was growing up and I always remembered how much racing meant to him and how excited he would get about it. So to me it was like having a piece of my Dad traveling around that day from shop to shop!
Our second stop of the day was Geiser Bros. As Charlene said those words, I knew I was in for a treat! I had heard of them but didn’t know a whole lot about the Trophy Truck industry as in Florida we don’t have a lot of this type of event or truck fabricators for sure. The shop was more than I could have ever imagined. We learned about the start to finish of building one of the best trophy trucks in the industry form the top professionals. Bradley took us around to each area and we learned what goes into making each truck, how many countless hours it takes to prep for a race, what they do with the trucks when they get back from a race and my favorite part of the whole tour, the welding room and getting to hear all about Eric Eickoff’s history along with him showing me all of his welds, supplies and explaining to me how he got to where he is today. I chose this section because my daughter’s boyfriend had just graduated welding school back home and I wanted to learn more about what he wants to do for a career. I sure did and then some. Eric was informative and even gave me a souvenir part that he welded together and signed it to take home!!!
From there, we went on to UTV Inc. and saw what a shop with a retail side looked like with everything being done in house from painting to powder coating and even their own laser cutting of each piece. Johnny had a great set up and each section we learned more about what the UTV industry demands are. After leaving there, we thought maybe we were done for the day but onto SDHQ for some much needed retail therapy!! They have so many items for your trophy truck in stock and just about any 4 wheel drive part or piece you need. From wheels to tires, recovery gear, exhaust, racing seats, clothing and of course, Jessy and I were mesmerized by the fire suits, helmets and we just had to play with the communication systems they had for the racers. So much fun in one store!!
We then headed back to the house for a quick bite to eat and some Recovery Training at night in the garage. We learned about winching, pulleys, how to use each item properly, and the correct and incorrect ways to use a Hi-Lift Jack. Then, we got to work with the tires and wheels on a JK, which was great to get dirty and play with power tools!
This is the day that I had my greatest challenge though…even though we were in the van with A/C and in & out of shops most of the day. I wasn’t used to the Arizona heat or keeping up with myself on hydrating very well. After the Geiser Bros tour, I got overheated, dizzy, and sick to my stomach. As I was trying to write my story of the shop we had just toured, I sucked back the feeling of getting sick in a van full of ladies and tried very hard not to pass out. When we got back to the house that night, I was able to get a cold towel compress, some more fluids and was so well taken care of by Charlene’s mom. I made it through the day even with that set back.
Day three was another surprise of course and as we woke to the words, “Put on your wheeling clothes!” I was thrilled to see what was in store for us next! As we approached the Sedona area I had a feeling as to where we were going and was so thrilled to see the van pull up to Barlow Adventures! I have been friends with Nena Barlow on social media for years and have always admired her and what she has accomplished. So, getting to meet her, talk with her and hear her stories was a real treat in and of itself! Then, jumping into her Jeeps and getting to wheel in Sedona on the trails and the chance to drive a two door JK Rubicon was just as exciting as I had never done anything like that. I have always wanted to try a different Jeep out and certainly had never seen anything or wheeled anywhere like Sedona before. The scenery as we drove was just breathtaking. Driving the Jeeps was very different for me for sure. I learned that although the shorter wheelbase is nice for turns, drops and maneuvering. I like my four door just fine!
With all of us choosing to wheel longer during the day and not cut things short we were of course starving by the time we were don,e so our ever memorable trip through the world famous Filiberto’s Mexican was hilarious as we broadcast live from the drive-thru. Oh the memories we will all have from this!! Then Charlene said that we had one more treat in store for the day, and I couldn't wait to see what it was. As we pulled up to Shooter's World, I was all giddy like a little kid! I had to leave my own Ruger 9 mm at home as I couldn’t fly with it on the plane without tons of paperwork so the chance to shoot and hold a gun was intoxicating!
Our last day in Arizona, we were told to prepare for the day as if we were going to the beach. Well, I knew Charlene well enough by now to know there would be no beach and probably quite a bit of water and not much relaxing to this trip!! So as I mentally prepared myself for this excursion, we headed out to the kayaks to put into the Salt River. A little amount of rapids were ahead of us and the challenge of a 14 mile jaunt down the river with all of the ladies, some of whom had never kayaked before , seemed like quite a task for the last day in the heat of the day. As we paddled down the river the scenery was astonishing and I stopped a few times just taking it all in. The beauty was overwhelming. So peaceful yet rugged the terrain was. We passed herds of wild horses every few miles which to this country girl was a huge bonus for me! Foals playing, mares standing in the middle of the stream like they owned it and we had to paddle around it. It was like something out of an old western that I used to watch with my grandpa. The last few miles we were told to reflect on the weekend, as I did this the tears welled up in my eyes. I had come so far to do these all new experiences that really pushed me out of my comfort zone. Made me reflect on myself a little more and the things I need to do in my life in the coming days. What challenges I could now overcome without fear if I could tackle this, I think I could tackle just about anything life throws at me. As my body ached, the ladies trying to pull things together on the kayak trip reminded me of how I needed to be more of a leader and empower the women in my life. Embracing each journey ahead of me and the knowledge that I have learned these past 4 days from both Charlene and crew and the ladies in the Top 10 are something I will forever cherish.
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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: Brenda Nichols