by Lexy Hallett
In today's military it is common for service members fresh out of basic training to purchase brand new, flashy, expensive vehicles with an insanely high annual percentage rate. When I finished basic training in 2014, I passed on the Challengers and the Mustangs and decided to take my love for the outdoors to a whole new level with a 2010 Jeep Wrangler. I purchased the Jeep in Michigan so I could drive it to my first duty station in Altus, Oklahoma. There was only one small issue. At the time of purchase I was like the majority of people in the United States, unable to drive a manual transmission vehicle. I was only home for 2 weeks so I had to learn a new way of driving and excel at it so I could make the 1,100 mile journey to Oklahoma safely. Fortunately for me I had my Dad to teach me and ever since those two weeks I’ve been unstoppable.
Starting off in a new city, hundreds of miles from home was one of the biggest challenges I’ve had to overcome. My Jeep and I took drives down the famous red dirt roads every single day I had off of work. Sometimes we would go fishing or other times we would go for a hike to observe hills where the buffalo roam. It was everything I needed to start finding myself. On one of those journeys I invited a new friend to go with me and that was the start to a whole new chapter of my life. Finding someone who loves the outdoors, who goes on countless adventures with you, who supports your dreams and goals is truly amazing and I am beyond blessed to have made that man my husband. Our relationship is stronger than ever thanks to our adventures offroad. Someone who sticks with you after learning to back up a trailer is really a keeper! We have come a long way from yelling directions to now knowing how to spot each other using hand signals and “driver” or “passenger”. He constantly pushes me to be better and to keep learning. Sometimes I think he gets more excited than me for the Ladies Offroad events because he is so happy that I have these opportunities to network and bring new techniques and information to our adventures.
When we first started off exploring Southwest Oklahoma for offroading, we headed out to a group event at a small place called Buzzard Canyon with the hopes of having a good time and maybe running into some of the other members that we hadn't met yet. The only modifications that had been done to the Jeep at that point were 31 inch tires. We didn’t even know what disconnecting our sway bars and airing down could do for us. We went on a Sunday which was the last day of the event, there were only a few people around so we set off to explore by ourselves. As we were coming down a sketchy slope we noticed a group of Jeepers watching us and probably thinking ‘what are they doing!?” Once we made it down we started talking to them and connected on social media because at that point we were starved for places to go with the Jeep. Now 3 years later they have become our Oklahoma Jeep family and we will never have to wheel alone again. They are the type of people who would give you the shirt of their back or drive hours to help us with mechanical issues and we would do the same for them in a heartbeat. Without our Jeep we wouldn't know all of these great people and wouldn't be where we are now without their support. The offroad community as a whole has blown my mind. The instant connection and the willingness to help others in need surpasses anything that I have ever known or probably will ever know.
Thanks to the support of the offroad community and my husband, the last 5 years have brought about some major changes. I went from only having 31 inch tires to now having upgraded axles, lockers, 37 inch tires on beadlocks, upgraded driveshafts and axle shafts, a 3.5 inch Metalcloak game changer suspension lift and so much more. As I upgraded my Jeep I also upgraded my skill set. I can now comfortably tow a 30ft gooseneck trailer (and back it up), use a high lift jack, utilize my winch to its full capabilities, and overall just be a more competent driver.
Confidence in my driving, my drive to always learn more things, and the support I have from my offroad community and my family is how I know I won’t ever stop doing what I love to do. If I ever get to the point where I'm done building my current Jeep, the trailer has room for more and if I run out of room, I'll buy a bigger trailer! There are so many opportunities for fun and exciting things that I know I'm going to spend a lifetime with my husband exploring them all. Even if things get a little crazy I know I can look at my passenger, smile and say “but did you die?”
Posted by: Dulcy Rojas