Cristin Whetten - Ladies Offroad Challenge Featured Entry
"Cristin Whetten, Midvale, UT – Cristin enjoy long walks on the beach, coffee and anything related to off-road, but mostly her Toyota Tacoma for the last 3 years! In that time she has successfully driven Black Bear Pass, Imogene Pass, and the other trails in Utah and Canada. She proudly claims that every modification on her truck (less one or two items) has been installed by her! Rotated tires, changed brakes, pulled the stock suspension and replaced, wired up the aftermarket lighting, even pulled the front differential out all by herself. She absolutely loves understanding the mechanics of the truck and having the irreplaceable knowledge of knowing what’s going on. And she has 150 skydives under her belt!"
My name is Cristin, I enjoy long walks on the beach, coffee and anything related to off-road. I am a jack(ess?) of all trades. I went to culinary school at one point, then went to medical school, and currently do neither for work. I dream big and firmly believe that the sky is not the limit. Afterall, I've got 150 skydives under my belt to back that last statement and one day I have a goal to become a wingsuit pilot. My Toyota Tacoma is my baby. I cried over the first pin-stripe, blow him kisses now and then, and I seem to spend every spare penny on him, I love him like family. We've been on some incredible adventures together, from our backyard in Moab all the way to the backcountry of Canada. My life is one lived passionately and intensely, and I wouldn't change a thing. Except maybe the single status one day.
I have been actively offroading for about three years, which is how long I've owned my truck. Growing up, I always loved being on dirt roads, exploring the forlorn back roads on an ATV, discovering new places and I've always been anxious for adventure. It wasn't until I bought my dream truck that I actively began chasing those non-paved roads and I've never looked back since. Everything from mild rock crawling to overlanding the backcountry of Canada; if it involves leaving the pavement then I am in.
How did you get into offroading?
As a young adult, working for nine bucks an hour while getting through college, my dream truck was a Toyota Tacoma. I had printed off dozens of photos to remind myself of my goal and dreamed of the day I could drive it to the top of a mountain. A week after my birthday three years ago, I drove my dream truck off the lot. At that point, I started networking with other Toyota and offroad enthusiasts to meet new people that shared the same passion that I did. I had to get over my shyness and inexperience and just began showing up to offroad meet-ups and camping trips. Little by little, I began learning how to really drive. The tips and tricks from my new-found group of friends were invaluable. Each time I would go offroad, I would learn something new. Today my confidence with my truck and my ability as a driver have taken me to some unforgettable places.
Tell us about your vehicle:
As mentioned earlier, I proudly own the vehicle I dreamed about for years: Ronan is a Dark Blue 2015 TRD Sport Toyota Tacoma. I rolled my truck off the lot with 6 miles on the odometer and completely bone stock. I hadn't a damn clue where this build would ultimately become, but at that moment I knew I needed to lift it and put bigger tires on, so that's what I did for my very first modification. And boy, it's been a slippery slide ever since. Full custom armor from Reise Outfitters, upgraded King suspension front and rear, Prinsu racks, and all the standard overlanding gear to match. For me, my build became one of self-sustainability with a splash of offroad speed capability. Save the giant boulder crawling, Ronan can go pretty much anywhere and will enjoy every mile along the way. He's got an aggressive look about him with a mean attitude to match.
What has been your favorite offroad experience?
One of my favorite experiences was spending 11 days exploring the beautiful country of Canada with a handful of very close overlanding friends, ending with a front row seat to the solar eclipse in Wyoming. I was a solo driver and entirely in charge of my own rig. I don't think I've ever spent better nights in a tent than on that particular trip. A few of the days were spent with long hauls of driving to the next destination. Some of the days were more relaxed with slower mornings, longer stops at points of interest, and earlier stops for the night. The group worked well together, the evenings were full of laughter, the scenery was unforgettable and the memories of that trip will last a lifetime.
What was your most exciting offroad achievement?
Since I haven't competed or raced offroad yet, as far as achievements go, I would say that one of my most proud trails I've completed was Black Bear Pass in the summer of 2017. Due to the advanced nature of this trail, I feel as though it's worth mentioning and I'm proud of myself for completing it. The trail heralds its difficulty from the steep, unforgiving slope of the mountainside that only the most confident of drivers should attempt. It's not a beginner trail by any means and I was proud to have done it. I completed a handful of other trails around that area including Imogene Pass. Another offroad achievement, in my eyes, is that I've taken my overlanding passion internationally. To be able to take your own vehicle with you to a new country is an awesome feeling.
I have two parts of excitement with offroading. The first would be the exploration factor. The second would be the pride and gratification of conquering a trail or obstacle.
I absolutely love visiting new places and seeing how dramatically the world around you changes. From high deserts to the dramatic Redwoods; the red rocks of Moab to the glacier-capped mountains in Banff, Canada. It's so stunning to me and never seems to get old. I'm always eager for the next destination and discovering all the beauty in between.
Secondly is the gratification that comes from being able to complete a trail or obstacle. While taking a break in Telluride, Colorado, looking up the towering mountain face with the infamously etched switchbacks of Black Bear Pass snaking down it, it dawned on me how elated I was to have completed it. I held that with pride and still do to this day.
What do you think is the most challenging aspect of offroading?
Getting out of your own damn head and trusting yourself. Your mind is pretty powerful - If you doubt yourself or think negatively of your abilities and skills then chances are that you will easily fail. If you believe in yourself, trust the spotter, have confidence in yourself, and most importantly, to keep trying, you'll be unstoppable. Even if you do fail over an obstacle, it shouldn't be something to be ashamed of. It shouldn't get you down to the point you quit. There are many aspects of offroading that are a mental game. I have hit my fair share of mental blocks before while offroading. If you can overcome those, and even learn from them, then those become very valuable lessons that no person can teach you.
What aspect of offroading do you think is the most fun?
I believe that the best aspect of offroading is the commodore that's formed within the community. Amazing people sporting all kinds of rigs, coming together to enjoy something that clearly each one is passionate about. You form life-long friendships, you learn new things, share wisdom, knowledge, and resources with one another. It's always so much fun to interact with like-minded individuals. Even when this interaction extends over social media. I have networked with so many incredible people through Instagram, even most recently being featured on a live episode with Jillian Rebekah. That would have never happened without the power of social media that brings the world closer together. Not to mention getting the truck dirty is always a good time.
What does prepping for an adventure look like in your world?
In the overlanding world, we drive with our homes on our backs. We can literally put the truck in park and set up camp anywhere we want. This makes it exceptionally easy to get ready for trips. Once in the full swing of the warmer seasons, I'll be out camping as much as possible. Last summer was nearly every other weekend it seemed. At that rate, you get really good at being "Adventure Ready" at all times for when the crew calls or the bug bites. My spot in the garage is set up specifically for grab-n-go. I've got a fridge at the ready to plug into the truck, there's one large ActionPacker with stove, jet boil, cooking spices and utensils, a 15-gallon water jug ready to fill, and bedding is up in the tent. I can pack a duffel bag with a pair of jeans, a couple of shirts, a hoodie, toothbrush and be ready for the weekend. This lady doesn't need much! If I catch wind of a last-minute camping trip, I can throw everything in the truck and be on the road within 15 minutes.
What is on your offroading bucket list?
My offroad bucket list would be slightly different than typical rock-crawling offroaders. For me, I live more for the exploration factor of offroading. I take pride in being self-sufficient and spending multiple days traveling to stunning destinations. This year I will be taking a trip with a few close friends down the coast of Baja, Mexico camping beach-side, a hammock strung up and eating tacos!
My ultimate bucket list would be to take my rig down to South America, although not exactly feasible any time soon. I would love to spend a few months exploring the beautiful regions of the Amazon, driving through unique villages and quaint towns, submersing myself entirely with the culture, and even checking off personal bucket list items like visiting the equator, Rio De Janeiro, or Machu Picchu. It would be amazing to race one day as well if that opportunity ever presents itself.
Tell us about who you go offroading with:
I offroad with some of the most amazing people on the planet, a handful of which I consider a second family. It makes the camping and offroading trips so much more meaningful. But for us, when we are overlanding for multiple days, the relationships become much stronger and the campfire discussions richer. We've proven ourselves to one another and can undoubtedly count on each other. Those are definitely life-long friends who conveniently love what I do.
I am also an active member of the Utah Toyota Off-Road (UTOR) group with over 2500 members in Utah and surrounding states. There are so many incredible resources, knowledge, and experience from this group of people. Any time there are expo shows, offroad events, trips or meet-ups, the conversations are endless. This group is invaluable on so many levels.
What is a piece of advice you have been given that you instill in your offroading adventures?
"Just Show Up". This was given to me when I very first started offroading and it's something that I pass along as much as I can. There is this bizarre mentality that exists in the offroad community where people have this construed misconception that their rig has to be "built" before they can show up on the trails. Even I had this thought at first: I need bigger tires first, I need a better suspension first, I need to buy a rooftop tent first. But guess what? If that's your mentality towards offroading then you will NEVER touch the trail because you will never reach that acceptability point. There will always be something else that holds you back. A good trip planner will inform you of obstacles or trail difficulty. If your vehicle can handle it, put your fear aside and make an appearance. This effort says so much more than giving excuses ever will. So my advice is to shut that voice down, lock it in a box and bury it.
Just. Show. Up.
Do you have anything else you would like to add?
To anyone reading this that has supported me, whether it has been recently or for many years, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Anyone who knows me personally knows that my truck is my baby and that I hold offroading as a very close passion. With being a certified Trail Host through the Utah State Parks Off-Highway Vehicle Program, fighting and advocating for our trails is something I've been proud to be a part of. I'm blessed to live in a state where our backyard is one wide open offroad playground.
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