Author: Danielle Terpko
A little over 4 years ago I finished college and was in the ‘real world’ for about a year. I moved back home to Pompano Beach, Florida from my college town Greenville, North Carolina home of the ECU Pirates. When I returned home from over 4 years away I realized that most of my good friends were still away at college, moved out of town to start a new life, or were just not around anymore. Wanting to meet new people that had the same interests I had I looked online and found a local Thursday night Jeep Meet at our local Joe’s Crab Shack. I knew I would know no one there and man was I intimidated and scared to go. But, that night is where the next chapter of my life began.
Meeting my local offroad community opened my eyes to an entirely new world that I knew I wanted to be a part of. The people and their openness and willingness to help me with my Jeep were amazing, back then I had a 2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee. A few of these people have now become some of my closest friends to this day. That amazing feeling I felt of belonging somewhere and really connecting with the people around me, I felt again a few weeks ago. This time I felt it on a Sunday, on the last day of the Ladies Offroad Challenge Top 10 weekend in Arizona.
The Ladies Offroad Challenge Top 10 weekend was like nothing I have done or been apart of before. Nine ladies that I had never met before, and I, lived in a house for 4 exhausting and thrilling days. We got to experience and learn new things, and meet new people that we would have never gotten to if it wasn’t for this challenge Ladies Offroad Network puts on.
On the first day, I landed in Phoenix and immediately saw one of the other Top 10 girls, Teresa, standing in baggage claim. I almost started running towards her because I was just so happy to find someone else going along with this crazy adventure with me. A few minutes later, Charlene and the big white van whipped around the corner, picked us and a few of the other ladies up from the airport terminals and we were off to start this crazy adventure!
From the airport, we went straight to the house to drop off our luggage and pick up the rest of the girls who had arrived earlier that morning. As soon as we got there we were off again for our first official stop, and oh boy was it a good one! All weekend we did things not knowing where we were going until we got there, that is one of Charlene’s stipulations to the Top 10 weekend, you let go of the worrying and the planning and just live in the moment. Well, the suspense was well worth the wait because this was one of my highlights from the entire trip!
We arrived at LetzRoll Offroad where the owner, Andrew McLaughlin, and the boys had a fantastic afternoon planned for us! They showed us all around the garage and their toys which included Ultra4 buggies, Jeeps, and a newly finished tiffany blue 56’ Chevy. Then they let us get hands-on installing Yukon Gear and Axle gears in a JK and taught us how to weld! Talk about awesome, I now want to learn more about welding because it is such a usable art that I want to get better at.
On day two we were running all around Arizona meeting some of the raddest people in the offroad industry. We went to Bogi’s Garage where we got to meet and chat with the one and only Bogi Lateiner herself who is truly doing amazing and great things for the women in the offroad and the garage industry. I have never felt so empowered as a woman than I did when I was leaving her garage!
Next, we went to Fly-N-Hi Racing where Jeremy gave us a tour of his sick garage and taught us how to install beadlocks and change the oil on a 2015 JKU.
We then made our way to visit Corry Weller at Weller Racing headquarters, and wow what a place and what a woman! She has truly inspired me to go out there and do whatever I want to do no matter what it is.
We also visited the massive SDHQ Off Road shop and garage where Serena gave us the grand tour and answered the hundreds of questions we had for her. She is an encyclopedia of parts and knowledge!
After this stop, we still were not done! Charlene taught us about on the trail spotting and driving. She made tires sound sexy by explaining everything that goes into making a BFGoodrich tire and why everything that goes into a tire is so important. What a day!
4 Wheel Parts started Saturday day three, filled with the Ladies Offroad Trail Training class Charlene hosts. We learned everything about recovery from winches to a snatch strap. We learned that, if you're stuck we can get out! After a long hot day in the Arizona sun, we got to relax a bit with a party back at the house with all of the current Top 10 girls, past Top 10 girls, Ladies Offroad Network members, and some of the awesome people we had already met on our journey!
On the last day, day four, we woke up early for another personal highlight of the trip for me. We did a 4-mile hike up, down, and through Pinnacle Peak Mountain. It was amazing and a bonding morning for us ladies. After our hike, we got to do another trip highlight for me; riding UTVs with PJ Jones and his boys from PJ Performance Racing! We whipped and rock crawled all through the Arizona canyons, an experience that I will never forget and can’t wait to get back to do! After our rides, we got to take a dip in the river to cool off from the dry, hot, Arizona heat. Less than an hour after I got out of the river I was being dropped off at the airport still wet from the river, and my tears. These were some of the hardest goodbyes I have had to say in a while.
Throughout all of the crazy things we did on this trip, we did them together. Every step of the way these nine strong, amazing women became my friends. Like the bond I found with my local community, I have found it with them and over just a few short days. This bond, this connection, is what I think is the most rewarding thing out of the Ladies Offroad Challenge. Since saying that tearful goodbye at the airport we have all talked every single day. We are a support system for each other, a helpful hand, a Top 10 family. To each of you ladies, I hope to be half as amazing as each of you are. I am honored to call each of you my friend and thank you for being a part of my life. “Hearts, Hearts, Hearts, Hearts, Hearts!”
Photo Credit: Rachel Speir - RS Marqueting
Author: Danielle Terpko