Forum User Name: dzJeepchic
Chat with Diane
"I've always been an outdoors type of person and enjoyed hiking, boating, horseback, and quad riding long before immersing myself into the 4x4 offroad world over fifteen years ago. I enjoy life the most when I'm out in the back country far from civilization exploring things most people will never see. My passion is sharing my offroad adventures through writing and photography, and this hobby has strengthened my marriage because I share it with my husband. I believe that when you follow the dream that's in your heart, your achievements will take you farther than you ever imagined you could go."
Questions & Answers with Diane
Q: What is your favorite food?
Q: What is your favorite food?
Q: Do you have kids?
A: I have one daughter named January who is a Surgical Tech (scrub) living in San Diego, CA. We're best friends and we both love the beach, so needless to say it's a lot of fun when I visit! I'm very proud of the young lady she has become, and happy to see her living a beautiful and fulfilling life.
Q: Do you have any pets?
A: No, I'm gone too much.
Q: What are your off-roading goals?
A: I want to wheel and explore more places I've where never been before, in general. A few places on my actual bucket list are the Ducy Ersham, Panamint Valley, Titus Canyon, Island in the Sky District of the Canyonlands, and the San Rafeal Swell. I want to return to the Rubicon, Death Valley, Mojave Road and Anza Borrego.
Diane's Off-Road Facts:
Q: Is your whole family into off-roading?
A: Me & my husband and our whole family of offroading friends.
Q: Are you usually the driver or co-driver?
A: Mostly co-driver/photographer but I drive a lot of the time too.
Q: How old were you when you first started wheeling?
A: I was about 40 when we first got serious about Jeeps and probably 43 when I started learning how drive offroad and to rock crawl.
Q: How often do you get to go off-roading?
A: A lot! On the average I guess I wheel 2x per month, and probably half of my adventures involve camping along the way, so I do spend a lot of time offroad.
Q: How did you get started in the offroad world?
A: My husband George and I used to do a lot of exploring and camping in a 4x4 Suburban he had fixed up. Then one year at the Arizona International Auto Show at the Phoenix Civic Plaza, and we got in a brand new Jeep Wrangler TJ together and sat there daydreaming about getting one some day. Our first Jeep was a 2000 TJ 4-banger we named Number 7. We went everywhere in that Jeep; by ourselves for many years, before joining a local Jeep club around 2003. Soon after that we were heavily immersed in the offroad world.
We have been a two Jeep family since 1999. I'm on my third XJ and George is on his second Wrangler. I say his & hers but really we share – they're like our babies. We sold our 1st baby, Number 7 last year and bought a 2007 2-door JK Rubicon Wrangler we've named Ricky Bobby. Every one of our rigs was lovingly built-up by George and I loved them all. I'm partial to XJ's because you can sleep in the back which is very handy if you're into expedition travel.
Besides making lifelong great friends, my favorite aspect of being part of the offroad community became writing trip reports showcasing photographs of trail rides and events. My husband loves to fabricate and work on our rigs, and I also enjoy documenting them and creating build threads. We attribute our successful long-lasting marriage to finding this common interest we are both passionate about.
A: My favorite trail is The Rubicon because of the spectacular scenery, endless obstacles and a swimming hole every night at camp. We take it really slow, take turns driving and spotting, and camp 3 nights on the trail so we can go swimming every day.
I also love all of southern Utah, and one memory from Hotel Rock makes me extra fond of that area. We went to Comb Ridge in November of 2013. We based-camped at the mouth of Arch Canyon, and the first night we got hit with a sand storm. I jumped into Clifford and hunkered down, and started to cry because I had a hunch my dad had died. All of a sudden I a warm pocket of air enveloped me; it felt like a hug and I knew it was my dad. I was able to stop crying and go to sleep. The next morning on the trail to Hotel Rock we stopped at an overlook to Arch Canyon, and I was able to get my voicemail. I had been right, my dad had died the day before. Later that day sitting at Hotel Rock looking out at Comb Ridge it was as if I could feel my father all around me – like he was saying 'I'll always be with you', and 'this is the circle of life, drink it in, kid'.
Locally I love the Log Corral and Red Creek trails the best. They're both scenic, have a friendly little rock garden, and you end up at Bartlett Lake or at the Verde River where you can go swimming. Winning!
Q: How are you active in the offroad community?
A: My first exposure to the offroad community was with the Arizona Virtual Jeep Club. We participated in 101 & 202 Classes, Table Mesa Clean-ups, helped at the AZ Outdoor EXPO the first 4 years, and still help out at the Four Peaks and Hunter's Annual BBQ. Somehow George and I started leading a lot of trails; we just sort of fell into it. We even led trails we'd never done before; we'd just post it up and then lead it following a trail book. So way back in the day on the VJC we lead a lot of trails, and that's when I got into writing trip reports and pictures.
Around 2006 we got tired of running local trails weekend after weekend and began doing more expedition-style multi-day trips. We crossed paths many times those days with Kristoffer Smith, with whom we ultimately co-founded Offroad Passport in 2009. We all had a lot in common as to the kinds of trips and trails we liked doing, and it turned out he's a web site developer, so together we created a place for people like us who love offroad exploration and adventure.
Offroad Passport is now a community of over 2,000, a member club of Blue Ribbon Coalition and Treadlightly!, and is involved locally at the Annual Four Peaks Clean-up, TRAL Events and Hunter's Annual Barbeque. In 2015 we were honored to receive a Project Clean Trail Grant from Extreme Terrain, which we used to organize a clean-up at Mud Springs and Log Corral Trailheads.
So George, Kristoffer and I have been having a blast leading trips all over the southwest U.S. For over 7 years together now. We are always either planning new adventures, out on an adventure or just back from one and sharing pictures from the trail. We've lead trips to The Rubicon, Mojave Road, the Maze and Needles Districts of Canyonlands, Moab, Comb Ridge, and Hole-in-the-Rock Trail to name only a few. And for the love of writing trip reports and taking pictures, I'm also Contributing Editor at JPFreek Adventure Magazine which has featured many articles I've written about our offroad adventures since 2009.
Q: Do you belong to an off-road club? Which one? What is their motto/mission?
A: Offroad Passport – it's a free online community for planning and discussing offroad-based adventures. Our 2,000+ members keep it upbeat and positive, and help each other learn about expedition rigs, outdoor living and cool places to go in those rigs. Anyone may use the forum for organizing or sharing trips, pictures, industry news and discussion. We are a family friendly and all makes and models community; everyone with a capable 4x4 is welcome. Offroad Passport also has an optional club membership with perks like enhanced forum features and exclusive professionally organized trips and events where we do all the planning and organizing, you just show up and enjoy the adventure.
Q: Do you look up to anyone in the industry?
A: Nena Barlow. I had the pleasure of meeting her her back when she was first starting out, and I've watched her grow her business which has really inspired me. As a woman in this male-dominated industry she is well respected and loved by men and women. She has always been kind and helpful to me, and she's been supportive of both my writing and Offroad Passport over the years.
Del Albright. Back in the day I posted some newbie questions about the Rubicon Trail on Pirate4x4. At the time I didn't know Del was a big name in the offroad industry, so later, when I knew who he was, I was very impressed that a public figure would reach out to a greenhorn and guide them. He was helpful and gave me good advice, and wished me a great time. I've never forgotten that as over the years I've seen him go from Friends of the Rubicon on to spokesperson for the Blue Ribbon Coalition. He's a man with a passion for spreading the news about land use who sets a great example with genuine kindness to fellow offroaders.
Q: What is your most memorable offroad moment?
A: George almost went over backwards on Hell's Gate the first time we went to Moab, at the same place where the famous 'Tracy's Roll' happened. It was the only time I ever remember him telling me 'get out' when he saw the obstacle, and I did. I was filming it from the bottom (big ol' video camera back then that gave me carpal tunnel, I swear!). We had just installed a trail-cage, it was our 19th wedding anniversary on the 19th of May. All that flashed through my mind and I thought how weird it would be to become a widow on such an auspicious day. Watching the video makes me feel like I'm going to throw up to this day.
Q: What was your first wheeling trip?
A: George and I used to go explore abandoned ghost towns a lot, so that's the true first trip chronologically. But our first true wheeling trip after catching the Jeep bug in our newly highly modified TJ, was on Forest Road 42 up by Bartlett Lake. We had attempted that trail when the TJ was stock and almost flopped it, so when we went back all lifted on 32's we thought we were all badass! I'll never forget it.
Q: What was your longest wheeling trip?
A: It might not have been the longest distance but it sure felt like the longest time when we went to the Maze District the second time in 2010. It was rainy and gloomy the first couple of days in the most descolate place I've ever been. It was lonely and frightening as only our two rigs ventured forth over streams and what looked like crumbling roads. I had to keep my game face in spite of my emotions because Kristoffer's mom and cousin were our guests, and I didn't want them to know I was nervous and scared. On our last day in the Maze it took us so long to reach pavement we ended up having to camp one more night before starting home. That night the wind blew so hard it was scary and we woke up to rain. We decided to take an alternate to the highway that looked better on paper. Longer than we had thought, we went higher in elevation where it was snowing until finally we could see the highway off to our right. On down the hill and almost to the road we came to a running stream we had to cross or go back the way we'd come. No way! So we forded it and luckily we made it through safe and sound. The adverse conditions of that trip always make it stand out in my memory. I learned a lot on that trip, the most important thing being that I am a very capable back country guide, even in the harshest weather conditions.
Q: What was your favorite wheeling trip?
A: The first time George and I did the Rubicon in 2007, we were actually leading it. This was long before we started Offroad Passport; we were leading it from the VJC. On our second day there we shared the trail with Chrysler Corporate International. A long line of stock JK Rubicon Wrangler 2 doors driven by corporate employees from around the globe caught up with us and passed us at the Little Sluice while we ate lunch. We caught back up with them at $1,000 Hill, and George walked down there to see the line the spotters were taking people down. I stayed up on the rocks with our group, and next thing you know I looked down there and some of the Chrysler ladies were out of the Jeep getting their picture taken with George! Then we caught up with them again near Buck Island Lake where they were making super slow progress, so we just parked our Jeeps and watched for a while. We saw a driver look over his shoulder as if to back up, but then lurch forward, bumping into the Jeep ahead of him. And we heard this exchange between a spotter and a driver: Spotter - “Okay now turn on the locker”. Driver (in Asian accent) - “Rock or rock-rock?” meaning, “rear locker or both front and rear lockers?”. So 'rock or rock-rock?' is a thing with us. This was by far the most memorable offroad trip I've ever been on.
Q: How do you feel as a woman in the offroad industry?
A: I love my position in the offroad industry; I'm having the time of my life! I have met so many really quality people who encourage me and support my efforts. Whereas our official trips at Offroad Passport used to draw up to five rigs, they have been really well attended in the last two years. And even though I work for free (so far!) I feel very fortunate to be able to explore the back country and have my adventure stories be well received.
Q: What changes have you seen in the offroad community since you began wheeling?
A: At one time I remember women in offroading magazines being portrayed more as eye candy whereas now they have more of a voice, and in many cases women are trusted experts in the field. Women even have their place as experts in the garage on TV and in magazines, which was a rarety not that long ago. Vehicles, parts and accessories are marketed to both men and women these days, whereas advertizing often used to be clearly aimed at men. Of course you'll still see a good-looking female in many advertisements still, but more and more often she's depicted in the driver's seat.
Q: Give us a story, any story, about educating, guiding, empowering ladies in the offroad, past or future:
A: Through Offroad Passport we presented a 'Absolute Beginner Offroad Clinic' a couple years ago. It was open to everyone for free, so we had a large turnout of mostly women. I had wanted to cover everything you need to know about 4x4's but were afraid to ask. We taught the very basics such as identifying parts of a 4x4 and how they work, how to shift the transfer-case, when to shift the transfer-case, why air down, how to air down and up, why disconnect the sway-bar, how to disconnect and reconnect the sway-bar, what are lockers, how to engage and disengage them and when, driving on various types of surfaces and how to approach and go over mild obstacles.
It was really rewarding to see all these ladies taking the wheel and experiencing driving offroad with more and more confidence through the day. In many cases their husbands or boyfriends were there, but had handed over the keys that morning, and what we saw in them was mostly pride by the end of the day, so it felt like a super successful clinic. Our intentions were to teach women enough of the basics that they could drive their vehicle well enough to drive to safety in the case of emergency.
Q: Do you have any advice for ladies wanting to get started in off-roading?
A: I know it's cliché, but just do it. Try not to be afraid of being afraid; get comfortable with fear because you grow from it. I was very fortunate to have great teachers along the way. Find someone or a few people who would like to mentor you so you can get a good understanding of your rig and driving it. Supervision is a good thing when you're new at it.
Respect that offroading can be a dangerous hobby, go prepared and learn ways to keep yourself safe. This is a pay to play sport, don't break it if you can't afford to fix it or be without it.
Go wheeling with people who encourage you and care about your safety. I've witnessed plenty of groups out on the trail who seem to thrive on one-upmanship and breaking their stuff. I avoid wheeling with people who try to goad people into doing things they're not comfortable with or that their Jeep isn't equipped for. What's worse is when they make fun of each other and laughing at someone's misfortunes like breaking or getting stuck. I don't wheel with people like that, but if you do, do so knowing the hazards.
1992 Jeep XJ with an exterior/interior roll cage. The backseat was modified to have a sleeping platform plus storage because it's an expedition rig. The 4.0 liter inline 6 engine was rebuilt in 2013. I bought it with a Currie built dana 44, and later swapped the front axle for a Jeep Rubicon Dana 44 with e-locker. Also swapped out the transfer-case for a Jeep Rubicon 4:1. I'm running 4.88 gears and 35” tires. Clifford also operates as my daily driver.
Q: What is the best mod you have done to your vehicle?
A: Last year we swapped out the front axle to a 2005 Rubicon Dana 44, and the transfer-case for a Jeep Rubicon 4:1. Then with the electronic locker in front we were able to replace the rear Detroit locker for the ARB which had been up front. By far this project made the biggest impact on Clifford's ability and performance; now I have a Chericon.
Q: Do you work on your own vehicle?
A: No, but I document my husband's work on all our rigs and maintain several build threads at all times. Now and then I help in the garage, and I have a good understanding of how things work, but all the credit for our rigs' awesomeness and capability go to him.