by Rachel Stuart
We all know that feeling of wide eyed excitement when we see something we love. I remember the first time I saw a big tired, lifted Jeep with no doors. It was painted gloss black with flames on it and from that moment, I knew I had to own a Jeep. At five years old, my dad helped me climb into the passenger seat, strapped me into the harness and we went for a ride, cruising down the freeway with the sun and wind on my face and that’s where it all began.
Fast forward about twelve years, I had just met my now husband Ryan, and our second date was going out on his dirt bikes and the fire was lit again. There is something about the freedom of being on a dirt trail, no matter what engine is under you, that sparks immediate joy. There’s no pressure from the outside world and no specific place to be. Over the next few years we planned and saved to buy our very own Jeep.
In 2013, we purchased a four door JK and upgraded it, leaving only the engine and transmission stock. In a little over a weeks time, with blood and sweat buried in the steel of our masterpiece we made our first trip to Moab, Utah. I can’t even remember all of the trails and hiking we explored while we were there, but I know a piece of my heart will always live in the red slick rocks and dirt.
The first time I took the wheel on an obstacle, I felt overwhelmed, incapable and ALL the butterflies in my stomach. With the guidance and patience of Ryan, some deep breaths and panic I got through that first obstacle and realized you can do anything you set your mind to, no matter how intimidated you are. And sitting here thinking about it right now, this is exactly how life is, you’re overwhelmed and feeling defeated but taking a deep breath, pushing the gas pedal and moving forward you can truly make it through anything.
From that moment forward, I was addicted to being off the road. When we would go somewhere we would try the “no asphalt challenge” and try not to touch the road until we got close to where we were headed. We’d spend weekends exploring trails and running arroyos close to where we live. It was around this time, I also found my love for yoga. The best part, is these two go hand in hand! Drive out to find the hidden gems you can’t get to in just any vehicle, then throw it in park and strike a pose. I went to a Yoga Instructor Training which changed my life in an entirely different way, and actually helped with my offroad passion, teaching me to be calm and breathe in the tough and scary situations.
In November of 2014, during our yearly trip to Moab, we found ourselves lost (or so I thought) on one of the back and hidden trails in Arches National Park. At one point, Ryan stops, puts our girl in park, takes me by the hand and as we hike to the middle of this beautiful hidden arch, gets down on one knee and asks to make me his wife. There is no other person in the world that I would rather spend all of my adventures with and I’m so excited that offroading will always be a part of our story. After tying the knot, I knew I needed some photos with my Jeep in my wedding dress somewhere in the mountains,. so we found our photographer and headed out to play and get my dream photos with my new Husband and my Jeep.
After several years of playing and exploring together I thought it would be fun to find other like minded women who loved being off-road and my friend Jaime introduced me to the Ladies Offroad Network. I found a national network of woman who enjoy working on their vehicles, whatever the variety, and taking what they’ve built and testing boundaries and pushing the limit of their comfort zones, while supporting, encouraging and uplifting each other throughout the process. When the announcement came out about the local chapters with LON, I was so excited. I texted Jaime immediately because I knew I HAD to be a part of it. When it was announced the chapters would need leaders, I leaned into the fear and again stepped out of my comfort zone signing up to be the New Mexico Chapter Spotter. Then once again, ditching the comfort zone and signing up for this challenge, I’m already doing things that used to “overwhelm” me, like why do I really need to write about myself? -Insert laughter- but in the end sitting down and writing this story has made me realize things about myself I never saw before, and that really, the key to happiness is getting off the asphalt, finding some dirt and ditching the day to day stress and responsibilities.
Posted by: Dulcy Rojas