Author: Elise Bent
When I signed up for the Ladies Offroad Challenge, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. I had only just heard about the Ladies Offroad Network, I had no idea what the challenge even was, but thought “Hey, this could be a great way to actually meet some of these people!” Only after I initially applied, did I look at what the challenge had entailed in previous years, and it only made me more excited. So excited, I HAD to listen to the LIVE@5 in real time to find out who made the Top 10, even though I was in France and it was 2:00 AM after a long day of work. I was a bit surprised and simply ecstatic when I heard my name called.
I arrived at our house for the weekend on Thursday night after a two-day drive from Montana – plane tickets from a small town aren’t cheap! I was nervous and intimidated by all the awesome women I found myself surrounded by, and as usual, had to coach myself through the initial awkward introductions. What I didn’t realize at the time was that over the course of less than 4 days, every single one of these women would become a life-long friend.
Charlene wasted absolutely no time in getting the Top 10 weekend going, taking us that very evening to LetzRoll Offroad Racing. It was a phenomenal experience, and I was over the moon at getting to try my hand at welding for the first time. I’d been considering taking a class for some time, getting to try it affirmed that I would really enjoy it and that it would be worth my time. It was great to not only learn but to also get my hands dirty. Our evening at LetzRoll was a great introduction to the weekend, giving us a great learning experience and a taste of the whirlwind that was to come.
The next day felt more like a whole week. It’s simply mind-boggling what we managed to do in such a short time! After successfully decorating the van’s windows in bright colors, we visited with
many incredible women in the offroad industry and got some more hands on practice with installing beadlocks on tires at Fly-N-Hi Racing.
I was especially thrilled to meet Bogi Lateiner, of Bogi’s Garage. Her outlook and passions really resonated with me, and I have to say I am very excited to go back down and be a part of her next big restoration project, a 1956 Chevy pickup truck. She inspired me to dream a lot bigger.
Hanging out with Serena at SDHQ was also eye-opening and inspiring. SDHQ was packed to the brim with goodies, somehow meticulously organized, and Serena could speak about every single item, not to mention the extensive shop space with all manner of custom build projects. Her level of knowledge and
expertise is very impressive. As someone who is involved with small retail businesses in the offroad industry, I was very happy to meet a successful, well respected woman and see what that looked like and chat about her story.
Saturday started with tire talk, what I had begun to suspect was revealed to be true: there was a whole lot more to tire technology than I could imagine. I came away understanding the vocabulary and with a better grasp of what goes on in the tread. It’s quite ingenious! After that, most of the day was mainly dedicated to a trail training, where Charlene taught us the basics of recovery. Although I had some familiarity with all the gear and had done some previous 101’s, none were as in-depth as this one. In addition to learning what each piece of gear was and safety around Hi-Lift Jacks and winches, we actually ran through some hands-on recovery scenarios that used every piece of gear, leaving me feeling more confident about actually using my knowledge in the field.
One of the biggest surprises for me was when we learned to change a tire. I do know how to change a tire… on a small car. With a heavy, bulky 37” BFGoodrich KO2 all-terrain tire, however, my petite frame would have struggled using the same techniques. Work smart not hard: Charlene’s completely unexpected and different pro-tip on lifting tires the smart way was the highlight of the class for me. Because of this class, I felt more independent and more empowered to handle tough situations.
What better day to pack all the outdoor activities than the hottest day so far? Despite the forecasted high being 108 degrees, we started Sunday off with a team-building hike in some nearby rocky hills. Besides the opportunity to view the Saguaro Cacti in bloom and some lizards, our team-work skills were also put to the test as our goal was to finish the hike at the same time. We had to manage different fitness levels, hydration and of course morale. Robin had
the great idea of singing a marching tune, and we all pitched in with ideas. It took us a few rounds to get it right, but by the end of the hike it was the highlight of it all and drew the attention of several hikers who asked about our group.
Our last official activity was quite the surprise. We drove straight from our hike to PJ’s Performance UTV Rentals. UTVs are a whole different world for me. This was something I had never experienced before. In fact, I knew very little about how big this world was until our visit with Corry Weller, a seasoned racer, two days before. We had the opportunity to be passengers in high-powered UTVs, driven by experienced race drivers who had participated in some high-caliber races. Woah! It was intense, and more fun than the best rollercoaster I have ever been on - the closest feeling I could imagine. These UTVs drive smoothly over rough terrain, turn on a dime and accelerate fast. I was hot, sweaty, dusty, and in love. I can’t wait until I have an opportunity to actually drive one! On the way back to the house, we stopped for ice cream then cooled off in the pool. What a fabulous way to end this action-packed weekend.
The goodbyes were heartfelt. These 4 days together packed several weeks’ worth of adventure and brought us all very close. We all gained so much experience, wisdom, and some kickass skills to take along on our next adventures and share with others. I feel so grateful to be a part of such a supportive, awesome group of friends, and to have had such an amazing experience.
Photo Credit: Rachel Speir - RS Marqueting
Author: Elise Bent