Author: Jessica Greenland
My story starts with last year's Ladies Co-Driver Challenge. I came across the Ladies Co-Driver Challenge through Facebook and took a peek. I was unsure about it at the time because I was pretty new to offroading and didn't think I was ready for it. I watched a great friend go through it and was in awe. "What an awesome experience that would be," I thought to myself. I always like to tackle most of my fears head on. When this year's Ladies Offroad Challenge came around, my friend, who made it into the Top 10 last year, made sure I was going to sign up this year, not just sit and watch. I had great support from everyone to try.
It all started with a try, a try to face my fears of rejection and step out of my comfort zone. I was excited and anticipated the social media voting and of course, getting to meet Charlene whom I've watched and looked up to. Seeing all of the awesome ladies that entered and reading their bios was intimidating. They are all winners in my book. Talking with Charlene was epic, and I totally fangirled! When I was chosen for the Top 10, I won't lie that I cried a little. It was a big accomplishment for me.
My Top 10 adventure began in San Diego where I was on vacation visiting my daughter and spending time with my family in Mission Bay. On Wednesday evening, the day before we all were supposed to be in Arizona, Kristin picked me up in her super cool turbo Kia!! This girl is awesome and hilarious. We immediately hit it off, talking away, and not paying any attention when we saw a highway patrol car on the side of the road. He turned his lights on as soon as we topped the hill. OOPS! Even though the officer was holding a ticket, he was nice and cut us a break. Kristin called her husband and told him the glorious news. We had to slow it down and crawl to Mesa. Then, we reached our hotel and got some rest before the next day's activities.
Of course, we couldn't sleep in like Charlene told us to do, we were too excited. Charlene told us to meet her, and we followed her back to the house. I have to say. Mesa is gorgeous and sunny and hot! Coming from the June gloom in San Diego, this was welcoming weather! It was nice to finally meet all the girls in person when we got to the house. We had all been talking before, but I was so happy to hug their necks! After that, it was time to get to work on setting up our slumber party style living for the next four days. We met Charlene's mom who was such a delight! We helped her get all the food and drinks situated for the last few girls to arrive and picked our sleeping arrangements. As the last set of girls arrived, we were told to get our “fancy pants” on and look pretty. Then, we all loaded into the van.
Nervous and having no clue where we were going, Charlene pulled over for our first live Facebook video!We all had to introduce ourselves to the world! As we finished our ride to the first challenge, we parked in downtown Phoenix and followed Charlene to Heritage Square as she was trying to be secretive. There were a lot of cool buildings, porches, benches, and trees. We came to a stop, and she told us to pick a spot for a pretty picture. I spotted a rock garden with cactus and grass to perch myself on because I love cactus! After Lori took photos of everybody, we walked over to Create at the Arizona Science Center for our first challenge. We met Ed who showed us what we would be doing: build a working circuit that will make a ball move six inches without touching it. We named our team the Kart Winches, and we made the ball move by winching it. We learned to work together and problem solve. Way to go, ladies! We finished the evening with a nice meal prepared by Charlene's mom and put our feet up, exhausted from the first day. A few of the ladies fell asleep fast, and there was some snoring! However, sleep didn't come easy for me as I was anticipating the next day. Maybe there were a few pillow fights, too!
Up and at 'em! Make a lunch, put on some comfortable clothes, and make yourself look pretty! Then, we were off with no clue what we were doing. Hmm . . . those wheels were turning hard! We all had walkie-talkies in the van so that we could communicate without shouting. Everyone was still trying to guess what we were doing. We pulled up to some buildings and a garage with a sweet chase truck outside. OMG! Our challenge today included shop tours and the start of a mock Baja 1000 experience. Our first stop was Jagged X Racing. They have a small, but very cool shop with Polaris RZRs They also had some custom builds that just got back from the Baja 500. After our interviews and live feed, we were off again. The girls interested in the Baja 1000 event had to write a recap of one of the interviews. These ladies had a specific number for every stop and they had roughly twenty minutes to get it done. It was super challenging.
Our next stop was my favorite: Geiser Brothers and RPM racing. We met Brad and his crew who showed us around as we did a live feed and interviews. They have many winning Trophy Trucks, all in one very clean and badass garage with BFGoodrich tires stacked to the ceiling! I learned a lot about what goes into putting together a Baja race truck. As we were finishing up, Charlene handed Kristin the keys to get the van started and cooled down. Well, the keys got locked in the van, so we made it our mission to break in. All the guys from Geiser Brothers came out to help but soon, the ladies took over and popped the lock in record time!
The next stop was UTV Inc, where we met Johnny and Nick. They showed us just what goes into fabricating a UTV. Finally, we toured SDHQ Off-Road. SDHQ had everything you could think of from parts to fabrication to garage services. We were all smiles after the shop tours. Then, we headed back to the house for food and recovery training. Charlene taught us how to change bead locks on BFGoodrich KO2 tires, winching skills, and how to properly handle a Hi-Lift Jack. It was a long and rewarding night! I was so tired that I fell asleep before the snoring began, thank goodness!
I was struggling to wake up the next day, and the notes on the wall said I must wear wheeling attire. Heck YES! Where were we going? No one had a clue! As we got in the van to get ice for our cooler, we were asked to write stuff on the windows pertaining to our LOC hashtags and branding. I think we were all so tired we couldn't think, but we got the job done and we were off again. I do remember telling Charlene how much I wanted to go to Sedona before my vacation but just didn't have time to fit it in. As we were driving and listening to Charlene's stories, I looked at my phone's GPS, and Megan and I gave each other an “I think I know where we are going” look and smiled. We were heading north, and I got all giddy wishing and hoping I was right. As we got closer, I knew for certain we were going to Sedona. When you approach Sedona, you know it because you see the beautiful canyon walls and sculptured red rocks. It is STUNNING! We drove into town, which is very artsy and reminds me of Santa Fe, NM. When I looked to the other side of the street, I immediately saw the Barlow Adventures sign. I knew we were going to meet Nena Barlow. There was no way Charlene would bring us to this place without having us meet Nena, who was standing outside when we pulled up. I was excited! It was so nice chatting with her before heading out with our Jeeps: Vixen, Dori, Natasha, and Rosie. I made sure I got to drive my favorite color, extreme purple JKU Rubicon, Vixen. She was a beauty! With maps in hand, we got in our Jeeps and set off to find the trailhead.
We followed some paved roads until we hit gravel. We were on a mission to find a cellular signal for our live feed, but the signal was very spotty. Charlene was behind me encouraging me to go faster, but all I could think of was not hurting this Jeep since it wasn't mine, and I didn't want anything to break. We came to a turnout where we lined up, but still had no signal. Charlene told me and Megan to get back in the Jeep, and Charlene turned around in search of a signal. All I can say is Charlene is a badass driver, and it was a rush! As we found another turnout, we had an okay signal and radioed for the other girls to meet us. We lined the Jeeps up in perfect formation for our livestream. I messaged my boyfriend to let him know where we were and how excited I was. He was so happy that I was enjoying myself and told me to “get it” and “take it all in." Charlene gave us a choice between doing two trails with little instruction or one trail with more instruction. We all chose to do one trail because we wanted to soak up all of Charlene's knowledge. It was a blast as we traded Jeeps, drivers, and co-drivers. We went up and down trails while Charlene taught us along the way. It was the most memorable time of my life. I got to enjoy all of the girls' driving skills and smiles. It was an EPIC day! We decided to stay and wheel some more instead of having a nice dinner that Charlene had planned for us. My boots were covered in Sedona sand, and I was full of happiness in that moment. We stopped for gas on our way back to Barlow Adventures and returned the Jeeps.
We headed back to Phoenix and grabbed some Mexican food, where we did a livestream in the drive-thru. Our next stop was Shooter's World, where we got to shoot at custom Ladies Offroad Challenge targets. Watching all the ladies with smiles on their faces while shooting guns was entertaining. I think our instructor enjoyed having 12 ladies in one room and all his buddies were jealous. In our live video, we talked about and encouraged our partners with brass flying everywhere. It was hard to concentrate with so much going on. Then, we all hopped back in the van to head back to the house. We took showers after a long hot day, relaxed with some drinks, and reminisced about the Sedona trip because we couldn't fall asleep. It was an epic day, and we couldn't wait until tomorrow. Of course, there was more snoring eventually!
A requirement for the next day was to wear swimming attire, so naturally, we thought we were having a beach party. We also had to leave really early. I had asked Charlene the night before about a river that was near because my aunt, who lives in Tucson, wanted to take me floating on a river when I was younger. When we headed toward the Salt River, I swore I had ESP. It felt like Charlene read my mind; those super secret squirrels are real, folks! After we finished our kayak lessons and took some fun photos, it was time to get in line to head down to the river. The view was serene and beautiful, peaceful and relaxing. Soon after we started paddling, we hit our first small rapid, or shall I say, rushing water to be exact, and a few of us ended up in the water! After we all got back in our kayaks and composed ourselves, it was steady floating and laughter as Jennifer lost her flip-flops falling in. We were glad we didn't take our phones! I was punching myself for not taking my GoPro camera with me at that point.
We leisurely paddled and took our time to the first checkpoint on our map. Charlene and DeAnna were in the van checking our time and making sure we had what we needed at every checkpoint. By the second checkpoint, we were no longer making good time, so we picked up the pace. The leader was communicating obstacles to avoid and following the map. We reached the next checkpoint in record time. The ladies in the back couldn't hear the leaders and got stuck a few times. We had to find a way to stay together and communicate better so that no one was left behind. It was hot, and my arms felt like they were on fire. The river was challenging at times but not too crazy. We spotted wild horses and foals playing along the shores. People were riding horses and floating on inner tubes down the river as well. During our last leg, there wasn't much currant, and we were told to take time to reflect and just be one with the river, quiet and steady. The head winds were brutal, and my muscles didn't want to give anymore.
As I sat and thought about our weekend, I was proud of myself for pushing aside my fears and trying this adventure. I thought about how much I had learned from Charlene and these wonderful ladies, and I started to tear up. I forgot just how strong and brave I am. I can conquer anything, especially with this group of ladies by my side. After many years, I had lost myself to doubt, but these ladies pushed me and made me feel important, I gained the courage to fight. I thought about how grateful I was to Charlene for doing this for us and sharing her knowledge and strength with all of us. As I told myself to paddle because I was slowing down, I saw the finish line, and it felt great! While we got out of the river and started our live video, all the emotions I was feeling came out, and I sobbed like a big baby because I was happy and so grateful.
We were exhausted as we loaded back in the van and reflected on our journey, but our day wasn't over. We pulled into the driveway at the house and were told to wait. When Charlene came back out, she led us through the front door where we were greeted with welcoming claps from many special faces that followed us along the way. It was an emotional experience being cheered on for finishing the training weekend. We are the winners! We had a big cookout and fiesta with friends, family, and ladies from both the 2016 and 2017 Challenges - people I looked up to and followed. Charlene presented each of us with a collage of photos from the weekend. They were stunning! We did our last live interviews and had dinner with a lot of laughter and pool time!
This will be the highlight of my year! I will continue on with what Charlene taught us and share it with other ladies who I know will benefit from the experience. Stay tuned for the next adventure!
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Photo Credit: Lori Palmer, The Adventure Portal
See all the action from the training weekend:
Day 1 - Welcome to the Van: http://bit.ly/2te8RRE
Day 1 - AZ Science Center: http://bit.ly/2suLkPU
Day 1 - Photos: http://bit.ly/2rT25CV
Day 2 - Jagged X Shop Tour: http://bit.ly/2suvJ2L
Day 2 - Geiser Bros Shop Tour: http://bit.ly/2sgia6z
Day 2 - UTV Inc Tour: http://bit.ly/2suAKbF
Day 2 - SDHQ Shop Tour: http://bit.ly/2rj5cpi
Day 2 - Recovery Training: http://bit.ly/2rT9HW9
Day 2 - Photos: http://bit.ly/2suFRs5
Day 3 - Wheeling in Sedona: http://bit.ly/2sleFMO
Day 3 - Drive-thru: http://bit.ly/2sl0Yxr
Day 3 - Shooter's World: http://bit.ly/2rjvXcY
Day 3 - Photos: http://bit.ly/2rod83J
Day 4 - Kayaking: http://bit.ly/2ro4qmd
Day 4 - Pool Party 1: http://bit.ly/2sUN2at
Day 4 - Pool Party 2: http://bit.ly/2ro6KcD
Day 4 - Pool Party 3: http://bit.ly/2rnCtea
Day 4 - Mannequin Challenge: http://bit.ly/2slpXkb
Wrap-Up - http://bit.ly/2rcmSP6
Author: Jessica Greenland