Author: Katelyn Wood
I suppose I should just start from the beginning if I’m going to sum this challenge up. I knew of Ladies Offroad Network through a local event in Southern California. I had been following them for almost a year on my social media network when I came across Ladies Offroad Challenge on Facebook I was somewhat familiar. I only entered on a whim and against the odds according to my surroundings. Yet, here comes the end of March and I’m headed to Arizona! My excitement made me sick almost.
I arrived, I was scared because I know I was the youngest. To be honest I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to survive this challenge. Everything happening at home made me want to run home the first night. I was full of anxiety the first day and almost missed the groove that the rest of the group had together. These women though, they saw I needed some help, most having daughters my age. Tamika, Keri, Teresa, Robin, Cristin, the MiNi-SoTTa! Ladies! I could go on through all thirteen women I was challenged to meet; knowing nothing about them! From the first fateful day of that weekend, each of those women helped me pull through my mental block. So I could absorb every inch of that weekend. What is most important, is that they showed me that only myself would have the strength to truly overcome my challenges. Not just through that, grueling hot weekend, the unknown challenges (literally) each day, but a type of trait that I will use as my armor as I run head-on into oncoming life.
Besides the gushy stuff, there was a lot of that with so many girls. There was an immense amount of empowerment that happened throughout those four days. Not just the girl based visits we made to Bogi’s Garage and Corry Weller. Being able to relate to the guys at LetzRoll Offroad, and most definitely throwing around that huge tire at Fly-N-Hi Racing! On top of all that, just the knowledge and understanding I gained as I put the pieces together of the great offroad industry. Charlene Bower and Rachel guided us, in the "Rad Van", to the knowledge gardens of Arizona. We all had something, or someone we were stoked to meet! Although, being as I suppose; the newest to the actual brands and names to the industry, I soaked in all the information thrown into my path. I almost expected my head to hurt each night, but almost like magic, I was able to take on all the environmental and physical challenges. It’s been a while since I was challenged to learn from everyone around me and continue to for days at a time. I’m so glad I went against my own idea of my capabilities when turning in my entry for this challenge.
Lifelong strength...Lifelong family and friends... Lifelong knowledge.
This is what I took away from the challenge. It was entirely priceless. I want to take a moment to say Thank You, to the four women who took care of us, Mom (Deanna Bower), Bonnie, Charlene, and Rachel. They spent so much of their time and assets to this weekend for us Top 10 girls and it was totally life-changing.
My most memorable moments of that weekend happened many times, but I will sum them down to the biggest impact moments to me.
I’m very interested in hands-on mechanical work, as well as the Ultra4 race vehicles used at King of The Hammers. So, going to LetzRoll Offroad was a double-whammy! We got to watch and even get our hands dirty as they demonstrated a Yukon Gear install. Total out with the old in with the new. Come to find out they have been racing their own Ultra4 race buggy for a few years now! Now I have a die hard race team to cheer on.
We were totally surprised with Bogi’s Garage. There’s pretty much a whole other world that went on there, it’s like Narnia in my eyes. Almost as if I speak of it, the world would wither to dust and fly away. It was an eye opener to a strong world of women who will not take no for an answer to achieve their dreams. I learned how hard it can be to climb the stairway of success in the industry, and even near the top many aspects can trip you up. What I gained from the structure of support is that I may direct other women and myself to this safety net if we try but don’t succeed. If we feel like we are at rock bottom, or feel like giving up, there is someone to call.
Fly-N-Hi Racing really brought out the guns! Seriously, the power guns. It was very informative to know the ins and outs of what a beadlock rim is all about. Being challenged to take the 37-inch tire, or so, on and off a rim, then tightening the beads being precise with the pattern. The experience was exhilarating, plus learning some real life business problems and issues they face from the inside was a great look at an owners perspective.
The Trail Training and visit to SDHQ was a total learning experience for me. I am so grateful that I learned there is a lot I have done wrong that was dangerous! Sounds crazy I know, but now I can save myself and everyone around me on the trail safely. I would hate to hurt someone else offroad, even though we all take that risk. As a driver, I take responsibility for all my actions. Charlene Bower holds these very informational and non-gender based trail training classes.
We went to SDHQ in Arizona, which I believe has the biggest store. It has absolutely everything, just about, or the materials to build what you need. An awesome shop, and very knowledgeable staff. Perfect place for my future dream builds.
Our last days were pretty fun, yet still a challenge. We met PJ Jones towards the end of the weekend and learned about his company PJ's Performance UTV Rentals. Personally, I’m studying to get my Associates in Business Administration and an Associates in Economics. So, this experience was yet another perspective of business ownership. It wasn’t all just a crash course though. Sunday was our crazy beautiful hike, thanks to PJ and his team for the guidance. Later on, we got to go “seatbelts on” on the UTV rentals his team builds their life around, from renting, building, and racing. Tearing up the desert and jumping into the river was the perfect way to end the trips!
Overall, the total experience was worth anything I had to ignore to be there. I would not trade this time for anything in the world. I seriously will talk about this till the day I die, when I get asked in 40 years by my grandkids about my Jeep life days. From the extended family I created, to the challenge days and everything I learned from them. I will stay humble in the world of learning from my surroundings.
Photo Credit: Rachel Speir - RS Marqueting
Author: Katelyn Wood