Kris Bowe - Ladies Offroad Challenge Featured Entry
"Kristina Johnson Bowe Richfield, MN – Kris’s off-road experience started as a spotter and passenger for her husband when he was first drawn into the sport. Five years later she got behind the wheel for the first time and fell in love with driving! In June 2017 she bought her own jeep, participating in trail runs and local events as often as she can. She is the CFO of Ladies Rock Off-Road Club (LROC). She is a CPA by day and loves numbers and spreadsheets. Kris loves having a husband who can figure out almost anything when it comes to their jeeps. She has watched and assisted him with many of the upgrades on her jeep, while admits to ignoring the garage when he is working on his own jeep!"
Tell us about yourself:
My name is Kris and I love the sport of off-roading! I'm a CPA, work in finance, and love numbers and spreadsheets. In my work life I am inside and behind a desk the majority of the day. There is nothing better than the anticipation of a weekend off-road event at the end of a long work-week. I am blessed in that I get to work hard and play hard. Getting to spend time with some amazing people who love the sport as much as I do, taking on the challenge of a new obstacle, or even just going for a nice scenic trail ride with the music blasting. I love it all. When I'm not working or running my kids around to different activities, I love reading, watching movies, tackling a new craft project, baking a sweet treat, or checking in on social media for updates on my friends and family. I also love to travel and am slowly checking destinations off my bucket list. With wheeling, a whole new variety of destinations and bucket list locations have been added.
How long have you been offroading?
I have been participating in off-roading for seven years, mostly as a passenger and spotter. I have been wheeling for the past three years, but only at a few events a year, if they had a ladies run available. I have been actively participating in the off-road community as a lady wheeler for about one year. My experience as a passenger and spotter has been invaluable to me as a driver. Because of that time in the passenger seat, I am more comfortable finding a line when a trail gets tricky. I also don't freak out when something goes "bang". While my experience as a driver is newer, I love that I had that time as a passenger, because of it I'm not afraid to try new things and push myself.
How did you get into offroading?
My husband bought a jeep seven years ago. We took his jeep to Dresser, WI for an event over Memorial Day weekend with the owners of Iron Rock Offroad. Mike's Jeep (a 1998 ZJ) was not built out yet, so we had to do bypasses on most of the obstacles. It was incredible to watch some of the Iron Rock Offroad Jeeps do the obstacles, it made us want to build out his jeep even more. I spent many years as a passenger and spotter before I got behind the wheel. The first time I got behind the wheel to drive, I was hooked. I would drive Mike's jeep at any ladies run there was for the next couple of years. In June 2017, I took the plunge and purchased my jeep, Axle. It was one of the best decisions I could have made. It has opened up an entire world to me, and I love it. I am no longer waiting for an off-road event that has a "ladies run", I am taking my jeep and going to all of the events, as a lady wheeler.
Tell us about your vehicle:
His name is Axle, he's a 1997 red Jeep TJ. When I purchased him, he already had a variety of upgrades including a LS motor, 6" Long Arm Suspension, 3" body lift, Yukon lockers, Dana 44 front axle, and a Ford 9" rear axle. Since owning him I have beefed him up even further by adding an ORO SwayLoc, IRO rock sliders, TNT steel tube fenders, 40" Pro Comp tires, Method Wheels, Smittybilt X2O Synthetic Line 10K Winch, TNT skid plates, ARB onboard air, and some other smaller mods. Most of these modifications were chosen so I had the extra armor and protection I needed while doing the rock crawling that I love to do. What makes Axle extra special, is the custom fab work my husband has done on him. There aren't many options on the market for TJ's, since most shops are currently geared towards the newer JK's. My husband has added custom tube steps to my IRO rock sliders, custom tubing on my front bumper and even built a custom tire carrier (that looks absolutely wicked) for my spare.
What has been your favorite offroad experience?
One of my favorite experiences so far has been a fall trip to Dresser, WI. We had a group of ladies from Ladies Rock Off-Road Club heading out, I was excited to get to wheel before winter hit. It had been raining all week, we knew it was going to be muddy and a little tricky for some of the more stock rigs in the group, but we were determined to have fun. I had done a few modifications on my jeep and was excited to test them out. My jeep performed! The thrill of taking on the challenge of a new obstacle and conquering it feels beyond amazing. As a group we hit a really tricky spot on the core trail. There was a large dip that would normally not cause issues. Because of the water, other rigs had been pounding on the trails all day, it had created a headfirst drop into waist deep water and mud. I was able to help spot the other jeeps in our group through a tight space in order to bypass the drop-off. It felt amazing to be able to help the group and add value to the ride.
What was your most exciting offroad achievement?
I rented a RZR in AZ and was super excited about the opportunity. There are some very cool dunes out on the island in Lake Havasu, and a variety of other dunes as you head west out of the city. At one point, my daughter was driving, and didn't give it quite enough gas getting up the hill. She tried backing down, but the passenger side back tire went off the lip of the trail and we were tipping pretty hard. I took the driver's seat and it was pretty precarious. I have to admit I was nervous. I had my mom and two daughters in the vehicle, I knew our lives weren't in danger, but I wasn't confident we wouldn't tip. In order to get us out of the situation, I ended up having to back us up even further over the edge, into some smaller trees and brush in order to get us in a more stable position. It worked! I was able to level us out and get us back on the trail. I convinced my daughter to try it again after a bit and she ended up finishing the day, and loving it.
What excites you about offroading?
What excites me the most are the challenges, people and the adventures. Although, at this point in my off-roading journey, there isn't much that doesn't excite me. I love being able to challenge myself and see what I can do and how I can push myself. I really enjoy meeting new people, and hearing about their off-roading experiences and their rigs. While off-roaders are all very different, we share a passion that binds us all and that we can connect through.
I am super excited to see where this journey leads me. I have a bit of wanderlust and I am excited to be able to take my jeep and explore. I get to visit places I might not have seen before, and attend events I previously knew nothing about. What's even better is that I have an incredible group of people who want to go on this journey as well and are willing to adventure with me. There hasn't been one time where I've said "we should try that, do that, go there", and someone hasn't jumped in and said, "yes!". How awesome is that?
What do you think is the most challenging aspect of offroading?
The most challenging part for me, is the amount of information out there and wrapping my head around all of it. I'm a student at heart, I love to learn. Currently I think I am learning something new every time I hit the trail. The basic mechanics of the different parts of my rig, what they do and how they help me on the trail has been incredibly eye opening. I am lucky to have knowledgeable people in my life that are always willing to answer a question. It feels like a never-ending pool of knowledge. When you are working on a modified rig, it is an incredibly complicated puzzle to try and figure out. What modifications will work on my rig, how they will interact with my other mods, or if further mods will be necessary if I add certain modifications. Everyone has a different opinion and different experience level, so learning how to decipher what it going to work best for me is a constant challenge
Which aspect of offroading do you think is the most fun?
The best part of off-roading is the adventure. Every time I go out I get to push myself a little bit more and try something different and new. As I progress, that adventure is going to take me to new places and new challenges. I have already been able to meet so many amazing people through this sport. Friendships that I will have for a lifetime. There's a certain thrill in knowing that I can continue to grow this amazing group of people in my life. I am thrilled with the thought of continuing this journey and this adventure. It's also really, really cool. I am a nerd, everyone knows I am a nerd. This sport lets me get out of my head and enjoy something completely different. Off-roading "fills my tank", replenishes my soul, and makes me happy.
What does prepping for an adventure look like in your world?
I am a list maker. Every vacation I go on, every off-roading adventure I take, I have lists. I have packing lists, that include primary packing if it is for multiple days as well as travel packing for the bag of stuff I need readily available. I have a list for items that I need to purchase, as well as a list of things I need to get done beforehand (clean my house, pet sitter for the dog, etc).
I also have specific lists for wheeling trips that I use over and over again: packing list, a pre-trail checklist, a post-trail checklist. My packing list for wheeling includes recovery gear, first aid kit, toilet paper, ziploc bags, backup power chargers, water, snacks, a good playlist, change of clothes, and depending on the season, cold weather gear.
I run through a check on my vehicle and make sure things are tightened down, and all my fluids are full. I make sure I have good directions for where I am meeting up with my group, as well as the final destination.
What is on your offroading bucket list?
My off-roading experience thus far has been fairly limited to my local area in the Midwest, so I have a lot of experiences on my bucket list. Some events I hadn't heard of until this last year, different experiences and locations are being added constantly. I want to own a RZR or a Buggy. It's not in the budget yet, but this is something I need in my life. I want to go wheeling in Moab. It looks amazing, and I would love to attend Easter Jeep Safari next year and get the full Moab experience. I would also love to do the Rubicon Trail. I have plans to attend Jeep Beach next year with a friend, and we may even get a group of ladies from Ladies Rock Off-Road Club to go down. I would also love to attend King of The Hammers as a spectator. The videos look so crazy and I want to experience it firsthand. Another goal on my list is to participate in the Rebelle Rally. I need to learn more, raise some funds, and find the right partner, but this WILL happen, even if it's a few years down the road.
Tell us about who you go offroading with:
When I started wheeling with my husband we met up with people we already knew from the off-road community . As time progressed we joined a club and started participating more with the same group of individuals. I've had the privilege of connecting with Angela Hinkley's group, Ladies Rock Off-Road Club (LROC), and it has completely opened my world up. I now participate in MN4DWA (Minnesota 4 Wheel Drive Association) functions, engage with other clubs, and socialize with our LROC members outside of wheeling events. My favorite people to wheel with, outside of my family, is LROC. They are an amazing group of women, they are very intentional about supporting each other and our own individual goals. I like to say that Mike started me on this journey, but Angela Hinkley has helped me truly enjoy it. They are both amazing people and are awesome support. I am blessed to be married to someone who 100% supports me in my off-roading dreams, and to have a friend who pushes me, and cheer me on as I work towards my goals.
What is a piece of advice you have been given that you instill in your offroading adventures?
Something I learned from my husband on my very first trail ride as a driver was, the most important thing to bring with you on the trail, or on any adventure is a positive attitude. Things don't always go your way, challenges happen. It could be as minor as kids fighting in the back seat, or as complicated as two broken axles in the middle of an inclined trail. A positive attitude can differentiate a terrible experience from a great story to be told later on. I have learned from experiences on the trail that you cannot change the way that others behave, but if you bring positivity to the situation, it CAN influence how everyone in the group feels and how they interact with each other. Over reacting, or having a negative reaction to a challenge on the trail fogs the brain. If you can remain calm, and stay positive you are better able to address the situation at hand, figure out a solution and work through it.
Do you have anything else you would like to add?
My jeep is named Axle after my nickname in the off-road community "Axle Crusher". I received this badge of honor while on my first ever ladies run. I was following a group and we were going the wrong way up an easy trail. There was a tricky spot where quite a few jeeps were getting stuck. I got stuck in the same spot. I was hitting the right line, but not quite giving it enough power to get up and over. My spotter told me to "just hit it a little harder". I did and I crushed the front axle. At this point we needed to winch the jeep up the hill so we could get it off the trail. When I started winching, my rear axle hit the same spot and was crushed. I got to do the tow of shame in front of everyone eating lunch, and hence gained the nickname "Axle Crusher". I still had fun. I felt a little bad for destroying my husband's jeep, but because he was able to laugh about it, so was I. That's where I learned how valuable a positive attitude can be on the trail.
Click here to see all the 2018 Ladies Offroad Challenge Entries.