Author: Kris Bowe
My journey to the 2018 Ladies Offroad Challenge Top 10 began at the first Ladies Offroad Network convention last year. I had limited exposure to Ladies Offroad Network but was invited by Angela Hinkley, and it sounded like a great opportunity.
If there is one event I recommend attending, it would be the Ladies Offroad Convention. Do it for yourself, you will meet some incredible people, learn and grow. This could be the start of YOUR journey. My experience there opened my eyes to other opportunities and I started my journey of learning. I was hesitant to apply for the Top 10 challenge. I knew it would be an amazing experience, but was leery of spending days and nights with nine other women I didn’t know. Sometimes women can be catty, gossipy and mean, and that did NOT sound like fun. I was also a bit intimidated. There are some amazing women off-roaders out there, in all different arenas, and I would be in the running for a Top 10 spot against some of the best, which sounded a bit scary.
Charlene had put a special call out for garage girls, and I knew that wasn’t me. I can help in the garage, but do not have extensive knowledge or a broad skill base in that area. What sold me was the opportunity of the Polaris RZR Glamis event. I recently fell in love with RZRs, so any opportunity to learn more about them, drive them, talk to people who own them, sounded incredible.
It turns out I was completely wrong about my perception of the Top 10 weekend. The best part is being smashed into cramped quarters with nine other ladies experiencing the same boot camp style running around as you. Especially with the ladies that were chosen this year, I shouldn’t have been intimidated. Some of the ladies had more experience than me, and some had less. Some of them knew information I didn’t and shared it with me, and sometimes I was able to share my knowledge with them. We all learned from each other. Even though I am not a garage girl, I am capable of learning and expanding my knowledge base so that I can be MORE of a garage girl than I was previously.
There were a couple of big takeaways for me from this weekend. The learning, people, networking, and finding my own inner strength and purpose. The majority of our weekend was spent in different learning environments where we were also meeting key people in the industry.
I learned different mechanical skills such as the basics of changing gears, changing the oil in a Jeep, putting on and taking off beadlocks safely, and welding. My favorite of these was learning about beadlocks from Jeremy Hammer at Fly-N-Hi. The skills I definitely wanted to learn more about was gearing, which we learned from Andrew McLaughlin at LetzRoll Offroad Racing. It was a great start and base for really learning everything that goes into gearing and how they are removed, adjusted, re-installed, and tested.
We also were able to participate in a five hour recovery class with Charlene at 4 Wheel Parts. This is the ultimate recovery course. I would recommend this course to anyone that participates in off-roading, whether you are a driver, spotter, passenger, newer to the sport or more experienced. Everyone can learn and have takeaways from this course. I was able to go hands on with recovery equipment and learn the proper and safe way to recover myself and others out of any potential situation. Because the class size was small, I was able to have a personal engagement with Charlene and she was able to answer all of my specific questions while I learned the materials and practiced hands on with the recovery gear. I also learned about tires, of which there is way more information than I had thought possible.
Through all of those learning opportunities, we were able to meet some really amazing people who are supporting ladies in the off-road industry. My absolute favorite person to meet was Bogi Lateiner. I am one of the few who had never heard of Bogi before. She is a businesswoman who runs her own garage, is a mechanic, and also stars on a TV show “All Girls Garage”. She isn’t just an influencer, she is real, down to earth, smart, and kind. She is a perfect role model of what a feminist should look like. She does not bash on males or believe that females are better than males. She believes in the passion that every person has the right and opportunity to pursue the things they want in life, including their job choice. You do not have to be a male to be a mechanic, and mechanics are not unintelligent people that can’t make it in another job. Mechanics are smart, they are fond of puzzles, and like fixing things; they enjoy math and science. They can be men AND women. That attitude and influence is incredibly empowering to women.
My most challenging day was our final day, as it was probably intended to be. We were asked to do a four mile hike up a mountain or two. I was delirious by the end, so don’t ask me about the beautiful view, but I’m sure Rachel captured some astounding pictures. There are many people out there that could easily manage this, in fact, we saw people running the trail (side note: they were nuts). I have asthma, I am not a hiker, a runner, or even someone that particularly enjoys going to the gym. I knew going into it that this was not going to be easy for me, but that I could finish. My biggest concern was holding up the group and dragging everyone else down, or letting Charlene down because I couldn’t keep up with the group. Again, I was proven wrong. The girls identified very quickly that I was struggling, and every single one of them at one point or another on that hike slowed down, walked with me, gave me words of encouragement, sang to me, shared their water, put their icy bottle on my back to cool me off, and told me I was doing awesome. Let’s be clear, I was not doing awesome, but I finished. With every single one of those girls with me, cheering me on and giving me every ounce of encouragement I needed. There was true teamwork and love in this group.
Charlene did an amazing job of pairing ten women together for this weekend. Women who worked well together, bonded and encouraged each other. We all learned from the others. Every one of these women had something special to share with the group, and everyone was willing to listen, learn and grow from the others. It’s amazing how quickly you can figure out what makes someone tick and what drives them when you are sweaty arm to sweaty arm in a van or sharing a couch for a bed. We were all very different, and at the same time, we loved the differences in each other. Every single one of those women made me laugh, smile or cry (happy tears) over those four days.
So what was my biggest takeaway from this mind-blowing Top 10 weekend? Nine plus amazing women that I will forever consider friends.
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Photo Credit: Rachel Speir - RS Marqueting
Author: Kris Bowe