Day 1, Thursday, when we all arrived. Some drove in while some of us, like myself flew in. After I picked up my luggage I wandered around looking for our meetup spot. I knew I had found it when I heard a faint “Lauren?”. Que the squeals! This is when I first met Kristie! We chatted for a while and got to know each other and shortly after Trish joined in our group! It was after this we went outside and set our eyes upon our glorious chariot that would shuttle us around on our wild adventure, a white 15 passenger van we lovingly called The Whale. Of course Charlene and Rachel were there to greet us and were just as excited as we were to get going!
After stopping by the store and grabbing the most epic amount of ice bags I’ve ever seen, we headed to the house and got everything prepped for the arrival of the rest of the ladies. The other ladies slowly trickled in, we all figured out our sleeping arrangements and got to know each other a bit more. Soon after that we began our first challenge! The toughest part, we’d soon figure out, was the unknown. The unknown of where we’d be going, what we’d be doing, and who we’d be meeting. But that also is what made it the most exciting! All we knew at this point was “you have 15 minutes, put your fancy pants on!”.
Off we went in the van, it was later on in the evening when we arrived at a cool gold mine ghost town. We took a tour underground in the mine and learned all sorts of cool new facts about mining. The next challenge I found particularly fun was our photo scavenger hunt. We broke into groups and went scattering about looking for our photos. Now I see why it was suggested we don’t wear heels! We even had our first live video, which was sideways unbeknownst to us. Of course we had to poke fun about it in our second live video! After a great dinner we all settled into bed for an early wake up and conference call.
Our only reference for the day to come was a small itinerary on the wall that listed what time we needed to be ready and what to bring. Day 2 we of course had to decorate the van with window chalk at one of our gas station stops. Side note, I found myself stranded in the guys bathroom but that’s a funny story for another day! After a long drive we found ourselves in Sedona, Arizona where we met the fabulous Nena Barlow for a fun filled day of learning recovery techniques and wheeling! I learned a lot of winching techniques and got to play with recovery tools I hadn’t ever gotten to use yet. I really enjoyed watching everyone else learn too. It was awesome to see Leigh pull a winch line for the first time! We even got to see the 4runner from Top Gear! My favorite part of the day was the fact I got to drive a Jeep for the first time. Not just any Jeep either…a Red Rock Edition #16 of 50, so I was a bit spoiled!
After that long day we had a meal at a really neat restaurant. One would think that would finish up the day, nope! We found ourselves at the shooting range later on that night! A handful of ladies had never shot a firearm before but that didn’t stop them. Everybody had a blast and shot great!
Day 3 was tough! 4:15am wakeup call and out the door by 5:00! We just kept driving and driving. We’d stop for a bathroom break then keep driving along. “Where are we going!?” and of course Charlene would giggle and say “We’re going to do what we gotta do!” and just kept driving. “Are we just going to be abandoned in the desert!?” Of course making us all terrified with “I hope you all brought your passports!” Then out of nowhere a “Welcome to California!” sign! We even drove right along the border to Mexico, so close my phone welcomed me to Mexico and started talking to me about data rates!
Our final destination was the Raspy Roost in Ocotillo Wells, which is a very cozy, rustic desert oasis. There we met the amazing Emily Miller with the Rebelle Rally! What an amazing woman. She was so full of knowledge and such a tough lady yet looked perfect while doing everything! I really enjoyed learning to properly use a compass and how to plot points on a map and find routes using landmarks. It’s a very valuable skill to know. We even got to go find the points we mapped out together in the van. Waypoint 2 wasn’t exactly the easiest to get to. Let’s just say we had to use some of our recovery techniques we learned the day before to get back to the Raspy Roost…
We finished up pretty late which changed our schedule slightly but we still made it work. We overwhelmed Jack ‘N The Box which our late night dinner. Half of the van slept on the way back while the other half chatted with Charlene and the crew up front. We didn’t get back until about 2:00am which made for a tough next morning. Running on a couple hours of sleep is tough but it was totally worth it to all of us!
What a great way to wrap up the adventure on day 4 than with some kayaking. Funny part was we still had no idea what we were doing that morning. Charlene came out and mentioned we better use some zip lock bags. All of us were running around “What do we do with the bags? Do we put our lunch in it? Snacks? Do we bring our bathing suits? Wear them? Ahh!” Meanwhile Charlene casually strolls out in a bathing suit and we all knew to quickly throw ours on too! It almost reminded me of how in some movies the employees will be frantic about something until the boss walks in, then act like all is fine with the world, then the boss walks away again and they go back to panicking! It’s pretty hilarious to me thinking back to all of this now! Once we figured out we were kayaking we were all excited. It was my first time ever in a kayak, so while I was excited to do it, I was also a little nervous about falling in.
You couldn’t have asked for a better place to kayak. The river was calm with the occasional small rapids just to keep things interesting. Floating alongside vertical cliffs, saguaro cactus, wild horses and all the nature was one of the most relaxing things I’ve done. It was great to chat and reminisce about the week while casually drifting. We made a few stops on the river but of course being the adventurous women we are, we wanted to press on for as long as we could. Time started to pass and the group started to question continuing on! I was surprised my arms were still attached! During this moment it gave me time to reflect on the common theme we learned from everybody this week. You have to keep going. It might not be easy, and you might not finish first but you just have to keep going. The most important part was to finish what you started. I kept telling myself just to paddle one more time, over and over. 14 miles later we reached our ending point! Everybody finished! And not one person fell in! I was so proud for everyone.
We thought for sure that was our last activity and we were a little bummed. But of course, once we got back to the house, Charlene told us to wait outside for our final surprise! And we couldn’t get it until we cleaned the van out! We quickly did our thing with the van and once we were ready we all walked into the door. We found ourselves face to face with a loud “Surprise!”. All of them were other ladies that entered into the Co-Driver Challenge too! How cool is that? We got to hang out and chat about all the awesome adventures and of course, about our Jeeps and trucks! It was so cool to be able to chat with so many other women with similar interests. We even got to share some sweet swag with them too! The food was amazing! This was also where we did our final live video which was great to be able to involve everyone there in. We even surprised quite a few people by all jumping into the pool during our video. Now THAT was refreshing!
To finish up the evening, we all got cozied up and watched Dream Racer, which is really good by the way if you ever get the chance to watch it! I’m shocked that most everybody managed to stay awake for it because we all were beat! This was when it started to become reality that this was all finally over. A few ladies had to head off to the airport or start the drive back home. We all did our closing interviews and it was quite surreal. I made my final goodbyes and off I went…back to the real world. It was hilarious the next day seeing all the last few photos shared online. Like drawing on the firewood (thanks Matt!) and climbing on the buggy.
The thing I thought was the coolest about this entire event, not once did it ever feel like a competition. It truly was a Ladies Co-Driver…Challenge. It challenged our abilities, it challenged us to come out of our comfort zones, it challenged us to push ourselves, and it challenged us to try new things. We truly became a team in everything we did. The skills we learned are invaluable and the people we met we may have never had the opportunity to meet otherwise. I’m so grateful to be a part of this opportunity. I can’t wait to see where this all brings us and who else we can inspire along our journeys.