If someone told you that your life would take an unimaginable, amazing turn and you would have an incredible opportunity given to you all from a Facebook notification…would you believe them? Well it happened to me! On Wednesday March 30, 2016, late in the afternoon, my phone chimed with a Facebook notification letting me know that someone had “tagged” me in a post. Not unlike other days it was one of a few notifications I had received that day. Figuring that it was probably the run of the mill post, meme or funny video, I wasn’t in too much of a hurry to look at it. Little did I know it was anything but that.
Once I looked at it and watched the video I almost couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I realized my friend had shared with me an opportunity of a lifetime. The opportunity to co-drive with Charlene Bower in one of three upcoming events she was going to be a part of. This seemed so unreal and out of reach it was a little crazy. So crazy that I knew I had to go for it. I had to take this chance to spread my wings and chase some of my goals!
So, always being one who loves a good adventure, I said to myself, “why not” (not gonna lie that thought was followed at times with that nagging little voice in my head that said “you probably won’t make it”). I mentioned it to my husband and told him that it was something I wanted to do and he immediately encouraged me to apply. That settled it….I was going for it! What could it hurt? Right? I figured that even just applying for the challenge would be a valuable experience. Like the saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step….SO I DID IT!
I pulled up the three page questionnaire, filled it all out, chose my three photos and off it went, straight to Charlene and Bower Motorsports Media. It was official; I was now a part of the Ladies Co-Driver Challenge. At this point I can honestly say, I still had no idea of the magnitude of the journey that I had just embarked on.
The deadline for application submissions came and went and we immediately moved on to the first phase of the challenge. The first phase was to gather “likes” and “comments” expressing votes of confidence in you and your skills. After having the opportunity to take a look at the entries of the other 90 ladies who were a part of the challenge, I could already tell that I was amongst a group of amazing ladies with all different kinds of skill, knowledge and experience. Any of which would be a great choice. I began wondering if I was in over my head. I continued to do my best to share my challenge info with family and friends encouraging them to please vote and support me in my endeavor. There were comments coming in from friends, family, co-workers and all kinds of people. As I sat and read their words I was sometimes moved to tears to realize the amount of faith they had in me and to realize what they thought of me. At times I was taken back by the amount of support that was encompassing me. I remember thinking at one point, is it possible that those around me believe in me more than I believe in myself? As the likes and comments started pouring in, I saw the excitement and support from all the other ladies involved and I had a renewed sense of energy and enthusiasm. I focused even more on my goal and really sunk my teeth into the idea that I wanted this and I could do this! The challenge in the first phase of social media voting was to be in the top 30 ladies out of a total of 91 or be one of the lucky ladies who made it into one of three wild card slots. The first phase of the challenge came to a close and I waited anxiously for the results. Well….I MADE IT!!! My family had a Jeepin’/camping trip planned for the weekend and it was quite comical for them watching me scoot around our campsite to make sure I was in a spot with good enough signal to receive emails and watch the live Facebook feed to hear my name announced. Watching the live video brought its own challenges. For Charlene the challenge was to say my last name correctly and for me the challenge was to not dance around too much when my name was called out or I would lose my signal…hahaha.
Okay, now it was on to the next round. This in itself was an interesting adventure. As I mentioned, I was on a Jeepin’/camping trip with my family, remember? I knew there would be additional info to be gathered, papers to be filled out and photos to submit. What I wasn’t sure of was how I would complete it out in the woods off a dirt trail. I made my way to an area in our campsite where I had enough signal to check my email. There is was the email I was expecting along with another questionnaire to complete and turn in as soon as possible. I was able to download the forms and view them but had no way on my phone in the woods to fill them out and send them back. So, the next morning after breakfast I hopped in our trusty Jeep, waved goodbye to my family and headed down the dirt road towards the closest town. I made my way into a small Arizona town named Mayer and headed straight for the local library. I was greeted by the very kind Assistant Librarian who was more than helpful directing me to a computer I could use to access my documents and print them out. There I sat at a table in the Mayer library completing my papers surrounded by all the little critters who call the library home (they have a pet rabbit, fish, mice gerbils etc). I finished filling out my paperwork, took a cell phone picture of it and emailed it back. Once I was assured that my email had gone through and all was complete I again thanked the Assistant Librarian, donated to their “Hedge Fund” (they were raising money to buy a Hedgehog to add to the family of pets there at the library and hit the road back to camp. A couple of emails later and I had a time slot set up to complete my phone interview with Charlene (which was the other task that needed to be completed as part of this phase of the challenge). As the weekend drew to a close we got up Sunday, packed camp and headed for home. We made it home, unloaded and cleaned up just in time to answer the phone for my interview. This was to be an approx. 15 minute interview with a portion of it recorded to air on an upcoming special episode of Bower Power Hour. How awesome was that…..this adventure just keeps getting better! This phone call was the first chance I had ever had to speak directly to Charlene. Prior to the interview I was coaching myself to just stay calm, relax and be myself. My greatest concern was being nervous. I can truly say Charlene’s calm, down to earth nature made it easy to talk to her as if I was talking to an old friend. We had a great visit and with that my interview portion was complete. The third and final thing that had to be completed in this phase was to choose photos that they would use for our episode of Bower Power Hour. In the coming week I chose my photos and sent them over. Fast forward to the ladies meet and greet at Jeep Beach Daytona. I sat in my living room glued to my phone with my daughter by my side. We began anxiously listening as Charlene called out the ladies names. She called out the first five then took a short break to acknowledge a couple of participants that were present at the Jeep Beach event and then began to finish calling out names. As she read the name of the sixth lady and then the seventh, I was beginning to worry thinking I might not make it. Continuing on she called out the name of the eighth lady and I knew there were only two spots left. Finally, as she called out the name of the ninth lady I almost burst, because it was me! I whooped and hollered so loudly that it startled my daughter. We celebrated together with tears of joy running down my face. My daughter turned, looked at me and asked me if I was happy crying. “Yes, I am very happy!” I replied. At that point I was then one of the top ten who was moving on to what would be an epic training weekend here in Arizona.
Having made it into the top ten I was guaranteed a spot in the upcoming training weekend. With lots of planning from Charlene and her team, a few conference calls with “the ten”, finally it was time to train. I arrived at Charlene's office the afternoon of Thursday May 12th. Most of the ladies were already there. That moment, walking into a room full of people I have never met I can say with all certainty was one of the least awkward “new group” settings I have ever been involved in. I was greeted and I greeted in return all of the ladies like we had been friends for quite some time, hugs and hellos all around. We all had just enough time to say our hellos and get acquainted a bit and then we were off and running. We truly did hit the ground running that weekend. Over the course of that evening and the next 3 days we lived and experienced what seemed like a lifetime of learning and adventures. We travelled near and far for our training. Over the course of our weekend we traversed the State of Arizona and explored further into Southern California and managed to rack up just shy of 1300 miles on our big white 15 passenger van that we affectionately referred to as the White Whale. As we moved from one training to the next what was impressed upon me most wasn't just the quality of our mentors that Charlene had exposed each of us to but also the fact that those ladies whole heartedly took the time to truly invest in each of us. I remember sitting there listening to one of our mentors talk and the overwhelming thought hit me that these incredible women truly believe in us, in me. That thought was so profound it actually brought me to tears. The knowledge that all of these ladies have is unbelievable! Although the skills that we learned at each stop of our training were invaluable, there were also so many other lessons to be picked up along the way. As we met each of the ladies that mentored us in their area of off road or outdoor expertise, I looked around at the ladies standing beside me and the reality hit me that there have been countless times I have probably walked right past an incredible lady in the grocery store or on the street and never even realized what I had missed. I wondered how many times have I walked by a lady who has an incredible story to tell, experience to share or knowledge built up that I could have learned from or that could have helped me grow as a person. It reminded of the simple but sometimes overlooked lesson of you can’t judge a book by its cover. If each of us would just take the time to talk to those around, break down the barriers and be willing to reach out we would see that there's a wealth of knowledge that can be shared, exchanged and gained by all. As we traveled throughout the State of Arizona Charlene would often point things out outside the van or mention when there was a beautiful sight to enjoy or scenery that the ladies should take in. I found that in those moments that at first I wasn’t looking up. I guess I was taking for granted that since I am a native I have driven by these sights and scenery my whole life. As I began to notice and watched the reactions of the ladies as they pulled out their phones to quickly snap pictures to capture all the beauty around us it made me realize that I should be taking it all in too. Seeing my home state through their eyes allowed me to regain an appreciation for just how amazing it truly is and allowed me to see it from a whole new perspective. Needless to say I didn’t waste a moment not looking at what was going on around me anymore but instead I took it all in with my renewed sense of awe and appreciation. The more challenges and training that we went through the closer we all became and it was in those times that we learned the value of working together. I wasn't sure what to expect coming into this training weekend but I thought surely there will be moments of downtime. Boy was I wrong. We were constantly engaged and learned that every moment is valuable and to use them wisely. Every moment was consumed with exploring, adventuring, learning, discussing and growing. With each day and each new training or challenge that we faced I watched proudly as each of us ladies pushed ourselves to see what we could truly accomplished. As I looked around and saw each of these women pushing themselves to do their absolute best and to do absolutely all that they could it helped me gain strength and realize just exactly how far I could push myself. Then, just when I thought I had pushed myself to my absolute max I realized that if I looked inside myself there was still more I could give. With all the training and information Charlene packed into this incredible weekend I often found my mind buzzing like a busy bee while I tried to soak up as much as I could. It was in one of those moments that Charlene looked at me and said “just be here right now and give what you are doing 100%”. For me, this is a lesson I will carry with me from this point forward. It struck me that there is a certain value in multi-tasking but really only to a certain extent and beyond that I truly needed to focus on pouring 100% of me into what I was doing in that moment. The lessons learned, bonds formed, skills gained and opportunities that we have been afforded were truly an once-in-a-lifetime experience. Regardless of what is to come after this point I can truly say that I am grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of something truly as remarkable as this and to do it alongside such amazing women. This training weekend has forever changed me. It has boosted my confidence, given me direction, sparked a fire and exposed me to an incredible network of like minded ladies. Looking back on this experience I can’t even begin to comprehend just how overwhelmingly amazing it has been. I don’t know if a mere thank you can express just how grateful I am for this opportunity. As for myself, I see this as just the beginning, the open door or the launching pad for what's to come next and I am so excited for that journey. Thank you to all involved. All the way from Charlene, to our friends or to our families…..thank you to all who stood behind us, lifted us up and believed in us.