by Tabie Kelley
Radio Check! Come back!
Okay driver, watch your mirrors and back up the hill.
Wait! What? Yes driver, back up the hill.
Spotter to Driver- Driver ready? 10-4 and up the hill we went backwards.
That day I learned a few things about myself like my spotter is my eyes when I can’t see and my trust is totally in them and their directions. Did I make it up the hill backwards? Heck yeah. Was I scared? Heck yeah. It was a challenge but I did it!
My off-road bug bit me pretty early in life when my dad had variety of vehicles we would take off-road. My favorite was the Willy’s Jeep and later the CJ 7. The CJ 7 was a project Jeep he picked up to eventually repair and use as his daily driver. The color was brown, but we called it doo doo brown. I am almost positive that was the name of the factory’s color.
So now fast forward to adulthood and to Jeep shopping. I’m looking to trade my Jeep Grand Cherokee for a wrangler. I find one and send my hubby to look at and get the details. He goes to look at it sending me back details and photos. I tell myself if it’s meant to be it will work. So I take a breath and jump. So now I am a proud owner of a 2003 Jeep Wrangler soft top. I’m in love and ready to take it out and wheel it. I’ve watched videos of people climbing rocks and culverts and hubby says,” woah, not just yet.”
So off I go making this a daily driver and fantasizing over all the modifications I could do to my TJ. I found headlights, lift kits, new fenders, you know ladies the list of “If I won the lottery what would I do first” that is mounted on my vision board. So I decided on headlights, trimmed my fenders for more clearance for my larger BFG’s. A few weeks later on an off-road trip to an undisclosed location in Brevard County, FL I blow out my transmission. Yup, broke and 2 hours from home on a Sunday. So finally after numerous phone calls to friends looking for a trailer we finally get home around 11pm. Needless to say my TJ was down for a month while we replaced, upgraded, rewired the Jeep. Then the next move was to get the Jeep back from the garage. She was born a 2.4 liter and came back to me a 5.9 liter total drivetrain upgrade to a V8 powerhouse. She was wicked! I named her Wicked Pearl. Up until the day I traded her in we had many adventures. Wicked Pearl will always be my first Jeep but my rubicon “ Chaos” is the Jeep that I am going to grow with.
After winning a membership to LON off a FaceBook contest I decided to really try my hand at this off-road stuff. So after contemplating what that would entail, I jumped in and started to do research, learn the basics, safety, equipment and all that. Then I asked myself, “Are women accepted in the off-road community?” Will my actions be making an impact to women? Heck yeah! So of course I started following ladies online who are in the off-road community, Charlene, Jesse Combs, and Jessy Greenland and found a few new ladies to follow. I really started to pay attention to wheeling, safety, how to pick a line, learning to trust your spotter, recovery and how to safely use a winch. Looked easy, right. At this point I time I am feeling like this off-road community is for me.
August 2018 rolls around and we are headed to Jasper, Georgia for a Jeep event. This Florida girl has never experienced wheeling in the mountains. Off on another adventure to begin learning how to wheel in the mountains and learn how to adjust to the terrain. The excitement, anticipation, nerves and the shear fear of the unknown lay ahead. So at this point in time my Jeep is still stock- no lift just BFG TA’s. This place is beautiful, the streams, rolling hills and the mountains. This is definitely different from Florida. We get to the event and sit in the longest line ever to ride the trail. There’s like 80 jeeps waiting in line to drive the trail. I look ahead as the line moves forward and all I see are jeeps going up straight up the hill. My hubby assured me that I can do this. In my head all I am hearing is pick your line, 4lo, watch the Jeep in front of you while he is saying something to me which I am totally tuning out. We are the next Jeep. I drop it in 4 lo, pick my line and hit the skinny pedal. Once I started up the hill, which was really a mountain I began to calm down and relax. Looking back, that was a great weekend.
So, fast forward to the present after taking a class on safety, recovery and winch training I feel more comfortable and confident that all my classes, skill tests and practicing have helped me learn what I am doing. It’s been a long road of frustration, anxiety, aggravation and lots of why nots and asking myself, “Can you even do this?” My answer now to that question: Heck Yeah, let’s go! I’m ready, Are you?
Posted by: Dulcy Rojas