Forum User Name: Nena Barlow
Chat with Nena
"I grew up in the Southwest, exploring the back roads by 4x4, horse, and hiking boots. I has been in the 4wd business in various capacities since 1993, providing tours, 4wd instruction, location scouting, offroad event planning, trail mapping & photography, and recovery. I have logged thousands of hours in the backcountry on foot and behind the wheel of Jeeps, Hummers, Unimogs, Fords, Toyotas, Nissans and Ram Trucks. The most important things about four-wheeling are to let the vehicle do the work—don’t overdrive it; and never take any trail for granted or let your ego navigate—go slow, pay attention, and never be ashamed to turn back or go around."
I am a 4x4 trainer certified by the International 4wd Trainer Association. Currently, I am the only woman certified trainer out of 100+ certified trainers on the planet. This is not a weekend job--this is what I do."
Occupation: Owner, Barlow Adventures
Birthday: March 30th
Vehicle Name: Rockelle, Josephine, and Buffy
Questions & Answers with Nena
Q: What is your favorite color?
Q: What is your favorite food?
Q: Do you have kids?
A: PJ, age 18, attending Yavapai college, interested in theatre production, digital media, works part-time at Cliff Castle Casino and Barlow Adventures. Ben, age 9, interested in space, volcanoes, legos, engines, and anything with dirt or water.
Q: Do you have any pets?
A: Yes, dog, cats, chickens—there are not quiet mornings at my house.
Q: What are your off-roading goals?
A: Other continents are calling to me, but there are still SO many roads to explore just within 250 miles of my house. I do love visiting other countries and cultures, because it drives home just how much people are just people everywhere. A smile and politeness go a long way. There are bad people everywhere, but fortunately, they are few and far between and most humans are wonderful.
Q: Is your whole family into off-roading?
A: Yes, they each have their favorite places, and all of them love camping and exploring new places they haven’t been before.
Q: Are you usually the driver or co-driver?
A: I am usually the Driver, or the spotter/guide/instructor.
Q: How old were you when you first started wheeling?
Q: How often do you get to go off-roading?
A: I still average 25-30 hours a week off pavement.
Q: How did you get started in the offroad world?
A: I grew up on a ranch in the desert of the Coachella Valley. 4-wheeling, tractors, rocks and sand were part of daily life. My dad is also an avid explorer—I very much get that “I wonder where that road goes” from him. After college, I came back to Sedona AZ where my family had been migrating since the late 70’s. I hired on with Red Rock Jeep Tours, thinking it would be fun until I grew up and got a real job. I started my own training company in 2004, which brought me into renting Jeeps. Still waiting on that growing up part.
Q: Where is your favorite place to wheel?
A: Where there is scenery. Earth is pretty.
Q: Do you have any wheeling traditions?
A: Let key people know where I am going and when I plan to be back. The key is that they are people who know enough and care enough to do something about it if I don’t return as planned. Also, I take peanut M&M’s.
Q: Do you look up to anyone in the industry?
A: There are many people who I admire for various reasons. Mostly, I admire people who have a vision and are pursuing it, always learning, and helping as many people as they can along the way.
Q: What is your most memorable offroad moment?
A: There are so many, which is why I love this. But, I have to say, there is one time that always stands out in my memory, and it would not seem that remarkable to most. I was out scouting trails one evening, less than 50 miles from home, when I came across a road I had never driven before. Naturally, I had to take it. The road became steeper, narrower, and more eroded toward a deep canyon. Just before the sun was about to dip below the horizon, I came to a very washed out rocky spot on the edge of an off-camber cliff—a very technical challenge. I was on foot picking my line down it, when my own voice came into my head, just as if I was teaching a class “If you make it down this, can you make it back up if there is worse down below?” “Does anyone know where you are exactly?” “Do you have significant daylight left?” Since the answer to all was no, I had to concede defeat for the day, and turn around. I was proud of myself for using my own steps to make the right decision for the current conditions. Did I go back another day and conquer? Hell, yes!
Q: How do you feel as a woman in the offroad industry?
A: I feel privileged to work at something that is fun-based.
Q: What changes have you seen in the offroad community since you began wheeling?
A: Everything is exactly the same but totally different. 😉
Land use has been and continues to be the single biggest rising concern. The flat truth is that there are a LOT more people on trails, like 10-100 fold, over what we saw 30-40 years ago. This is in part due to population, and partly due to more comfortable and capable rigs on the market.
The camaraderie, wonder and resourcefulness of people in the wheeling/overlanding world always warms my heart—you meet a much higher ratio of smart, generous, and interesting people off of the pavement.
Q: Give us a story about educating, guiding, or empowering ladies in the offroad, past or future:
A: I have found that once coaxed into the driver’s seat, women are usually better students. They come with an open mind, with not nearly as much ego or societal expectation to cloud their ability to listen, learn and practice. After years of watching women who were shy to take the driver’s seat because they didn’t want to take any of the experience away from their husbands, it was actually a couple who attended one of my group classes years ago who opened my eyes to why it’s so important for the wives to jump in: 1. If something ever happened, having another capable driver in the party never hurts. 2. The more people in the party who understand the driving dynamics, the better choices they can make as a group in spotting, route finding, etc. 3. The more participation, USUALLY, the more enthusiasm and support for the whole endeavor, from trip planning to vehicle modifications.
Q: Do you have any advice for ladies wanting to get started in off-roading?
A: Just do it. Don’t apologize for asking questions. ASK. DO. My heart always aches when I see women in the group who are embarrassed to try driving or asking questions. Believe me, the men are just faking confidence a lot of the time. Women actually have an advantage in that our society doesn’t EXPECT us to be all mechanical and know everything. The poor guy who doesn’t know a carburetor from a shock absorber gets mocked, but a woman gets hand-held and explained to. Though I am not sure which is worse…LOL!
• Rockelle: 2016 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Red Rock Edition, #16 of 50
• Josephine: 2011 Ram 2500 4x4
• Buffy: 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk
There are over 30+ vehicles in the Barlow fleet and each one of them have girls' names. The only boys are the trailers, Frank and Bruce."
Q: What is the best mod you have done to your vehicle?
A: Good shocks make or break my love of a rig.
Q: Do you work on your own vehicle?
A: Yes, as needed, or when there is some new product or problem I want to figure out. I used to do all the work on the whole fleet, but now I have some great guys in the shop and access to huge talent in the Jeep-fixing and building world. I am still practicing delegation.