SEMA Show – Kristie’s Story – 2016 Ladies Co-Driver Challenge – Event 4
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SEMA Show – Kristie’s Story – 2016 Ladies Co-Driver Challenge – Event 4

Author: Kristie Moore

2016-Ladies-Co-Driver-Challenge-SEMA-32I have spent a good portion of my life literally working and saving money. In 2015, I had a last minute opportunity to accompany my girlfriend to Guatemala, a trip that would change the way I viewed what investing in myself really meant. This trip made me realize I was missing a very important part of life, adventure and actual life experience. So, I spent a lot of 2015 investing more in myself and in adventures. In 2016, I decided I was going to make it the “Year of the Kristie.” I was really focused on putting myself out there, stepping outside the box, and seeking out things that would challenge me. Well……

I entered the Ladies Co-Driver Challenge in April. No one ever really wins those things, right? Wrong. I am not what I would consider a hard-core wheeler. I am more of a backwoods trail rider, yet I was really focused on the challenge. I was fortunate enough to have earned my place amongst the top 10 ladies chosen for an epic training weekend in Phoenix, Arizona in May. It was like Real World: Offroad Edition, and I was grateful to have been selected. That was as far as I thought it was going to go. I was registered to do the Rebelle Rally already and although I was super interested in the other co-driver challenges that were up for grabs, the training weekend was so amazing that I flew home from Arizona already feeling satisfied.

I returned to my office job on Tuesday and BAM! . . . I was laid off on Friday after 16 years. I just had the wind knocked out of me. I had the guaranteed income and benefits for my family. There was so much to think about and so many things to do to try to get my ducks in a row. I was so overwhelmed. My severance pay and health insurance continued through June, so I did what any girl would – I got a few last races in on my Quad.

2016-Ladies-Co-Driver-Challenge-SEMA-16June 11th had two important components to it. First, it was a National GNCC Harescramble race in New York and second, it was Bantam Jeep Festival in Pennsylvania, where Charlene would be announcing the top 5 ladies she had picked to work with. I was determined to do both in the same day. As luck would have it, during the second turn of the race, two quads flipped in front of me, causing me to flip as well. Unfortunately, my boot got stuck in the netting of my nerf bar and I suffered an extensive knee injury. My heart sank. I made it back to the truck, taped up my knee, and my husband drove us several hours to Bantam to go live with Charlene as she announced the winners. My biggest fear was that I would be chosen to be a co-driver for one of the events, and I would have not been able to make it due to my knee.

2016-Ladies-Co-Driver-Challenge-SEMA-3As we pulled into Bantam, I could barely walk and was in a tremendous amount of pain. "Suck it up, butter cup," I remember saying to myself, and I put my game face on. As Charlene announced the names, I was filled with anxiety. Wait….what? Well, there you have it ladies and gentlemen, I was chosen to go to SEMA with another one of the amazing ladies. To be honest, I really did not know what that meant. I had heard of SEMA, and I am passionate about the industry, but I just didn’t know a whole lot about it. What I did know was that gave me a lot of time to try to get my knee fixed up.

Because of my knee injury, I had to bow out of the Rebelle Rally in October and before you knew it, Charlene, Leigh, and I were making all our plans for SEMA. There was no pretending that this was going to be easy. The bar was set high, and we were going to SEMA to do a job, a very important job. At this point, I had been through more than I can even take the time to put down on paper. Life as I knew it was not the same. Actually, I was becoming a little numb. So, why not hop on a plane and see what else is in store for me?

2016-Ladies-Co-Driver-Challenge-SEMA-1Day 1 was a travel day. Lets just ease into this. Leigh and I arrived in Phoenix, so we could follow Charlene to Vegas in her truck while she drove Frankie, BFG’s Jeep JK, which Charlene and Kaleigh had just won the Rebelle Rally with. It was a great day and perfect opportunity to get adjusted to the time change, and we chatted the whole way over the CB radio. We made a few stops along the way for a couple of photo-ops. The Hoover Dam was spectacular, and the sights along the highway were breathtaking.

Day 2 was also amazing. We had some running around to do, making sure everyone got their credentials. We got a little sneak peak of SEMA and the vendors getting everything set up. We got some quick photo lessons and learned a little about the layout. My ADD was kicking in, and I was surprised that I did not actually walk into any poles or pillars. There was so much to look at, but we had an agenda. We had a quick, super top-secret business meeting back in the hotel, and then we got ready for the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame dinner where Charlene was up for a nomination.

2016-Ladies-Co-Driver-Challenge-SEMA-6We were among some of the most influential people in the industry, some I had read about and some I had not. My head was spinning as I was trying to remember names. Every person that we met was so down to earth and interested in where we came from and what got us involved in the Off-Road industry. They were all humble and welcoming. There we were among greatness. One of the greatest moments was meeting Malcolm Smith. Who gets to do that? Yet, there he was, so engaging with a giant smile on his face and happy to have his picture taken with us. The other great moment was being there to see Charlene win the Off- Road Motorsports Hall of Fame "Rising Star Award” in the industry category. Charlene’s parents were able to join us, and seeing them burst with pride was priceless.

2016-Ladies-Co-Driver-Challenge-SEMA-10Day 3 was a blur; I won’t lie. It’s hard to remember everything. Leigh and I were super busy out promoting the Ladies Offroad Network. Our job was to take pictures (making sure to include brands), talking to vendors about getting involved, making contacts, handing out fliers, and leaving no stone unturned. We had never done anything like this before, so a lot of it was trial and error. We would talk about what worked and what didn’t, and then try different approaches. I really appreciated Leigh’s energy. We would meet up with Charlene in between meetings, and every time we did, she had something in store for us. My favorite part of the day was participating in BFGoodrich Tires Pit Crew Challenge. Leigh and I were nervous, scoped it out a bit until there was no more time to waste. We came up with a strategy to work as a team, and at the last minute, we abandoned it. We would not make that mistake again. Given that Leigh had never changed a tire or used an impact wrench, and me thinking I was stronger than I was, we didn’t do too bad. We completed the challenge in a little over 2 minutes. It wasn’t fast enough to beat the lead female team. However, we still put ourselves out there, and we did it. It was fun and really made me want to hone in on a few more skills. I was proud of us. Later that evening, we headed off to the Las Vegas 4X4 Garage for a little down time with more awesome people before we headed over to watch the BAJA SCORE 1000 Qualifying.

2016-Ladies-Co-Driver-Challenge-SEMA-13Day 4 was another whirlwind at SEMA. We started our day catching up with some of the ladies from the Ladies Co-Driver Challenge along with some new faces. Then, Leigh and I were off and running while Charlene attended her meetings. We were basically an extension of her at this point, still learning as we went around taking pictures, chatting with vendors, and handing brochures to the ladies. Later that day, we got to meet some awesome women at the SBN Wine and Networking event—so much energy. That evening, we headed out for dinner and were waiting for a table when were asked to join the 4 Wheel Parts Party. We met and hung out with super cool people, and it turned into another great networking opportunity. It was hard to remember who was who sometimes. I was trying hard to focus and sometimes I would eavesdrop a little to catch a name. There was so much going on that Charlene even laughed as I walked right past Jeremy McGrath and didn’t even notice. Darn! I don’t think I have ever seen him without his race gear on . . . and I still haven’t!

2016-Ladies-Co-Driver-Challenge-SEMA-24The last few days went by really fast, and as we ended our time at SEMA, we got to mix up the work and fun. We actually worked the Pit Crew Challenge, which I really enjoyed that and learned even more. Charlene had made arrangements for me to meet up with Jessi Combs. I’ve followed her for a while, and she actually inspired me to get a little more hands on in the industry from watching her on Extreme 4x4. I finally got an opportunity to try welding at the ESAB Booth. Yeah, that may not be my next career as I started off strong and then, I’m really not quite sure what happened. We even took a couple spins in an Arctic Cat UTV and KrawlZone TV was there to film it.

2016-Ladies-Co-Driver-Challenge-SEMA-30One of the most difficult things I did at the end of the week was recording the video interview. Ugh! I know it must be a shock that the idea of doing a video interview gives me a lot of anxiety. I kind of freak out. Once Charlene mentioned it, I spilled a drink all over our table, and then while trying to clean it up, I swept Charlene’s food right onto the ground. I even got emotional during the video. It’s definitely something I really want (have to) work on in the future. The second hardest thing was saying goodbye. I felt so lucky to have shared this experience with Leigh. We were very like-minded and helped each other throughout the week. Promoting the Ladies Offroad Network was a ton of work and was filled with many challenges. Seeing things from behind the scenes gives you a new appreciation for what really goes into creating such a platform. We worked our butts off all while keeping a snap in our step and a smile on our face. There were times we failed and times we succeeded, but each time we learned. As we said goodbye at the airport, I was feeling pretty emotional. I was grateful for the experience and exhausted, and we were so busy all week that I was leaving wondering what I was going to do with myself. Well, I got on my first plane home and passed out right away, waking only to land.

As many of you know by now, this was only the beginning for all of us. Charlene has put her blood, sweat, and tears into the Ladies Offroad Network. She is highly respected in the offroad community. She works around the clock to make this a success. She worked as Leigh and I slept and was still awake at the crack of dawn, planning the day the best she could around so many unknowns. The numerous miles I put on my sneakers during my week at SEMA had a purpose, and I'm anxious to see how it all plays out for the future of the Ladies Offroad Network.

Read more:
Leigh's Story
Charlene's Story

Video on Facebook: CLICK HERE

Author: Kristie Moore