by Whitney Hibler
Your heart is pounding, adrenaline is flooding your body, and you notice your hands are sweating (better not slip), the sun is in your eyes, and can you reach the pedal? It’s hard to see with that glare. Did you disconnect the sway bar links, are your tires at the right pressure? Maybe it’s too late. Don’t hesitate now – breathe. You turn to catch the breeze from the passenger window and your husband is laughing. It’s contagious and you start to smile. Now your hands relax once you’re to the top of one of the most difficult trails you’ve been on. You’re one of three to get there from the group. Those are the moments I am here for.
When my husband, Gary and I first met he towed me out of a ditch my senior year of high school. He casually gave me his business card with his personal number on it when I picked it up. I couldn’t wait to call. Our first date he drove up in his 1989 Bronco on thirty-eight inch tires. It was white and had some unique graphics on the side. Something you’d see on a country music video. But he was a city boy through and through. And did he know how to drive a truck! On our way out from the date he spun some respectful donuts in an empty gravel lot, what a rush! Encouraging him to do more only to be stopped by him saying he can’t because he “just blew the rear ends”. I had no idea what that meant and wondered how long it took to fix.
I left for college and reconnected a few years later. It wasn’t long before I was behind the wheel to his 4x4 with him teaching me to drive it. I remember cruising the back roads during the summer and any seasonal roads we could find. Gary was always working on a vehicle project but this one we got to do together. We stripped it down and built it back up. That truck took me through my first mud race. Someone was hosting events in their backyard. I remember being so nervous. I put on the helmet and drove to the start line. All my nerves were vibrating with the muffler and motor. My eyes found the flagger and I see the crowd behind them. They were cheering and pumping their fists in the air! My hands tighten around the wheel and my foot slams the gas after the flag drops. The track was in the shape of a horse shoe. As I went in to the corner the mud was so thick it practically stopped me. Gary started yelling and I thought he said “no” but I just kept right into the throttle until I got out of the corner and across the finish line. Found out he was saying “go” so I’m glad I didn’t give up… blow up! I felt amazing after that race. All those fears melted away and the fulfillment replaced them.
The friends that we went with and who we met have a special place in my heart. A friend’s sister and fellow Powder Puff, Ann is one of them. A fun and competitive but yet encouraging friendship developed. The sense of accomplishment and pride were immeasurable after those races. And we celebrated after every one! I attended a couple more over the years. When there weren’t any races, we would romp around in my mom’s field. Nights lit by bonfires and a small mud corner to play around in. One night I was in the truck with a friend. We were interrupted with Gary banging on the window and holding my phone. My mom was on the caller ID. I told him to answer it. He goes “no, it's your mom, you answer.” After going back and forth I answer the phone. She asked who was making all that noise. I told her I wasn’t sure, but I’ll make sure to tell them to stop. Little did she know (mothers always know) or so I thought that it was her little girl creating all that raucous. Mud races stopped and I moved in with Gary. Things do that; they stop to let others emerge.
The apartments turn into a house, the trucks change a couple times, one kitten turns to three, and then we add a dog. Then came a wedding. Our house bedrooms fill up with two kids and I proudly take on raising my family. Fortunately, being a stay at home mom allowed me to enjoy hobbies as well as my husband now encouraging me. My dear old friend Ann sent me a message and asked me if I would like to help her with an event. After I found out that it was a wheeling weekend that was geared towards women, I was in! I went to help with trail prep and rode along with her in her truck. I bounced and banged and laughed and got muddy and had the best time! I wasn’t involved long before Gary said he found a Cherokee and asked if I wanted to go check it out. I didn’t want to invest in an offroad vehicle until after the event to see if I wanted to pursue it. He convinced me that it was a great deal and that there isn’t many that come by. “We may just want to go look at it” he said. So off we went to go check it out. When we got there the guy started it up and it was having a hard time turning over. Hood popped open sitting in a crammed driveway. Once it started it was loud! I got in it and had a quick refresher on driving standard. No air conditioning left us to roll down the windows. My hair whipping around with the sagging headliner. We took off down the road and it look barely a mile for me to know I wanted to take it home. We left with the keys. I had the vehicle and now it was time to learn to drive it offroad.
Ann and a few intelligent, brave individuals rode or walked along and taught me how to maneuver a four thousand pound machine through mud, up hills, over rocks and around trees. Taking trips and exploring around home have been some of the best times. I love the traveling part of offroading and meeting the people who are opening their space for us all to share. My Jeep and I have both grown. As things change with the vehicle I am learning how to use it. Always pushing where and what I can do. Almost always I end up surprising myself. I have only been offroading for a short time and have the body damage to prove it. But in that short time I have busied myself in the activities, events and learning as much as I can along the way. This challenge is going to help continue me to push my limits and my passion to learn.
Posted by: Dulcy Rojas