Tonya Mercer – Ladies Offroad Challenge Featured Entry
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Tonya Mercer – Ladies Offroad Challenge Featured Entry

Tonya-Mercer-LOC-FeatTonya Mercer
Craig, CO

Selected for Ladies Wheeling Weekend
"Tonya has been offroading her whole life, though she has only been driving for the past 20 years. Her experience is mostly trail wheeling or rock crawling, but she has recently competed in a few rock crawling events. She loves camping, hiking and being outdoors, experiencing new adventures (including learning how to weld), blacksmithing and photography. Tonya works in the garage with the guys and believes you should never pass up an opportunity to learn. She is active in helping her son in Boy Scouts and supporting her husband at competitions."
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Tonya-Mercer-LOC-FeatTell us about yourself.

I am a wife and a mom of one. I have been trail wheeling and rock crawling for 20 years. I love being outdoors and experiencing new adventures. I like to camp, hike, and just be outdoors. I am active in helping our son with his Boy Scouts, and support my husband at camps. I love photography and hands on projects. I want to learn how to weld and I am interested in learning blacksmithing!


Tonya-Mercer-LOC-FeatHow long have you been offroading?

I have been off-roading for 20 years, but I have been going off-road my entire life. My dad used to take us out on 2-tracks all the time. My boyfriend (my now husband) and I went snowboarding, mudding, and exploring all the time. In college, we joined our first 4-wheel drive club where we were introduced to rock crawling. Several years later, we built a competition buggy!


How did you get into offroading?

Tonya-Mercer-LOC-FeatI have always enjoyed off-roading, but I really got involved when we joined our first club. It was a great way to learn. Not many women in our club drove at the time, but I received so much support when I started to drive. I started out needing a spotter for everything, then I got to where I was able to just follow the other drivers. When I started following the other driver’s on their lines, I didn’t know that I was actually doing the harder trails! I was just following the rig in front of me! At some point, I just became capable of so much more than I thought possible. I even had guys come up and tell me how awesome I did, and that they wished their wives would try driving.


Tonya-Mercer-LOC-FeatTell us about your vehicle.

Offroadite (like Aphrodite) of ‘Offie’ for short, is a 1985 Toyota 4-runner. She is locked front and rear, 5:29’s, 4:7 gear reduction, crawler, twin stick, custom bumpers and sliders, 22RTE Engine; the rear is bobbed 8-inches, and I would say she has custom body work courtesy of rocks. She is the first vehicle I ever drove on rock crawling trails. She is the family’s work horse. I we have to pull someone off a trail, we use her. If we need a first aid kit, bug spray, sunscreen, lunch, the winch, spare parts, etc., she has it all! She takes me everywhere I want to go, and even through the parts I don’t! Click here to read more about Offie.


Tonya-Mercer-LOC-FeatWhat has been your favorite offroad experience?

Oh gosh, there have been so many! Two years ago my husband and I packed up two of our vehicles and spent ten days driving to the Ghost Towns and Mines in the mountains of Colorado. We stopped whenever we wanted to take pictures, or for lunch! We took the side roads and unknown trails, and it was great! We had gotten so used to going with a group that we had forgotten how nice it was to just go as a family. It was such a good reminder.


Tonya-Mercer-LOC-FeatWhat was your most exciting offroad achievement?

I don’t know that this is an achievement, but in 2009 my husband and I had just finished the build on his competition buggy. We took it to Cedar City, Utah to enter his first competition. We didn’t really place all that well, but afterwards I wanted to try driving the buggy. One of the competition courses was still set up, so I got in the driver’s seat with my husband in the passenger's seat, and our spotter guided me through the course. At a big climb I killed the engine, I was so nervous because I wasn’t that great with the clutch. I honestly wanted to get out and just walk away. But, some of the other teams started to cheer me on, so I put on my big girl panties and and not only finished the climb, but I completed the entire course!

What excites you about offroading?

I like the feeling of accomplishment after getting through a difficult spot. Also, being with my family, and knowing that I i accomplished something I might not have otherwise.


What do you think is the most challenging aspect of offroading?

Tonya-Mercer-LOC-FeatConquering my own fear. Sometimes you really have to struggle with the fear of the unknown, or uncomfortable spots. Putting that fear aside and pushing on can be difficult.


Which aspect of offroading do you think is the most fun?

I love seeing things that I might not be able to see without going on a trail, I love being with my family and friends, and all the new friends I meet when we go on a trail or to an event.


Tonya-Mercer-LOC-FeatWhat does prepping for an adventure look like in your world?

Well, I sort of become the camp mom. Adventures for me not only include getting myself packed, but also my son. I plan and prep the meals, help my husband load the vehicle and the parts and tools. We don’t have any trails near by, so wher we go involves a big truck and an even bigger trailer, with 2 vehicles and all the gear for camping. Right now we are building an over-sized toy hauler so we can bring 2 vehicles and have a camper. I’m not sure what we are going to do when my son wants to bring his vehicle, too.


What is on your off-roading bucket list?

I would really like to go to the Rubicon. Also, I have really been wanting to learn about overlanding and and then go on trips that where I can really explore a different state on each one.


Tell us about your typical offroading companions.

I always have my husband and my son with me. My husband and I were wheeling together long before we were married, and my son has been going since before he was born. Aside from them, we have a core group of great friends that travel with us or travel to meet us wherever the adventure is. They are such great people, and even if we don’t see each other often. We just pack in as much fun as possible when we do see each other!


Tonya-Mercer-LOC-FeatWhat is a piece of advice you have been given that you instill in your offroading adventures?

NEVER go alone, always take a friend with you in another vehicle, and make sure at least a handful of other people know exactly where you are going. Listen to your spotter, but trust your gut. If something feels weird you need to communicate that.


Do you have anything else you would like to add?

I just want to say thank you to my husband, family, and friends for all the support you’ve given me. I couldn’t have done it without them.

Tonya driving Brittany Spears

Moab, October 2011

Posted by Tonya Mercer on Saturday, February 18, 2012


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