Author: Jessica Chasse
Those that know me know that I am seldom at a loss for words, but trying to explain the experiences I had over this amazing weekend has me stumped! Giving a play by play of the weekend is the easy part, but trying to describe what the weekend meant is a whole other matter!
Charlene asked us what we wanted to take away from the weekend about a week before the event. I told her that I wanted to learn how to be a better spotter as well as learn more recovery skills. Based on the limited criteria I provided, I consider the weekend beyond successful. I was able to learn, hands-on, a lot more than I was expecting!
I did not go into the weekend expecting to run a trail I had not previously been on (the trails being run were a big secret, until the morning before we left the house). I’ve been wheeling for about 4 years now and other than a trip to Moab, all of my wheeling has been done in the state of Arizona. I gladly signed up for the experience offered as a result of being “kicked out” of the 2017 Ladies Offroad Challenge. Another takeaway I wanted from the weekend was to help a less experienced off-roader on our great trails in AZ.
Even though I went in with the expectation that I would not be able to do something new, I am very glad I was wrong! Some of my firsts:
I was able to use a Hi-Lift Jack for the first time, although I have one as part of my recovery tools, I had never actually used it…I did try, one time, in my driveway but I was unsuccessful. Looking back, I do not believe I had it fully in engaged in the ‘up’ position. I now know how to tell if the jack is engaged in the ‘up’ or ‘down’ function and how the pins work, during both functions. We discussed the names of the different parts of the jack and found out the ‘beak’ is exclusive to jacks manufactured by Hi-Lift and comes in handy in several different scenarios. I will also be adding a bottle jack or jack stand to my recovery tools.
During our hands-on recovery tools workshop, out came the Pull-Pal – this was only the second time I’d ever seen this tool, the first was at the 2017 Ladies Offroad Convention in Colorado Springs at the beginning of August! Michael Morrison from Overland Experts had included it in the recovery workshop, which was one the few mandatory workshops that all attendees were to attend. Charlene had just added one to her recovery arsenal and as a group, we were tasked with figuring out how to assemble it. I wish I could say we were successful on our first try but I’m a firm believer that when you learn by doing something (non-critical) wrong, you tend to remember how to do it right! We all now know that both the bow shackle attachment point and the point of the “spade/shovel” should point towards the vehicle.
After running the back-way to Crown King, while we were up in the cool pines and in the land of the hungry mosquitoes, we pulled off to the side of the road to learn how to correctly use a winch. I have quite a bit of practicing to do – properly re-spooling a winch line is a lot harder than I realized! I was so focused on not losing fingers that I had trouble with the mechanics of switching hands while feeding the line. I will also be adding a separate pair of gloves to my recovery toolbox with the Velcro strap cut off, the reasoning behind this is the same as why workplaces with machinery require break-away lanyards for badges – safety first.
Towing a disabled vehicle was not even a situation Charlene could have predicted/arranged! We all learned quite a bit more than anyone wanted to about radiators and vehicle cooling systems, the desert heat is definitely good at pointing out any weakness in these systems. I was glad I’d grabbed ice at the gas station for my cooler – even though we had two fridges in different jeeps for waters and lunches, a damp towel placed around the neck does wonders when you are broken down in the desert. We were also very thankful that Elisa Burke’s Lady Rebel Jeep also had an ARB canopy. We learned how to set it up and were able to eat our lunches in the shade while coming up with a plan for getting the downed Jeep (radiator 2, for those keeping score) off the trail.
I was part of the team. I normally wheel with a great group of both men and women but when something goes wrong, I often just observe and ask questions so I can learn. Over the course of the weekend, as things went awry, I was able to be part of the solution instead of standing back and watching.
I was able to work on my spotting and learned how valuable hand signals are when communicating with the driver. I learned that the easiest way to transition from driver to spotter is to translate the line I want the driver to take using hand signals. One of my previous challenges as a spotter was translating what I see as driver and passenger inside the Jeep.
I was given the opportunity to weld – this is something I want to become better at and was a total curve-ball thrown by Charlene! Both Andrew McLaughlin and Matt Hinnitt at LetzRoll Offroad in Mesa made our day on Friday. We were all excited to try our hand at welding and there may have been a little fan girl going on, both on the trail and at the shop (not naming names…)
I did not expect to have as much fun as I did during the Ladies Wild Wheeling Weekend. I knew it would be a fun weekend, but the group of ladies that Charlene assembled was fantastic! I felt that we all clicked, and Charlene did an amazing job bringing us together. As I previously commented on Facebook, “We learned, we laughed (a lot!), we talked, and then we learned some more!” I love to learn and actively search out both the why’s as well as the how’s when I’m researching the correct way to do or fix something.
I’m a firm believer that one of the best ways to test your understanding of something is being able to explain it to someone else. During our radiator issues, I felt vindicated when I explained how a radiator and the cooling system works. Andrew from LetzRoll Offroad stopped by as I was finishing up and confirmed that everything I had just said was correct! I would not have known any of it had I not experienced a similar radiator failure with my first TJ. During my research prior to replacing everything in the cooling system but the pulleys and fan blades, I devoured all the information I could find so I would understand not only how to replace the parts but why I was replacing them! The parts are on order for the radiator/cooling system replacement in my LJ (radiator issue #1, on Thursday), this time, I’m replacing the pulleys too! If it’s a wear item, I’m not taking the chance that it still has any viable life remaining.
In the immortal words of the Rolling Stones: “You can’t always get what you want” (I wanted to wheel my Jeep!)…”But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need” (I learned through new experiences and left the weekend with new friends! But it was more than that, and that’s the hard part…)
Author: Jessica Chasse
Source: Ladies Offroad Network