By Laura Liebmann
The first Bronco I ever rode in was a full-size Badlands, not Sasquatch-ed, but with the upgraded 33-inch beadlock-capable wheels. Other people (my husband) told me those details, so I am passing them on to you, but I will let you know right here at the start how embarrassingly low my awareness of the finer points a vehicle is: I noticed the Bronco had four doors, and I knew it wasn’t a Bronco Sport, because I wasn’t allowed to drive it.
Hello, my name is Laura, and I’m married to a Bronco reservation-holder. You know, one of those folks who has carefully researched the options, taken a personal journey through trims and packages to figure out what he or she wants, and is now trying to pass the time until delivery by watching all the videos and talking about them with other Bronco enthusiasts. My husband spends a fair amount of time on this site. He goes by @David in the forums, and he loves to meet other Bronco Nation members when he travels to events. He’s traveled to a lot of Bronco events, because he’s lucky enough to work on the Bronco Nation team. And when Bronco Nation decided to follow some new Broncos to the Dixie 4 Wheel Drive Offroad Expo in Moab, Utah, I got lucky, too. Hotel rooms in Moab during Easter Jeep Safari are priced at a premium, and David had a brilliant idea. He could bring me along to help with merchandise sales at the Bronco Nation booth, and I could just stay in his hotel room with him!
That’s how I found myself in brand-new hiking boots tramping through Moab’s rust-red dust toward a beautiful array of brand-new Broncos and Bronco Sports lined up to take people on a Ride & Drive course. As soon as I settled into the front seat, I got a friendly welcome from performance driver Nipper Alsup. With Nipper, we got a great ride and a great conversation. I learned that he’s raced everything from stock cars to dirt bikes, and I could tell he loved driving the Bronco. He showed us so many fun capabilities in Bronco’s G.O.A.T. modes. The rock-crawling is amazing, and Nipper switched between the trail camera and wheel views, so we could see exactly what the Bronco was tackling. I thought the sand was even more fun. Nipper showed off the acceleration whenever he got a chance. Honestly, since I’ve spent more time in the past decade watching Pixar movies than off-roading, my mind immediately went to Lightning McQueen learning how to race on the dirt in the first Cars movie. He would have done a lot better if he’d had a chance to ride along with Nipper first.
Just few hours later, I was invited to take the fourth seat in a beautiful Velocity Blue Bronco specially modified by ARB with cool accessories like a light bar in the bumper, a roof rack, and a refrigerator. All the time ARB worked on this Bronco, they had to keep it inside to prevent pictures leaking on the internet, so this week was the first time their team got to take it out, and they were having a blast. We went up the Hell’s Revenge trail outside of Moab with a whole group of new Broncos, and it was fun to see the excitement and admiration from people we passed. Doug Pettis, president of ARB US, took us up the trail and while I don’t know exactly how long ago Doug went off-road for the first time, it’s safe to say that I was in experienced hands. Doug didn’t need any help from the Bronco’s G.O.A.T. modes or trail cameras, so he didn’t use them, even though the terrain was much more strenuous than the Ride & Drive course. I was already impressed with the Bronco’s fun features and fancy technology after our trip through the course with Nipper, but the ride up Hell’s Revenge showed me the power and capability built into the Bronco’s DNA. I trusted Nipper and Doug to bring me home safe, and now I was learning to trust the Bronco, too.
Most of the people I met in Moab this week know volumes more about off-roading than I do. I greatly appreciate their generosity in welcoming me in and answering my questions. I also met a few people who came to look at shiny new Broncos just out of curiosity or who were tagging along with the Bronco enthusiast in their life. So if you are interested in the perspective of a total newcomer to wheeling, let me share three observations from my first trail ride. First, I mentioned learning to trust the Bronco, and I believe that off-roading demands a certain level of trust: in your vehicle, in whoever is driving it, and also in the other drivers on the trail. Reckless behavior can trash the gorgeous terrain, flip vehicles, and endanger others. You have to trust that the folks coming the other way up the trail are going to wait for you to finish your descent before they start up. And I think by trusting each other, you are building something together.
Which brings me to camaraderie. Off-roading is a tribe with its own lingo, customs, touchstones and high holidays, and I barely scratched the surface this week. But I enjoy learning new languages, so this part was really fun for me. The first time our line of Broncos pulled over on the trail and everyone hopped out, I thought we were all just going to admire the view. Then everyone started working intently on their tires. It reminded me of pit crews getting after it at a NASCAR race, and somebody clued me in that this was the spot for everyone to reduce their tire pressure. Since I didn’t have a job to do, I was just admiring the view, when my husband called my attention to the faded black stripe uncurling across the rock face, the trail that we’d just been driving along. The red cliffs around Moab are striped with many layers of different rock, but this stripe was painted by the tires of all the off-roaders who came down the trail before us. I loved thinking of all those folks who enjoyed the trail before me, contributing just a trace of rubber to lay down the way for the next group.
Finally, I think off-roading is a pastime that cultivates patience. There will be obstacles. Sometimes the obstacles are the point. On Hell’s Revenge, there is a feature called Hell’s Gate that many people choose not to attempt because of the skill required to navigate it. But people gathered there and relaxed on the rocks looking down on Hell’s Gate, waiting to see who would come up so they could enjoy the show. After all, what is the point in heading off the beaten path (or, in this case, the paved road), if you’re in a hurry? You’ve invested money and possibly your own sweat equity in your vehicle. You’ve invested time in acquiring the skills and knowledge needed to enjoy it. You have to take the time also to reap the rewards. Whether you are looking for the adrenaline rush of tackling a tough trail or those peaceful moments admiring the view and breathing the fresh air, your patience will be rewarded.
Ready to wheel?
You may be getting a Bronco but have never yet gone off road –– and that’s OK. There may seem like there is a lot to learn, but it’s an inclusive activity, as Laura saw firsthand. More people are ready to share the sport and teach you tips than serve up intimidation on the trails. Give it a try, and you’ll have access to outdoor views and a level of adventurous company you may not get any other way.