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Adventure

New Frontiers

A murdered-out Ford Raptor pulls up to a nondescript warehouse in Las Vegas, about 10 minutes from the Las Vegas Convention Center. Bryce Menzies hops out. The Red Bull athlete and off-road racer looks young — younger than his already-young 29 years of age — and he’s taller and lankier than photos would lead you to believe. Perhaps it’s because today, he’s in shorts and a t-shirt, not the bulkier fireproof racing suit he’s usually pictured in. He’s handsome, full of the kind of square-jawed, youthful charisma that’s made for TV. 

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Although the warehouse is nestled in the middle of an industrial complex within earshot of I-15, it’s quiet on this fall morning. It’s the week of the 2016 SEMA Show, and one expects more buzz, more energy, more noise at the home of Menzies Motor Sports. After all, the previous night, 34 race trucks roared and rumbled their way from the SCORE Baja 1000 Experience at SEMA to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway to qualify for the Thousand.

But the semis, the race trucks, the pre-runners, and the UTVs are at rest inside the Menzies race shop. The race vehicles are in various states of disassembly, stripped down and cleaner than off-road vehicles have any right to be. That’s because Menzies was not among the drivers at qualifying. The trophy truck bearing his name did not breathe fire down the I-15 to LVMS’s off-road track; his truck did not throw crowd-pleasing rooster tails of dirt into the air for VIPs. For now, Menzies is sidelined: a leg in a brace, an arm in a sling.

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He’s only a few months removed from his New Frontier world-record-breaking jump in a Pro2 truck — 379.4 feet over a ghost town and into the Guinness Book of World Records. Menzies broke the record during testing, but felt there was more in the tank. On a subsequent attempt, Menzies crashed. Perhaps an errant gust of wind caught the bottom of his truck as it was mid-air, upsetting its balance.

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Whatever it was, Menzies came down in a heap of steel and rubber and walked away with a broken shoulder. It took a six-hour surgery to set things right, but by then, it was apparent this injury would end Menzies’ 2016 race season. Out of the action, it also made sense to have a knee surgery to address a lingering injury Menzies had been nursing.

 


 

With a very scary crash still in the rearview, there are a few very obvious questions: Does Bryce Menzies still have it? Does he even want to get back in a truck? Or perhaps those are very dumb questions. After all, you don’t start racing off-road trucks if the specter of death intimidates you. “When we broke the world record and I broke my shoulder, people asked me when I was coming back, and if I was scared to come back. But it’s just part of our sport and what we do. It’s challenging, it’s difficult, and it’s dangerous. But I love it,” Menzies shrugs. 

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As with many in his sport and profession, there’s really no option except to keep putting on the suit, to keep racing. That’s what happens when you’re born into a life of off-roading. 

“Ever since I was a little kid, since I was 3 years old, I was always on a dirt bike or a quad,” Menzies says. “We grew up in the desert in this atmosphere, and it all started from riding bikes with my dad and my family; going down to Mexico and having fun.”

Menzies began racing dirt bikes as a kid — much like any kid playing Little League or Pop Warner — and though he pushed the envelope, he quickly discovered that going professional on dirt bikes likely wasn’t an option. “I got hurt, broke my shoulder — the same shoulder I just broke — and came to and said, ‘Let’s see what this off-road racing thing is about’ instead.”

The Menzies family drew on their network of friends and came up with a race car. “My dad had a friend that prepped the Sand Rail we used to go play with, and he actually built my first race car, a 1600 Class single-seat buggy.” Menzies points to the ceiling of his race shop where that very car is suspended. White letters spelling out “BFGoodrich Tires” are still visible on buggy’s worn tires.

“We went out just to have fun. We had a truck and a trailer; no tools, no nothing. We knew nothing about the sport. I didn’t even know how to drive a stick. Everything was so new. On the first race weekend, I got 9th place, and then the next day, I won my first ever race.”

From that taste of success, Menzies’ father, Steve, went full speed ahead. “He goes extreme with everything,” Menzies says. “He decided to buy semis and a race shop and start this whole team. He really dove in head first.” What was a family pastime morphed into a family business built around off-road racing.

Since 2007, when Menzies Motor Sports was started, the two Menzies have worked diligently towards success both in racing and as a business. At first, the younger Menzies had to fight off the perception that he was simply a rich kid playing with the big boys. 

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“In the beginning, everybody was like, ‘It’s just a kid and his dad’s got money behind him. They’re just going to buy their way to the front.’ We don’t see it like that,” Menzies says. “Obviously, I’m fortunate to have a father who worked hard to give me opportunities like this, but we’ve worked really hard making this program a successful business and being successful in this sport.”

With his first Pro2 TORC championship in 2011, Menzies finally saw some of the validation he was seeking. “That would be one of the biggest moments in my racing career,” he recalls. “It took us a couple of years to accomplish, and to actually win the championship in Texas at the last round, going up against Rob MacCachren…I think that really set the tone: I’m here for real.”

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“My dad has been such a huge part of this program and where it’s going, and we work really well together. I’d be working construction in his contracting business if I wasn’t doing this,” Menzies says. He also credits his father for spearheading progress at Menzies Motor Sports. “My dad is the guy who wants to go out and innovate. When he comes into the shop, all the other guys put their hands on their heads like, ‘Shit, Steve’s back!’” Menzies chuckles. “He’ll come in and throw a grenade and shake things up because he wants to try new things. A lot of the stuff around the shop is because of his mind and his crazy ideas.”

As great as it is to work with family, Menzies acknowledges there are challenges when it comes to working in a high-stress, results-oriented environment with his family.

“Racing trucks is probably the greatest job there is, but to keep doing that with a family is extremely hard. There’s times where my father and I clash heads, but that’s part of the environment. You get those tensions and those problems. But at the end of the day, we always get back to having fun, because without that, why do it?”

For Menzies, the fun is in the racing and the challenges it brings. “I think what keeps me going is how hard this sport is. We put so much time and effort into these trucks, and you’ll go out to a race and have a $5 part break, and you have no control over that,” he says. “You could be down in Baja, and the locals will dig up a ditch that you could hit and break the truck on. We’ve raced the Baja 1000 six times now. We’ve led every single one, then broke at the end.”

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It sounds futile, but Menzies doesn’t see it that way. He’s addicted to the challenge, the chase towards perfection. “How challenging and how close the competition has gotten…that’s what brings me back. I always want to win. And for me, nothing’s ever perfect, so even when I do win, we look at what we could make better and improve the next time. That’s what keeps me going.”

As much as Menzies loves racing, there are still ups and downs — his injuries notwithstanding. “We race four different series, so it seems nonstop. You can get drawn out and spread thin,” he says. What keeps him sane is what got him into the sport in the beginning: his family.

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“It started out as a family activity, and I try to remember that and go back to those roots. It really helps in those long, hard weeks of working at the shop or out in the desert. We still love to get on our Polaris RZRs and trail-ride from our house to the local restaurant. It’s cool we still get to have fun, play, and mess around.”

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It’s now over a year since Menzies had his crash and his surgeries, and the words he said in November 2016 ring true in September 2017. There was never really a question if he would be back. Already, he’s raced in the grueling Silk Way Rally with the Mini factory program (finishing in ninth), and he’s chalking up Pro4 wins in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series.

This, on top of rehabbing his injuries. And in the immediate future, he’s got his sights set on the 50th SCORE Baja 1000, as well as the Dakar Rally in early 2018.

Like Menzies said, racing trucks is probably the greatest job there is. Why wouldn’t he be back?

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Adventure

National Park Hit List

Editor’s note: Student and off-road enthusiast Landon Burnley tells us about his recent spring break road trip, and how speeding down an unfamiliar trail can lead to unexpected thrills.

 




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This past April, my girlfriend and I drove from San Luis Obispo all the way to Carbondale, Colorado. It’s a 1,025 mile drive, and took us about fifteen hours. After enjoying some skiing in Carbondale, we headed to Moab where we explored Arches National Park.

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We went off-road in order to find a campsite, and we ended up on the Gemini Bridges Trail where we found an awesome spot to camp. We spent another night near Dewey Bridge and then drove down to Bryce Canyon National Park where we ended up getting caught in a blizzard, forcing us to stay the night in a cabin. The next day we headed to Zion National Park where we explored and hiked Angels Landing. We camped in the park that night and then drove back to San Luis Obispo the next day.

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Overall it was a great spring break road trip and we had a lot of fun. One of the best parts of trip happened in Carbondale when I accidentally caught air in my 4Runner. I was driving at about 40 mph and didn't notice a large dip in the road. Suddenly we were airborne! When we landed, the suspension bottomed out but luckily the 4Runner held together. It was a thrill and it gave us something to laugh about.

I love exploring and I’m looking forward to getting out to Reno later this year. You never know what’s going to happen on the trail. That’s what makes it so exciting.

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Build

Trail Runner

Editor’s note: This isn’t Miguel Sornia’s first Toyota 4Runner. But after driving a 2WD 2003 4Runner, he decided that his outdoors hobbies required something more capable. Learn more about how and why he decided on his current 4Runner.

 




What initially got me interested in cars, or in this case trucks, was the love for the outdoors. My wife and I like to fish, camp, hike, and explore new destinations during our time off, and having a reliable and capable truck is important for enjoying those hobbies.

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My first truck was a 2WD 2003 Toyota 4Runner, but I quickly learned that taking it on backcountry trails had its limits. Turning around after trekking hours on a trail was disappointing, to say the least. From that point on, my goal was to equip my truck with mods that would allow me to explore the backcountry with greater peace of mind and confidence, since I’m often solo when I explore.

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I’m very particular about things I own, so when I realized it was time to ditch my old 2WD 4Runner, I had my eyes set on owning a 5th generation 4Runner Trail Edition without the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), as I had heard great things about them. I decided on this model for several reasons.

First was its renowned reliability. I needed a reliable truck that was going to get me to and from work daily, for years to come. Next was its off-road capability. The technology and off-road features in this thing are amazing! From ATRAC, Crawl Control, and the Electronic Locker out back, this thing was going to get me anywhere I wanted to go!

Aside from those features, I love the aesthetic and cosmetic look of the 4Runner. This thing looks mean, and it’s not hard to look at. As the saying goes, “If you don’t look back at your truck after you park it, you bought the wrong truck”. My wife laughs at me when she catches me admiring my 4Runner from a distance — I think she’s jealous.

I also love the abundance of aftermarket companies and modifications available for the 4Runner. There is never an ending to things you can do to this thing, which is great, but not so great on the wallet.

When I started looking, I discovered that the non-KDSS Trail model I wanted was not offered or available in the state of California. After about a month of searching the web and various car apps, I found exactly what I wanted — down to the color — in the state of Oregon. Luckily for me, the dealership was nearby the Eugene airport, and after a cheap 45-minute flight, I was at the dealership and ready for the 500-mile, 8-hour drive back home!

This thing looks mean, and it’s not hard to look at. As the saying goes, “If you don’t look back at your truck after you park it, you bought the wrong truck”. My wife laughs at me when she catches me admiring my 4Runner from a distance — I think she’s jealous.

At the moment I love to drive my 4Runner in the Stanislaus National Forest the most because that’s where I have a lot of family camping memories. It’s a place where I can drive to explore the vast backcountry trails, find new spots to fish for trout, go mountain biking, hiking, and camp at new places. The opportunities are endless, and  every time I set out to explore new trails I often find cool historical sites, panoramic views, and an abundance of wildlife.

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After owning my 4Runner, I quickly found out that there was a vast community of Toyota owners with similar interests and a love for wheeling. I have since joined up with local 4Runner owners to go off-roading, and it’s like we’ve known each other for years. I have since joined communities like Overland Bound and Golden State Overland that continue to inspire, support, and increase network opportunities through meet-ups and off-road trips.

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Those communities helped me with my tire choice. I went with BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires in size 275/70R17 and load range E. I chose them because I needed a tire that first could be drivable on my daily commute without sacrificing MPGs, but could also be driven off-road to the areas that interest me most: dusty dirt roads, rocky mountain trails, and snowy mountain passes. I love that I can air down to my desired PSI when needed and can rely on the durability of the KO2 sidewalls to create a wider footprint and grip around loose boulders. After reading numerous reviews highlighting the durability, reliability, and outstanding grip of the KO2, I was sold. It’s no secret that this tire is a favorite amongst the Toyota off-road community!

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Adventure

Desk to Glory

Editor’s note: In the spring of 2013, Richard and Ashley Giordano made a decision that would change their lives. They would sell their belongings, quit their jobs, and become full-time adventurers. It was a decision that would take them from deskbound dreariness to a glorious life filled with excitement.

 




Our decision to quit our jobs and start adventuring full-time started on April 13, 2013 with a simple text message conversation.

Ashley: We need to have a life chat today.  

Richard: Do you want a divorce?

Ashley: Haha, NO I don’t lol

Richard: Do you want a baby?

Ashley: Um, NO

We met for our “life chat” at Trees Organic Coffee in Vancouver, BC. At the time, our full-time day jobs, combined with our part-time evening/weekend jobs, had become a little too much for us. It was time for a change and we needed to ask ourselves one question: “What are we going to do about it?”

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On a whim, we decided we needed to travel. We gave ourselves five months to pay off our debts, sell our junk, save some money, build a truck, rent out our condo, and quit our jobs. It sounded like a perfect plan to us!

 




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Actually, the first part of the plan included a backpacking trip through India and Nepal. We thought this would be the best bang for the buck and offer some great hiking opportunities. We quickly realized that we craved something different, but something still very simple. Ashley said that she wanted to relax on a beach and not have to worry about hauling around a backpack all the time. So we began to have this vision of parking on a beach in Baja, setting up camp for a week at a time, and just soaking up the sun until we were recharged and ready for adventure.  

We had been following a few adventure blogs including Lost World Expedition, Home On The Highway, and Ruined Adventures. These were people who had done the kind of trips we were interested in. But honestly, we weren’t sure we would be able to pull it off. Who can just pack up and leave their jobs for a year at a time? It seemed like a pipe dream until we finally made the decision to go and set our plan into action. We made a list and began checking off the tasks one by one. But most importantly, we needed a vehicle.

We knew there was a 1990 Toyota pickup sitting in my dad’s backyard and left for dead. It was essentially rust-free, but it needed a new engine, suspension, wheels, tires, interior, etc. Since nobody was using it, we asked nicely if we could — you know — take it to Central America. Although we received a couple of questioning looks, nobody had any objections so we went straight to work on it.

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Essentially, we tried to leave the truck as stock as possible so that we could easily find replacement parts on the road if needed. We replaced the springs and shocks with beefy Old Man Emu parts, but shied away from a custom solid axle swap. The  2.4L 22RE engine was rebuilt instead of swapping it out for something more powerful. Bumpers and rock sliders were added for off-road protection—  and also to protect us from the crazy Latin American drivers.

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The specialty mods were reserved for improving our camp life. We added a second battery, an 85W-solar panel, and a 37-quart ARB fridge. Those things, combined with our CVT Mt. Bachelor rooftop tent, rounded out the major additions. We tried to keep everything as simple as possible to avoid unnecessary problems on the road. The “Keep It Simple, Stupid” ideology was the main thought for the build because we really wanted to enjoy the trip instead of constantly fixing the truck.

We had this vision of parking on a beach in Baja, setting up camp for a week at a time, and just soaking up the sun until we were recharged and ready for adventure. 

The first month on the road was spent exploring the west coast of the U.S. while continuously trying to escape the rain of the Pacific Northwest. Then, it was on to Baja in Mexico. By the time we had finished with the Baja Peninsula, we felt like we had really hit our stride. We focused on each day as it came, not worrying about the past or the future. The word we use to describe those first months is FREEDOM. It’s hard to explain it any differently than that. We had the ability to spend a week on a beach in Baja or ditch out the following day to go explore the mountains. We were free! And we kept going!

Thankfully there weren’t many major issues that left us stranded (except for a broken axle — in Toronto of all places!), but after 80,000 km of hard driving, plenty of parts were replaced before significant damage occurred. We had a pinion seal replaced in Panama, clutch kit and brakes in Colombia, and tie-rod ends in Peru. All of these parts were in stock in each of the respective towns. We are picky when it comes to who touches the truck, but you learn pretty quickly which mechanics to trust and which ones honestly want to help, but who you wouldn’t necessarily want touching your rig.

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This was a function-over-form build. Everything on the truck was done for a purpose: to get us as far away from home as possible with as much comfort as necessary, and then be able to safely return us to where we started. It took us all the way from Vancouver, BC, to the end of the road in Ushuaia, Argentina, and back again.






But after spending two years living out of our truck and rooftop tent, we knew we wanted something with a little bit of indoor living space for exploring the Pacific Northwest, so we purchased a 1993 Mitsubishi Delica 2.5L Turbo Diesel 4x4. The goal was to build an adventure mobile that would get us into the mountains throughout the long winters. Also, I’m a sucker for project vehicles, so I was stoked to have a turbodiesel 4x4 to wrench on. 

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The Delica has 30x9.50R15 BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2s. The plan for the van was to allow for year-round camping in the mountains. The ability to make a run up to the ski hill and camp meant that having proper snow tires was high on the list of priorities. One thing we learned from having Mud Terrain tires on the Toyota was that once we were back in North America we spent a lot more time on the road than on the dirt. Having a tire that was quiet on the highway, but still capable and reliable off road was a major consideration.  

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One thing being a full-time adventurer has taught me is to Keep It Simple! With vehicle builds, the main thing is to make sure the build is reliable and uncomplicated. When it comes to life, it’s the same answer. We have found that the less you have to worry about… well, the less you worry about! 

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For more about Richard and Ashley's adventures, follow them on Instagram (@desktoglory) or visit their website.

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Build

Handling Addiction

Editor’s note: Seth Fullard searched high and low for an unmodified Scion FR-S. He wanted something he could make his own, and an untouched FR-S was the perfect blank canvas for him. But while the styling is what drew him in, it’s the handling that keeps him addicted.

 




My love of cars all started with my little red racecar bed when I was little boy — thanks mom! That was the initial spark. But I really knew I loved cars when my parents brought home an original Xbox and one game: the original Forza Motorsport. I started that game up and within the first 5 minutes, I knew I was addicted to cars. From that point on, it has been more than just a hobby. It has become a passion, a love, and an addiction.

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My 2015 Scion FR-S was a little difficult to find because I am so picky when it comes to cars. I searched vigorously for a white 2014+ Scion FR-S with a manual transmission, low mileage, and no modifications, all within my budget. What made it difficult was finding one that wasn't modified, because they are such a wonderful blank canvas to make it your own. 

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I never in a million years would have thought that I would ever own a car like this, but when I saw a commercial on TV in 2013, I made it a goal to own this car. So I worked as much as I could and saved every little bit to make sure it would be mine. The body lines are what grabbed my attention at first, and then I found out it had a Subaru engine, as someone that loves that sweet Subaru rumble, I definitely wanted it!

The car handles like no other car even anywhere near its price range. It makes driving an experience and not just a way to get from point A to point B. I am running on BFGoodrich g-Force Sport Comp 2 tires (they are 235/40/18). I chose these tires because they are an amazing tire for the money and the treadwear on them is great! They grip in any situation you put them in, all year round, and they complement the car’s handling. It is a great platform to make into whatever type of car you want, whether it’s a full-blown track car, or a drift monster, or even simply a beautiful show car.

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I love to drive my car on empty back roads, preferably curvy roads to really put the car to the test and have it do what it’s meant to do. There is just something about a nice evening drive, shifting gears and tearing up the American asphalt. Driving on the back roads is my relaxation time and the time to clear my head. It helps me get in tune with the car after everything that I do to it.

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Build

Large and in Charge

Editor’s note: When he began searching for his first vehicle, Reilly McCourt was looking for the kind of rides his father had always owned: trucks that were large and in charge. A ‘94 Dodge Ram with a 12-valve Cummins fit the bill perfectly.

 




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Ever since I was little, my dad always had these big, fast trucks. And growing up around them, I just fell in love with them and always wanted one. I finally found exactly what I was looking for on Craigslist: a 1994 Dodge Ram 2500 12-valve Cummins. It was a diesel truck like the ones my dad owned when I was growing up, and it was stock. It was the perfect blank canvas that screamed potential. I paid $5,000 for it.

I love this truck because it was my first vehicle, and I built it from the ground up. That was something I had always dreamed of doing.

I love this truck because it overcomes anything life throws at it, and I can always count on it to get me where I need to go. It’s also there to help when my friends get in a little trouble. But most of all, I love this truck because it was my first vehicle, and I built it from the ground up. That was something I had always dreamed of doing.

I ride on BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires. I chose them because I used to work at a Discount Tire, and after being there for a couple years, I realized they were the best tires out there. My last set held up for two years.

This truck is great for driving on the back roads of Virginia and up into the mountains. I love just being able to break away from everything and relax, because having fun is what life is all about. This truck has been with me though high school and my first enlistment in the United States Navy. It’s very special to me.

 

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Adventure

I'm Not Just A Girl

Charlene Bower should look exhausted. It’s late October 2016, and she’s just gotten back from the Rebelle Rally, a 10-day map and compass only off-road navigation rally raid. In less than a week’s time, she’ll be back on the road — this time, to Las Vegas for the SEMA Show.

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But Bower is a nomad at heart, and she doesn’t look tired. Not really. Her default seems to be an excess of energy. She’s loud, maybe a little brash and rough around the edges — not exactly a debutante. Then again, she never claimed to be. And in this man’s world of off-roading, you don’t get to be where Bower is without being a little loud, being a little brash, and being able to hold your own with the boys.






Where is Bower within the off-road landscape? Well, she isn’t typically found in the spotlight — she’s not a racer, a builder, or a vendor. But she is the namesake and founder of Bower Motorsports Media, a niche PR and marketing firm focused on off-roading. Race teams, builders, parts vendors, forums, and event organizers have all benefitted from her expertise. That, of course, means that Bower is about as regular a presence as you can expect at any — and nearly all — off-road events. From races to Jeep Jamborees to trade shows, there’s a better-than-even chance that she’ll be there. After all, Bower can’t do her job without being on the ground, interacting with the people and community she represents.

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It helps that Bower loves off-roading, both as a hobby and an industry. She was practically born into it: “My dad was an International Six Days Enduro champion back in the day. I was in a backpack on a dirt bike at a very young age,” she says. “Once my brother and I were a little older, my dad got into four-wheel drive. It was more of a family environment, and we would do all these trips including the Rubicon Trail; Moab, Utah; and Ouray, Colorado.”

As Bower grew up, she gravitated back to dirt bikes, which lead to her first industry job: changing tires in the back of a motorcycle shop. “The first few days, I was just in the back manually changing dirt bike tires. I’d come home super dirty, so I figured out not to do that, how to help customers up front. I got smart on the customer service end.”

I try not to focus on the fact I’m a girl. I explain that I do good work, and if you want work done a certain way, you call me.

That job also turned into her Bower’s first experience as a woman in a male-dominated industry. “I found out later I was the very first girl that shop had ever hired, so the big tiff in the store was that I had to go through the exact same process everyone else did, including changing tires.”

That introduction led to nearly a decade of working in auto parts stores and motorcycle shops. There was a brief interlude in Los Angeles after Bower graduated from college — “I thought I was going to be this awesome marketing person and moved down to LA. I lasted six months wearing high heels and panty hose and decided I was totally not doing that anymore,” she says.

After all that time working in the retail environment, Bower decided that she’d had enough of the daily grind and the demands of managing part-time employees. She was 29, and she decided she needed something different. “I gave my manager two months’ notice, I loaded up my trailer with my dirt bikes, jumped in my truck, and took six months off,” she says. “I decided to just wander around and figure out what I was going to do next.” 

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Bower wound up at Pismo Beach, California, for a few weeks, and as it turns out, Sand Sports Magazine wanted to do a write-up on her customized and modified Honda ATC 70s. During that process, Bower asked how to get involved in the magazine business. A few weeks later, she was in Oregon with a brand new DSLR, learning the ropes from that editorial team. “That was the phase I got introduced to a couple other magazines, and I ended up taking a job at an independent magazine and learned the media side,” Bower says.

 


 

When the financial crisis of 2008 happened, Bower had been working as a magazine ad rep and she saw the writing on the wall: advertiser spending was plummeting. She decided to leave before the bottom fell out. Instead, she saw an opportunity. “I thought with the magazine business dropping, the internet would finally pick up,” Bower says.

With the skills she’d acquired working in magazines, combined with her love of all things off-road, she figured she had what it took to deliver content that off-roaders wanted. “I thought if I supplied all these little internet outlets with quality content, then they’d win, I’d win, and my clients would win.” So out of financial uncertainty, Bower started her own PR outfit: Bower Motorsports Media.

As she learned on her first job changing tires in a motorcycle shop, success in a male-dominated industry wouldn’t be easy. “I never, ever, ever use being a girl to my benefit. In fact, I try not to focus on the fact I’m a girl,” Bower says. “I explain that I do good work, and if you want work done a certain way, you call me. I’ve had a lot of challenges making that work, though.”

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She recounts an incident at a trade show where she was talking to a product rep about a new snowplow. “I’d just written an article about snowplows, of all things. At that moment, I was a professional on snowplows for ATVs and UTVs. I asked the product rep about his new product — what made it different from everyone else’s snowplows — and instead of starting the conversation at E, F, G, he went all the way back to A and began explaining what a snowplow was.”

Bower seems almost amused by this memory. “I really didn’t have time for this conversation, but I also didn’t want to be rude. All of a sudden, I just blurted out ‘You know, I’m not just a girl. I actually understand what I talk about.’” (That very statement would become the name behind Bower's woman-focused clothing and jewelry line "I'm Not Just A Girl.")

 


 

While Bower has had difficulty being taken seriously, she is also quick to point out the positive interactions she’s had within the industry. “My official relationship with BFGoodrich started when I was working with Pirate4x4. They asked me to go and do some coverage of the Baja 1000, and as part of that, BFGoodrich asked me to cover their Baja Challenge (BC) class team. I interviewed all these guys — Kyle Tucker, Bud Brutsman — that were part of this scene, and at the time, I was just this nobody, this little nomad girl.”

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Bower had always driven on BFGoodrich tires — all the way back to her parents’ vehicles — but something more clicked as she spent time around the BFGoodrich team. “They were just a client, but then Richard Winchester and I got to talking and we just hit it off. He learned my skillset and he’s the one who’s pushed me in some directions. A lot of my success is thanks to him." 

Those pushes have led Bower to embrace being a woman in the off-road industry. In addition to her Bower Media work, she’s started or participated in numerous initiatives that encourage more women — of all skill levels — to participate in off-road activities.

That Ladies Co-Driver Challenge proved to me that girls want these opportunities, and I decided to go to bat for them. It’s a national footprint of ladies, and all we have to have in common is a love of off-roading. 

“Through BFGoodrich, at the age of 39, I had the opportunity to push myself again and do Trail of Missions, 36 Hours of Uwharrie, and the Rebelle Rally. Instead of finding another industry woman that technically has the same opportunities as me, I decided I was going to find normal girls. Girls who are wheelers, who you see out on the trail, but not an industry insider.”

That decision was the genesis of the Lady’s Co-Driver Challenge (now the Ladies Offroad Challenge), which Bower launched at Easter Jeep Safari 2016. “We had 91 ladies enter to win — we were just hoping for 30!” From there, Bower narrowed the field, and ultimately selected three women, one co-driver for each event. The payoff has been immediate as well as longer-lasting.

Bower and her co-driver took second place in the Pro class at Uwharrie, and later, with a different co-driver, beat out 32 other teams (including professional women rally drivers) in the 2016 Rebelle Rally. And with the overwhelming response to the Challenge, Bower started the Ladies Offroad Network.

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“The Challenge proved to me that girls want these opportunities, and I decided to go to bat for them. It’s a national footprint of ladies that are awesome, and all we have to have in common is a love of off-roading. I'm just hosting the party.”

It’s clear Bower is energized by this direction. The Ladies Offroad Network has only expanded in 2017, and the 2017 Ladies Offroad Challenge features the Rubicon Trail, the Baja 1000, and Fury Rode as the signature events, along with two additional events she hosted herself to provide additional opportunities for women. She even brainstormed and successfully hosted the 1st Annual Ladies Offroad Convention in Colorado Springs this August.

“We’re all tough chicks on the inside. I’m just trying to bring more people together to do this,” says Bower. “I’m really excited about this phase. I think this will be the next ten years of what I do.”

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Adventure

Recap: Sturgis Mustang Rally 2017

The hills were alive…with the sound of Detroit muscle. Ford Mustangs from every era of history and every corner of the United States converged on the Black Hills of South Dakota for the Sturgis Mustang Rally (August 29 – September 3).

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BFGoodrich Tires, in partnership with Gateway Classic Mustang, set up shop at Sturgis’ Thunder Dome throughout the week. There, Mustang owners and their families were able to watch and participate in a host of driver-oriented events.

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BFGoodrich offered driving schools for both those just learning the performance driving ropes, as well as more seasoned drivers (including some who’ve attended BFGoodrich driving schools in previous Sturgis Mustang Rallies). BFGoodrich also offered seat time with professional drivers on stock Mustangs and BFGoodrich g-Force Comp-2 A/S through the Share the Ride program — an easy way to experience the grip available in an all-season tire, not to mention a thrill ride.

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There were also ample opportunities to put those driving skills to the test, with autocross competitions, launch box and burnout competitions, drag racing, and barrel racing sprinkled throughout the week.

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Mustang owners also gathered for cruises throughout the scenic Black Hills area, and it wouldn’t be a Sturgis Mustang Rally without the show and shine and Mustang parade on Main Street.

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