Tuesday, June 17, 2014

My 2nd Off Road Experience

From eastern Pennsylvania last month to Western Pennsylvania this month -- High up in the Allegheny Mountains was the spot for my second off road experience. My son and husband spent the weekend on the Youghiogheny River whitewater rafting with our Boy Scout Troop. Since my youngest was too young for the river ride I decided to find another thrill ride for him. 
Just minutes from the Kentuck Campground, where we were camping, is the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. This resort is filled with adventures galore -- zip lines, climbing wall, paintball, ropes course, safari tours, pony rides and much more. But the adventure that caught my eye was the Jeep Off-Road Driving Adventure. 

Sunday morning, I loaded up my Jeep with my son, two of his friends and another mom and we headed for the resort. We were able to piggy back on a ride-along trip they had scheduled that morning with two other families. 

A great Father's Day treat for these dads from Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Each dad took the wheel of one of Nemacolin's Jeep Rubicons for a ride through their training course with an instructor in the passenger seat. Then it was off into portions of the resorts rugged terrain.

Even though I had already taken the Rausch Creek 101 driving course earlier, I decided to drive through this course as well - a little warm up before the big event.  

One thing I realized after checking out the pictures afterwards is that everything looks and feels more daunting inside the Jeep than outside.

After two runs through the course it was time to head out. I was thrilled to be back behind the wheel heading into unknown territory. I felt confidant I could handle what was in store for me. 

The off road driving experience took us into the dense rugged forest of the Allegheny Mountains. The further we drove into the woods the more nervous I became. Skepticism started to fill my brain. It wasn't doubt of my driving abilities but doubt of what my stock Jeep could handle. The two Jeeps in front of me were Rubicons.

The instructors assured me my Jeep Wrangler Unlimited could handle the trails we would encounter. But they couldn't guarantee all my parts would be there when I got back. Parts like my bumper and my side rails. That would not be an ideal Father's Day surprise for my husband. But the thought did cross my mind that it could be an opportunity to replace/upgrade those parts to my liking.

Deeper and deeper into the ride the trails got muddier and muddier. Some areas I had to drive through some pretty deep muddy waters. Or so they felt pretty deep from inside my Jeep. My confidence started to wain as I didn't have my security blanket with me -- the two way radio I had at Rausch Creek (http://rc4x4.org/with my instructor Kyle. That two way connection gave me the assurance I needed to get through the tough parts. 

As I trudged along through each obstacle I would come out unscathed and I would find relief. Then up ahead we would see another challenge and the nerves would stand on end again. It was a continual roller coaster ride of emotions for me. But I enjoyed every minute of the adrenaline rush. 

At one point one of the instructors pointed me to the left fork in the road, but they headed for the right. We were confused until we met up with them at the top of a rocky hill. They were coming up the hill. I guess they thought I couldn't handle the hill so they had me go around. Little did they know I was up for the challenge. So I turned the Jeep around and headed back around through some pretty thick mud to the bottom of the hill. 

The instructor got out and gave me some tips on how to maneuver the hill. There seemed to be some concern with some of the ruts and rocks. Unfortunately my confidence had lessened from my experience at Rausch and I didn't take the hill as aggressively as I should have. I did make to the top though and received a lot of whoops and high fives from the dads. Which later I found out they all expected to have to pull me out of some of the sticky situations but were quite surprised how well I did.

Looking at this video now, I realized I was a little too cautious. I encountered this same type of hill a couple of times at Rausch and just barrelled my way up to the top. I guess they planted the seed doubt when they mentioned the thought of losing my bumper. 

All in all it was a great learning experience for me. I had an awesome time and so did my my son and his friends. I'm looking forward to going out again but I don't know if I will ever lose the cautiousness I have for my Jeep. She's like my first baby and I'm a little over protective I guess. She is a lot more capable then I allow her to be. Maybe over time I can let go a little. 

Greg and Matt, the two instructors along for the ride where very helpful guiding me through some of the tougher situations. They invited me to come back but said I needed to try it out in the Rubicon. That is definitely an invitation I am not passing up. I plan on heading back up in July to test drive the Rubicon on some even tougher trails. 

Since my oldest is nearing driving age it might be a good time to pass down my Wrangler Unlimited to him and get myself a Rubicon. Hmmm!!! It's a thought. I will just have to see how I like the off road experience in a Rubicon. I'm sure I will love it!

                          -- Simple Living! -- Enjoying Life! -- The Jeep Momma Way --

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