Sometimes the best roads are just outside your doorstep. For off-roaders, the outdoors is an adventure zone, a place to test their vehicle's chops and explore places few people get to see. For a select few, 4x4ing is more than that—it's about community. In our first Car + Culture video, we follow Jennifer as she and her club, the New Mexico 4Wheelers, work together to take on some of New Mexico's tough terrain.
Jennifer took the time to talk with us about her experience growing up as an off-roader and some tips for those just getting started.
Advance: How long have you been off-roading?
Jennifer: My grandfather first got me interested with an off-road go-kart, and then I got into any type of car or truck when I was very young. I have been out in the forest and backcountry since I was a teen, with motorcycles and ATV’s and then 4-wheel-drive trucks. I got more involved when I got a Hummer and joined a club.
What’s your favorite part of off-roading?
My favorite thing is getting to places that most people will not ever see or visit. It’s about enjoying and seeing so many interesting things and learning about the history of our country, and then continuing to learn more technical driving skills.
You talk about respecting the land, how do you live that in your off-roading?
I respect our world by always setting a good example with picking up trash, cans, and tires to recycle every time I am out. I also help block illegal bypasses that get created so others don’t continue to use them when they should not. I participate with other clubs with clean-up projects and encourage others to join in. Of course, I always follow the Tread Lightly Principles.
Can you tell us about your club?
New Mexico 4-Wheelers has been around since 1958. It was originally know as the New Mexico Jeep Herders, but they changed and logo changed 20+ years ago. The group was started by some Jeep people who lived in the area back in 1958. I joined the club in March 2012 just two days after moving to Albuquerque, and I’ve been the program chair, trip chair, and currently president of the club as of August 2016. We have 96 member families, or 165 people. But this doesn’t include the many children (or dogs!) who participate with us.
Looks like you have a great community. Can you tell us about it?
We are all out there to have a good time and with the variety of 4x4’s different skill and comfort levels it allows for everyone to be safe and still have fun. Our group welcomes new people and we try to coach them if needed.
Got any good stories about having to fix your car out on the trail?
The worst breakdown I had was a very large slash in my tire, it was the inside tire on a shelf road with very steep grades on both sides with little room to walk around to pull the tire and put the spare on. There was plenty of help and someone around to get a photo immediately!
What’s your favorite route in Albuquerque?
It’s just north of Albuquerque, the Jemez Mountains, I like to go on any of the trails after leaving Jemez Pueblo and following the mountain road through Gilman, NM and the old railroad tunnels there. At that point you are in the forest with a variety of routes to take up and around the mountains.
Any tips for people who want to get into off-roading?
We have many people that come out after purchasing a new 4x4 and they start asking about tires, lift kits, gearing, all the recovery gear, and camping gear. There are lots of places and catalogs to buy accessories and there are lots of varieties of trails so we encourage people to try them before spending lots of additional money on their rigs. They may be happy with just some better off road tires, or they may enjoy rock crawling and want to go to very large tires. My best tip would be find someone who will take you out for a ride and/or let you drive their 4x4 and see what types of trails you like. Find a club, because everyone will be willing to share what they have done or are in process of doing to their rigs.
How do people find out more about your club?
Visit our website at www.nm4w.org
Thanks for sharing, Jennifer!