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Ocotillo Wells - Off-Road For Hope

Posted in Features on July 1, 2001
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For any who have ever doubted that four-wheelers are some of the most active, community-conscious citizens you'll ever find, Off-Road For Hope has once again laid those doubts to rest. If you're not familiar with this event, its sole purpose is to bring off-road enthusiasts and aftermarket manufacturers together to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Now in its third year, Off-Road For Hope III raised an amazing $55,000 for the MDA at this year's event, up considerably from the $46,000 that was donated in 2000. Nearly 800 off-roaders came out to not only show their support for this cause, but to have a great time on the trailruns that clubs from all across Southern California were staging as well.

Held at the Ocotillo Wells SVRA near the Anza-Borrego State Park, Off-Road For Hope chose the perfect spot for launching hundreds of four-wheelers and other off-road enthusiasts onto trails that ranged from easy to extreme. There was something for everyone, whether you arrived by bike, buggy, ATV, or SUV.

When participants weren't out on the trails, the vendor displays kept them busy with new products and information. Representatives from BFG, Miller Off-Road, ARB, Pro Comp, ORW, Currie, Rancho, Tuffy, Goodyear, Sun Performance, Rubicon Express, 4 Wheel Parts Wholesalers, Extreme Automotive, and a slew of others were all on hand to promote and to discuss this sport.

On the last day of the event, Wayne Miller of Miller Off-Road, who organized the enormous raffle, staged the ARB Rockcrawling Challenge. Everyone had a great time testing out their rigs on what turned out to be a tough canyon that chewed up a number of vehicles. When the dust had cleared, it was Kathy Crook driving her JP Off Road Jeep, who took First Place with a time of 1.26. (She actually ran the course in 56 seconds but took a 30-second penalty for hitting a flag.)

It is inspiring to see how the OHV community has gotten so solidly behind the Muscular Dystrophy Association to help them in their search for a cure for this disease. And with the growing support that off-roaders have shown this event in the past three years, that commitment will only continue to gain momentum in years to come.

The Winner's Circle
Just a few months ago, most four-wheelers had never heard of Kathy Crook. But recently, this diminutive four-wheeler has begun making a name for herself in the world of hard-core rockcrawling. In addition to taking First Place in the ARB Rockcrawling Challenge at the Off Road For Hope III event, she placed 32nd overall in the first Goodyear Skyjacker ARCA 2001 event in Johnson Valley, California. We recently sat down with Kathy to talk about future rockcrawling events and to get a feel for where she's going to go from here.

It came as no surprise to learn that she has been four-wheeling for more than a decade. As a member of the Trailmasters 4WD Club, she has spent a lot of time out on the trail, much of it in her personal Jeep - a '94 Wrangler. In fact, it was her longstanding connection with the club that launched her budding career in extreme rockcrawling competition.

Dave Knight, the owner of JP Off Road, was interested in promoting women in this sport. So he began asking around to see if anyone knew a good female driver who could pilot one of his rigs. Dave is a friend and associate of Jason Bunch, the owner of Tri-County Gear. And Jason, as a fellow member of the Trailmasters 4WD Club, knew about Kathy's experience behind the wheel, so he put the two in contact.

Knight, of course, wanted to see her drive. So the two met down in Truckhaven Hills and got on with business. What happened next still makes Kathy laugh, but the short of it is that she rolled the Jeep. As it turned out, neither she nor that Jeep had ever rolled before, so it was a day of new experiences all around. Not willing to quit, Kathy got right back in the driver seat and kept going.

Needless to say, Knight was impressed enough with her driving acumen and her refusal to quit to sign her on. And it was a good choice. With only one day of practice, Kathy won the ARB event - to wonderful fanfare, we might add - and made an excellent showing in Johnson Valley, even though she had never even seen an ARCA event before.

Kathy told us that she is really looking forward to the next ARCA event, which will be held May 3-5, 2001 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Now that she has a better feel for the level of difficulty she can expect, she thinks that she and her spotter, Rene LeBaron, will do at least as well as they did in Johnson Valley.

We think she's right.

Supporting Clubs
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On the Edge 4x4 Club
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Tierra del Sol Jeep Club
Los Cucarachas Borralhas Club
San Diego Off Road Coalition
Early Broncos Club
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San Diego Outbacks
Rancho Jeep
Geared For Fun
Desert Dawgs 4WD Club

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