Quantum Jeep

Female four-wheel-drive aficionados make tracks to monthly meeting

Apr 30, 2003 at 4:00 am
Women wheelers in the Lou have their own monthly club, and it's not that club. So what's a wheeler? That's someone who likes to command a four-wheel-drive vehicle. The Jeep Chicks, formally the Jeep Girl Club-Missouri Chapter, is the only all-women club in St. Louis for this male-dominated sport/hobby. Despite the supergirly name, these fifteen women, ranging in age from early twenties to midforties, aren't driving pink Barbie Jeeps. They have call names and explore off-road a few times each year, often in Potosi, Missouri. And no, to be a member, experience is not necessary, nor is Jeep ownership -- any 4-by-4 will do. One girl, nicknamed Kiwi, and her Kia Sportage brave the muddy terrain, too. Pay the $20 yearly membership fee and see whether your fancy gas-guzzling SUV can handle the trails it was "designed" for.

The club is one of four chapters in the country; the others are in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Four-year four-wheelin' veteran and Missouri chapter president Chris "Bova" Bennett says, "The object of our club is to get people, non-4-by-4 people or non-Jeep people, informed about the sport of off-roading." And the girls want to clean up their potentially dirty reputation. Bennett explains, "We want to just mainly inform the community that 'Hey, we're not a tear-it-up crowd.'" Of course, when off-roading, certain rules apply: Seat belts and insurance are a must, alcohol is a no-no and members are concerned about the environment, too -- they're sure to "tread lightly" so that they don't disturb the wildlife around the trails.

Not only do these women enjoy trekking off-road, they also help raise money for charities such as ALIVE (Alternatives to Living in Violent Environments) and participate in parades like the one this weekend in Swansea, Illinois, for the Firemen's Picnic. The girls even got to meet their hero, Daisy Duke (actress Catherine Bach). "She was in Dukes of Hazzard, and she had a Jeep, so she was the original Jeep girl." With all these activities and the off-roading, too, it kinda makes a girl want to buy a 4-by-4 and get muddy.