By: Matt Konkle
With: Kylen Hill
A sense of community.
That is the slogan of a small town in Northeastern Indiana called Leo-Cedarville. A town nestled quietly against the Cedarville Reservoir, just a short 20-minute ride up I-69 and Indiana Route 1 from Fort Wayne.
On a good day, you possibly can catch some Carp and Channel Catfish in the reservoir. Or maybe you catch a break and there is an opening to rent the Grand Pavilion at Riverside Gardens Park for a family gathering.
For Kylen Hill, his catch growing up in Leo-Cedarville’s community was a passion for cars, dirt bikes and, really, anything off-road. It is definitely a passion that, at one time or another, most kids catch, whether from streaking through the woods on a BMX bike – imagining themselves as the next great racer – or by gliding over dirt mounds with red, sweaty, smiling faces as ATVs roar in approval.
But for most kids, that kind of passion eventually fades away as other loves rise up to take its place. Not for Hill. Not in college when he bought his first Jeep. Not after, when he took up mountain biking, shooting and then got himself a Grand Cherokee.
And not now, even as Hill, 28, lives out another of his passions; serving his community as a police officer for the City of Fort Wayne.
No, that off-road passion has never left which, turns out, is a great thing for Kylen Hill – Quadratec’s 2016 Ultimate Fly & Drive Jeep Jamboree Giveaway winner.
From February 1 through June 30th, Quadratec took entries (one per person, per week) for the Ultimate Fly & Drive Jeep Jamboree Giveaway. The contest included a trip to Reno, Nevada for a day of professional off-road instruction with the Rod Hall Driving School, followed by a helicopter ride the next morning over to Lake Tahoe, California and two days off-roading the legendary Rubicon Trail during the Jeep Jamboree USA's Rubicon Trail Adventure With Rod Hall. The trip dates were August 12-14.
For just about anyone into off-roading, winning this experience would be considered a dream trip of a lifetime. For Hill, at least at the beginning when he was notified, he - well - almost didn't even consider it at all.
“When I was contacted in regards to the trip that Quadratec offered, I didn’t believe it,” he said. “I thought it was some fake attention-getter type of thing. But I was wrong."
“My girlfriend Darcy Allman and I sorted out the details, and all of the cards lay correctly and we went on the trip to Lake Tahoe to drive the Rubicon Trail! Quadratec had selected me as the winner and let me tell you, it was amazing!”
“For starters, everyone I encountered on the trip was super nice and really down to earth people. The contacts with Quadratec and Jeep Jamboree USA were top notch and couldn’t have been any more accommodating and fun to be around. The other members in the group were also a lot of fun to spend time with.”
Hill and Allman first traveled to the Reno, NV area for the Rod Hall Driving School experience, and spent all day Friday, August 12 practicing off-road driving techniques at both high and low speed from the school’s expert instructors - which included school founder and off-road legend Rod Hall, along with Josh Hall who has over 25-years experience in creating curriculum and training specifically for off-road driving.
“The first day of our trip consisted of the Rod Hall Driving School and, again, the staff was amazing,” Hill said. “We had some fun on their UTV’s they offered for high-speed training. Then we learned a few essential low-speed maneuvers in the Jeep Wranglers they offered, and it truly became a big help when it came time to tackle the Rubicon.”
Hill and Allman attended the school along with others who had registered for the Jeep Jamboree USA’s Rubicon Trail Adventure with Rod Hall event. Shelby Hall, Rod Hall's Granddaughter, said everyone at the Rod Hall Driving School was especially excited when they learned Hill and Allman had won the experience through Quadratec’s contest.
“It didn’t take long for the RHD crew to learn that Kylen and his partner Darcy had actually won this experience!” Shelby Hall said. “Darcy started the day out very timid, as she had never done any off-roading in her life. Through attentiveness and follow through, Darcy was named the ‘Most Improved Driver’ during training.”
“The RHD crew also felt very fortunate to spend quality time with Kylen, Darcy and the entire group at our camp located at the Rubicon Springs. We thank Kylen for his duty as a Police Officer, and hope his new driving skills will help him to be the best driver he can be, on and off the dirt!”
Following the day of training, the couple got a well-deserved night of sleep and then departed via helicopter the next morning for Lake Tahoe, California to begin their 2-day Rubicon Trail ride with Jeep Jamboree USA.
“We packed our bags before breakfast prior to heading out to the trail and we were flown by helicopter from the awesome resort to an even more awesome trail,” Hall said. “We were dropped on the side of a mountain where our Jeeps were waiting to be driven! The scenery was absolutely amazing. We drove a little over 8 hours the first day, stopping several times along the way to stretch our legs, change drivers, assist other drivers on the trail, and of course to take photos.”
“As the day went on, the excitement continued to build on what was to come next. Darcy had the intention to be sitting in the passenger seat for most of the trip, but in fact she drove most of that first day and loved every minute of it! She’s never had any off-road driving experience whatsoever, and it was nearly impossible to get her out of the driver’s seat.”
"The Rubicon Trail is so demanding that we had to keep a steady pace to ensure getting to camp at a reasonable hour," said Jeep Jamboree USA Special Event Coordinator/Adventure Consultant Shawn Gulling. "I can say without a doubt that (Kylen) and Darcy did a phenomenal job. They drove one of our company Wranglers which only had a two-inch Synergy lift and 285/70r17 (just shy of 33”) tires, while most of the other Jeeps were on 35’s and 37’s. They took the same lines and drove them remarkably well."
After eight hours on the Rubicon, and somewhere way out in the wilderness, it was finally time to cool the vehicles down a bit and rest up for the night. But even as far away from ‘civilization’ as the group was, Hill said the Jeep Jamboree staff still made the Rubicon Springs Base Camp a perfect spot – always keeping that sense of community.
“That evening we made it to camp where they had our camp set up completely for us,” Hill said. “Once we got settled and took a quick swim in the creek to rinse some of the dust off from the trail, it was time for dinner. The staff members at camp cooked some amazing food, better that most restaurants I’ve ever been to, and we were eight hours into the wilderness!”
“After we finished eating, we hung out by the campfire with the 13 people who were in our group, other Jeepers bringing their own vehicles, and of course the staff from Rod Hall Driving School. We hung out into the early morning getting to know everyone and having one of the best times of my life.”
Hill continued, “The next morning we got up after a good night’s rest and ate a very good breakfast from the staff once again. We packed our items and started loading up to hit the trail for the second leg of the trip. The excitement from the day before continued to rise because the best was yet to come, according to the guides and others driving the trail.”
And the day did not disappoint.
“The trail was getting more and more difficult, but the 2016 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon that they gave us to drive was driving over boulders like it was nothing,” Hill said. “We went over some incredible terrain that I would never think was possible to drive, especially in a fairly stock Wrangler. You know you’re driving up a steep incline when you can’t stop to stretch your legs because the ground is too steep to walk on, but yet you are driving up it. The trail guides that volunteered for the Jamboree were fantastic, assisting with some of the tougher spots along the trail that seem impossible to the untrained eye.”
“After another amazing day on the trail, it had to come to an end sometime. We reached the end of the trail and drove the convoy back to the resort where we said our goodbyes to the other members of the group that we will never see again, but will never forget.”
Nothing can prepare you for the sheer thrill of the Rubicon Trail, Jeep Jamboree says in advertisements for its Rubicon Trail rides, as there is no off-road trail anywhere in the world that can be compared to the unprecedented challenge of the Rubicon Trail.
Those who have driven it certainly agree. Navigating a trail rated 10 out of 10 on the Jeep Jamboree scale of difficulty is something that most off-road drivers, even ones with experience, can’t really prepare to tackle. However, experiencing it with others – that off-road sense of community – is what can really make the adventure unprecedented and memorable.
“Another factor that I really enjoyed was being out in the wilderness, away from any city lights and commotion,” Hill said. “There was no cell phone service for three days, which made you truly enjoy the company of those whom you were with and to truly enjoy the company of the genuine people you were surrounded by, which RARELY happens anymore.”
“While we were on our flight home a couple of days later, I was looking at the photographs, re-living the experience, and wondering how I will be able to explain our trip so people can understand how truly amazing it was. Needless to say, I was unable to find a good way to explain it. It is truly an experience you must go through to get the full effect, and it is 110% worth it.”
“People out on the trail were living the life a lot of us wish we could. They were there to drive some trails, meet new people, talk about Jeeps, and drive the most difficult trails in the country. That grabs the essence that the Jeep is based on and turns the whole experience into a Jeep ‘euphoric’ atmosphere. Tackling the Rubicon Trail truly is a euphoric feeling.”
It’s a long way from Leo-Cedarville, Indiana, to the Rubicon Trail in Lake Tahoe, California. Nearly 2,100 miles. And yet, whether fishing for Carp in the Cedarville Reservoir or navigating some of the most difficult off-road terrain around with dirt’s closest friend Rod Hall, one thing binds everything together.
The sense of community.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat if I got the opportunity again,” Hill said. “I kept pondering why the trip went so smoothly, why everyone was so fun to be around, etc., and the only answer that I could come up with was because of the Jeep. There were somewhere around the ballpark of 350-450 people there in total, and there were NO issues. How does that happen when you get that many people together?"
“The love for the Jeep!”
If it weren’t for Quadratec and Jeep Jamboree USA, I would have never had an opportunity like this in my life. It was a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience and worth every bit of their effort. I took hundreds of photographs and every one of them is amazing.
This story and the photos I have show the experience, but even still, it does not do the full experience the justice it deserves. The trail was extremely challenging, but that made it that much more satisfying when it was completed. Darcy and I both felt almost invincible whenever we were in the Rubicon since we had truly tested those machines and it was no problem whatsoever.
It was truly an amazing experience and much better than I could have imagined it would possibly be. I truly thank Quadratec for the experience! Without them, Darcy and I wouldn’t have ever been able to have this experience! I appreciate the opportunity to submerse us deeper into the Jeep culture and show us what it truly means to be a Jeep owner. I truly appreciate the opportunity from the bottom of my heart. From Darcy and I, we sincerely appreciate the opportunity to be part of your culture!
I think it’s fair to say we are both more hardcore Jeep lovers now than ever before.
Special thanks to Jeep Jamboree USA - Where will your Jeep take you next? https://jeepjamboreeusa.com/ and Rod Hall Drive - Offering Group Programs, Adventure Trips and Off-Road Training Programs all designed to get you to successfully extract the potential of these wonderful off-road machines http://rodhalldrive.com/.