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  • Episode 81 Nena Barlow talks essential skills for backcountry overlanding

Episode 81 Nena Barlow talks essential skills for backcountry overlanding


Show Notes for Podcast #81

Nena Barlow talks essential skills for backcountry overlanding


Matt Scott and Scott Brady interview Nena Barlow about her favorite Jeeps, her competitive success with the Rebelle Rally, and the essential skills for exploring the backcountry.

Guest Bio:

Nena Barlow

Owner Nena Barlow grew up in the Southwest, exploring the back roads by Jeep, horse, and hiking boots. She has been in the Jeep business since 1996, providing tours, 4wd instruction, location scouting, offroad event planning, trail mapping & photography, and recovery. Nena has logged thousands of hours in the backcountry behind the wheel of a Jeep, with additional off-road experience in Hummers, Unimogs, Fords, Toyotas, and Nissans. She says, “The most important things about four-wheeling are to let the vehicle do the work—don’t overdrive it; and never take any trail for granted—go slow, pay attention, and never be ashamed to turn around and go home.”

Nena is a certified Master Trainer by the International 4wd Trainer Association. Barlow Adventures instructors endure (enjoy?) years of training before leading classes, and come from extensive backgrounds in various outdoor sports, emergency services, and education. This is not a weekend job–this is what we DO! @barlow_adventures


Host Bios:

Scott Brady

Scott is the publisher and co-founder of Expedition Portal and Overland Journal and is often credited with popularizing overlanding in North America. His travels by 4WD and adventure motorcycle span all seven continents and includes three circumnavigations of the globe. His polar expeditions include two vehicle crossings of Antarctica and the first long-axis crossing of Greenland. @scott.a.brady


Matthew Scott

Matthew is a leading expert in automotive adventure. He has extensively explored the world’s most remote places by 4WD and is considered an industry authority on overland travel. He is the only American to ever become an editor of a major Australian 4WD publication and has over 15 years of competitive auto racing experience. @mattexplore


This episode sponsored in part by





To learn more about Barlow Adventures and Nena, check out the links below.

Barlow Adventures website: Barlow Adventures



Rebelle Rally Team #129

Instagram: @barlow_adventures


More information about training and the Rebelle Rally:

Sedona Jeep Rentals WebsiteSedona Jeep Rentals


For more information about the Rebelle Rally


Full Transcript

Scott Brady: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Overland Journal podcast. I am your host, Scott Brady, and I am here with my illustrious co-host, Matt Scott.

Matt Scott: I am sitting in the general vicinity.

Scott Brady: Who does have some news he’s going to share with us in a couple of minutes. So excited to hear…

Matt Scott: Actually news on two fronts that are very significant.

Scott Brady: Okay. All right. So you’ll have to stand by for that, but the most important person in the room is Nena Barlow. Nena has been in this industry for nearly 30 years and has literally changed the landscape of much of what we do, particularly around events and four-wheel drive training and vehicle rentals. So her business is expansive and services our industry in many different ways. And of course, with all of that time, you’ve gained so much experience and knowledge. So we’re going to ask her a bunch of questions today, not only about how did she get to this point, but the lessons that Nena has learned along the way. So Nena, thank you so much for being on the podcast

Nena Barlow: Thanks for having me. My honor.

Scott Brady: Oh yeah, totally. [00:01:00] Well, and I think back on all of the times that we’ve done cool little projects together, including I think we got wrangled into a Jalopnik Winching video at one point in time.

Nena Barlow: Totally off the cuff.

Scott Brady: It was totally… like hey guys, can we get you guys stuck and shoot a video? Sure. We figured it out. That was really fun. So yeah, we’ve definitely seen each other at a lot of events, and I’ve heard your stories of success. So one of the things that I wanted to ask was how did you get from wherever you were living in the country? So maybe share a little bit about where you grew up and what were some of the experiences that you had that led you to wanting to become a full drive trainer in expert?

Nena Barlow: So I grew up in the desert outside of Palm Springs, California. Graduated Palm Springs, high school. I won’t say when. It was a thousand-acre ranch, and so four-wheeling was just part of daily life [00:02:00] really, and I think it was maybe some time in my twenties that I realized that people did this just for fun. I remember my dad had an early Bronco and if he showed up to pick me up at school, you know, when I was teenager that was just, oh my gosh, it was so embarrassing.

Scott Brady: And what you would give to have that car now.

Nena Barlow: Right? When he sold it, there was rending of garments and gnashing of teeth in the family, definitely. But the outdoor industry became part of my life when I started get involved with the hot air balloon business in Palm Springs, and because I could drive a truck and trailer and I could four-wheel ground crew stuff there. And then I went away to college was still doing that…

Scott Brady: And what did you go to college for?

Nena Barlow: I went to college for sports and recreation management.

Scott Brady: And that’s what you do.

Nena Barlow: With a coaching certification. I got college credit for rafting.

Matt Scott: I [00:03:00] did not.

Scott Brady: I was clearly on the wrong degree program.

Matt Scott: I went to school in Peoria, Illinois. Why…

Nena Barlow: No whitewater rafting. When I came back, I knew I didn’t want to go back to Southern California at that point. My family had owned property in Sedona since the seventies, and so I kind of knew that’s where I ended up and just went to work as a Jeep tour guide in the Jeep tour business, which has of course been booming since the sixties there.

Scott Brady: I didn’t know it was that long ago.

Nena Barlow: Pink Jeep started… Don Pratt was actually realtor and would take people around in a Jeep, pull up and show them some real estate and he realized that taking them around was more of the attraction than actually selling the real estate. Of course, both now, and I ended up just kind of getting in the Jeep tour business and Jeep business was kind of something to do until I settled down, got a real [00:04:00] job, became an adult.

Scott Brady: So overrated.

Nena Barlow: So here we are 30 years later that just that whole settling down and getting a real job thing…

Matt Scott: Growing up is in fact overrated.

Nena Barlow: And optional.

Scott Brady: It is. You get to make choices.

Matt Scott: I’ve never had a real job ever.

Scott Brady: It’s true.

Matt Scott: Not that I’ll admit too.

Nena Barlow: Right, and I wouldn’t change that. I started my own business in 2004 after working for other companies for about 10 years. And I had a lot of great bosses and then I had a lot of the bosses that we would say, you know, you learned a lot what not to do, so those are some of the earliest lessons.

Scott Brady: And that’s no question part of what forms us as entrepreneurs is those experiences where you see this as an opportunity, or they’re not doing it in this way, and I think that that’s a really interesting way to go about it. Now, when you were on the ranch, so this is kind of a fun thing about you that I didn’t know about the cattle ranch, because my family [00:05:00] had a cattle ranch in Arizona and just outside of Casa Grande. So I learned a lot about driving off road on the ranch, because it was just part of your job. So you didn’t want to get stuck. And there were some really practical, I mean, the vehicles were already always air down, not that low, but they were always aired down in some capacity. And you kind of learned momentum a little bit, but you didn’t want to beat the trucks up because then you had to… You were in trouble if you, if you broke something. So you strike that really fine balance. What were some of the things that you learned about vehicles? Also, I suspect you are riding horses at the time. What were some of the things that were takeaways from you from the family ranch?

Nena Barlow: Don’t get caught.

Scott Brady: That’s perfect.

Nena Barlow: Yeah, there there’s some things that we did. It certainly isn’t… I had cousins and it was definitely, oh, don’t tell our dad’s. We got to figure out how to get ourselves out of this.

Scott Brady: Totally, [00:06:00] that’s good advice. So all that are listening, don’t get caught. So what did you guys use out on the ranch for vehicles? Were they mostly full-sized trucks and things like that?

Nena Barlow: Yes, mostly full-size heavy-duty trucks. And then of course, the tractors and we had the Bronco.

Scott Brady: And then you were probably towing stock trailers around in the sand through washes and everything else. I mean, it’s amazing how much you learn about driving. For me, it was definitely on the ranch. And then when I was working out at the Barium Goldwater in doing patrol, it’s like I was always in full drive and I just… Like I was doing it eight hours a day, every single day. And it’s amazing what you learn about just the subtleties of driving from that. And do you find that was the case for you?

Nena Barlow: Sand. We had a lot of sand, and we had a lot of washes and so one, one of our “don’t let our dads catch us” stories was I had the long bed crew cab, and I knew just enough at that point. I think I [00:07:00] was 12. I knew just enough that this wash was too narrow to get this truck across if I just went straight through, you know, so I knew just enough. It’s like, well I’ll use momentum and it was enough to get the front bumper hung up on the far side of the wash. And then the tailgate hung up on the backside with all four tires hanging in the air. Boy, I could’ve used some Max Trax then, hours of rock stacking and jacking.

Scott Brady: Well, and most of your days, even though you’re managing… how big is your team now? Because you have two locations. Actually, maybe three, or do you still do the Rubicon trail work?

Nena Barlow: We do, yeah. As far as brick-and-mortar locations for rental pickup and drop-off stores, retail stores, we call them, we just have the Moab and Sedona. And then we hold permits in a lot of places. You know, Rubicon trail, of course we’re up there just in the summertime. That’s about a 10 or 12week season, depending on snowpack on one end and wildfires on the other down in El Centro, [00:08:00] Yuma Glamis area, which of course this time of the year. We get to follow the good weather around, for the most part. And so we operate regularly on the Rubicon trail, Moab, Sedona, El Centro. I feel like I’m forgetting something.

Scott Brady: So you drive these vehicles nearly every day. You’re oftentimes even though you run a larger organization, you’re still the subject matter expert for your team. You have other folks that can do work, but you’re definitely the subject matter expert. So that keeps you out in the field a lot with OEMs and other clients. You’ve had a lot of Jeeps. One of the questions that I was asking, in fact, you drove up in a Four by E. How is the Four by E to drive off-road, like now that you’ve like really driven them?

Nena Barlow: It’s currently my favorite.

Matt Scott: I love the idea of the plug-in hybrid cause it’s what? 21 miles of electric range they claim.

Nena Barlow: Yeah. And we’ve gotten up to 27, you know, there’s of course there’s a lot of variability, [00:09:00] you know, just like gas mileage, you know, if you’re driving super-fast or uphill. Yeah. But you know, for the rally last year and this year too coming up, you know, with Jeep I had the choice of the 392 or the Four by E and it was hands down I want the Four by E. For the amount of torque you have and the horsepower, but you get twice the range out of a tank of fuel.

Scott Brady: Right. And so off off-road what are you noticing? Are you noticing things that don’t work that well, or are you noticing things that work even better with the electric?

Nena Barlow: It is really a different experience when you drive it in all electric mode off road and all you hear is the crunching of the tires. Needless to say on the 392, that’s not the noise you’re hearing.

Matt Scott: Have you bought a 392 yet?

Nena Barlow: I have not. It is actually the only Wrangler drive train that I’m like, I don’t need one of those, but I’ve got…

Scott Brady: You don’t want your clients in one of those. Yeah.

Nena Barlow: Oh yeah. That was, of course when those were coming [00:10:00] out. Oh, are you going to rent those?

Scott Brady: For those on YouTube? Fill in the blanks.

Nena Barlow: So they’re fun to drive. You can’t help but get into a 392 and turn 12. You both have driven them; I mean you know.

Matt Scott: I haven’t actually.

Scott Brady: We got one coming up next week.

Matt Scott: When were you going to tell me this?

Nena Barlow: We weren’t going to tell you.

Scott Brady: It’s coming, Matt.

Matt Scott: Like of all the press cars we get. The only two that have excited me are the Ford Maverick for some reason. Like, there’s been some really cool stuff that comes through the office. Ford Maverick, charming. 392, I want it. Like there’s actually maybe a strategy that involves you working with Laura to ensure that I don’t ever go too near it.

Scott Brady: I’m staying out of that program.

Matt Scott: Yeah. I don’t know. I think the Four by E is really cool. I think that [00:11:00] the plug-in hybrid architecture, I think that we’re going to see a lot more of that in the future. You know, if we take the lead from Europe, there’s a lot of European cities that you can’t drive internal combustion vehicles into. Undoubtedly, we’re going to start to see that in other cities, in the world and US cities also adapting that similar philosophy, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you know? But the idea…

Scott Brady: I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all.

Matt Scott: The thing that I like about the Four by E is, well I mean both of us… we can drive, you know, I’ve solar on my house, so I can charge from solar. Drive from my house to work and back and not have to turn on an internal combustion engine. I don’t need power to go from here to there. And I’m doing 45 50 at the top, cause those things work… they have a motor generator unit and then they have a second electric motor and then they have the two liter [00:12:00] turbo. They’re pretty cool.

Nena Barlow: 470-pound feet of torque.

Matt Scott: Which matches the 392.

Nena Barlow: Matches 392. The Four by E is only 375 horsepower though.

Scott Brady: I mean, how amazing is that right? I mean, just to think like when we were driving four-liter Wranglers and they felt so fast, the 180 horsepower, they felt quick. The 4.0 HO, it felt like a fast car, right? Yeah, that’s amazing.

Matt Scott: I remember in high school I had this clapped out five series BMW that I bought for like $12 and a box of paperclips. And I remember getting smoked by four-liter Jeeps and thinking that four liter jeeps were just crazy. I mean, I have one now and I still get into it like, oh, this is so fast. And then I get in my, like 36 and I’m like, oh.

Nena Barlow: No, I have to be honest, if you talk about getting in the 392 and feeling like you’re 12, you know, you just can’t help but go… so when I’m driving the Four by E, you know, I’m like in Cottonwood or something. [00:13:00] I’m cruising around looking for those Mustangs. Come on. Red light. Come on.

Scott Brady: I love that. I love that. Nena’s just like patrolling Cottonwood for Mustang drivers. I love it. This is perfect. We’re gonna all stick with that thought going forward. Well, that’s, that’s great feedback on the Four by E. I just think that we’re going to start to see more and more of those vehicles coming out and more and more electric only. Rivians a great example of that. So it’s going to be an exciting new era of four-wheel driving for us. And so far, the only thing that I’ve experienced with an electric four-wheel drive, which when I tested the Hummer EV is if like… we would typically in Moab, when we come up to a ledge with an automatic, we would left foot brake and we would slowly press the tire into the ledge so that the carcass starts to deform and it builds up an enormous amount of traction with that front axle. You can’t do that with an [00:14:00] electric. They don’t make enough torque at essentially zero RPMs. They need a little bit of movement in order to develop that monster torque that they do. So I think we’ll have to learn how to drive slightly different in those conditions, which will be fun to be like, oh this is a different tool. And I can’t do that traditional, you know, you push real… that’s the start of the Moab bump. You very slowly climb the ledge and then you give a little blip and then the car comes up and over in the front claws you up and over the ledge. But I don’t know how that will work with the electric ones because the Hummer doesn’t do that very well. It does everything else. Very well, but like that zero speed, super slow, left foot braking condition is hard on the electrics. They don’t make enough torque at low rpm.

Nena Barlow: You drove the all-electric, the Magneto. Right? And then have you spent much time in the Four by E?

Scott Brady: I haven’t.

Nena Barlow: I mean, it’s not obviously the [00:15:00] concepts as you know, are always a little not quite so polished around the edges. It’s a concept, you know?

Scott Brady: Well the Hummer EV that I drove was like early production, so the big one on 35s and everything. Now, the Four by E obviously has an advantage in that it still has a motor, and it still has an automatic transmission.

Matt Scott: I would have to think that the electric assist would be fantastic for off-road because electric engines make, what is it? I want to say infinite torque at one, or there’s something that an engineer will correct me.

Scott Brady: But that’s the challenge is you have to get to one, so if you’re at zero and the motor hasn’t started to turn it, doesn’t develop that for the Hummer. They say 11,000-foot pounds, what they say. But it has to get to one. Oh and it feels [00:16:00] like it.

Matt Scott: Like, is this a made-up number?

Scott Brady: Yeah. Well, I don’t know. The EV stuff. They’re all figuring out what the standards are going to be.

Matt Scott: Can’t really compare them to horses.

Scott Brady: No, not really.

Nena Barlow: It’s like a Jerry Seinfeld sketch. It’s like, why do we still use the horse as a unit of measurement?

Scott Brady: So now you’ve had everything from Power Wagons to Four by Es and even Trail Hawk Cherokees, what is your favorite view?

Nena Barlow: Right now? I don’t know if Matt Matt’s going to look at me funny, but it’s like, I didn’t think I was going to like the Gladiator, but honestly yeah, as far as the body and the setup… that kind of mid-size pickup truck set up, I didn’t think I wasn’t like it. Cause I have the Power Wagon, you know, and I have the Wrangler. And just like, this is kind of in the middle. It’s not the best at either thing, but honestly now I’m using it 90% of the time. The Power Wagon sort of has been relegated to almost [00:17:00] exclusively tow duty now, because I’m using the Gladiator on the trail now. We just got back from the dunes and it’s like, you just fling your dirty, sandy Max Trax in the back, you know.

Matt Scott: I think for Overland use the gladiators just really fast. It takes almost all of the Wrangler and then makes it more comfortable. Right. You know, it’s that huge wheelbase. And then once you start to do anything to them, you put them on a two-inch lift with 37 and the proportionality of it really comes into play. I love mine. Like, I don’t know how much longer mine will be around but…

Scott Brady: It is probably the vehicle that I build, like virtually more than any other. There’s something about that max tow package. The combination is tough, because like I want the manual transmission, which you can’t [00:18:00] get the max, so there’s some things around it, but if I could end up with a manual transmission Gladiator, I just want it. I want a white one, you know, I don’t even want the Rubicon. I just want like a basic Gladiator with a manual transmission. Which will maximize the payload and, and I just really kind of want it, but that’s the one I build more often. I’m like, oh, it just went up five grand in the last three months somehow.

Matt Scott: I keep building JLs. With my newest little acquisition, the Gladiator it’s me. Yeah. So I guess this is where I drop my thing. I finally bought a Prospector XL and now the Gladiator seems a little bit redundant.

Scott Brady: You can put it in the back.

Matt Scott: You know, you say that, but they’re within six inches of [00:19:00] dimensions on everything. So I’ve really been looking at like two door JLs

Scott Brady: That’d be fun. What about a two door Defender with a V8.

Matt Scott: I mean, like that’s a lovely concept. But I have now relegated the Defender to housewife car. Like I just like, you can’t actually buy one. If you want to try and buy one, the dealers are charging… like I tried to buy a one ton V8, they want $20,000 over sticker and maybe you’ll get one in 2023 sometime.

Scott Brady: It’s been a popular car for them. I’m glad that it was successful.

Matt Scott: It’s crazy. Like I was in Carmel by the sea, it’s Carmel by the sea. You were just there. There’s so many Defenders there. And you see them in like Pasadena, and you see them in all these suburban areas.

Scott Brady: I was testing the new Tundra, dodging defenders all day long. Literally they were everywhere.

Matt Scott: No, I [00:20:00] shouldn’t say that I relegate them to anything other than… But I did. I just, I don’t know. I always said, I think we both said that it’s a wonderful car. It will be one of the greats if it’s reliable. But unfortunately, I live an hour and a half from the closest Land Rover dealer.

Scott Brady: Which is like an eternity.

Matt Scott: Which is like an eternity, you have to go all the way down the mountain to Phoenix.

Nena Barlow: You have a trailer for that Prospector.

Matt Scott: I’m going to buy a trailer for me to get myself a Big Tex car hauler.

Scott Brady: Well, congrats on the Prospector. That’s awesome.

Nena Barlow: Wow. That was a big, we just made a big circle.

Scott Brady: That’s what we do here on the Overland Journal Podcast.

Matt Scott: Yeah. What was the point of that?

Nena Barlow: Gladiator. Two door JL.

Matt Scott: Yeah, basically. I’m just a Stellantis fan boy at this point.

Nena Barlow: What about the new Bronco? You’re going to get a Bronco Raptor?

Matt Scott: You know, like man, how do I say [00:21:00] this? I think that the Bronco looks great but then you start interacting with it and it feels… it has the same build quality as like the Ford Maverick. Now, the Ford Maverick starts at $19,990.

Scott Brady: Which makes you just love the build quality even. Cause you’re like, how do I get a truck for 20 grand?

Matt Scott: There’s something charming. But with the new, you know, the Bronco that we had was it 66,000 was the sticker or something. It was in the sixties, mid-sixties. And I can’t get past that. Like when I buy a $60,000 Wrangler, which is… I mean, I’m not saying that the Bronco is expensive for its class. It’s actually not. It has a fantastic chassis. I like the drive line. There’s a lot going for it. I just, I can’t get over like the cheapness of how it feels. Now, I’m really interested in the Bronco cause that’s kind of been unanimous feedback from almost every kind of motoring writer that I’ve talked to on it. [00:22:00] Ford’s smart. They have great engineers. They’ll put the extra 12 cents into the gear shift to make it not sound like, you know, like when you put it in gear, it’s like playing with a child’s toy.

Scott Brady: It was squeaking. Yeah.

Matt Scott: You know, like you open the door, you close the door, and you can like… so no, I’m not going to get a Bronco. I think the Bronco Raptor looks cool. Although it also kind of looks… I have this whole like design thing with the Bronco that I don’t like that… it kind of looks like a stair-step on the side. It’s like, it’s very square sides. And then they put these fenders that just don’t look right to me.

Scott Brady: But the fact the stock vendors look great, just like the base stuff. They look great and it’s easy to swap out.

Matt Scott: They keep adding width, and then now they’ve added these other fenders that look stuck on for the Bronco Raptor. And then, you know, that bros are going to put like, whatever offset wheels to have it go out again and it gets this weird, like [00:23:00] I love uncut Broncos…

Scott Brady: Original Bronco.

Matt Scott: Like 60 what? 66 to 64?

Nena Barlow: 66 to 77.

Matt Scott: Okay. Love those, but the moment you put fenders on them, they’re ruined for me. Yeah. So it’s kind of the same thing. Like, I dunno, I’m just weird with the Broncos. Like I want to like it, it has a great chassis. Like if I was going to go run through the desert, I think I’d rather have a…

Scott Brady: The best part of the Bronco is it kicked Jeep in the butt, and all of a sudden, we start seeing Four by E, 392, diesel engine comes out. So jeep I think they still make the best four-wheel drive from the factory that you can buy, but now you’ve got all these options. How long, Nena, have we talked about wanting a diesel Wrangler? Like we’ve talked about it forever, like the number of people who have screamed, I want a diesel and now you can go buy a diesel Wrangler. It’s just, you can get a manual transmission Wrangler, if you want, you can get a Hemi Wrangler if you want. [00:24:00] So it’s really, I think it’s really pretty amazing.

Nena Barlow: The diesel is our most requested rental.

Scott Brady: Oh, interesting. And they’re really wonderful off-road I really liked that that engine off-road. Probably not as much of a benefit in the sand, like in the dunes, but…

Matt Scott: I really wanted diesel Wrangler in JK times. But then they put the…

Nena Barlow: JK times… you say that, like in biblical times.

Scott Brady: Matt was three when the JK came.

Matt Scott: But when you had the 38 behind that, like four speed automatic. It was like, oh man, I really want the diesel. Like there was…

Nena Barlow: We don’t talk about those days.

Matt Scott: But now you have like this gen two Pentastar behind the 8HP. We can do a shot for each time Matt says the 8HPZ of transmission on this podcast, cause I really like it.

Nena Barlow: My favorite transmission.

Matt Scott: It’s really good. It’s the only thing that Bentley and Rolls Royce agree on the 8HP transmission. Yeah, [00:25:00] I just don’t think it’s required anymore. I mean, I have like my Gladiator, if I’m like traveling in Baja and I really want to, I can just eat 20 out of it. Like I’m driving pretty slow. But I don’t have to worry about diesel exhaust fluid, I don’t have to worry about the complexity of all of the stuff that now has to happen with diesels. Like this simple engine is the Pentastar now.

Nena Barlow: And that’s great for manifold burritos too.

Scott Brady: Super-hot manifolds. All right, so let’s pull it back into coming back around kind of your development in the industry. What was the first… what was that pivotal moment? Because I can think of mine, and what was your pivotal moment when you realized I’m going to be able to make a career out of this, where you had that moment of success, where you’re now vaulted into this position of authority?

Nena Barlow: So. I had been training commercial [00:26:00] guides when I was working for other companies training these tour guides. And I was getting a lot of requests, I’d get a guide that would say, hey, you know, my brother-in-law just bought a jeep, he’s not a guide, but would you mind spending, you know, an hour or two with him, you know, showing him some stuff. And those started to get more frequent and it kind of dawned on me. I’m like, yeah, there could be a demand for this, you know, I’m gonna kind of take this program, this commercial guide training program and kind of, you know, modify it for civilian use, so to speak. Just recreational users and, you know, maybe one Saturday a month or something, you know, I’ll get business cards printed and put a website up, just do a little side business. And within one year of doing that, I had so many requests I left working for other people and was on my own running my own business. And that was kind that like frying pan in the back of the head moments where it was like, you know, people want this, you know, and it was amazing. It was, yeah. It was very [00:27:00] fun. Very fulfilling, you know, just see the light go on for people, you know, and stuff that I grew up with and just kind of took for granted.

Scott Brady: Well, we’ve always gotten great feedback on you as a trainer. In fact, Overland Journal uses you as our trainer, so you help train all of our new editors. You’ve spent a lot of time with Paula, our producer of the podcast recently and showing her how to drive in the dunes and everything else. So there’s a reason why we use you as our trainer of choice is because you’re so excellent at building upon those foundational components of driving, which leads me to another question of what do you think are some of the 234 key components of good driving? What makes for a good driver? Some things you can give some basic advice on?

Nena Barlow: What I always tell my students first off whether it’s a rock crawling class or sand dunes class, when you’re driving well, your career as a YouTube star is over, [00:28:00] you know. Good driving looks like ballet. So if I tell you, you all look like a bunch of ballerinas out here, that’s a good thing. That’s a compliment. So you know, good driving is fluid, whether you’re going to half a mile an hour in a boulder field or 120 miles an hour, you know, around a racetrack, you know, whatever you’re driving, your corrections are smooth, your throttle, your brake, your steering inputs are all very fluid and smooth. And that comes from looking further ahead. We spend a lot of time just teaching people how to look. It’s amazing how people fixate on like what’s right in front of their hood. And you know, if you’ve done track driving and you’re taught that you don’t look at the tire wall in the corner, you’re looking where you’re coming out on the other side. And I’ve had trainers on tracks that they will actually block the windshield of the car. So you can only look at, while you’re doing your laps, you’re only looking out the side. I don’t think they do that anymore. There’s like OSHA and insurance companies and things.

Matt Scott: Dang modern society.

Scott Brady: [00:29:00] But that’s a great example.

Matt Scott: I have to think of it as a zinger for you now, you guys have gotten two zingers.

Nena Barlow: He’s going to make old people jokes or something. Okay boomer.

Scott Brady: We’re not boomers.

Nena Barlow: Gen X baby.

Scott Brady: So that’s some great insights what are some other things that come to mind that you think are, are these core principles of people driving well.

Nena Barlow: So it’s the looking further ahead, that’s going to help you make your smooth transitions and adjustments. It’s leaving your ego at home. You know, your ego can’t be the one making the driving

Scott Brady: decisions. The number of rollovers that have happened just because of not stopping. We could have, we could have saved the car.

Nena Barlow: And the forwards at all costs mentality. It’s like no, 80% of the time getting yourself unstuck is just backing up.

Scott Brady: Sooner than later.

Nena Barlow: Exactly. So it’s a lot more [00:30:00] mental, you know, they want to hear physical skills or modifications to the vehicle. Go spend more money on your vehicle.

Matt Scott: Go spend more money on yourself. You can actually take it with you.

Nena Barlow: Right. So, yeah. Leave your ego at home, look further, smooth corrections.

Scott Brady: You’ve talked a lot about. We call it mechanical sympathy when we talk about the concept, but you talk a lot about being gentle on the car. Can you expand upon that a little bit?

Nena Barlow: So the mechanical sympathy, so when I’m out in a Wrangler, I mean, I’ve spent so many hundreds of thousands of miles and hours, whatever in Wranglers. I mean, to me it feels like an extension of my body and that’s a great place to be able to get. And some of that we can’t necessarily train into you. We can do little exercises we do with new people. A lot of times we’ll put cones out. So they’re getting used to, it’s really hard to know where the passenger side of the car is. I was going to say the right side of the car, [00:31:00] but I know with you guys, I can’t specify right or left. Passenger side might be on the left side, and so getting used to the feel of the car and making it feel like it’s an extension of your body. But if you, if, if you set your mind on that kind of goal, it’s like, all right, now I’m in this huge Prospector, you know, and I’m going to consciously try to make a decision. Do I know where those, each of those four tires are at any given time? You know, that’s going to help you a lot. Mechanical sympathy. I have people ask me questions a lot of times, like okay, so you’re climbing Oldsmobile hill at Glamis. It’s like, so what RPM are you at? I have no idea, you know, I can hear, and I feel the car, you feel that pressure back on the pedal and you know, you’re going to make it or not, by how that pedal feels, you know, if you’re in the right gear, you know? And it’s different for every car. If I take the 37s off the Gladiator and put 33s on, it’s going to be different.

Scott Brady: That’s great. Yeah. That is [00:32:00] excellent.

Nena Barlow: But like in the Rebelle rally. So Emily Miller talks about like, the car is your third teammate. So, you know, you take care of yourself, you gotta take care of your navigator, and you gotta take care of your car. All three of you have to make it. And it’s great when you have a passenger with you that if you can use them as a gauge, if they’re uncomfortable, you know, the car is probably suffering too.

Scott Brady: You can always tell. And for those that are listening, when you’re driving. You’re starting to exceed your skills when you’re no longer able to maintain a casual conversation. I know when a driver is getting to their limits is because they will get quiet, and I will see the whites of their knuckles around the steering wheel and they’ll tighten their neck and they’ll stop talking. So when we’re driving with someone, we can very quickly determine the skill of the driver in how casual they are in doing something hard. If they’re very casual around it. And they’re able to [00:33:00] talk to you, or maybe even explain what they’re doing, how the car feels, then you know that you’re dealing with someone that’s well within their capability. If you see your passengers start to grab for grab handles, holding their breath, tensioning up, you see their feet pressing against the firewall, you know, and the problem with it is don’t we want to have fun with the people that we’re out with? Everybody’s going to have a different level of comfort. Someone’s going to be like, take me on the E ticket ride. I want the craziest four wheeling that we can do, but then maybe you’ve got your grandma with you or whatever, like have it be an enjoyable experience for your passenger. And you can tell how they’re doing based upon their body language.

Nena Barlow: My dogs have an expression that they get on their face when they’re like mom.

Matt Scott: When my Greyhound stands up, that means that he is no longer having fun off road.

Scott Brady: So these are, to your point, we’re not only being mechanically sympathetic of the vehicle. We’re being [00:34:00] sympathetic of the people in the vehicle with us. And that’s when you actually start to have more fun, because it’s not an ego thing. It’s not about pushing yourself or the vehicle to 90% or 95% because you can so quickly. If something goes sideways, be at 105%, and then you don’t have enough talent to save the day, and that happens to people all the time.

Matt Scott: I think with modern cars, you know, I’ll say that one of the greatest risks it’s running out of talent. Like let’s take a TJ, driving really fast in a TJ was like, self-correcting. You could only go so fast before your kidney ended up someplace else. With the JK, people could take it a little further. With a JL or a Gladiator driving fast, they can take it even further. I mean, these cars, you know, we think like, oh it’s a JK. Just has the Pentastar. Yeah, it has just under 300 horsepower, like pickup trucks had that 10 [00:35:00] years ago or whatever the example is. It’s still a lot of power and these, you know, Raptor, TRX, these things…

Scott Brady: Like 700 horsepower.

Matt Scott: You can get yourself in trouble really, really quick if you don’t know what you’re doing. So I think using the passenger. I think that that’s really important.

Nena Barlow: It’s also… and I know I’ll put my old lady voice on. I know Matt can’t relate to this, but Scott will hear whatever saying, it’s like we come…

Matt Scott: Are we talking like Morse code?

Nena Barlow: Oh. No. I’m talking about pre power steering and ABS. Yeah, you can think of them as antique cars. They were just cars to us.

Matt Scott: Does that make you guys my vintage friends.

Nena Barlow: But those skills that you have to develop to even the TJ actually, is pretty rudimentary in that regard. And we got the JKs that had the first electronic stability control. And it takes away [00:36:00] that responsibility from the driver and puts it on the car to keep you from skidding out of control in a icy turn or something like that. Which is great. I think it saved a lot of people, but it’s also wonderful if you have the skills to do that for yourself, so that A: you’re still making good driving choices, and B: you know what the car is doing, and you can really appreciate what the car is doing for you. When I got in the TRX for the first time, I was amazed at, you know, that thing stops as well as it goes. Yeah, and it’s amazingly forgiving. But yeah, the speed at which you need it to be forgiving, if it stops being forgiving… then you are in trouble.

Scott Brady: Yeah. It’s so easy to exceed that, and I think that leads me to the next question is as modern vehicles have gotten so good, let’s take a Wild Cat or Wild Track Bronco. Lockers front and rear, sway bar disconnect, or a Rubicon or whatever. These vehicles are incredibly capable from the factory. You don’t really need to modify them [00:37:00] in most conditions. So since the vehicles have gotten so much better, the OEMs have adopted a lot of the aftermarket accessories right into a model of the car. Training now becomes the most important consideration. So what would you suggest, Nena, around training, like what should someone be looking for first? Like how do they find a trainer? What is the curriculum that they should be looking at first that you have found to be most successful? Do you suggest that people use rental vehicles or their own vehicles? What are some of the things that people should be looking for?

Nena Barlow: That’s a lot of questions. Okay. So we have our next hour planned out. So yes, absolutely. And thank you. I was like, Scott’s my greatest marketing tool. Everyone should take training. Yeah, what he said. They are very complicated. The Rubicon’s as you know, now come out and they have different program you’re in two high. You go to four high, your traction control system, your stability control system, which are two [00:38:00] programs. Four low, then you have your axle lock front and rear, and you’ve got sway bar disconnect. And just, you know, we can spend an hour trying to get people just to understand those buttons. And even in our parking lot. We have those bumps, we call them the bumps that are in our back parking lot, where we can get the vehicles articulated. Just to show them that. So that’s like the very first thing, we’ve had people rent Jeeps from us… they have Jeeps at home and, you know, just our standard, we’re sending you out for the day and a rental, our standard 20-minute orientation. They were like, I learned more in these 20 minutes than I have 10 years owning a Jeep, you know, so there’s still… I think more and more people are coming up as trainers, you know, Bronco has their off-road program now, and that’s great. The more training that is out there, the better it is for all of us.

Scott Brady: The better it is for our trails, and that’s why I’m a huge proponent of training so we can keep our trails open.

Nena Barlow: Tread lightly organizations like Tread Lightly do a lot towards educating people about, you know, a lot of people think off-road… Actually here’s [00:39:00] something we can get on board with is, just some of the terminology that we use. As you know, in the automotive business. We have… oh, my gosh, I’m drawing a blank… like Toyota has A track system and crawl control in Jeep we call it traction control and select speed control, you know so we have all this different nomenclature. In the trail use world, you know, we call this off-roading and actually off-road by, you know, insurance and land use definition is, you know, leaving the established trail. And so some of this terminology, that’s common, it’s like something that, you know, we need to work on defining better for people because people… we see it in Sedona, you know, they think, okay. As soon as we leave pavement, we can drive wherever we want, and we don’t have to wear a seatbelt and we can drink whatever we want. And it’s like, yeah, that’s a no. And there are very few areas of the country where off-roading, where you [00:40:00] don’t have to stay on trail is actually legal, like Glamis, like Cinders, and help me out here, I’m thinking Cinders is actually the only place in the entire state of Arizona that you can drive off trail. I can’t think of anywhere else where it’s legal.

Scott Brady: And there are some of those in California where they’re just full OHV areas and you can just kind of drive wherever you feel like, which I’m glad that those places exist.

Matt Scott: Yeah, those places need to exist, but again, to recognize that off-road does not mean off trail.

Nena Barlow: Yes, but it’s the term off-road. So in Sedona, you’ve seen them, we have the signs everywhere, the forest service signs to say off-road driving prohibited. We’ve had guests, bless their hearts, turn around and say, are we sure? I think we went the wrong way because we saw a sign of an off-road driving prohibited. It’s like, no, no, no. Thank you for being conscientious, but it just means you have to stay on the established trail. Yeah, exactly.

Scott Brady: So let’s circle back to what kind of training should people look for [00:41:00] first?

Nena Barlow: Okay. So absolutely responsible land use, if you do nothing else. And whether you’re mountain biking, hiking, camping, you know, whatever. I mean before you go use public land, just have a basic understanding, and that in itself is challenging. What’s for service land? What’s the difference between national forest and national park, state trust land? We have so much public land, especially out here in the west. You know, just kind of getting a basic understanding of the lay of the land and how to be out there responsibly. Then we move on to vehicles and, you know, it’s really important, stay on trail and, you know, some basic outdoor…

Matt Scott: A lot of people just didn’t grow up with a, with a mindset of this, you know, I mean, I like to put myself in 16-year-old Matt’s shoes that grew up, you know, in the land of the suburbs and mall parking lots, and that kind of stuff. You go to the west coast and it’s just like, it’s so open. I could drive here, like drive wherever and it’s like no, like I think you have to have that [00:42:00] etiquette and we’ve definitely, I think seen that during the pandemic. You know, people who didn’t go outside or outside in the same way are starting to go campaign and four-wheeling and whatever, and instilling that respect, I think for public lands, because it is way easier to close a gate than it is to open.

Scott Brady: Yeah, I would agree. And that certainly the factor going forward is why training is important, because then a trainer can explain to you, when do you go into, four low, from two high to reduce trail impact? Save your tires, tires are expensive. When do you go into four low? When do you engage a locker? Why would you do the sway bar disconnect? So do you recommend that people start off with like a two-day course or a one day course? What are some of the things that…

Nena Barlow: As much as they can, if they can spend an hour, you know, in a group setting in a…

Scott Brady: Maybe Overland Expo or something like that.

Nena Barlow: Yeah. Overland [00:43:00] expo is great. There’s a lot of training opportunities there. And then even, you know, things like Jeep Jamboree’s, and there’s a lot of big clubs who, you know, incorporate training at least just some basic stuff to some of their things. We’re doing that with Red Rock Four Wheelers in Moab. We’ve been doing some things where we’re training the trail guides, which is really fun. Train the trail guides, not just so they can explain to their people better, but you know, kind of have some consistency.

Scott Brady: Well, and a lot of those trail guides are so skilled, but they have not been taught how to teach. So that’s another part of it is how do you communicate that? What you feel and what you’ve learned through decades of driving in Moab, how do you communicate that to somebody who just started and like, what are those basic principles? Well, that’s great reminder, Nena, on the, I believe the critical nature of training? We believe so much in the fact that people should be spending more money on their travel than they do on their vehicle, [00:44:00] and then you should be spending more money on training than you do on accessories and modifications. And if we look at it from that perspective, we will become much better drivers because if we use a stock Wrangler to go where we want to go, and we learn how to drive it… then you realize, actually, I don’t need that lift kit. I don’t need those tires, and then we can use that money for gas.

Matt Scott: I’m trying to think of a place that a stock Wrangler cannot go.

Scott Brady: Yeah, it has to get really extreme.

Nena Barlow: It gets really extreme. Honestly, I mean, we were talking about like, I didn’t think I was going to like the Gladiators. Oh, it’s going to be limited where I can take it and I’m taking it and, you know Terminator Moab Rim and trails like that, you know, but it is on 37s. And I think that 99% of people don’t need lifted tires

Matt Scott: We had the Rubicon Gladiators stock. There’s some things that we bypass, like crazy stuff, but…

Nena Barlow: Might’ve been some three-dimensional modifications.

Scott Brady: Yes. They do [00:45:00] that. Exactly.

Nena Barlow: But yeah, it’s a pay to play sport too.

Scott Brady: And what has been the thing that you’ve learned most from being a trainer this long? Like what observations have you gained about individuals and people and training?

Nena Barlow: I think for me, the most important thing is never stop being a student. And so I’m always looking, I’m always actively looking for what’s the next lesson that I’m going to learn. There’s always, of course, there’s always new tools and equipment coming out and stuff like that, but you can learn, you can see things from the newest greenest student in your class, and they’ll ask a question or point something out that you never thought of that way, and it’s like that’s actually really cool. Yeah.

Scott Brady: Yeah, I think that the humility within the training ranks is super important, because someone being teachable as a trainer is as important as them being a good teacher, and I think we see that a lot. We talk about ego [00:46:00] earlier that there’s this impression that if I’ve become a four-wheel drive trainer, I have to know everything. It’s physically impossible. I mean, if you had a large staff of trainers, like let’s say 7P for example, where you had a half a dozen individuals that are very well versed, you start to get closer to knowing a lot of it. But if you take one trainer that has done a lot of things, they can really only know so much. Like one person can only know… they’ve only been so many places. Maybe they haven’t been to the polar regions or maybe they haven’t crossed the Sahara, or maybe they haven’t done these things that help fill in the gaps. So I think, for the trainers that are listening, it’s keeping that sense of teachability and that, and that humility with your students because otherwise people get really turned off by the fact that they’ve got it all figured out. None of us do, really. I know I don’t

Matt Scott: There’s like trainers I won’t recommend anymore because, you know, they went from being the guy that went to off-road parks, [00:47:00] you know, they’re the king of Rush Creek. And now all of a sudden, they’re overland trainers.

Scott Brady: Right.

Nena Barlow: Yeah. So the association that I’m part of, the international four-wheel drive trainer’s association, that’s one of my favorite things is like, you know, a couple of times a year, they’re doing testing in various parts of the country in the world and testing new trainers to see if they’ll qualify to be certified a member of the association, so I usually go as an instructor to these, but I always learn a ton. You know, you get people coming over from Australia and the Netherlands, and it’s like, they have tricks and equipment and knowledge you’re never going to, you know, get on your own and that you get to share in that and learn. I learned so much every time we do a testing.

Scott Brady: Totally. Yeah. It’s so fun to go to a different country and see how they solve problems. Like you go to Iceland, they have these giant dump valves on their tires. Like we worry about airing down. Like it takes forever with the, do the valve core removal thing, but these just like a half inch pipe come out of it. I mean, it’s just like an is down instantly, and even though they’re [00:48:00] 44s, they air down in like 30 seconds. So those are the crazy things that you learn from other cultures of four wheeling, which I think really important. So another question that I’ve got for you because I’ve seen you at these events, and I’ve seen you work with a lot of variety in individuals, which means some people that are green or some people that are experienced or their commercial clients, you are an excellent communicator on the trail. What are some of the things that you’ve learned about how to keep people calm, how to have effective communication within a group of people that maybe don’t even know each other?

Nena Barlow: It’s… you need to set the tone immediately that it’s okay. We’re all gonna do dumb stuff out here and I’m going to try to talk you through it, so you don’t feel like you’re the one looking dumb, you know? And just to make it fun, and also like I’ll, make mistakes or I’ll have airhead moments or something like that. And that always at first, it seems I put people back on their heels, a little. Do I want to go [00:49:00] out with this person, do I want to follow this blonde woman? This trainer or whatever? But the whole there’s no such thing as dumb question, like that’s one of the first things I’ll say a lot of times. I’ll say, there’s no such thing as a dumb question, of course we’re going to make fun of you later, but we’ll answer you seriously, you know, in front of everybody else, you know, and that gets everybody laughing.

Scott Brady: Well. So what I’ve observed in the events that I’ve attended, that you were there is that you do a really thorough driver meeting in the beginning. So you help people know what to expect, so that starts to settle them down immediately. So they kind of know what this is going to be like, and then you reassure them that either this vehicle is well suited for this, or we’ve got spotters that are set up at the difficult spots and you start to make the group feel much more comfortable, and then you do interject humor into it, which I think gives the levity that those kinds of situations need where people need to just feel like it’s not a big deal. Like we’re [00:50:00] out here having fun, and that this isn’t about being perfect, and somebody is going to get stuck. I mean, I think even at the TRX launch, somebody got stuck at the TRX launch up in the Cinders and maybe even some sliding off trail. And, and so some real challenges can come up, which are moments for people to learn if they’re open to it.

Nena Barlow: Right, and it can happen to any of us. I have the… what is the word I’m looking for? The good fortune, I guess I should say. It’s like, when I do get stuck, most people think, oh a hundred percent she did it on purpose. Most of the time I did, but I just posted a photo this morning from the dunes this weekend, and it was like, we had talked about, oh we’re going to go take you out to some witches eyes and teach you how to get out of ’em. And it’s like I genuinely just blew it on the side of this one dune and just ended up sucked right down, you know, filling the taco and everybody’s like, ah she did it on purpose. [00:51:00] Yes, I did, bring me a latte.

Scott Brady: Oh, that’s so good though. I love getting stuck because it just forces me to relearn.

Matt Scott: I need to do a Glamis course with you.

Scott Brady: That’d be fun.

Nena Barlow: You have an open invitation, you know.

Scott Brady: TRX would have been, oh man, that would have been fun.

Matt Scott: Chris Walker got to use it in all of the dunes.

Scott Brady: So let’s talk a little bit about your motor sports career. So you have been involved with the Rebelle rally since I think the beginning, is that correct? The very first event. And we, Matt and I both and our organizations are huge believers in that event. I think it’s one of the most important events that we have each year, because it has gotten so much OEM engagement. It has really reinforced these traditional navigation skills. Most people use stock or near stock vehicles. So across the board, I think that this has been one of the most beneficial, new events that I’ve ever seen in my career, [00:52:00] so it’s very exciting to see. Tell me about how you’ve seen that evolve, and you’ve won it several times. So give us the playback on when you won, what were you driving and what you learned?

Matt Scott: What was the first year that you won?

Nena Barlow: The first year? So we’ve been on the podium almost every year and won bone stock three times. And that’s always been, my primary goal is always the bone stock award to just to compete in the vehicle that just in the exact way it came out of the factory. And it’s awesome that so many of the competitors out there, whether they’re modified or not, but they’re the same cars. They take them home and that’s what they go get their groceries. It’s their daily driver. And there’s really no other, you know, major competition like that in the United States or anywhere that I know of. But the Jeep that I won in this year was it was a Four by E.

Matt Scott: You won bone stock. You won the electrified designation and you won overall? [00:53:00]

Nena Barlow: And four by four classic.

Scott Brady: I think that’s a sweep. They do have like an all-wheel drive class as well.

Nena Barlow: Yes. They call it the X cross.

Matt Scott: Yeah. Yeah. It was crazy this year. I was on Rebelle, and how you dominated this year. It’s like, you’re sitting on, you know, I had on my iPad the trackers and I’m watching staff and I’m watching this and it’s like, damn like, Nena’s like miles ahead of people. It was really impressive, and I think that’s the cool thing with Rebelle that’s happening as we’re on the seventh year of Rebelle now.

Nena Barlow: Oh, my gosh, this will be the seventh year. So 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22. Yeah. Seventh year.

Scott Brady: Crazy. Isn’t it? How time flies.

Matt Scott: And you’re now seeing, this [00:54:00] new genre in motor sports evolving, and you’re seeing competitors evolve and it’s getting really like the competition is harder every year and there’s more people that can win each year. You know, I feel like when it first started, there was a lot of the Gazelle rally people that were kind of those, you know, like okay you’ve kinda got the heads up because you’ve done this before, but now this domestic contingent of women that are like bad ass to do this stuff. It’s really cool.

Nena Barlow: And you know, we were involved in training, some people who were going to the Gazelle before the Rebelle rally even started and training for that, training for the Gazelle rally is a completely different… I can’t put Rebelles and Gazelles in the same class when we’re out at the dunes, cause it’s completely different. In Gazelle, it’s about driving in a straight line. It’s about the shortest distance. And then in the Rebelle rally, it’s about being accurate. And so, you know, we call it driving in cursive, cause smooth driving in the dunes. Isn’t going to be the straight line. You’re not going to be bombing up and [00:55:00] down, you know, dune faces, but in the Gazelle. We are trying to teach them how to do that, and it’s really rough on your body and your car, but Emily Miller having competed in the Gazelle rally, she knew that and she knew she didn’t want to do that and she designed this Rebelle we get to be good drivers, to be efficient, and it’s not a race for speed it’s, but speed is definitely, I mean, like you said, I mean, we set a pace.

Matt Scott: It seemed like you had a plan this year. Like you realized or, I mean…

Nena Barlow: Win.

Matt Scott: This year your key to success was efficiency, like watching on the trackers or watching you come through places, you had a plan, you’d go through boom, done, get the checkpoint, move on quickly. Where a lot of, a lot of competitors kind of hang [00:56:00] out, take some pictures, whatever it’s like, that’s how you were so far ahead because there are speed limits, and they are public lands and it’s not a race. It’s a rally.

Scott Brady: Yeah. Thats the place to make up time.

Nena Barlow: It wasn’t… there were plenty of competitors that were driving faster than us. We never sped.

Matt Scott: I had two people almost hit my Earth Roamer this year on like, you know, like there’s a 90 degree turn and we’re taking photos and that means that they need to do 80 mile an hour to that 90 degree turn and lock it up. And I just watched this one car just like straight through. And I’m like sitting in doing TSD scoring. It was crazy. Like there were some people this year that…

Scott Brady: The organization and the competitors will need to grow from that because sportsmanship is so important in events like that, particularly since the Rebelle has always been known for that, and they’ve always been known for this comradery and helping others out and you don’t help out anyone including [00:57:00] yourself when you break the rules. Actually what it does is it puts the event at great risk. Especially if someone has a very serious accident with a local rancher, that’s just trying to bring his groceries home. So that will be a challenge obviously for the Rebelle going forward is making sure that people are not speeding. It doesn’t mean that at times you don’t slightly exceed the speed limit cause you come off a rise, but you just you’re constantly checking their speed. And that shows that you’re paying attention in my mind. Otherwise you’re just pushing, pushing, and that that’s a real risk.

Nena Barlow: And it is the pace, I mean, we’re driving 10 hours a day. And so the pace, there isn’t one answer for everybody. Like you were saying, how, how long can you be relaxed? I mean, if you are white knuckle for 10 hours, you’re exhausted. You’re gonna make some bad decisions, and so it’s just pushing right to that, here’s as fast as we can go, that’s comfortable for the car and my navigator can still look at her stuff, you know? And I [00:58:00] can maintain that and not be just completely toast in a few hours time.

Scott Brady: So now that you’ve done this for six years going on seven years, what are the top two or three takeaways for you on how the Rebelle has changed you as either a person or a driver?

Nena Barlow: Oh boy. So personally it’s definitely that control. Being a business owner, being the trip leader, you know, the alpha. It’s always just showing up just to see what gets thrown at us for the day. Emily likes to have her twists and turns, it’s great. And at first, it’s like stressful, cause you’re like, oh, I’m not prepared for this… I don’t know. But no one else is either, you know, I remember one of the big lessons for me in the very first rally was I think it was like day three. I don’t even remember what day it was. We had what we felt was just a really crappy day. It was just like, oh my gosh, we blew it. We missed so much today. [00:59:00] You know, and we came back with our tail dragging between our legs and stuff. And then, you know, when the scores come out and everybody else is kind of down and stuff too, and scores come out and it’s like, we were third place for the day. It was like, well, we sucked less than most people, you know?

Scott Brady: You allowed yourself to learn from that.

Nena Barlow: Yeah. And it’s like, you don’t know until the dust settles, you know what happens? You’re competing against yourself. There’s no perfect day. I remember telling Emily too, at one point it was like, if you really want to, you know, screw with my head, give me more checkpoints than I can do in a day. That I have to like have items on my list that don’t get checked off that day. You know, my to do list is incomplete.

Scott Brady: Oh, that’s cool. Well, congratulations on so much success with the Rebelle and for always being a champion of that event, and even beyond that, for those that are listening, that would like to compete in the rebel rally. This is a women’s only navigation and [01:00:00] driving rally that’s conducted in Nevada and California. It’s a very long…

Nena Barlow: Technically Arizona.

Scott Brady: So it’s a very long route and it’s an incredible undertaking. Nena also provides a lot, as well as others, but there are individuals that can help train you to compete in the Rebelle. So if you’ve always wanted to do it, if you thought this is the coolest thing ever, which it is, then how do you get prepared for that? There are there the organization, the rebel rally has people that can talk to you, give you advice, help you work through the process. And then there are trainers available like Nena that can take you in the dunes, show you how to drive your vehicle in the dunes. So that you’re well-prepared to at least enjoy the event. So all of those resources are available.

Matt Scott: And you can rent a jeep from Barlow Adventures.

Nena Barlow: We even include the Max Trax. [01:01:00]

Matt Scott: A little plug for you, a little plug for me…

Scott Brady: All right. So now we’re going to do a little rapid fire with you. So what is your favorite stuck story? You get stuck.

Nena Barlow: I already told you one with the don’t let dad catch us, with the truck on the ranch, you know?

Scott Brady: Your craziest, I mean, your deepest stuck. Hours trying to get out.

Nena Barlow:That was one if I’m definitely my gosh, so most of the time I got to think about like, you know, most of our nastiest recoveries, fortunately have not been myself. It’s other people, you know, that we just encounter on the trail, [01:02:00] even.

I was thinking about like we were going to run out of gas in the middle of the Grand Staircase. Escalante.

Matt Scott: That would suck.

Nena Barlow: No we didn’t, but it was very stressful few hours.

Scott Brady: Hypermiling off-road.

Nena Barlow: Oh, yeah. in a TJ. So this is what I can’t remember. It’s like, okay. So it used to be when we just had the one kid before we had the second kid, we had the one kid, dog, me and my husband, and all of our camping gear and a TJ I’m like, how did we [01:03:00] do that?

Matt Scott: Where did I fit the refrigerator?

Nena Barlow: Right. And that’s actually something that the Rebelle rally has also refreshed for me too. It’s like, you need a lot less than you think.

Matt Scott: Yeah. Although it was really fantastic, like on that, that the death storm day. So like, you guys are out in your tents, and I’m just like sitting in this climate-controlled environment.

Nena Barlow: Oh is the camera on? I was going to throw some hand signals.

Scott Brady: I do remember you saying that you like peered out momentarily and all of these competitors tense, then you close the door. I think I got sand in my Rose.

Matt Scott: A little bit more earthy these days. Yeah.

Scott Brady: So funny.

Matt Scott: I didn’t have goggles, so I [01:04:00] couldn’t go outside.

Scott Brady: Of course, of course.

Matt Scott: I couldn’t for safety.

Scott Brady: Sure.

Nena Barlow: Didn’t have goggles. I’ll bring some next time.

Scott Brady: You got the whole family in the TJ.

Nena Barlow: So this was like the early days of GPS, you know, right around the time Matt was born. And it was like, remember the old analog GPS that was just like, all you had was

Matt Scott: The yellow one.

Nena Barlow: Yes. And the black line on the screen, there’s no topography, there’s no… you knew your GPS coordinates. You get your GPS coordinates and you can see your track, you know, and so we had made a wrong turn in Grand Staircase, Escalante, and we’re yapping and didn’t really realize it until we were like miles east of where we thought we should be, and of course we’re in a TJ, so gas is always a significant concern, and so [01:05:00] then we got turned around and we had to use… we had Arizona Atlas, I think it was Delores Atlas and we knew our GPS coordinates. And so it was one of those moments where you gotta, you know, trust the equipment because you think, oh, well for sure we’re here and the GPS coordinates say, you know, you kind of get your fingers together on the map. It says, we’re over here.

Matt Scott: Why am I in Monticello?

Nena Barlow: And the track, like I’m looking at the road on the map and the turns it made, and it looks like our track that we just did. That can’t be right…. It’s like, no, it’s,, that’s true. So you are over here, and you don’t want it to be because now you’ve gone, 40 miles out of your way on 180 mile range tank of gas. Right, so we finally kind of made it on fumes, literally gaslight is on, and we made it back down to like smokey mountain road we’re now like, you know, 10 miles out of [01:06:00] Escalante or something where we know there’s gas station. And we see this guy on this ATV three wheel of course, back then, and he’s like, oh I’m looking for my dogs. Have you seen a couple of dogs out here? We’re like, we’re so glad to see another human.

Scott Brady: That’s a great story.

Nena Barlow: You know, I’ve had a moment of that in the dunes too where it was, you know, I’ve been out in the dunes a lot and there was a point where we got to, you know, we had a big old stuck, somebody got seriously buried and you know, we’re digging it out. It’s starting to get dark. It’s an overcast day. It’s like, okay, everyone. This way is the way out. And we start going in the Jeep, you know, the compass on the Jeep dashboard says north and I’m like, no we’re going south. What’s wrong with the Jeep? So I get out and check the compass and it was like, oh no. Yeah, [01:07:00] trust the equipment there. Trust your tools a little bit there.

Scott Brady: Which leads me to my next question. What is, I know you’re very minimalist and you tend to do very few modifications, but what’s your favorite gear that you bring along on almost every trip. It can be anything.

Nena Barlow: Okay. So a shovel. Strap or a rope, you know, I’ve gotten more and more to prefer a kinetic energy recovery rope instead of a strap. Even for towing, I think you and I have had a difference of opinion on the way… you know, I use the kinetic group a lot more than I used to, and I’ll incorporate it in winching and everything just to give you a little shock absorber sort of, you know, so to speak. So the shovel, the rope, Max Trax is on most trips these days, and that’s not just to throw love across the table or anything here, and your brain, honestly. So one of the…

Scott Brady: Oh I’m screwed

Matt Scott: Wait [01:08:00] sorry, wuh?

Nena Barlow: One of our trainers, John Marshall I steal, this phrase from him, it’s like you don’t always have what you want, but you always have what you need. Yeah. So, yeah. And then of course, you know, basic stuff like first aid kit and, and the preparation ahead of time of if I’m going into the deep back country you know, someone’s always going to know where I am, and we have the advantage these days, you know, a lot of our fleet vehicles of course have GPS trackers on them too. So after the first Rebelle rally, my husband was like, you’re never going anywhere without a tracker on your vehicle again, I liked that a lot.

Scott Brady: He doesn’t have to worry about you being an adventurer.

Nena Barlow: So technology has made things both easier, but it’s also provided, as we’ve talked about before, it provides a false sense of security out there. And I think, like we had the blizzard, remember the big blizzard in Tahoe right before the holidays, you know, people were going. It’s snowing, we got to go play in the snow and everybody’s stuck out there for [01:09:00] hours on I80. And it’s like, I think people have the mentality of well, I can always call 911 or something, and it’s like, well 911, couldn’t get to them. You know, I know the guys that were the first responders up there and they were. There were calls they just couldn’t make it. They didn’t have enough people, or they physically could not get to them. And so, just going out with the mentality in the first place that you’re going to have to self-recover, will make you…

Scott Brady: So you’re going to bring blankets along, you’re going to bring water and food and those basic supplies. Cause you never know when that three-hour tour is going to turn into… that’s a reference that Matt didn’t get.

Nena Barlow: So I got a generational test for you. Where does this phrase come from? Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?

Matt Scott: It was the commercial with Rolls Royce.

Nena Barlow: I’m so impressed.

Matt Scott: And it’s not really, I mean, that’s kind of like…

Scott Brady: Matt was actually in that [01:10:00] commercial, a little kid in the back.

Nena Barlow: Most people, your age think it’s a Wayne’s world reference.

Matt Scott: I actually grew up next to the town that Wayne’s world was set in. Ooh, next to Aurora, Illinois. Similar to what the movie led it to be.

Nena Barlow: Lots of mullets. Interesting.

Scott Brady: Good to know. Alright, so the next rapid-fire question, if someone’s going to do their top two or three modifications to a vehicle, what would you recommend people do?

Nena Barlow: The first thing is gonna be tires because just out of necessity, so even though we talk about like, you know, Rubicon’s, for example, coming out of the factory Jeeps, coming with more aggressive tires than we used to ever be able to get. They’re still OEM tires, they’re still usually a compound that’s designed specifically to be quieter and more fuel efficient. So the first thing I’m going to do is dump those. Let’s get loud and inefficient [01:11:00] right. You know, usually the tires that come from the tire manufacturers are usually going to be a tougher tire. Tires are literally, you know, what it’s about where the tires meet the ground, literally and figuratively. So, you know, not going cheap on your tires. Get tires for what you’re going to be doing.

Scott Brady: Ok, and then what would be the next thing?

Nena Barlow: Actually first is training. Right? We talked about that. Okay. And then tires, your equipment, just some of your basic equipment, like we talked about. Oh my goodness. What’s next after that?

Scott Brady: What do you find that you like?

Nena Barlow: A good quality jack.

Scott Brady: Make sure that it works with the vehicle because after some people add a lift, larger tires, and the jack no longer works, or they don’t bring a base for the Jack and then it doesn’t work in the sand or in the mud, for sure. And I think that this is what I love about asking this question is that it always comes back to these very simple things. Like no one has ever said a snorkel is my first, and I’m not saying that a snorkel is a bad idea. I’m just [01:12:00] saying that it shouldn’t be the first thing that you do, like make sure you’ve got great tires. Make sure that your spring rate is suitable to the load that you’re carrying with you. I mean, these really basic things.

Matt Scott: Make sure your car isn’t going to fall apart. I don’t know how many, like Land Rovers I’ve seen, and they have all their perfect accessories. And then like their tie rod end is like moving like this.

Scott Brady: Well, because that doesn’t look cool. Yeah, it doesn’t look cool. All right. So then talk a bit about, I mean, you’re an entrepreneur in addition to being an adventurer and a motor sports winner, what are some books that you have really enjoyed in any of those categories, or maybe books aren’t your thing.

Nena Barlow: No. I am an avid reader. I’m just laughing because last night my husband was yelling at me that I need to go to sleep, cause I was geeking out on this. I’m reading a land navigation book right now. It’s like, yeah, very engrossing.

Scott Brady: What’s the book. What’s the name of the book?

Nena Barlow: Oh my gosh, and you’re gonna ask me the hard questions. I’ll have to send it to you. I don’t remember.

Matt Scott: I don’t [01:13:00] remember the names of the books I read. It’s a weird.

Nena Barlow: I can visualize the cover, but I couldn’t tell you.

Scott Brady: Well, we’ll put it in the show notes. No problem. What are some other books that you’ve come to love? Fiction, non-fiction.

Nena Barlow: Lois Pryce. Love her stuff. Yeah, I go back and forth between fiction and non-fiction. I do love to read other people’s stories of their world travels, because there’s a common thread. You know, crap’s going to happen, and you just figure out how to deal with it. If you’re waiting to go, you know, when you think crap’s not going to happen, you’re just never going to go.

Scott Brady: For sure. Yeah. Well, that’s great advice as well. So now how do people find out more about you and what you do? How do people follow you on Instagram? How do they follow you on all of the, my face twits and all those other things?

Matt Scott: Do you Tik Tok? I’d like to introduce you [01:14:00] to my favorite Tik Toker. I don’t tick tock.

Scott Brady: Caleb does though. Caleb Tik Toks, you hired a Tik Toker.

Nena Barlow: Did you know he was a Tik Toker when you hired him?

Matt Scott: You know, I now know the phrase it slaps. That’s something that apparently…

Scott Brady: See now you’re starting to feel… like you’ve got another generation under you. There you go.

Matt Scott: Life goes on. That’s how it works. I have all these like trendy words that I say, because Caleb says them.

Scott Brady: There you go. It’s slaps. I don’t know what that means. I probably shouldn’t say that out loud.

Nena Barlow: I feel dirty.

Matt Scott: It makes me feel very uncomfortable.

Scott Brady: Exactly. All right. Well, we should probably figure out what that means before we say it again. Right. So how do they follow you on Instagram? How did they follow you on… and I’m sure you have accounts for yourself personally, and then for the business?

Nena Barlow: Right. So like my training [01:15:00] stuff Instagram, we’re very active on Instagram and to a lesser extent, Facebook, but Instagram is Barlow_Adventures.

Matt Scott: We’re going to put it right here on YouTube.

Scott Brady: How do they follow you individually?

Nena Barlow: Follow me individually. So actually on Instagram, I don’t have a personal account. I do incorporate some more personal stuff on that Instagram account than I do on like the Facebook page. Facebook, we have a Jeep rental page, a Sedona Jeep rental page, and then we have, you know, Barlow Adventures. And then, you know, my personal page on Facebook.

Scott Brady: And then you have an Instagram for your team for your racing team?

Nena Barlow: Yes. And oh my gosh. I just changed it. I think it’s Team 129. If you do, if you do Rebelle Rally Team 129, you know, at least you can find it by that hashtag.

Scott Brady: And then people can also find more about the Rebelle rally, rebellerally.com, and they can find the [01:16:00] Rebelle rally on Instagram as well to get more information on that. And I guess I’ve got two more questions. Where do you want to go anywhere in the world? Like, what’s your, like…

Nena Barlow: Chile. For whatever, that’s like my hot button.

Scott Brady: Pisco sours and big dunes, got them there,

Nena Barlow: California of South America.

Scott Brady: It’s a wonderful country. Awesome. Yeah, you would love that. Okay, and then last question is, which we try to ask. If you were to give just one piece of advice to someone who is getting ready to do Rebelle rally contributor, or a competitor or a traveler, what would be the words of encouragement that you would give someone new to this?

Nena Barlow: You just need to do it and you start taking the steps. It’s overwhelming and if, when you get to the end of it and you look back and everything that you had to go through, you probably would be intimidated to start, you know, but you [01:17:00] start and it’s never going to be perfect. Like we talked about a few minutes ago. But you have enough just, you know, get to the point where you have enough and take the next step and just go.

Scott Brady: There you go. That’s wonderful advice. Matt, do you have any more questions for Nena?

Matt Scott: What’s your favorite Jeep? No, I’m going to retract that question. What do you think the best Jeep ever made is?

Nena Barlow: Ooh, ever made? It’s honestly… that’s like asking you like one car you can never sell.

Scott Brady: This is actually the only person we’ve ever had on the podcast that has more cars than you.

Nena Barlow: I want to buy Matts, coffee table book of all the cars I’ve owned.

Matt Scott: One day, I will have a coffee table book one foot thick.

Scott Brady: It’s already there, almost Matt.

Nena Barlow: So honestly the one that I have the most anticipation for right now is the Gladiator Four by E because I [01:18:00] love my Gladiator, but with all the other drive trains available right now, it’s the 36 or the diesel. The diesel is great, and if I trade this one in, it would probably be on a diesel. But like the Gladiator for by ye we know is a couple of years away, but that I’m really looking forward to, and especially with leaps and bounds, how the electrified is coming where we’re going to be two years from now, even, you know, we have some concepts coming from Jeep.

Scott Brady: It’s all coming. The number of manufacturers that have set lines in the sand of being only electric by 2025, which is three years away. Unbelievable.

Matt Scott: That’s why I am keeping my LJ.

Nena Barlow: That’s the infrastructure coming along with that. Did you attend the power innovations… or the Rebelle rally electrified session? They had power innovations on there, and as much as they were involved in a Rebelle rally, without before that presentation, I had no idea how involved they are with getting this infrastructure out there, including, you know, portable charging trailers and everything.

Matt Scott: It seems that electric has become [01:19:00] this almost contentious.

Nena Barlow: Everything’s contentious.

Matt Scott: You cannot like…

Scott Brady: Why does everything have to be an argument? It’s like, there’s nothing wrong with an electric car. Keep driving your car. If you want to, like the fact that somebody wants to buy electric car. Why do you care?

Matt Scott: I have an oil belt on my roof. That’s why I want an electric car. I live in Arizona. Like if I lived in Scotland, I’d think that that was a pretty dumb idea, but I live in Arizona and I dunno…

Scott Brady: Any other questions for Nena.

Matt Scott: I mean, that’s really the one Jeep that you’d have. If you could have one Jeep…

Nena Barlow: What do you want the answer to be? It’s like, I get this question all the time. What’s your favorite trail? It’s the one I’m on right now. I am like, so geeking out on what I’m doing.

Scott Brady: You’re being in the moment, which is awesome. Well, Nena, thanks so much [01:20:00] for being on the podcast. We have been trying to get you out here for the longest time, a couple reschedules, but we had you here today. You have been such an inspiration to so many people, you really have, and you’ve always been humble about it. And you have shared your knowledge freely with others, and you’ve been so supportive of new people coming into the Rebelle and in to back country travel as well. So everybody that’s listening, please check out Nena and her adventures and we will talk to you next time.


Lisa Williams is an Arizona native that spent much of her childhood exploring backroads with her family in whatever project vehicle her father was wrenching on at the time. She has traveled the continental United States by foot, by Ford Econoline, and, most recently, by Jeep Cherokee. All her passions center around driving, connecting with nature, and a deep love for adventure. Though a practicing weekend warrioress, she aspires to write, photograph, and eventually rally race around the globe and share her journeys through photojournalism. Upcoming goals include competing in the Rebelle Rally, the Baja 1000, and an immersion into the less-traveled roads of New Zealand in her 2019 Toyota Tacoma.