City of Residence: Macon
Occupation: President, Warner Robins Jeep Club
Q: How long has Warner Robins had a Jeep club?
A: We established ourselves in 2011, but there were some clubs that came and went before that. Our founder, John Lane, started it after being transferred here and not finding a club. He, like myself, was very much into Jeeps and off-roading, so he started it.
Q: How did you get into Jeeps?
A: I’m from Montana, and they were part of my growing up. I learned how to drive a stick shift when I was 8 on an old Willys CJ2A (Jeep). It was one of the first civilian conversion Jeeps. I’ve owned 12 Jeeps over my lifetime and very little else.
Q: What do you own?
A: I have a 2012 modified Jeep Rubicon. I just got a Grand Cherokee I’m working on as a daily driver.
Q: What brought you here?
A: I did six years active duty and six years Guard Reserve then went to work with a contractor and taught avionics in Saudi Arabia. The company is based here and brought me to Middle Georgia as a program manager.
Q: What size is the club?
A: We’re sitting at roughly 60 official members and have over 500 registered users on our online forum. The forum is a communications tool, it’s not the club itself like some forums can be. It’s a place we can (talk) and an easy way to get information out. It’s also a good way for people interested in becoming a member to find out about us and get in touch. You have to join the forum to get contact information.
Q: Where is the forum?
A: At wrjeepclub.com. Or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. There’s a process to becoming a member that lets you know if we’re what you’re looking for. It’s more than, “I’m interested, make me a member.” You get to know if we’re a good fit for you and we get to know you. You have to have a sponsor and be voted in. Your sponsor makes sure you know about events and what’s going on. We’re more of a family than a club, really. It’s not that we’re super selective, we just have our process. I don’t know of anyone not voted in, but by the time we vote you know what we’re about. And you have to own a Jeep. That’s the big thing, right?
Q: What does the club actually do?
A: The main purpose is to enjoy all the benefits of Jeep ownership while promoting responsible off-roading. It’s also to help better our community. Off-roading is a niche sport and is being slowly destroyed, for lack of better term, by horrible people who just want to drink 12 beers, ride through puddles and commit what amounts to eco-terrorism on public and private property. That’s not what we’re about. We don’t even allow littering on our outings.
Q: Where do you off-road?
A: There are different types of off-roading from nice country trails to more serious rock climbing and everything in between. There are some good country roads and trails nearby, but for the more adventurous rides and climbing rocks, we have to go out of state, usually to Alabama. Another project I personally run is www.jeepsontrails.com to help people find a place near them to have legal off-road fun.
Q: So you have scheduled group rides?
A: Definitely. Regularly and frequently. We also spend a lot of time working on each other’s Jeeps. Members will pretty much drop anything to help someone out. That’s a big part of it. We’re also very family and charity oriented. We take part in parades and get involved with a lot of fundraising efforts and causes. Things like a barbecue where everyone brought dog food for the Warner Robins Humane Society or a canned food drive for a local food pantry. There’s a family now whose child has cancer, and we’re making sure they have rides to Atlanta for treatment. It’s pretty hard on them, and it’s just something we can do to help.
Q: It does sound family/community aware.
A: I guess it goes back to my youth. My stepdad took me outdoors and off-roading, and it taught me a lot. You learn that you’re going to encounter problems, but there’s some way or another to solve them. And you need people around you that can help. That’s a big part of what off-roading is about. We don’t consider it extreme. It’s adventure -- facing challenges and working through them together, helping one another. We do a beginners class. We’re beginner friendly and don’t look down on beginners, and the huge emphasis is on safety and trying to impart a love for the vehicle, for the environment and how to enjoy both. There are always guys and girls around and kids. There’s no age limit when it comes to enjoying Jeeps.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Contact Michael W. Pannell at email@example.com.