If you live in or around Panama Beach City, Florida, or the broader Florida Panhandle region and want to experience the true meaning of a family-oriented Jeep club, the Bay Area Jeep Association or BAJA is the place to be.
No other club is more open in that region than this one, welcoming both member and non-member Jeep owners with open arms. Anyone with a Trail-Rated Jeep is welcome to ride along with the group, experiencing how BAJA is more than just your average Jeep club.
The club builds a better perspective of how Jeep Life is unique for each individual but equally important and exciting. Busy professionals, soccer moms, singles, families, and friends are all a part of BAJA, enjoying the trails on different levels and for various reasons. BAJA is there to provide them with an extended family and support as they thrive in this hobby.
And what’s a bonus? The club is puppy-friendly!
One of the club’s younger members, 12-year-old Naveah (Jo Yetticon’s daughter) said: “From a child’s point of view I see a lot the ups and the downs but most of all I see how people make new friends and bond with each other. Owning a Jeep is ten times more than just meeting people to off-road with; it is about making extended family that you can camp with and have dinner with. It is also about finding the people who you can call for all your Jeep troubles. Owning a Jeep comes with fun responsibilities as in waving to other Jeep owners and stopping on the side of the road when you see a Jeep stopped. The Jeep club helps you find people like this to hang out with, supporting each other as a group and having fun whether we are off-road driving or not because we are all family.”
A Look into How it All Began
2014 was the year when two off-roading enthusiasts with Jeeps of their own formed a club to meet other like-minded people. Johnothan Jones after his return from Afghanistan in the fall of 2013 started BAJA with long-time friend Kai Sterling. Johnothan and Kai were relatively new to Florida’s Jeep scene, and Jeep trails throughout the region. After realizing there were only a couple of smaller clubs in the area, both decided to start a club. Not only did Johnothan find this a great opportunity for him and his family to engage in outdoor activity, but it was also a pretty normal thing to do because in his words, “it’s kinda nuts how many Jeeps are in our area!”
The name BAJA was suggested by Sterling to pay homage to off-roading in BAJA California. The name worked as the club was situated in Bay County, Florida. So the two friends ran with it, putting up flyers and tagging Jeeps everywhere. As a result, 20 Jeepers attended the first event, in May 2014, and Bay Area Jeep Association was off and running.
During the initial stages of the club’s formation, the club pushed through some challenges. By adhering to their strong family-oriented values, respecting members’ “Jeep Life” standards BAJA has become what it is today.
Nicholas Casassa Commented:
“People make this Club such an amazing and supportive group. The wealth of knowledge, Support, and Love for the Jeep Life is amazing. There is an abundance of Fun and Exciting individuals. We do our best to root out judgment, belittling, and bigotry. There is no toxicity at all and that’s what gives this club such a leap ahead from the standard Jeep Club.
You have beginners to seasoned veterans of off-roading that are always friendly and willing to take the time to explain things.
We treat each other like we are family! Our kids play together just as much as we adults play together. Friendships are made that extend past just a normal Jeep Club.”
The Club Six Years Later
At the time of writing this, this off-road Jeep club in Panama City Beach, Florida, is six years old. Within this time, it has managed to grow and expand impressively. It attracts Jeep owners to taste the natural beauty off-road trails in the North Florida region.
Whether you’re a hairdresser looking for a wholesome outdoor activity to get your mind off of work or a hardcore Jeeper with a customized Jeep, the club welcomes everyone regardless of their experience. There is no shortage of members with similar interests where everyone can find a ride or activity to bridge the gap between the members’ to enjoy their “Jeep Life” and “Jeep Family”.
Associated with SFWD (Southern Four Wheel Drive Association) and Tread Lightly, the club hosts regular events, meet and greets, and rides throughout the year. Generally, members get together for a trail ride, fellowship gets together, or a simple meeting in local restaurants.
In addition to their annual rides at Stony Lonesome OHV Park and Windrock Park, TN, they try to have some type of club activities weekly. They often interact with other clubs such as Tallahassee Jeep Lovers, Forgotten Coast Jeep Club, Jeep Tribe USA, (FWB) Jeepers Ft. Walton Beach, and Vortex Spring Jeep Trails.
More than Just a Jeep Club
Cruising along the Jeep trails in Florida with other like-minded off-road enthusiasts, spending time with other Jeep family members is why BAJA is so well-loved in its community. It brings them together by building memorable moments, supporting Jeep Life, helping the local community, and fellowship as a family-oriented Jeep club.
In addition to its member, the club also dedicates resources and time for charitable work. They host Appreciation Rides for Emergency Workers, participate in the 4th of July along with other parades, and provide their support to local restaurants with their patronage.
BAJA also holds charity events every year to support the Big Brothers Big Sisters of NW Florida, Toy Drives for Christmas, Lucky Puppy Rescue, and Veterans Appreciation efforts on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
Respecting the Trails they Travel
As a Jeep club, BAJA members take advantage of the natural beauty and adventure Mother Nature provides them on the Jeep trails in Florida. To continue their enjoyment of these trails, the club must do their part in taking care of them.
BAJA has made respecting and protecting the natural resources the club enjoys, a core part of its values. The club works closely with the Florida Forest Service to coordinate bi-monthly trail maintenance and cleanup days for Vortex Spring Jeep Trails, FL, the Intracoastal Waterway areas, and Point Washington State Park, FL.
The club has also adopted privately-owned Vortex Jeep Trails at The Original Vortex Spring to oversee its management, development, and maintenance. Besides these events, the BAJA takes a very serious approach to its conservatory efforts, working with land use agencies and private landowners in NW Florida.
One last Comment from Holly Henderson- Williams
“This club is a blessing for me. I just moved to PCB and ran into Lindsey Mitchell and she was so friendly. When she found out I had a Jeep the door opened up! The people I have met have ALL been wonderful! For the first time, I have met people from all walks of life that have NOTHING to do with my career. My prior relationships were always surrounded by work or school. Being a part of this group has opened up so many relationships and great fun! Everyone I have met has been some of the nicest most genuine people I have ever been around.
All of you are now my family and just let me know God put me where I belong.
This group of Jeepers is a gift of God!
Thank You for making me a part of the family!”