Those, who are new to off-roading or have never been a part of a group that participates in the activity together, are often unaware of the fact that it’s about more than riding your Jeep across off-road trails.
There is a community aspect to off-roading that often becomes the reason why people invest in becoming full-time members. You find companionship and camaraderie with people who not only share your affinity for Jeeps and cruising along nature’s wonders, but also share meaningful relationships and friendships that could last for years.
It’s a one-of-a-kind experience, which is exactly what The Jeep Crew is known for.
From weekend rides to major annual events that garner hundreds of Jeep owners’ attendance, this off-road Jeep club, in the Smoky Mountains of Easy Tennessee, offers its members an opportunity to explore their newfound interest with an exceptionally supportive community at their side.
When asked “what’s the best thing about The Jeep Crew”, member Ann Estep had this to say:
“The people. Despite being new to the area and to the Jeep family, the group welcomed us. We’ve made friends and found some amazing places thanks to them! Also, we’ve never felt unsafe on the rides as people are always there to lend a hand and help with mechanical issues or anything else that might be causing a problem.”
An idea that led to something great
It was June 2016 in Maryville, Tennessee when a group of friends puts their heads together to weave a dream of a Jeep club that engaged with members beyond the rides. But that was not the extent of this group’s aspirations.
Serving people in their vicinity by raising funds for charities, supporting non-profit organizations, and working with the Forest Service were all part of the initial plan.
The word community was, hence, the common word put forward by each founding member.
With these goals in mind, The Jeep Crew stepped into its nascence. The founders created a Facebook page and chose their friends as the first audience to receive news of this new venture.
With over 60 Jeeps attending, the first-ever The Jeep Crew ride proved to be a definite success, which continues to follow them to this day.
Not even six months had passed since its founding when The Jeep Crew hosted its first, “JeepTober Fest in the Smokies”. Held in Sevierville, Tennessee in October, over 750 Jeeps attended the event to raise $3,000+ for the Appalachian Bear Rescue.
From there, word spread like (very figurative) wildfire. By 2017, the club was already in the process of starting The Jeep Crew chapters in North Carolina and Kentucky as members came from as far as Charlotte to attend rides and events.
The “We are One” attitude
As the club grew in numbers and chapters (Virginia and Indiana), The Jeep Crew work on materializing their goals of creating a club where people can find and serve their community.
Today, The Jeep Crew welcomes all Jeep models and off-roaders with varying levels of skill and experience. It was inevitable as the The Jeep Crew evolved, they developed relationships with clubs all over the Southeast U.S. Their commitment to making the club a place for forging strong relationships has been constant as they take on members without any judgment.
Their dedication to supporting each member is commendable. They preach a no Jeep left behind motto where drivers stuck or with a broken-down Jeep always find help. Whether they are club members or not.
Newbies on stock rides are always looked out for. No question is to littles and no situation too simple to ignore. Everyone pitches in to lend a hand and teach each other.
Cindy Hanshaw Peels puts it very nicely:
“The nicest group of people my husband and I have ever ridden with! We’ve been one of the ones to break down and not left behind. They do trail recon, cleanup rides, and more. They are a fantastic group!”
Cruising trails with the community
While The Jeep Crew doesn’t hold regular meetings, the group does ride together almost every weekend. In fact, there are times when several of The Jeep Crew chapters schedule the rides on the same day.
Typically, these rides take off-roaders from the Chattanooga area to Wind Rock Park to the Pisgah and Cherokee National Forest and The Smokey Mountains. Other rides such as the Nemo Abandoned Tunnels, Hurricane Creek, Copingers Cove,TN, and Mad Dog are favorites.
Overall, the rides vary in level of difficulty. As the group puts it, they ride from Mild to Wild!
Regardless of the difficulty level, the group is pretty vigilant about keeping their members safe and on track as they make their way through trails. Every event on their page contains a description of the ride, what drivers can expect and the gear they might need along the way.
Usually, it’s 40 Jeeps that join the group on regular rides. However, there was a day when they have over 800 drivers cruising together (you heard that right. 800!).
Committed to service
One of the most appreciative factoids about The Jeep Crew is their ongoing and relentless effort to serve the community in any way possible. Fundraising through events and rides is a thread in The Jeep Crew’s community-oriented tapestry. (Of course, the imagery is of geared-up Jeeps!)
The Appalachian Bear Rescue, Smoky Mountain Service Dogs, and Second Harvest Food Bank among others are only a few examples of causes the group has raised money for. Participating in parades and charity events or making donations is not the limit to their philanthropy.
With over 2000 Jeeps in attendance, this annual expo is held on Memorial Day Weekend at the Sevierville Convention Center in Tennessee. There is a lively and enthralling Jeep Show and Vendor Expo bring droves of off-roaders where they participate in activities and enjoy the exhibition hosted by the club.
While the expo is meant to provide off-roading enthusiasts a place to convene and meet each other, the main goal is fundraising. The expo raises money for veteran charities such as Warrior Angel Foundation, Homes for Heroes, and Mission 22.
For more information go to: JeepQuest Expo Website
Jeep-Tober Fest in the Smokies
This event that managed to bring in over 750 jeeps on the first go has only grown since then. Held in the October of every year (hence the pun in the name!), this festival is Halloween themed with vendors setting up stalls and people dress up their jeeps. The funds raised during this event are donated to St. Jude’s Children Hospital.
For more information got to: Jeep-Tober Fest in the Smokies Facebook Page
Jeeps-only Movie Night
They also make donations to St. Jude’s Children Hospital in spring and fall. The funds are raised through a Jeeps-only Movie Night where the club rents the drive inn cinema where Jeep owners can come in and get the chance of making a difference by watching a movie!
Guardians of the trails
Since nature is part of the community The Jeep Crew is passionate about serving, protecting, preserving, and cleaning it is a part of its routine.
Besides minor cleanup that they do on every ride, The Jeep Crew’s North Carolina chapter started working with the Pisgah and Cherokee National Forest Service in late 2018 to do their part in preserving the trails they venture on frequently.
Started with 15 people taking first aid and chainsaw training to be approved to volunteer and help maintain trails and perform trail maintenance. Club members been approved to clear off fallen trees and maintain roads on several trails – supervised and unsupervised!
Their hard work didn’t go unnoticed as the State Senator from Middleboro, Kentucky acknowledged the group for cleaning up Tackett Creek. The Tennessee TWRA, on the other hand, rewarded their cleanup efforts at the Abandoned Nemo Tunnels, Tellico Plains, and other local trails in Tennessee.
The level of organization and enthusiasm The Jeep Crew operates with is something off-roaders must experience for themselves. If you’re near any of their chapters in KY, TN, NC, VA, or IN, check their Facebook Page or The Jeep Crew Website for upcoming events.
One Final Comment
If what you have read hasn’t compelled you, Amy Brasfield’s thoughts about The Jeep Crew might just nudge you closer to check out the group for your next off-road excursion:
“Everyone is friendly and welcoming in The Jeep Crew. They host a wide variety of rides each year to accommodate different interests and experience levels of fellow Jeepers. The description of the rides and recommendations for what kind of setup is required is always spot on and so very helpful for folks who aren’t familiar with a particular trail. A great group of people who further and foster camaraderie among Jeep enthusiasts!”