The Zoo Crew is a North Carolina family oriented off-roading club based in Asheboro, North Carolina, and it must be one of the most interesting off-roading clubs we have written about. With a population of around 26,000 people, Asheboro is a city in North Carolina, and it’s the county seat for Randolph County. Asheboro just so happens to be the home of the state-owned North Carolina Zoo – and Yes that is the reason for the name, The Zoo Crew.

The Zoo Crew must love Girl Scout Cookie! So why not have a Girl Scout Cookie Run.
The Zoo Crew must love Girl Scout Cookie! So why not have a Girl Scout Cookie Run.

Being more than just about wheeling, The Zoo Crew is about fellowship, giving back to the community, camping, and protecting the land they ride on – it is a genuine family with a big heart. But all this goes out the window when it comes to Deviled Eggs.

Because they are a fairly new club, The Zoo Crew tries to meet monthly for wheeling, camping, and social gatherings, including for dinners or simply for trail rides. Learning to trail ride couldn’t be much easier because Uwharrie National Forest is within easy reach. This gives The Zoo Crew easy access to diverse off-roading trails for everyone from a novice to an expert to explore.

 

As Donnie Brown Judy Chalfinch puts it,

“This group is not only about one purpose, but it’s also about Wheeling, Camping, Overlanding, protecting the land that has been provided to us as an off-road community by working, cleaning and repairing the land, cookouts with good fellowship as any extended family should, finding or hearing about a cause, family, person or organization in need and pulling together to support, raise funds or just help lift up that cause, Zoo crew is not just a group, club or a bunch of ppl wanting to hang out, Zoo Crew is a family with a heart bigger than tomorrow.”

The Zoo Crew - Some of the members rigs that participated at the Girl Scout cookie run.
The Zoo Crew – Some of the members rigs that participated at the Girl Scout cookie run.

A club that is small in numbers but big at heart

The Zoo Crew is one of the youngest off-roading clubs that we have had the honor to cover. The club was founded in October 2020, and it is still in its growing stages right now. The founder, Joe “Pepe” Hernandez, always wanted to be a part of an off-road club that focused on community and helping others. He already had been a part of several off-road clubs, but the ones he was involved with were more focused on the wheeling aspect and had little to do with the community. He decided to start a club that played a more important part in the local community. After he started the club, he asked Kevin Henderson and two others for helpful advice and the club started to take shape.

 

The Beginnings of Giving Back

Since the club just started they have helped Lil Rampage Offroad club to set up, and volunteer for the 2021 Help A Vet Shine event that was held only 10 months after they started.  at the Uwharrie Outpost. This event was held at Uwharrie National Forest to raise awareness and funds for Military Missions in Action charity organization. While the club hadn’t been around for very long, it certainly started to make a mark in the community and become quite popular.

The environment at the club is amazing, and it encourages participation from every member of the crew, no matter how young they are.

As John Stocks describes his experience of being part of The Zoo Crew,

“Just from the one trip; I would say the family environment, letting the kids participate not only in the riding but “helping” fix broken jeeps. And the level of respect that everyone carries within the group and others on the trail.”

He appreciates the opportunity to do volunteer work with The Zoo Crew to give back to the community and the club’s efforts to keep Uwharrie National Forest open.

Uwharrie National Forest Opening Day trail run

The Uwharrie National Forest Opening Day trail run has always been a tradition for many members of The Zoo Crew since before the club began. The club members camp outside the gates the weekend prior to opening day and are waiting for the forestry service to unlock the gates to the trails. It is almost a contest to see who will be the first to go wheeling on the trails. This has become an annual event for the club. There were quite a few nonmembers that came and join The Zoo Crew this year. The Uwharrie National Forest like most others State Parks and National Parks closing for maintenance and allows the forest a break for nesting season. Uwharrie National Forest closes for four and a half months once a year.

 

The Zoo Crew - First annual Thomas Henderson Memorial ride group photo.
The Zoo Crew – First annual Thomas Henderson Memorial ride group photo.

A Club That Remembers Their Own

Many off-road clubs talk about how closely knit they are as a group, but The Zoo Crew really epitomizes family values. The Thomas Henderson Memorial Ride is an annual event that the club has started to honor Thomas Henderson, the late father of The Zoo Crew’s Vice President Kevin Henderson. Lovingly known as “Pops” by the crew, Mr. Thomas Henderson passed away from a heart attack on October  31, 2020, not long after the crew was formed. Everyone from The Zoo Crew got together and surprised Kevin Henderson with a camping trip and organizing everybody for a ride. He wheeled Pops’ rig, the 1981 K5 Blazer on 33’s on the trails, keeping his memory alive. A fitting tribute to an amazing man who fussed over everyone from the crew like they’re his children, the Thomas Henderson Memorial Ride is a good way to remember the man of few words who could say so much with his smile. At the time we wrote this article they were in the process of doing the second Annual Thomas Henderson Memorial Ride.

The Zoo Crew - Group photo after one of the several Uwharrie National Foerst trail clean up rides.
The Zoo Crew – Group photo after one of the several Uwharrie National Foerst trail clean up rides.

Protecting The Land

The Zoo Crew is also big on protecting the environment, keeping trails open, and trying to get new trails opened for wheelers of every skill level to enjoy. The Zoo Crew is part of the Adopt-A-Trail program headed up by Theresa Savery at the Uwharrie National Forest. They meet each month to do a trail clean-up, working with the forestry service for trail maintenance, removing logs and brush encroaching the trail corridor, cleaning, repairing, or installing water bars or other drainage structures that divert water from the trails. The crew removes any litter or other foreign items from the trail corridor. The National Forest is not free of troublemakers who use the land for illegal trailing. The Zoo Crew helps keep a check on that by maintaining or replacing trail signs and blaze fences as needed and closing illegal trails through guard railings or split-rail fencing. The Zoo Crew also practices Tread Lightly environmental rules. Being environmentally friendly are things we always strive for when off road driving.

For more information about Uwharrie National Forest Adopt-A-Trail program Email Theresa Savery.

Tread Lightly  promotes responsible outdoor recreation through stewardship, education and communication. The tread lightly initiative was brought to our attention by Bo Rosa the President of Triad Jeep Club. Since discussions with Bo Rosa, we have put fourth effort to constantly practice “Tread Lightly ” environmental rules.

 

The Zoo Crew devourers 100's of Smoked Eggs. You better get to them early!
The Zoo Crew devourers 100’s of Smoked Eggs. You better get to them early!

The Deviled Eggs

…more specifically, the smoked deviled eggs. That’s a big thing with The Zoo Crew. Rather, the fact that nobody leaves them sit for long. Mike Hitchcock makes and serves very delicious smoked deviled eggs, and they always seem to be misplaced or stolen before everybody gets the chance to have them. If you happen to have a 4WD vehicle and you want to join the crew to get a chance to work with them and maybe get some of the delectable smoked deviled eggs (provided they leave any left), head on over to their Facebook page or Email them to find out more about The Zoo Crew.

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