2019 trip to Windrock TN - Photo by Paul Cochran
2019 trip to Windrock TN – Photo by Paul Cochran

Sundowners 4×4 Club is one of the oldest off-roading clubs in Michigan. Established in 1976, the Sundowners had humble beginnings. A couple of friends came together to explore the local trails and pursue their passion for off-roading. As time passed, more and more people who shared their enthusiasm for off-roading and keeping the trails clean started joining them, the off-roading trips became longer, and they decided to become an official Jeep club in Michigan.

The name Sundowners may sound poetic, and that is because it is. When thinking of what to name their Jeep club, they thought back to the fact that regardless of the time when they started the run, it always ended around sundown. From being a Jeep club in Kalamazoo made by a few friends, the Sundowners saw how much of an impact they could make in their community. It has officially become a non-profit organization actively helping the community, and new Jeep owners have plenty to look forward to with the Sundowners 4×4 Club.

Drummond Island 2021. Tim guiding a young couple they found in the woods down the steps in their stock JL Sahara. - James Paul Hoskins
Drummond Island 2021. Tim guiding a young couple they found in the woods down the steps in their stock JL Sahara. – James Paul Hoskins

James Paul Hoskins, a relatively new member of the Sundowners, said,

“The wife and I haven’t been members long but definitely glad we found this group. The few times we’ve met up for rides or meetings we’ve felt like family, not just another member. Everyone we have met has been very helpful and friendly. They took us in on a trip we took to Drummond Island and we had a blast. Our trip to Drummond Island wouldn’t have been the same without this group, we wouldn’t have seen and done everything without their patience and guidance. Great company and laughs were a bonus. They took us, a couple of “kids” that stumbled onto the island in a stock Sahara and turned it into a very memorable experience for everyone involved, that’s when I knew this is where we belonged. Afterward, we learned of the things that they do for the community and each other, we knew we made the right choice!”

Passionate About Having Fun, Always Ready To Help

There are a lot of things to love about the Sundowners 4×4 Club. It is an off-roading club that is always willing to take on new members. While having a Jeep is ideal, they welcome anyone with full-sized 4WD vehicles or those passionate about owning one. The Club has plenty of experience in its ranks, and all of the members are always willing to go out of their way to help each other, especially those new to the Club.

Drummond Island 2021 - James Paul Hoskins
Drummond Island 2021 – James Paul Hoskins

From Bundy Hill Off Road Recreation LLC to the Badlands Off-Road Park to Drummond Island, Kalamazoo and its surrounding areas have a rich and diverse landscape that offers plenty of off-roading opportunities. Members get to explore them all with the Sundowners. If you’re new to the Club, you should be delighted to learn that they hold formal and informal training sessions for 4-wheeling to teach everyone the basics of what to expect and how to be safe on the trails with them.

One of the best things about the Sundowners is that they don’t just go on various off-roading trails. The club members also tread lightly and respect the environment. The Sundowners also organize cleanup rides like at Allegan State Game Area every spring, clearing up all trash in that area. They are currently working on adopting a stretch of highway in the area so they can become more active in their efforts there.

 

Photo taken by Shari French at the 2018 Allegan State Game Area cleanup drive.
Photo taken by Shari French at the 2018 Allegan State Game Area cleanup drive.

Shari French, a Sundowner said in 2018 about the Allegan State Game Area cleanup drive,

“Today was a very Cold, Windy, Rainy Day, just miserable outside. The Sundowners had a Trash pickup in the Allegan State Game Area planned for today. 40 plus people showed up and filled a 30-yard dumpster to the top and more. WOW!!! is all I can say, these people are amazing. The sad part is we could have filled another dumpster or 2 with all the crap that is still out there. So sad people disrespect the forest like this. Thank You to everyone who came out today and thank you Biggby for the coffee and Bestway Disposal for the Dumpster. Thank You Doug Wine for organizing this every year!!”

Photo taken by Shari French at the 2018 Allegan State Game Area cleanup drive.
Photo taken by Shari French at the 2018 Allegan State Game Area cleanup drive.

An enormous undertaking, the cleanup drive has become one of their most popular and well-supported efforts, drawing support from the community and corporate sponsors.

The Sundowners 4×4 Club is a close-knit community that likes to have fun, but everyone always has each other’s back.

This is from our Halloween run where we stopped for a campfire and dinner. Doug Wine does this run at night with ghost stories the whole ride. - Photo by Adam Doll
This is from our Halloween run where we stopped for a campfire and dinner. Doug Wine does this run at night with ghost stories the whole ride. – Photo by Adam Doll

The Sundowners also organize one out-of-state run each year to places like Rausch Creek Off-Road Park, PA, or Windrock, TN. They organize rides at least once each month on a mix of trails to accommodate 4-wheelers of every skill level, many available to non-members and members alike but always conducting pre-event checks to ensure that all newbies are prepared.

As Doug Wine puts it,

“It’s also great to know that if you find yourself stuck in a hole or broken down on the side of the road you have friends who will drop everything and come to your rescue. We are one big family, we squabble, we laugh, we cry, we grieve, we poke fun, we have each other’s backs, and no man is left behind.”

A Non-Profit Helping The Community & Environment

Besides the annual cleanup rides, the Sundowners do a lot of work to help the community and the environment. Having been established for so long and organizing many events to help the community. The Club was instrumental in ensuring that medical professionals could go back and forth between hospitals during a snowstorm in ’79.

Three of our club members dress up each year when we do our drive before Christmas. They go into Menards like this and buy toys for the kids, they get more attention for our cause. The kids have so much fun with these characters. - Photo by Lisa Roodbergen
Three of our club members dress up each year when we do our drive before Christmas. They go into Menards like this and buy toys for the kids, they get more attention for our cause. The kids have so much fun with these characters. – Photo by Lisa Roodbergen

Many Sundowners have helped the Red Cross deliver food and medicine to people they couldn’t reach over the years helping out Meals on Wheels and various other agencies. People in Kalamazoo know that if they ever have to drive during a snowstorm, a member of the Sundowners is probably out there helping people.

They have been collecting toys for Toys-for-Tots for over 25 years and even became the US Marine’s largest one-day toy drive. They have since transitioned to working with Kalamazoo Gospel Ministries to collect toys for the local homeless shelter. The Sundowners have partnered with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, offering trail ride opportunities for their “littles,” and they will expand those efforts to the children at Kalamazoo Gospel Ministries also.

The Sundowners have also partnered with Two Trackers 4 Wheel Drive Club and their multi-year event which supported Special Days Camp, a camp for childhood cancer patients and their parents.

Trail cleanup Allegan State Game Area, in front of the forest fire station. - Photo by Lisa Roodbergen
Trail cleanup Allegan State Game Area, in front of the forest fire station. – Photo by Lisa Roodbergen

Comment From Sundowners 4×4 Club Admin

“Many hunters have acknowledged and applauded our cleanup efforts which is a sure sign we are on the right track since it is after all a game area. The last and sometimes least successful effort has to be education of new 4 wheelers or newly reestablished user groups. I say least successful but just a couple weeks ago I was leading a group and we crossed paths with a large overlanding group. The leader of that group recognized me over the radio and we had a chance to chat for a few minutes. Knowing this individual and knowing he had been on trail rides with me and had heard my coaching about “stay the trail” gave me great confidence that this other group would also be “treading lightly” as they enjoyed a beautiful winter day in the woods.”   

Check Them Out

This article barely begins to scratch the surface of everything that the Sundowners have to offer. You can learn a lot more about them and the wonderful work they have been doing by visiting Sundowners Public Facebook Page, Sundowners Website, emailing them at sundownerskalamazoo@gmail.com, or through their Instagram @sundowners4x4.

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