When the Covid-19 situation hit the world everything changed. Some people lost their jobs, could no longer pay the high rents and sought alternative living environments like converted vans, RV's, tiny houses or other means of "living off the grid". Some people instantly sought refuge in the wide open space. MY company Bamboo Beach Rentals shut down. Laws for vacation rentals changed and the owner of one of the buildings I designed and managed sold the property. Soooooo.....MY knee jerk reaction was to buy a JEEP Wrangler! (and I did!). I've wanted an authentic Jeep Wrangler since I was a teen but mom said they were too dangerous back then. I heard Jeeps have come a long way in the last years and now these vehicles are not only practical for off-roading but very comfortable as daily-drivers as well. I wanted something I could jump into, run over a few curbs if needed and head into nature - The forests, deserts or mountains....anyplace with lesser risk of the virus. This meant unpaved roads. With many hotels and Airbnbs shut down, and visions of refugee tent cities came to mind, I quickly considered the possibility that I might have to "camp" or LIVE in my Jeep!!!!
I am a NATURE LOVER but I shamelessly admit I am not the "camping type" - the thought of sleeping on a rock hard ground in a sweaty polyester sleeping bag with the sound of creatures crunching leaves around me in the night wasn't my idea of fun. I had a few bad camping experiences and said never again. To make matters worse, I didn't like the messy look of camp sites - a hodgepodge of random, mixed-matched camping gear and debris that had no style, color scheme or really anything that felt like "home".
When the "OVERLANDER" term kept popping into conversations and so many people were boasting about these amazing camp trips I knew I had to reconsider the whole camping thing. Afteral, California was rated one of the top destinations in the world for Camping, Hiking, Off-Road Driving and Nature Exploring because of its perfect climate, breathtaking beauty and diverse landscape. The state is unlike anyplace else on the planet. I knew there just had to be a better way to do it that was not only comfortable but why not stylish as well. After all, who knew how long this covid thing could last.
I am an INTERIOR DESIGNER, (and daughter of one) and designed 8 properties in 6 years! I was accustomed to a beautiful, clean, well-organized environment. I love textures, colors, fabrics, lighting and furnishings. I also like things that function well and are easily accessible. As Van conversions were booming I was impressed by how creative, well-designed, and practical they had become yet I STILL could not envision myself in a van as my daily driver. I wanted something that was FUN to drive, could take me off road but could be quickly utilized as a temporary home when and as needed.
I realized quickly that I best make MY Jeep as much a home as I could "just in case" ! As a bamboo junkie with the nickname "Bamboo Betty" I knew I would feel at home if my Jeep had a Tiki Bar and some Bamboo. After all, I just finished designing 4 vacation rental properties using bamboo so I figured why not? That led to a long and arduous process of experimentation and frustration trying to fit the bamboo into the roof, sidewalls and freedom panel headliners. But with time, patience and determination I figured it out, saved the templates and now that's finally DONE. As I began to think about how I wanted "Sparkie" to feel design her I thought of the basics such as my my sleeping, eating and lounging environment. So I installed practical things such as privacy curtains, custom fit air bed, an easy access kitchen set-up, and an exterior lounge area with awning, matching fabric valence and guest chairs. I asked myself, "Why shouldn't all of these things have a color and design theme to match and look beautiful?". After creating a custom tire cover, matching headrests, steering wheel cover, sun visors, arm rest and cup holders heads were turning in parking lots, stop lights and just about everywhere I went! This "Sparked" the idea to launch my retail Style business: SHOP Jeep Decor offering my consulting & design business to other Jeepers!
Next step was learning how to drive her off road. While I, personally have no desire to jump boulders and crazy stuff like that, I DID want to take advantage of all the features this vehicle had to offer, understand the 4Low & 4H High 4-wheel drive settings, and how to drive the vehicle in terrain beyond the pavement of my closest freeway. I LOVE California. It's one of the most beautiful places on earth - the coastline of Malibu with its rocky coves overlooking the Pacific ocean, the lush winding canyon roads and mountain top hiking trails with breathtaking views, the Hollywood-era deco style architecture of downtown, Catalina Island, San Diego & The Mexican boarder, the dry heat and date plantations of Palm Springs and the strange and ominous beauty of Joshua Tree desert. You can surf in the morning, ski in the afternoon and be home in time for supper! One can't miss the cowboy ranches, vineyards and historic Spanish architecture of Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, and the majestic red woods of Northern California with some of the biggest trees in the world. There is SO much to see and do in this state, you cold spend a lifetime and not see it all! The Jeep is the perfect companion for exploring.
Sooooooo....... I enrolled myself in a Jeep Meet Up Group off-road course lead by master "Zen Jeeper" Tommy Stoffel. I was instantly impressed by Tommys' authentic "zen" approach to Jeeping. Tommy's method of instruction not only gifted me the confidence to utilize some of the features of this amazing vehicle, but his down-to-earth, no nonsense style of teaching enabled me to conquer some personal demons within myself as well. It was totally empowering. Tommy not only dispels all ego, speaks in lament terms, confronts common fears and gives his students not only fundamental, practical driving tools. . . but his "zen: approach makes even the most confident off-road Jeeper humbled. Tommy and I became fast friends and quickly realized we had a like-minded spirts. In November of 2o2o, I launched my Jeep Decor Products & Services business and we merged our passions launching the "Jeep Training Safaris" and well.... the rest is history!