Families — Parents — Kids

This Mom Has One of The Best Outdoor Jobs

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Ultimate scenery, red Jeep, dented bumper. No wonder Nena Barlow is smiling. This is her office.

In a less discerning phase of my life known as "my late 20's to my early 30's," I was simultaneously a Jeep owner and a contributing editor for JPFreek Adventure Magazine. The magazine held the ground, and still does, as an adventure lifestyle publication that covers the not-so-odd mixture (and apparent subculture) of an active life and the fun of owning a Jeep. During those hazy days, my editor launched a column called "Jeep Jobs" and assigned it to me a few times.  We'd locate professions, fields, departments, geeks and gophers who used Jeeps in their day jobs, interview them, and share the joy with the readers.

One of my first assignments for the column was to ride along with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. A pair of agents took me, in one of their field Jeeps of course, down to the Mexican border for a day. They showed me the daily routine of border agents, made an arrest before my eyes on a trio hauling a load of marijuana in a modified Cadillac, took me to the holding facilities for people awaiting deportation, and gave me the run down on what it takes to get through Border Patrol Academy. It's tough. Did you know that there's only one government agency with a more difficult academy?  That's the FBI. Border Patrol agents are, obviously by definition, straight-up badass.

But there's one thing they lack. As the agent who was driving me turned on a dirt road just outside Nogales, he stopped the Jeep and fussed with the transmission and transfer case. He engaged 4WD like he'd never done it before.  "I don't mean to be a jerk," I told him, "but you don't have to do all that to get into 4WD."

He looked at me and laughed.

I probed more, "They only train you on the baddass stuff at the Academy, don't they? Not something as lowly as how to shift into four wheel drive?"

"That's about right" he said.


That story didn't come up again until I met Nena Barlow of Barlow's Jeep School (formerly Sedona Jeep School) for a different edition of the column.  My editor sent me to Sedona, Arizona to follow Nena around for a day and see what her business was all about. She conducts behind-the-wheel off highway training for individuals and groups. Her business has grown so much over the years that she bought out a Farabee's Jeep Rental business in Sedona and made it her own - Barlow Jeep Rentals. So anyone can go to her to either get some training or rent a Jeep or both.

It was late winter when I met Nena at her brick-n-mortar office in Sedona. I also met two crew members at the shop. One was Joey. He was in the back working on something like installing a new bumper or repairing a tie rod or something. I don't exactly recall. And then the other "member" was a furry-headed little chunk manning the ropes of a his Graco pack-n-play between a Jeep on blocks awaiting a new suspension and a pile of OEM Jeep parts and a stack of mud tires. That one was Nena's son, who was just about a year old, a few months older than my own daughter.

Nena explained that she also had another son who, at the time, was 10 years old. Now her boys are 4-1/2 and 14. In Nena's words, "Both of them think all kids grow up four-wheeling, camping, and getting dirty at work with mom."

Nevertheless, she took me out on the trail for a run through her training, which you can read more about at JPFreek's website. I told her about the fellas in the Border Patrol who didn't know how to operate the transfer case. I don't know if anything has ever come of that, but I do know she's trained celebrities, other military groups, and all manner of fascinating people. Adding a little more spice to things, every Jeep in her fleet has a name like Betty, Janice, Lola, Jenny, Ophelia, Cecelia, Lucky (ask about that one), Bloody Mary, and so on.

So if you think some low key, yet high quality, off-highway training is in your future, get in touch with Nena. Though she's based in Sedona, much of her business extends beyond to places like Moab, Utah.


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