Muddy Buddys Jeep Wrangler Club (MBJWC) is based out of southwestern Ohio. Most of our on and off road events are held in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee.
Muddy Buddys History
The Muddy Buddy’s Jeep Wrangler Club was founded in 2002 by two Kroger Supermarket meat cutters, Rob Eldridge and Rob Forsha, who became friends and enjoyed wheelin' and the outdoors. Forsha owned a TJ and at the time Eldridge had a Bronco II. On the surface, Jeep clubs are a sort of united front for off-roading, where members push their Jeeps to the limit on trails, rocks and everywhere between.
However, both Robs will tell you the Muddy Buddys club brings a lot more to the table for its members. When they first started, they knew that they wanted to create a club with a core focus of family friendliness, safety and fun. "We looked at other clubs and many of them were about limiting things," says Forsha. "You had to have a Jeep this size, or be this customized. Many of the clubs mandated that you attend so many events. This is about having fun. It shouldn't feel like a job."
Eldridge adds that they look for all types of owners. "If you've got a stock Jeep, we still want you" says Eldridge, who has been president of the club since it began. "We all started there."
The message certainly resonated with other Wrangler owners, as the club has grown from three to over 500 active members.
The idea of starting a club came about more than a decade ago, when both Robs were working together at the Sugarcreek Kroger store. During a particularly bad snow storm, the two took out their four-wheel drive vehicles to pick up other Kroger associates and get them to work safely. It was around this time that their friendship began and their mutual interest for off-roading inspired them to start a club. "Honestly, from that point on we were literally like brothers," says Eldridge, "We're just great friends that were fortunate enough to meet working for Kroger."
Eldridge wasn't always a fan of the Jeep Wrangler, and when the two first met he was driving a Bronco. They'd go out to lunch together and he'd notice that Forsha seemed to know every Jeep owner in town. "He'd drive by, and they'd wave at each other!" says Eldridge. He didn't realize, at the time, that he was witnessing the "Jeep wave" - a part of Jeep culture where owners wave to signify a sort of respect and understanding of their common interest.
It wasn’t long before Eldridge became a Jeeper himself. “My lifestyle is country,” says Eldrige. “I grew up fishing, hunting, and being in the woods. There's something about having a vehicle where I can look up into the mountains and say, 'wow, that's pretty' or I can go up into the mountains and check it out."
He added, "It's like being a biker and loving the freedom, but the bikes have to stop at some point -we don't."
Going off-road doesn't come without its own risks, even for Jeep owners. "What you have to understand is, the moment you go off pavement, something can happen," says Eldridge.
Off Roading Challenges
Dents, scratches, tire punctures, and so forth aren't unheard of, and that's one of the topics the more seasoned Jeep owners share with newcomers to the club. "You'll have a member come in with one of the newer Jeeps that have plastic flairs or tube bumpers on the side, and they'll get ripped off in the first 30 minutes," says Eldridge. "Our senior members will tell them, 'look, this will cost you a little to replace but it's going to save you in repairs down the road."
Dents aside, the club takes safety very seriously. In fact, their safety record is nearly impeccable; they've never had a major accident. "There have been a few minor cuts and bee stings, but that's the extent of it," says Eldridge. There's plenty to be proud of here, especially considering the club hosts about 50 events and meetings each year.
The club's biggest event is their annual "Jeep Jam" which takes place in Wilmington, OH and brings in about 1,000 Jeeps. For $50, Jeep owners - even nonmembers - can enjoy an obstacle course, trail rides in the woods, parts vendors and food vendors. "It's everything that's part of the lifestyle and brand," says Forsha. Jeep Jam also attracts 30-40 new members each time the club host it.
A big part of the fun, both Robs agree, is growing the membership and building new relationships. "There are plenty of things we do outside the club," says Forsha. "Someone might have a lot of us over for a bonfire where we'll hang out and build that camaraderie." Eldridge agrees. "It's even in the name," he says. "Everyone is like family- we're all buddies."
Each year, Forsha runs an etiquette meeting for the club where he discusses how members should conduct themselves. "We get so many new members and they don't all know exactly what they're doing," says Forsha. "We talk about everything from egos to how to behave on the trail."
The club is also very big on conservation, and all of the members carry garbage bags with them at events to clean up their trash, and anything they might stumble upon along the way. "We also do river cleanups each year," says Forsha. "That's what we're all about-you give our members a place to ride and they'll take care of it."
The annual membership fee of $24 helps cover some of the cost of running club events, but it's also used toward some of the club's charity initiatives. Muddy Buddys is a big supporter of several charities. "We do a covered Bridge Run in Preble County for Pink Ribbon Girls."
"We're based around having fun and giving back however we can," says Eldridge. "If you like adventure, being in the woods and thrill, you'd probably be into the Jeep lifestyle."