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The Origins of a Community

The year 2010 was pretty gnarly for me; I had separated from my wife and started divorce proceedings. This was someone I was with for 20 years. My emotions ran from relief to paralyzing terror. Later, I started dating Tami. It was clear from the very beginning that she was my soul mate and where I belonged. Regardless of how confident I was on the path I was about to take, it wasn’t going to be easy. Over the next few years, Tami and I handled all of the things that life threw at us, and somehow, we were able to have a lot of fun doing it.


Going into 2014, I was confident that my personal life was headed in the right direction, but I was still struggling with my career. I was working a lot of hours as a project manager in the construction industry. It was very secure, but damn, it was not fun. I was desperately missing “fun” in my career and I didn’t think I would find it in the role I had at the time. So, I set out to create something fun for myself.


I always enjoyed “graphic design.” I put that in quotes because I am definitely not a graphic designer. I like creating logos for companies that may-or-may not exist. Meaning, I’ll think of a company or product that I think should be in the world and I will create a logo for it. Most of the time, I don’t do anything with it after that, but my wife and I may have an ongoing "conversation" about the number of GoDaddy domains I currently own and what I plan on doing with all of them. I started playing with the idea of creating an offroad tour guide company. By this time, I had traveled the Mojave Trail multiple times and each time, the people that went with me expressed their gratitude for the fact that I did all the hard work of planning the event. Apparently, they didn’t mind all of the U-turns...I don’t know what’s wrong with YOU people! I felt like there was a place for a company that would completely plan-out trips, lead the trail runs, and provide the support necessary to create a stress free experience for the participants. It appears I wasn’t the only one with the idea since there are several of those types of businesses around today. I was trying to figure out what to name the business and started playing with the initials T & C. Not because I loved the surf company from Hawaii, but because it stood for Tami and Cody. OK. Stop it. I can hear your eyes roll from here. That’s where the name came from. The company was going to provide “chase” services on the “trail.” So, somewhere in mid-2014, the Trailchasers name was born and I secured the trailchasers.net domain in December of 2014.



By then, I was fully engulfed in the world of podcasts. I listened to podcasts all day, every day. At the time, I was one of the few people I knew that really looked to podcasts as their primary source of information and entertainment. The more I listened to shows, the more I got the itch to start a show of my own. Surprisingly, I had no intention of starting a show about offroading. I was seriously looking at creating a technology show, focused on hardware reviews and open source operating systems. While I was looking into what it would take to start a show, the team over at The Jeep Talk Show (called XJ Talk at the time) was looking for people to contribute some content. They specifically asked for someone that had experience with the Jeep Grand Cherokee and I was happily wheeling one then. I saw this as an opportunity to test the waters. I bought a cheap microphone, downloaded a free audio editing software, wrote out a script, and started creating “The Grand Adventure” segment for the Jeep Talk Show, all about my Grand Cherokee. I look back at those 14 episodes fondly, but I remember how many times I would record and re-record the segment because I didn’t like the way it sounded. I have not listened to those in a long time, and I am afraid to go back to them for fear of embarrassment. But, apparently, the segments weren’t that bad because they asked me to start doing some guest-hosting and fill-in spots. By the end of 2015, I had done enough with the Jeep Talk Show to feel confident that I could start my own podcast.


While planning out what my technology focused show was going to be, I came to the realization that I already spent way too much time in front of a computer. Between work and my hobbies, I always had some form of tech in front of my face and starting a tech focused show would only make that worse. To add to that, Presley had just been born. A tech show wasn’t something I thought I could share with Tami and Presley, it would likely take my focus away from them. If I was going to build something, it had to be something that would get me away from the computer and that I could share with the girls. Since I already had the Trailchasers name and I had been creating content in the offroad space, I shifted my podcast aspirations to that.



In February of 2016, I released the first episode of The Trailchasers Podcast. The show format was a one-on-one interview, and I focused on people I was connected to on social media that I wanted to learn more about. I really enjoyed those conversations and it was a crash course in how to produce a show. All of the back end logistics, planning, editing, and requirements to get content from my brain to the interwebs. It also made me realize that I had a lot to learn about interviewing people. I realized that firing off a list of questions at a guest in rapid succession was not a good interview technique, so I apologize to those early guests for my lack of skills, but we got through it.



I released 24 episodes from February of 2016 to February of 2017, and then I stopped. Between personal challenges (Achilles surgery, a 1 year old daughter, and work travel) and the fact that I wasn’t happy with the format of the show, I could not get motivated to put out more content. I wanted to keep doing something, but I wasn’t sure what. In fact, I revisited the idea of a tech show. I secured a web domain, started designing a website, and was building out a show structure to overcome the things I didn’t like about the first version of the Trailchasers Podcast. But, on our annual guys trip to Glamis in February of 2018, I had a long conversation with Matt about wanting to continue creating content and we touched on the idea of him being part of it. I abandoned the tech show idea and spent the next few months convincing Matt to join me. On July 5th, 2018, we released episode 25 of the Trailchasers Podcast. It was the beginning of what would become the show we make today.


What is interesting about that time for me, was that I started down a path that was more than content creation or a creative outlet and I didn’t fully realize it at the time. I had reached a point in my life where I didn’t have a community around me in the way that I needed it. I had family and friends, but the group of people that I used to go wheeling and camping with had shrunk. Partially by my choices, and partially by thiers. I found myself wanting to go out and wheel or explore, but I was limited to the number of people I had to share it with. And as you all know, offroading is a team sport. Yes, you can go out on your own, but the best trips happen when you share them with friends. There is nothing better than campfire stories and I can only listen to my own stories so many times before someone is going to “take me to a place where I won’t hurt myself.”


Matt was the beginning of rebuilding that community of offroaders. He was already family and my best friend, but getting him hooked on the drug that is offroading was the final step in his ultimate demise...I mean, getting the show back on track. Two months later, we met Jose at a planned Trailchasers run in Big Bear. He didn’t know it then, but it was the beginning of his demise as well. I’m not sure what it was about Jose, his quick wit, his boyish good looks, or the fact that he followed us home, but something clicked with him and he quickly became the third member of the show. My brother, Casey, was always there in the background, but the logistics of him living in Big Bear made his participation in the show more difficult. We are working through that now and he will become a much larger part of the Trailchasers Podcast as we go forward.


The part I didn’t really know I was building, and didn’t recognize that I needed, was the community around the brand. I never imagined that The Trailchasers Podcast would be listened to by the number of people that it is. I never imagined that those people would want to hang out with us. I never imagined that, after hanging out with those people, they would become genuine friends. And I never imagined that all of those friends would create an amazing community of like-minded people that are looking for adventure in their life the same way I am. Seriously, if you had told me in 2016 that I would be asked to marry a couple of people that listen to a podcast I produce in 2021...I would have called you nuts. If you told me back then that I would share daily communication with people that I connected with through the show, I would have said it sounded a little “stalkery.” I could not have imagined that Matt, Jose, Casey, and I would have had the opportunity to hang out with amazing people, in amazing places, and create unforgettable memories because of the community we created.


After our six-hour planning session a few weekends ago, including 57 slides and a few spreadsheets, that was the part that resonated most. The community is what is important. The community of people, the friends and family that we have built, the companies, brands, and collaborators that we have been fortunate enough to explore this adventure with, that is what is important. Whatever we do going forward, we need to continue to foster that community, even if it is an opportunity for people in the community to connect with each other when we are not there. Building a brand and putting out content every week is not always easy, but because of the people around us, it is absolutely worth it.


We really got the chance to experience this over the weekend at the Offroad Expo in Ontario. On October 9th and 10th, 2021, we hung out in the Nexen Tire Booth and connected with all kinds of people from the offroad community. We had people visit us and shove their hands inside “Jose’s Fun Box.” We walked around with microphones and talked to vendors in their booths. We had people come out to see us and hang out for the day. We even had a few people walk by the booth and say, “Hey, thanks for putting out a great show. Keep it up.” Each time, I was a little stunned and looked over my shoulder to see if there was some other show sitting behind us. A lot of times, being at those types of events is pretty draining. You are on your feet in the sun for 10 hours each day and you are constantly talking to people. This time, it was a little different. While my broken down, decrepit body was exhausted, the rest of me was energized and invigorated. This weekend really put some more fuel in my tank, and I think in the tanks of everyone that puts their time into making this show. I think it was the shot in the arm we needed to reaffirm what we want to do and refocus our efforts on where we want to go.



So, what does that mean for the future? It means that we are going to keep trying to connect with all of you. It means that, “I had a long week at work and I am tired.” is not a good enough excuse anymore. It means that for the sake of my own sanity, and to ensure that I am building memories with my girls, I need to make more of an effort to get out into the dirt, to explore the world, and to share it with all of you. The guys and I have put together some plans to make that happen and we are going to do our best. We want to do more trail runs, camping, meet-up events, charity events, and general community gatherings. We want to re-launch a branded store where you can get the TC gear you have been asking for. We want to connect with more people, do more interviews, and tell more stories. However those plans manifest, the important thing to know is that without you, The Trailchasers Podcast is really nothing other than a couple of dorks talking to each other on a microphone in a spare bedroom...and that’s kinda sad. Please help us not be sad.


Thank you all so much for being part of this journey, part of the community, and part of our lives. It would not be the same without you.


Sincerely,

Cody


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