Central Florida Off Road was founded by four friends who share three common interests: family fun, community service and off-road adventure.
Founded in early 2017 at their “clubhouse,” North 30th Sports Pub & Grille in Tampa, CFOR’s four charter members now comprise the group’s board: John Crabb, Robert Dumaine, Jason Sparkman and Dana Tibbets. Two secretaries, Melissa Carter and Shelley Sparkman, help organize events, coordinate with other clubs, and welcome new members, among many other tasks. The club currently counts 35 bannered members (and growing) in and around Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Manatee and Hernando Counties.
CFOR welcomes riders of every experience level and requires participation in events and group trail rides to earn a banner. Activities include flag and wreath placement on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, volunteering and participating in such events as Jeepin’ With Judd, Krawl’n for the Fallen, Jeepin’ 4 Justice and Jeeps vs. Harleys. Members joined last year’s Hurricane Harvey relief effort and recently registered a two-mile section of Highway 301 as part of Florida’s Adopt-A-Highway program.
Jeepin’ Central Florida caught up with John Crabb to learn more about the genesis of CFOR and the group’s activities and goals.
John, how long have you been off-roading?
Since the early days with my high school buddies. I grew up in Seffner, a little suburb between Tampa and Plant City, and we started off-roading at Lakeland Mudhole in 1995. Back then, it was mostly mud trucks, just any kind of four-wheeler. I only recently got into Jeeps, about three or four years ago.
What got you into Jeeps?
I just started seeing more and more around and I thought maybe that was the way to go. And I haven’t looked back since. Buying that Jeep was the best decision I ever made.
What are you working with?
It’s a 2006 Wrangler TJ. It had been a little customized when I bought it, but it looked nothing like it does today.
It’s amazing how quickly a new hobby can become a lifestyle.
It definitely is a lifestyle. When they say “Jeep life,” that’s what it is.
How long has Central Florida Off Road been around?
Only about a year and a half. We were originally in a different club, Trail Monkeys, and I was actually the vice president. But we decided to take a different path and do our own thing. They were a great group, very family-oriented, but we wanted to do more trail-riding and off-roading. That’s why I bought a Jeep. But there are no hard feelings.
CFOR started with four members — myself, Robert Dumaine, Jason Sparkman and Dana Tibbets — then grew to five or six, and now we’re up to 35 or 40. All four of the main members have the same role. We don’t have titles. We vote if there’s something we need to vote on.
Sounds like you are growing fast.
We are constantly growing. I think people see us having a great time and doing good things for the community. We have fun and we enjoy being around each other, and that speaks for itself. We are very family-friendly and family-oriented. Kids are always welcome. Jeeping is a great way to bond with your kids. It’s like one big family.
Do you have kids yourself?
I have an 18-year-old son and a 15-year-old son. My oldest joins up with us when he can, but his Jeep’s motor blew. My youngest still rides with me.
A lot of parents would give anything to share an activity like that with their kids.
That’s true. And Jeeps have that “Wow” factor. It’s always something different. The trails are never the same. And it’s not just the Jeepin’ thing. My youngest enjoys going up to the national cemetery to raise the flags and lay the wreaths. He’s into Fortnite and Minecraft, like a lot of kids. But I tell him you have to make time for other activities, especially outdoor activities. It’s part of our family now. I always tell them, if something happens to me, keep the Jeep.
You mentioned community service. What charities do you support?
We don’t have a specific charity picked out for our club yet. We always try to give back and help the community, and that means being involved in as many charities as we can. I think that says something about your group and the character of your group. And we try to get with other Jeep clubs, and that’s the biggest thing: the Jeep community coming together to support a great cause.
What charitable effort have you been most proud of?
Probably being part of the events like Krawl’n for the Fallen and Jeepin 4 Justice, that help the families of fallen police. They do great things in this community.
Where do you ride?
All over. Hard Rock at Ocala is a popular spot. The Jeep Ranch in Sumterville tries to do one event a month. They just had one for prom. Everyone went and bought a bunch of old prom dresses and tuxedo T-shirts. It was pretty cool.
How does a prospective member join your club?
We don’t have any procedure set in stone. We just want everyone to ride along and hang out, just get to know everybody. We want to make sure the club is a good fit for you and you’re a good fit for us. Not everybody has the same interests or goals.
But I get the sense CFOR is a good choice for those who want to do a lot of wheeling.
That’s exactly what we try to do. It’s in our name: “Off Road.” We will spend as much time as we can off-road, not in the parking lots. We have one meet-and-greet a month — or we try to, and if we don’t, it’s not a big deal. Most people get to see us out on the trails. That’s a good way to get members. If you’re on your own, you can ride with us.
JCF mixes it up with Robert Dumaine and Jason Sparkman, two of the four charter members of Central Florida Off Road.
Tell us about your rig.
Dumaine: I own a 2006 Jeep Wrangler LJ.
Sparkman: My Jeep is a 1997 Cherokee with a 6.5-inch lift, 33×12.50×15 tires, front lockers, custom-built bumpers and a Smittybilt 9500 winch.
What’s the best part of the Jeep lifestyle?
Dumaine: The friendly and familiar environment — meeting new people, wheeling with them, and always learning.
Sparkman: The friends that become family.
Why should Central Florida Jeepers join CFOR?
Dumaine: Because we are a family-friendly group that loves to wheel, have fun, get to know new people, and give back to the community.
Sparkman: You can’t find a better group of people to be around. CFOR is a new type of club. We don’t judge you by your vehicle or the banner across your windshield. If you want to hang out and wheel your rig, come on out and have some fun!