Story by Andy Lyons, Editor-in-Chief
For the last eight years, Amber Miller’s wide smile and purple-streaked hair has made her easy to spot at dozens of concerts all over the Kansas City metro. She has been a longtime photographer in the music scene, photographing both local and national acts for outlets such as Central Mo News, ITN, RockRevolt, and as one of the house photographers for Providence Medical Amphitheater.
That has changed a bit in the last year, as she stepped back from music to pursue another passion. She traded her Dodge Charger for a Jeep Wrangler, both painted plumb crazy purple. She then got into taking her Jeep off-roading with different groups and found it to be reinvigorating. The change of pace is just what she needed at the time.
“We all go through seasons in our lives,” Miller told CMN. “I worked hard for the music industry for more than eight years. I had many wonderful opportunities to capture artists and shows. The drive to shoot shows kept me from my family. I am putting them in the front seat now and going after a passion that has us together and not apart.”
Miller is combining those passions with an IndieGoGo campaign to purchase Wheelin’ World Offroad and Camping Park in Eureka Springs, Ark. The park is set on 147 acres and features more than 50 miles of trails as well as a live music venue.
Her goal is to raise $50,000 through the crowdfunder. However, Miller’s total goal is to raise $100,000. The money raised through the campaign would go toward the acquisition of the property, insurance, and property tax. The remaining money would go toward improving the property, including making it more accessible for motorcycles, improving the bath house and pavilion areas, and building a shop to host classes on vehicle maintenance and providing a U-Wrench-It Bay. Any additional funds Miller plans to put toward educational classes, marketing, and operational supplies.
Miller’s passion for her Jeep has led her to want to give back to the communities that have welcomed her over the years, both in music and off-roading. Over the last year, she has had an extremely pleasant experience with off-roading.
“Again, I think this was another decision to slow down,” Miller said. “I didn’t know it at the time. I was very welcomed to the off-road family. Limited judgement and lots of advice was provided. There was so much information that it was difficult to take it all in. A family, it felt like family. I felt welcome.”
That passion picked up when Miller decided to upgrade her Jeep four months after she bought it. The amount of support she got from people within the community caught her off guard. She said she was overwhelmed a bit when she realized the possibilities in front of her as a Jeep owner.
“At 42 I had never worked on vehicles,” she said. “A little soft handed if you will. But this, this was a challenge and it was game on. I took the time to research, ask questions and listen. I bought the Jeep in August, December was the first big upgrade that I did. The front bumper. My friend Brian coached me through removing the stock bumper and installing the new one. He stepped in when I didn’t have the strength, but did most of it myself. I did it! With help. Key thing here is with help. As I have gone through my build I have been in countless garages receiving help from others with experience. It has been their willingness to teach that has gotten Plumb Crazy to the stage she is. Empowering, this journey has been empowering. I wish I had the space to thank each person who has lent their time, experience and wrenches. I have my own wrenches now.”
Miller felt strongly enough about pursuing the purchase of Wheelin’ World for a multitude of reasons. The first is because it is a job that combines the off-road and music communities she has come to love. While the park is structurally sound, it does need improvements to increase the amount of people who visit for both the trails and the music venue. But as life has grown stagnant for Miller, she looks at Wheelin’ World as a new direction.
“The real challenge will be my ability to grow the business,” she said. “As I have achieved all the goals I set for myself professionally I need a new challenge. But in this one I will find a way to give back. There is also the stage. It has been silent for many years and that makes me sad. There is a healthy fear in me that the property will sell to someone who is not going to run it as a park. With the rise of public property being restricted for off-road vehicle use many have turned to private properties such as this one. It is important to me because people need legal places to off-road.”
For Miller, owning Wheelin’ World is another way to help people, something she has been passionate about throughout her life. From providing people a place to stay in her home while they got back on their feet to being a cheerleader to someone who is down, Miller said helping people makes her feel good. Building a shop is another way to help by offering a place for people to work on their rigs.
“I spent most of the winter looking for people with heated garages to do upgrades,” she said. “I also want to teach classes. There may be other people out there who would be new to all of this. I want to help there as well, from upgrades to general maintenance. One fun thing we did was a wrench-a-thon out at 4×4 Land in Topeka. The club was welcomed out and the owner opened his shop to us. I would like to be able to host activities like that for clubs and groups in the area. Having a shop would help facilitate those objectives.”
The IndieGoGo campaign marks another shift for Miller, in that she’s asking for financial assistance for the first time. Taking over Wheelin’ World means more to her than simply owning a business; it’s about supporting those two communities that have given her a lifetime of memories and giving back to them.
“I would not be where I am without the support, encouragement and help from those around me,” she said. “Because of others I have skills and confidence that I didn’t have before.”
For more information, or to donate to the campaign, click the IndieGoGo widget above or visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/off-road-nation-united#/