By Jon Maib
Tortuga Rapido, the speedy tortoise, is a complete oxymoron, but that's the name that Gene Zink gave to his 2005 Jeep Wrangler. Back in his mountain biking days, a buddy of his had wanted to name their group that, so naturally, when it was time to name his TJ, he knew exactly what he wanted it to be. Gene's TJ is not an over the top build, in fact, it is a modestly upgraded Jeep and there is nothing extraordinary about it, well, except its owner!

Gene is a cancer survivor who has never let that disease hold him back. In fact, Gene has become a huge influence in his local Jeep community. You can be sure to find Gene at many of the local Jeep meets (especially if there is food), he is always willing to help someone work on their rig and has even at times offered his own garage as a work area and he will be the first to raise his hand to lead a group on trails, even if he has never done it before. Following Gene does come with a lot of U-turns as he tries to figures out what way to go on a trail or if he and his Jeep can make an obstacle as well as those who have been brave enough to follow him.

Brave enough to follow him? Tortuga Rapido is sitting on a mild 3" Old Man Emu lift with Fox Shocks and running stock JK 255/75 Mud Terrains with open diffs, but Gene can get that nimble little Jeep through a lot of obstacles, often running with Jeeps sporting 37" tires and usually well-built and locked. This makes Gene work hard to navigate the toughest obstacles and has helped him become a well-seasoned wheeler. You won't find Gene and Tortuga doing the stuff that fully built rigs with 40's are, but I can guarantee that Gene probably has more skill than most because he has to rely on his driving to get through stuff that a well-built Jeep could just walk through. If you spend any time with Gene, you will learn that he is quite happy with his Jeep and it is perfectly setup for daily driving as well as off-roading and I couldn't agree more.

Gene often schedules 'Newbie runs' for those who have never been off-road before or who are still new to the sport with stock rigs. I had the opportunity to join him on one of his runs playing tail gunner. We had a blast on some of the easier trails and as Gene would get to sections where he knew he and his Jeep could make it, but was unsure if his group would be comfortable, he would pick alternate routes to get everyone through and ensure they had a great time. I've heard it said from those that go with Gene, that they can't think of anyone better to show them the ropes. "His knowledge is deep, his enthusiasm contagious and his patience with my endless newbie questions commendable" – Craig Young.

Guys like Gene are hard to find as he is genuine, fun, and loves being off-road. He still is battling the effects of cancer and radiation today but continues to fight, so please keep my buddy Gene in your prayers, but I can guarantee that he won't let any of it stop him and he will be back on the trail soon. If you're on the trail and see Tortuga Rapido on the trail, be sure to stop and thank Gene for all his help in the off-road community!

To see all the upgrades Gene has done to Tortuga, check out our Reader's Rig page!