It’s about pushing beyond boundaries and trying something different. I put myself out there recently and drove a 2024 Can-Am Maverick X3 RS in the Sonoran Desert to help celebrate the 18th-annual International Female Ride Day, held May 4, 2024.


Photo: Bianca Germain

I met several women from all walks of life, including established racer Sara Price, to honor female riders, and to break down barriers and the intimidation factor oftentimes associated with women and powersports. It was a day of dust, resilience, and reflection.



Photo: Bianca Germain

Change is Good
After nearly 20 years of being a commercial interior designer and project manager, I needed something different. A longing for change first became a thought. Then it turned into a desire, and eventually became a necessity. Several years ago, I switched my career from a corporate professional to a life of complete uncertainty: a freelance journalist and PR/marketing consultant.

Change and experiencing the unexpected wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. It was actually quite a good thing. I recognized that learning through failures provided valuable insight and made me stronger. Attending this event made me realize that pushing beyond boundaries can make you uncomfortable but can, in turn, provide you with life experiences that’ll enrich your soul in ways you’d never expect.

As time progressed in my career, different and new things became my happy place. I learned to adjust myself and accept modifications in planned schedules if they were out of my control. I worked through issues and learned how to handle challenges if they presented themselves, becoming comfortable with an abnormal lifestyle. It’s yielded rewards in many unexpected ways.



Photo: Mercedes Lilienthal

Progression is Pivotal
Sometimes it’s taking that leap of faith; it’s putting yourself out there to garner a different degree of success and inner fulfillment. I’ve competed in a wide range of off-road competitions and road rallies with 4x4s and all-wheel-drive vehicles, as a driver and as a navigator. However, I’ve spent little time with anything powersports related—until now.

You never know what successes you’ll have unless you try something different. My own 4x4, a 1991 right-hand-drive turbo diesel Mitsubishi Pajero, competed in the 2020 Alcan 5000 Rally as a tribute vehicle to the late legendary off-road racer Rod Hall, who ran the same rally in a similar vehicle in 1986, a Dodge Raider.

Along with my husband, Andy Lilienthal, our little customized two-door stared into the Arctic abyss with steadfast assuredness and trotted its way successfully to the Arctic Ocean and beyond to the finish line, including 146 miles of ice roads and surviving blizzards with temps that plummeted to -43 degrees Fahrenheit, without issue.

We completed the grueling endurance rally, logging 5,120 miles of treacherous roads in just 10 days. With that accomplishment under my belt, anything was possible.



Photo: Mercedes Lilienthal

Can-Am’s Invitation
When the invitation came to drive a Can-Am side-by-side in the Sonoran Desert, I was excited. I’m used to hopping into new-to-me vehicles and piloting them off the beaten path, as that’s what I’ve done as an automotive journalist for many years.


Racer Sara Price (left) and Can-Am contest winner Karina Mojica-Cardenas (right)

Photo: Mercedes Lilienthal

However, my experience with powersports has been limited. I drove an ATV once, and piloted watercraft and snowmobiles a few times in the 1990s. But finding the inner bit that motivates and drives determination can spawn a new revolution of fulfillment.

I accepted the Can-Am invitation, landed in Phoenix, and was whisked away to Cave Creek’s Extreme Arizona to hop into the driver’s seat.



Photo: Bianca Germain

The Sonoran Desert Region: Arizona Upland
“I’ve been a part of the off-road world my whole life, beginning with my family at a young age, riding and racing dirt bikes since I was 8 years old,” Katie Weiss said, one of two female employees of Extreme Arizona. “I found Extreme Arizona as a fellow rider and began working here in October of 2021. It has brought me so many amazing experiences and taught me so much including marketing, sales, UTVs, ATVs, trail etiquette, and the importance of safety.”

Extreme Arizona is situated on the edge of Tonto National Forest, the perfect place to get the down-low on the area, suit up, and have a driver’s meeting to learn safety tips on the Can-Am Maverick X3 RS side-by-sides.


An all-female film crew and photographer was on hand to document the day as Extreme Arizona’s Katie Weiss doles out safety instructions.

Photo: Mercedes Lilienthal

I was one of several women on this event, only one of two media. An all-women’s film crew and photographer was chartered to capture the event’s happenings, including covering Karina Mojica-Cardenas, Can-Am’s contest winner, who beat out approximately 500 other females to attend this event with her friend, Blanca Castro, to meet Sara Price and drive 2024 Can-Am Maverick X3 RSs for International Female Ride Day.


Caroline Pilon, Lead, Global brand creative strategy for Can-Am Off-Road, chats with Sara Price (left) and contest winner Karina Mojica-Cardenas (middle).

Photo: Mercedes Lilienthal

Located in the Arizona Upland region of the Sonoran Desert, the Tonto National Forest showcases hundreds of miles of trails for off-highway vehicles (OHVs) like motorcycles, ATVs, and side-by-sides, or four-wheel drive (4WD) rigs. Tonto National Forest also has multiple bodies of water to visit including Bartlett Lake, Needle Rock Park, Horseshoe Dam, among others.


Caroline Verheul is Can-Am Off-Road’s social media specialist as well as my riding partner for the day.

Photo: Mercedes Lilienthal

A diverse array of plants populate the rugged desert landscape, including huge saguaro cacti, bushy cholla cacti, and other low-lying shrubbery. We rode about 45 miles on a trail that recently opened after 15 years of closure. It was a part of the St. Clair OHV system, located off Bartlett Lake Road.


The Can-Am Maverick X3 RS
Tight turns, sweeping vistas, and undulating terrain kept us on our toes. Each Can-Am Maverick X3 RS was equipped with BFGoodrich MK3 mud-terrain tires, keeping drivers planted, even when pushed. My 2024 Can-Am Maverick X3 RS was a blast to drive.

It was nimble, its steering was evenly sorted, and its suspension soaked up washed-out trail sections and rocky tracks with ease. No matter what terrain type I encountered, the Maverick X3 RS quickly adjusted to keep me running smoothly.

Any woman can easily drive a Can-Am Maverick X3 RS, it’s similar to piloting an automobile, but more agile.


“I’m reflecting on the choices that led me to this moment. I’m proud of my successes, learn from my failures, and grow stronger as I push my limits.”

Photo: Bianca Germain

The Can-Am Maverick X3 RS was a fun way to spend the day in nature. I’d never seen such tall saguaro cacti so closely; to immerse myself in the northeastern section of the Sonoran Desert was incredibly beautiful.

Yellow flowers continued to dot the landscape as the women became more confident behind the wheel, many having little experience with powersports.


Mariana Briones Basso (left), stands proud as I congratulated her on a defining moment in her life: overcoming her fears to drive a Maverick X3. She loved the experience.

Photo: Bianca Germain

The other media woman, Mariana Briones Basso, the Editor-in-Chief of Newsweek en Español América, had not owned a car since she moved to the U.S. from Mexico over 22 years ago. The places she lived; she had no need for one.

“I used to live in NYC,” Mariana said, “so I only drove when my friends and I rented a car for the weekends. When I moved to Miami it was supposed to be temporary, so I managed biking and Ubering, and by the time the move became more permanent I was used to it and didn’t really think I needed one.”

However, when it came to International Female Ride Day and testing a Can-Am Maverick X3 RS, Mariana overcame her fears and took to the steering wheel. She drove one of them on the road and off-pavement, too. I admired her tenacity to try something new!


Photo: Bianca Germain

“I loved driving the Can-Am! At first, I was really worried of practicing on the highway because I didn’t know how it would respond and I am not very familiar with the [U.S.] transit rules and regulations,” Mariana explained. “So, the first five minutes were really nerve wracking. But I eased into it. It is tough to measure the pressure you need to put on the [accelerator] pedal without making it jump. But after a while it started feeling good, and then great, especially surrounded by the incredible landscape.”

Once she was off-road, she got a little nervous as she wanted to keep the pace of the other side-by-sides. “But I just went with it, tried to follow the road as best as I could without losing speed and I absolutely loved it. I felt really secure, the vehicle responds really well, like it knows what to do and just needs a little direction.”


Photo: Bianca Germain

Driving a Can-Am Maverick X3 RS for International Female Ride Day was an inspiring experience for Mariana. “I was full of good adrenaline, and it makes you feel powerful and strong. I was also surprised I was not scared at all when Candace [Gawrysiak] drove. She made it feel really secure even though she drove so fast. It felt like she was taking calculated risks, which men sometimes don’t know how to do. The power of women is amazing, and it felt really good to be a part of such a wonderful adventure.”

Change can be daunting, but it can also be powerful. We’re proof that pushing beyond your boundaries can change your life for the better.


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