CLIFFSIDE PARK, N.J. — The connection that bonds Jeep drivers isn’t one that Cliffside Park’s Vinny Marriner could quite explain.
He likened it to that of motorcyclists: they’re a bit friendlier and more courteous to each other on the roads.
But Marriner wanted to get to know area Jeep drivers outside of their cars, which is why he launched Bergen County Trail Raiders out of The Fireplace parking lot in Paramus in June.
“It’s amazing what we can do just because we drive a jeep,” said Marriner, a special education teacher in Ridgefield. “It’s like a community vehicle.”
The BCTR president had 15 jeeps pull into the lot the evening of his first meeting.
The club — which meets every other Monday — has grown to more than two dozen members including Vice President Mike Kouyoumdjian, Treasurer Mike Liston and Secretary Eric Vigna.
Marriner, a single father, first felt the "jeep connection" when another driver pulled over to check up on him after he’d been tagged by a another vehicle on the Garden State Parkway.
Marriner’s red Wrangler was fine — the other car was totaled.
Aside from feeling well-protected on the roadways, Marriner is grateful for the community that his Jeep has brought him.
“We’re professionals,” he said. "Welders, cops and contractors.”
Marriner envisioned his group being family friendly so that parents wouldn’t have to worry about finding a babysitter for off-roading trips.
He wanted the organization to be more than “just a Jeep club.” Marriner wanted to make an impact.
BCTR will be working with a homeless shelter in the fall and organizing a Toys for Tots drive to help the U.S. Marine Corps.
“We’re just out there to do good,” Marriner said. “I hope people get a sense of family and have a lot of fun.”