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An Insider’s Look at the Rebelle Rally

What if you wanted to push yourself as a woman, no matter as a mother, daughter, friend, wife or even a professional? What if you wanted to excel at a new passion or push yourself outside your comfort zone, into the unknown of a male-dominated field? Well, I just did that. I competed in a 10-day, 1,600-mile challenging off-road competition called Rebelle Rally, as the driver of Team Free Range Dames. It’s an event that tests your mind, your body and your spirit. It’s an intense adventure, but it’s only for women. This experience not only changed me, it made me more confident, sure-footed and eager to conquer future challenges.

Team Free Range Dames at the Rebelle Rally finish line

What Is the Rebelle Rally?

The Rebelle Rally is a unique women’s-only traditional navigational rally raid that’s held every year in October. With its third competition just under its belt, this off-road event typically starts north of Lake Tahoe and stretches to the Mexican border.

The 2018 Rebelle Rally saw sand, dirt, rock, mud, water and silty terrain

While the 1,600-mile course is top secret, each day shares wondrous surroundings, challenging terrain and limitless chances to test stamina.

Team Free Range Dames tackling remote countryside

The Rebelle Rally isn’t a race for speed, but it’s a vehicular-based event that uses traditional navigation (think map and compass) and driving intellect to find hidden checkpoints across the deserts of Nevada and California, including the legendary Glamis sand dunes.

Elise Bent and other Rebelles plotting checkpoints on topo maps

Each team (a two-woman duo along with their rally rig) is tasked to find each checkpoint in the right order, while using only maps, a compass and a road book. The team with the most points after finding checkpoints across the 10-day competition wins. You can enter either a street legal 4x4 or crossover vehicle. In addition to winners for each class, there are quite a few other awards to be given out, too: the bone stock award, rookie award, international cup or team spirit award.

Rebelle Rally start line

The kicker of the Rebelle Rally is that electronic navigational technology isn’t allowed. Nope, nada. Participants return to a time where smart phones didn’t rule the world and Google Maps couldn’t show you around. GPS systems or tablets weren’t available either. Instead, you determine daily routes from topographic (topo) maps and GPS coordinates that are given out at each day’s start.

Early morning map plotting sessions

The navigator plots checkpoints on the topo map, whereas the driver attends to their team’s personal base camp and vehicle. Communication between team members is very important, especially when deciphering where you are when you’re lost. If you’re not good in the communications or managing stress level department, this rally could either make you or break you.

Two different Rebelle teams figuring it out together

There is no real prerequisite for the Rebelle Rally, other than to be a woman and have a 4x4 or AWD crossover to rally with. Competitors also need money to pay for entry fees, equipment and all the other incidentals along the way. What is very helpful, though, is to pack along a ton of determination, wit, stamina and inner-forgiveness. Women can be their own worst critics, so be sure to check that at the door when you arrive. You’ll have awesome experiences worth texting home about (but you’ll have to wait until after the rally ends to do that). You may also have devastatingly hard moments to deal with, too.

Rebelles helping Team 172 Les Blondes du Desert

The Rebelle Rally Experience

“The rally is huge. By that I mean...the scope of the undertaking is so vast in terms of the preparation, the length of the event and all the things you are doing and keeping track of throughout it. But, you feel safe and cared for the whole time. You can tell every minute how much thought and preparation went into it before you even show up,” says Amy Hopkins, a three-time returning Rebelle who rallied as part of Team Sass-quatch this year. The first two years Amy participated as a navigator, but this year, as a driver.

Kendra Miller and Amy Hopkins of Team Sass-quatch

Amy further states, “If you’re someone who has a really small comfort zone, [Rebelle Rally] is uncomfortable. You are outside for eight straight days, working hard, thinking hard, stressing out and being overwhelmed by the grandeur and beauty of the landscape and the bond you form with your teammate. It’s not possible to describe the depth of connection you make with the other Rebelles. You share this intense, amazing and HARD experience together. You’ll be connected with new friends like never before.”

Rebelles discussing their next navigational move

It Changes You

I completely agree with Amy. The Rebelle Rally pushes you in many ways, even ways you didn’t expect. From time management to stress levels, body hydration to driving prowess, the Rebelle Rally challenges you. It’s a great lesson in elevating others, and in turn, it helps you elevate yourself. You’ll learn from your mistakes and celebrate your victories.

Team Free Range Dames' Toyota Tacoma and Jeep at Rebelle Rally start line

Even though you compete in teams of two, participants help each other when times are tough. I witnessed competitors dig each other out when stuck for the umpteenth time or stop and give each other hugs when it was apparent they were losing their cool. Smiles and laughter filled base camp even if everyone was weary. Women were happy to loan their tools or teach other competitors their tricks. A Rebelle even ran over to me to give me pre-wrap gauze when she saw my helmet blistered my forehead. Rebelles not only help each other, they learn from each other and lift each other up.

Team Free Range Dames' checking out a potential mechanical issue with their Toyota TRD Tacoma

The Rebelle Rally is a community of women who are there to learn about themselves, learn from others and find success along the way. I’ve witnessed countless acts of kindness. Winning at the Rebelle Rally means something different for every competitor: finishing first in your class any given day, successfully tackling a crazy tall sand dune, navigating your way to a difficult checkpoint, finishing the entire rally (no matter where your standings were) or even getting to the start line is impressive. This rally is all about empowerment and bettering yourself as a woman, a competitor and a person.

Team Free Range Dames and team Locos Mocos

This competition brings together women from all over the world and all walks of life. From mothers and marketing professionals to teachers and therapists, firefighters and freelancers to baristas and bus drivers, you meet the most interesting people. I’ve met lifelong friends during this journey.

The Fast and the Luxurious review maps by their G500 4X4 Squared Mercedes

Through unexpected happenstance or new-found friendly rivalry, the coolest women seem to partake in the Rebelle Rally. Competitors push themselves to reach their personal goals. No matter if it’s honing communication skills, leaning to compromise more efficiently or becoming a better off-road driver or navigator, this was an experience I’ll cherish for a long time to come.

Photos courtesy of Nicole Dreon, Richard Giordano, Tim Calver and Paolo Baraldi

Rebelles having a quick break for a photo in the Rebelle Rally base camp

Want to know what it takes to compete in the Rebelle Rally? Learn traditional navigation

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