Navigating the All-Women Off-Road Rebelle Rally
“If you do not know where you come from, then you don't know where you are, and if you don't know where you are, then you don't know where you're going. And if you don't know where you're going, you're probably going wrong.” Terry Terry Pratchett, Author of Discworld.
Saying goodbye to my GPS, turn-by-turn directions, and thoughts of self driving cars for a weekend, I accepted an invitation join the Rebelle Rally for a two-day Basic Navigation Class. Yes, the old-fashioned kind with a compass and map, a skill-set I found to be quite humbling -- yet empowering to learn.
What is the Rebelle Rally?
The Rebelle Rally is the first women’s off-road navigation rally raid in the United States, coming together in large part by the efforts of off-road pro Emily Miller, visionary and leader. Teams of two women, (driver/navigator), will spend seven days driving mostly off-road from Lake Tahoe to the sand dunes of Southern California. Best of all, you get to leave your cell phone, computer, GPS, & headaches behind. It’s all about YOU. And your endless abilities.
Surprisingly, professional driving skills are not required or to bring a race vehicle. Vehicles are limited to 4x4s, 4WD pickup trucks, SUVs, or crossovers. And if you don't want to risk your own vehicle, you can rent one. This is not a race for speed, but a unique and demanding event based on the elements of headings, hidden checkpoints, time, and distance using maps, compass, and a roadbook. Think VERY challenging all-girl team scavenger hunt.
More About Emily Miller, Rebelle Rally, Visionary Leader
Trained by off-road racing legend, Rod Hall, Miller debuted as a team driver at the 2006 Baja 1000. She has multiple podium finishes and wins as both driver and navigator. In 2009, she was the only US team to compete in the Rallye Aicha des Gazelle in Morocco. In 2011, she & teammate Armelle Medard took second place out of more than 130 teams in a completely stock vehicle. Emily continues to help inspire and train women who wish to compete, offering multiple driving and navigation programs annually.
Who are the Rebelles?
They are amateur and professional off-road women drivers, navigators, adventure seekers, and supportive friends all coming together to run the Rebelle Rally. The youngest Rebelle is 19 and the oldest is 64 with a variety of professional pursuits; software geeks, marketing professionals, car dealership owners, surfers, journalists, philanthropists, media experts, and even small and large business owners. There are single and married women, single Moms, Moms with grown kids, and Moms with young kids. There are mothers and daughters racing together or in the Rebelle Rally on different teams; and even an expectant Mom, Chrissie Beavis with a baby boy due in August, and YES, she IS bringing the baby.
Chrissie Beavis – Rebelle Rally Instructor
Rally racing veteran Chrissie Beavis teamed up for the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles 2015 race, and ended up winning their division. She is an expert navigator.
Rebelle Basic Navigation Class
We were hosted at the Raspy Roost, a 30-acre off-road “Alice in Wonderland” like desert oasis, created and privately owned by Gary and Jeanette Rugar, longtime off-road enthusiasts. The property is near Ocotillo Wells, California, in an unincorporated community in San Diego County, California, three miles west of the Imperial County line on State Route 78 at an elevation of 163 feet – or for those who want to find it precisely, it is located at 33.081076° N, 116.105470° W. (I did learn something!!)
Rebelle Basic Navigation Class Day 1
Our instructors, Emily Miller and Chrissie Beavis, captivated us and challenged us with their vast knowledge of land navigation during the intense two-day training course. It was like drinking out of a fire hose. We learned how to use basic navigation equipment – maps, compass, ruler, plotter, calculator (required as accurate math, geometry, and algebra calculations are needed) – and learned and practiced basic and some advanced navigation skills. We learned to read maps, determine headings, and execute short-distance route planning, and how to plot map coordinates to locate specific checkpoints on a map.
At the end of day, we all had a good laugh when our one guy class participant, who ended up giving us some great tips as well. Jimmy Lewis commented, “The conversation is waaaay different with so many women around, this is a brand-new experience for me”.
Off-Road Motorcycle Racing Career Highlights: Dakar Podium Finisher and double class winner, 4X International Six Day Enduro Gold Medalist, ISDE Silver Vase Junior World Champion, Overall Winner Baja 1000, Overall Winner Dubai Rally.
Rebelle Basic Navigation Class Day 2
More classroom training in the morning, then we loaded up and set off to locate the day’s designated checkpoints. My team lucked out with Emily Miller as driver for this “find the checkpoint precise location” challenge. Her role was to DRIVE and only ask questions to help us find our own answers. Our team included Karen Hoehn (we were driving her Land Rover LR4), Dana Saxten, and Jenn Richmond. Karen and Dana are teammates for the Rebelle Rally and have much experience with off-road navigation. Jenn and I were, I believe, both newbies.
Note: During the actual rally, checkpoints have a predetermined Target Zone with a circumference, radius, and diameter size that you must be within before you can send an electronic signal to the scoring system to accumulate points. The Rebelle Rally is points-based, not speed-based for scoring.
Now Imagine this scenario: We all spent the early morning with the instructors each individually studying maps, doing calculations, plotting headings, distance, time, and understanding the topography and coordinates of our chosen route before we left. One map, one route, one plan per person. The point was to find out if you could get there on your own. We were told to individually say stop to our driver when we wanted to check our individual routes and say stop when we thought we had reached the precise location of the checkpoint.
Checkpoint 1: I am now in a Land Rover with five women I hardly know, attempting a skill I just learned and never practiced in a real-life scenario. I am nervous even though I checked and rechecked my calculations at least five times before we left.
One thing I know about myself: I am a perfectionist, tend to want to be teacher's pet, get straight A's, you know the type, an irritatingly competitive goodie two-shoes. When I start to feel afraid of being exposed as a normal human being by trying something new, risking a B-score, I say to myself, “GET over yourself, calm down and JUST try to learn something new.”
We each have a map board with all our navigation tools on our laps, which is kind of crowded but doable. The routine requires frequently asking our driver how many kilometers have we traveled so far on our route? Using our tools as we travel, we continue to measure, calculate distance, heading, and look outside to match the topography we see to our precise location on the map. We are moving slowly for this exercise, about 15 to 20 miles an hour.
I start overhearing that the other navigators have different heading numbers than mine. I begin to question my calculations. I was logically very sure before we left mine were correct, but now that I know mine are different, so I start to stress over that B-score. I want to speak up and stop sooner for the checkpoint, but I keep quiet. I am afraid to speak up and be WRONG, EMBARASSED, IN PUBLIC!!!
So I just go along and follow along rather than stick to my own plan. When we finally stopped at the final destination. I wandered around all over the site checking their calculations against mine feeling baffled at myself for vacillating. My original calculations were precisely correct, still a B-score, for wimping out.
Note: In real practice on a longer stretch, a few kilometers off can lead you far off the correct heading if you are not stopping along the way to verify and make needed corrections.
Lesson Learned: Do not have more than one navigator in the car saying different coordinates and routes out loud, it will undermine your confidence, you need to trust yourself as navigator. Driver drives and navigator navigates. If you make a mistake learn from it, correct it. Don't buy into negative self talk, be logical. Navigation is LOGIC, and uses math and logic; you can't feel your way to find checkpoints or use gut instinct. Be firm and stick to your plan if you are very certain it is correct and can prove it with the math, not the map (we were cautioned that maps can be wrong, they called it Map Magic).
Checkpoint 2: This time we immediately started off working more as a team, sure that first leg was an eye-opener for us all. We were openly comparing calculations this time, asking for feedback. We came to more agreement on calculations, headings, and the route, and really began to collaborate to ensure we were ALL precisely correct. We were becoming one with navigation! Emily only offered up questions to help us look closer at what we calculated to be sure, VERY sure – precisely sure. We did all precisely find the checkpoint target zone, even rechecking to make sure again. Shared success! Confidence building.
Lesson Learned: Teamwork and collaboration works to solve problems -- even with five women in a vehicle out in the middle of the desert in the heat -- when you check your ego and negative self-talk at the door, focus, listen carefully, ask the right questions, and communicate respectfully.
Bonus Checkpoint 3: This was the most difficult checkpoint of the day, literally located in the middle of the desert in no-wheres-ville. There were several obstacles, with no direct route possible on a straight-line heading. We worked beautifully together on this route, every kilometer of the way. The agreement of the route was very well discussed (terrain vs. several routes possible), plotted, and re-checked several times, and agreed upon by all.
Emily did some rather great slow-motion off-road driving over soft, silty sand and we had to cross a ravine with a rather gnarly and steep embankment on both sides. Once across, we stopped re-checked, took a final heading and drove to a stop right on top of the checkpoint target zone. In a mere few hours together we had transformed and were on the way to becoming Rebelles. High fives all around!
Lesson Learned: Actually, I had an epiphany on the drive back to Raspy Roost base camp. Are these not all parts of the skill-set I need to know to navigate well in life? Knowing precisely where I am, knowing exactly where I want to go, the ability to plot a course and get there, even if I need to navigate around some obstacles? Knowing how to find my way back when I make a mistake and get lost? Using logic more and emotions less to make better decisions based on fact rather than feeling. Managing my thoughts, emotions, staying focused, ability to work well with others in teams in challenging circumstances, keeping my ego and negative self-talk in check while maintaining a sense of humor.
Parting Advice From Emily Miller to Rebelles
“Teams that work best together have common goals, the ability to quickly adapt, understand the strengths and weakness of your team members, support each other, collaborate, use positive communication skills, focus, keep a sense of humor, and have NO problem with camping in the rough, wearing the same clothes two to three days in a row. Finally, although this is not a glamor sport, media will be with us covering the race. Look your best.” (Laughter)
“To support my driver, best –friend, and teammate to achieve one of her adventure goals, I don’t even like to camp and I am doing it!”
“To show women that Range Rovers are not just for grocery shopping and picking up the kids from school.”
“To try something different, and skinny dip on the course and not get caught!”
“To have a personal growth experience.”
“To enjoy the beauty of the wilderness.”
“To improve my off-road driving skills.”
“To purely take on the challenge.”
“To improve my navigation skills.”
“To take a break from it all.”
For more information about the Rebelle Rally
Link to Rebelle Rally Navigation Class Facebook Photo Album
Snippets about Rebelles
At 19 years of age, Bailey just became the first female driver to ever finish King of The Hammers in the top five, widely known as the toughest one-day off-road race on Earth. Class 4400 Off-road Unlimited Vehicle Driver (Only woman in her class!)
Founder of “Off-Road Like A Girl” apparel. Empowering women in motor sports and putting an end to discrimination, with 25% of their profits donated to women's organizations. Full-time Mama, part-time waitress @101dinerlife. CSUSM Communications BA (class of 2014). Dirt-biking, off-roading, surfing, snowboarding, and anything else that gets her blood pumping!
Shelby Stanger is a surfing instructor, journalist, writer, and marketing consultant who covers adventure, action sports, business, travel and philanthropy.
Marketing professional in the automotive aftermarket and enthusiastic off-road recreational explorer.
Zany and fun married Mother of two beautiful young children. Off-Road Jeep enthusiast.
While Thuy (pronounced Twee), has always loved the great outdoors, she recently discovered Jeeping and instantly fell in love.
Darlene is a software developer with 32 years of experience. As someone who works from home and whose job involves only virtual objects, she is looking forward to the Rebelle as a challenge not only in the physical world, but in the wilderness!
Restaurateur and philanthropist and huge supporter of Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles racing alumni daughter Susie Saxten, who will be participating in the Rebelle.
Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles racing alumni along with her two daughters Jo Hannah & Susana, who will also be competing in the Rebelle. The Hoehn family has been in the car business since 1928. Hoehn Motors has nine locations in San Diego County. Hoehn Mercedes-Benz, Acura, Audi, Buick/Cadillac/GMC, Jaguar/Land Rover and Honda and Hoehn Porsche.
Jen Horsey has been working and competing in motorsports since 2003, when she took on a magazine assignment that led her to discover a latent passion for racing. She is also a communications professional with more than a decade of media experience as a writer, broadcaster, and TV producer.