Rebelle Rally 2017 Recap

For Meli’s Hand Written Version: Meli’sRebelleRecap

Prologue – 10/11/17

Today is the day..

We have trained hard to get here and I can hardly believe it actually, finally here.

Early morning meet up at Hoehn JLR means I have to leave extra early to park my daily driver, Pepper Ann, at Honda and then walk to JLR.

Everyone arrives and several folks came to see us off!

Garrett, Jaimy’s beau, Rick Blakemore, Javier, Tracey Dixon (who was our team mom last year) and Charlie, our favorite on staff media guy.

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Leaving for Rebelle in the Morning

We all climbed in our vehicles and headed out to our first checkpoint – to pick my navigator Sabrina, in Los Angeles!

We couldn’t do adventures like this without support from our friends and family. They listen to stories leading up to and also after any event, they watch children and pets while we are away, they cover our work load so we are worry free…

Thank you to everyone who helped us get here to the edge of our great adventure!

After a long, beautiful drive north, we arrived up near Squaw Valley Ski Resort to have a team Hoehn Adventures dinner at Sunnyside Resort, courtesy of Dana and Susie Saxten. Dinner and desert were delicious – our friends, photographer Tim Calver and Team 140, Emme Hall and Rebecca Donaghe joined us there as well.

We left dinner to check in and got a surprise upgrade to our room! A 2 bedroom suite including a kitchen and fireplace. When we woke the next morning we would have a busy day at Tech Inspection…

Time for bed…

Only this, and one more night’s sleep in a real bed before tents and air mattresses…

See you tomorrow!

10/12/17

Tech inspection! This is the time when all of the teams, along with their vehicles, go through inspections. We have to pass all points or we will be unable to compete. It was most fun to see all of the friends we made last year and to meet the new teams!

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Goldie Gets Rally Credentials

Our 4 Hoehn teams passed tech with flying colors, luckily! After the indoor items of plotting, fuel, safety, sat phones and registration, we moved to outdoors.

Every team had a set time to move through tech outdoors, where the focus is our third teammate, in our case, Goldie!

Our time was 3pm and we were the last group of the day. While it did last longer than expected, we got our competitor stickers, provided all of our required items such as insurance, spare tire, spill kit, safety equipment, fire extinguisher, etc…

Last part of tech was our team photo. Nicole Dreon took the photos and ours is perfect!

Meli & Sabrina Tech Inspection
Sabrina & Meli @ Tech Inspection Photo: Nicole Dreon

Following tech was a Rebelle meet & greet! We all gathered in a nearby bar for drinks, appetizers, and plenty of friendly conversation!

Team SugarHigh handed out incredible macaroons that Michelle had made… delicious. We may or may not have been given some extra cookies… 🙂 I’ll never tell!

Day Zero – 10/13/17

We had an early departure time and a roadbook to follow to get to the location of our rally school; Jacobs Family Berry Farm, in Gardnerville, Nevada.

Rally school was held inside a historic barn where Emily took us through the outline of what we could expect, safety items, layout of basecamps, etc, before a Q & A. It was so cold that everyone was bundled up and Emily had to practically shout above the roar of a powerful heater!

We left rally school in a predetermined order that we drew the day before. Sabs and I were 18, right in the middle of the pack. As we followed a road book and a map, we made our way to four checkpoints to get a good feel for competition days which started the next morning. We also had a water crossing which my and Goldie’s very first!

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Once we could see basecamp, all I felt was hunger! 🙂 We arrived in, pulled our start number for Day 1 (24) and sealed our prohibited items: phones, walkie talkie, iPad, Garmin, and my prize watch from last year which I later learned I could’ve kept with me, as it is not GPS enabled. Oh well! Next time…

Next up, dinner! It was great to see Drew Deckman and his team again. I was so thrilled that he had made polenta… Last year I couldn’t get enough of it… This year, he reheated some fro my breakfast! Bacon & polenta breakfast of champions.:)

Early to bed, because early to rise!!! and I mean early!

Day 1 – 10/14/17

Hightlights:

  • Getting back into the groove
  • Early lead
  • Fun driving
  • Nervous energy
  • Deer sighting

Day 1

Morning temps were somewhere near 23°… Please keep in mind that we’re camping tents. Brrr!

We started out with a Rebelle Enduro Challenge (REC) out of the gate; this means we are on a set route, following a road book while maintaining a certain speed for a set length of time. It may sound easy, but it requires a lot of math, a lot of patience and so much focus for us both! Sabrina is so good at calculating, and for the most part we did great on these! It really is a challenge and it feels wonderful to know you hit a time control right on the mark! (Thank you, Sabs, for your ❤️ of numbers!)

The REC ended for us at our first CP for the day. Time to pull out the maps! *Many of you might not know a lot about my navigator, Sabrina Howells, but she must been born specifically to be a navigator! She is highly skilled at this craft and it is a joy to see her work! Not only am I spatially challenged, I get lost very easily so she literally guides us where we need to go, while Goldie and I carry us there. She truly shines with a map and compass and I am the luckiest to have her on my side!

Each day, at breakfast, we received a CP guide and any information we might need for the day, along with a our scorecard(s) and maps. We can also pick up our keys to open our vehicles in impound.

Sabrina’s job started at 5am each day, and basically ended when we reached basecamp. Below is a blueprint of the typical Rebelle Rally day:

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Sabrina Doing Calculations

Wake up 5am, review maps and any new information on the notice boards, retrieve CP guide and scorecard, start putting * on days with road books and REC’s. She would spend her first bit doing math and calculations because usually these were out of the gate. Then she plots and works on maps until we need to be in Goldie (20 min before our start time), once in vehicle she organizes her “office” and prepares to leave. During REC’s she verbally gives me cues ie. in 2 km road will Y (fork) – stay left etc and she alerts me if we are slow, fast or on time, she also clocks us with two stop watches and monitors, resets and controls our Terra Trip. Once REC ends she moves to maps and checkpoint by checkpoint. She brings the map to life and leads us to where we need to go. When we get there she activates our tracker, records our coordinates and onward we go. If we are hunting a black CP, which are not marked, she will get us close, recalculate, get us closer, triangulate and then press the yellow brick tracker to see how close we are! She does this all day 10-12 hours of calculation, figuring and finding. Our last CP of everyday is basecamp and once we are there she finally can relax! I teased her that during the day was “our” time and during the night was “hers”. All kidding aside – this is an adventure, but it is by no means easy! On days where we were arriving at a new basecamp she would help unload our gear and she would open our tent to put our gear inside.

My job each day was this:

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Meli. Photo: Tim Calver

5am wake up – get keys – check official info board just as a backup, go out to Goldie, check tires, start engine, air up or down for terrain, clean out any trash or food wrappers from day before, fill 5 gallon water jug and all of our smaller bottles like Corckcicle bottles, buckle down all the loose things. If it is a travel/change camp day I would breakdown camp and load Goldie before start time, wipe windows and mirrors free of dust. Part of my job is to make sure we were eating. I would get us breakfast and grab our lunches too. While we were on course I would make sure we were making time to ingest something other than gum! 🙂 Driving of course is my main job. Listen to Sabs and go where she says, while we do each have our own job – we need each other to be successful and help out where we can. As the driver,  the vehicle, our third teammate Goldie, is my full responsibility; I load her, check her, fuel her up each night, clean her, prepare her, maintain her appearance, clean her air filter, check her tire pressure, have any mechanical issues seen to, and so on.

Basically that was our day, each day from day zero to 7. It is a labor of love to be sure and though it is hard work it was always loads of fun!

Once the REC was complete, out came the maps and the magic! Our CP guide has a number of checkpoints listed and either a set of coordinates or a heading and distance from a known location. We us this information to “plot” our CP on the map. Sabrina would do as many as possible before leaving camp each morning. Once a CP is plotted you start to see the route needed to find them in order. We couldn’t always go in a straight line so we needed to find an actual path; a dirt road, double track, trail, or something leading us to our destination. Often, Sabrina could do this ahead of time, but sometimes we would need to be in the area so she could better identify a clear way.

This day was fairly easy, no super difficult terrain. We were in Nevada and saw a couple of old mining towns which are really cool, but pretty vacant. The highlight here on day 1 was seeing three young deer in one of the little towns! They were just cruising along the main part of town.

We did lose our water when our spare tires loosened in their ratchet bonnet and dislodged the barrel, so we used a hose to fill it some so we were not without water.. Luckily our other bottles were full so we didn’t have to risk amoebic dysentery! Also – Jost let us refill our bottles at our next manned CP. *Outside assistance is not allowed, but since hydration is a safety concern, it is okay. It really did feel like the old west while we were out in the elements, Sabs and I had a great day – establishing a lead and earning 97% of our points for the day.

We celebrated with delicious food – cornish hens and yummy potatoes followed by bedtime.

This night it was a little colder and harder to fall asleep. I awoke around 2:45am and never went back to sleep. It was definitely near 20° again. I got dressed completely and got back in my sleeping bag and waited to hear the cowbell Emily rang at 5am each day.

Day 2 – 10/15/17

Highlights:

  • Breathtaking views of mountains that were the color of Neapolitan ice cream
  • Amazingly beautiful terrain
  • Hot shower… ahhh

Day 2

When I finally climbed out of my tent I expected to see gifts raining down in parachutes, like in Hunger Games because I thought surely we were freezing to death and our “fans” would send us gloves and blankets and hand warmers!

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Today is Sunday, October 15th. Our route today took us all in a figure 8, some going one direction, and the rest opposite. It was a beautiful day with an almost cloudless sky. We were given 12 hours to complete our course and Sabrina and i finished fairly early. We even got a hot shower!:)

Everywhere you look, as far as your eyes can see, it is breathtakingly beautiful. I have seen about a hundred little rodents I have named desert hamsters.

I learned today that it is possible to be even colder in my tent.:(

Day 3 10/16/17

Highlights:

  • Last blue CP of the day was in a super fun place to find
  • Seeing Mama Hoehn and Mama Saxten
  • Shosone, population 31
  • Bracket repair
  • Long drive no helmets… yes!
  • Dead car forest – so cool
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Car Forrest Photo: Paolo Baraldi

Day 3

Morning is Freezing… it is 17° and is pretty painful. We have to pack up camp this morning as we move down the map and have our self camp night, in Dumont Dunes.

This day was my second favorite day on the course. We were in some remarkably spectacular locations today…

I mean honestly it was incredible. We were on the route to a blue CP and it was slow going because it was terribly rocky, but EVERY hill we crested gave us an even more beautiful landscape before us. That day, this particular CP was my favorite to find just because it felt like we earned it!

This day was defined, for me by an on course repair and it was such a great experience.

Because the driving was more technical and the terrain was plagued with rocks, I ran over my fair share and kicked up a few underneath. While it is required to be careful in these situations, it is not always a perfect outcome. At some point during our scouting we started to hear a noise. We wear helmets while we are in motion so it was difficult to nail down where the sound was originating.

Sabrina and I tried to listen, but finally decided we would enlist the help of a fellow competitor whom we both trust, adore, and value the opinion and experience of, Nena Barlow. As luck was on our side, we pulled in to our green CP and Nena and Chris were there! Hooray!

While Sabs worked our tracker and recorded our coordinates, I asked Nena for help to diagnose the sound origin. She was happy to help, thankfully, because we were on the cusp of a 277 km drive to Dumont Dunes, in California & I couldn’t imagine driving all that way with a horrible sound and not knowing what the cause was and if it was safe to drive..

The Diagnosis

Nena stood to the side of Goldie and had me drive forward and back. We could hear the rubbing all around. She moved to the passenger side, still listening. I informed her that all the gauges looked good, tire pressure was normal, temperatures were good, and that the driving didn’t seem to be any different despite the noise.

Once she pinpointed where she though it was emanating from, I got out and slid underneath our truck. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was looking for but Nena said to look for anything abnormal; Broken edges, loose bolts, anything different looking. Inch by inch, I slid down the length of the truck’s underbelly searching…

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Meli under Goldie diagnosing issue. Photo: Nicole Dreon

And then I saw it! A bit of plastic was torn away a little from where it may have been attached. I pulled it back and saw a dent in a bracket that was shielding the driveshaft. The dent, most likely caused by one of the ten zillion rocks we crossed had caused the bracket to push onto the driveshaft causing the rubbing sound as the driveshaft spins as we move.

I was never more excited to see a problem! I yelled out that I had found it and together, Nena and Sabrina got me the tools I needed to correct the problem.

Nena’s idea was to remove the bolt from bracket and she fashioned a spring/spacer for me to place between, allowing distance so the rubbing would cease… however, the bolt I removed was too short to go back in while using the spacer. I decided to use my wrench to pry down the bracket away from the drive shaft solving the problem. The bracket was bolted on two other spots and it remained in place to protect the driveshaft. Now to drive and see if we were noise-free… It worked! Celebrations all around. We thanked Nena repeatedly and even got her a special treat at the fuel stop! So thankful!

It was a great day, and we were pleased the repair went well and wasn’t more serious! It was the quietest, best 277 km drive ever… We even got to drive sans helmets for this bit which a bonus for sure!

Once we arrived to Dumont Dunes, we checked in at our final CP before setting up camp.

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Dumont Dunes Photo: Nicole Dreon

Tonight is a self camp night – we all had to camp within a certain distance from that final CP, but in no particular place.

There were Rebelle pods popping up everywhere. We camped at the base of a large dune set with Hoehn Adventures teams, Emme & Rebecca, team Sugar High, all of the international teams and at least three other teams!

No Drew (our chef) at self camp so we all made meals with MRE‘s and Mountain House Camping Food. Everyone sampled the different flavors and types, and while it was all tasty, nothing compares to Chef Deckman’s cuisine.

Dinner was followed by fun, as usual! The sun had set, the dunes were encircling us protectively and our bellies were full… Bring on the music!

Another of Sabrina’s many talents is her ability to write song lyrics on the fly about anything – really… ANYTHING!

We had songs about “crossover class”, “rally staff”, “international competing”, and some sing-a-longs to some classic tunes by Tom Petty. It was loads of laughs and a fun night. I am sure it will not be soon forgotten by all who were there!

Good night under a million stars – so so pretty and so tired… Zzzzzzzz

Day 4 – 10/17/17

Highlights:

  • Mud flats
  • Open spaces
  • Deep conversations (thanks Sabs)
  • Fun interview with Ryan
  • Delicious dinner (thanks Drew)
  • Cool new basecamp design (thanks Stephanie)
  • Beautiful moon set in the morning

Day 4

The moon was crescent and Jupiter was bright and shiny✨, just under her at about an hour before sunrise. Incredible! The temperature here was considerably warmer so bare feet were a must in all that sand! It felt so good to be boot-free:). We woke up and were packed and ready to go again in under and hour. We had to wait until 6 am to activate our tracker at our first CP which was our last CP from the previous day.

We picked up some updated information at our green CP; it was in reference to changed open/close times for today’s CPs.

Our first CP of the day was a black, remember these have no markers of any sort you are relying on your skills alone in navigation and triangulation.

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Meli Checking Tires. Photo: Tim Calver

It was a clear and chilly morning and it was the coolest to be out in such a vast open space with really nobody else around. Sabrina took a heading and I pulled up Goldie just behind her and she got in. We would drive whatever distance she had calculated and stop when she said. When we were near enough to the location she had plotted she would get out and triangulate. Once she was fairly certain she was in the right place, I would deliver the yellow brick tracker and we would press the “go” button to signal.

With the black under our belt, we continued on to the next CP which was a blue. Just like that, Sabrina worked her map magic and off we went in search of a blue marker. It was about 5 km in the opposite direction of where we were. The blue flag was whipping in the wind just at the base of some smaller dunes.

Our next stop was our second green CP of the day… but we thought we might be reading the CP guide incorrectly because we got to where it should’ve been and there was nothing’ no people, no flag, nothing. We looked again and realized that our green CP didn’t open for almost 3 more hours – it made sense, now, why there was no green flag… All teams, both classes check in at the green CPs – our class – CROSSOVERS – only had 2 CPs to find before that green – however, 4×4’s had 8! And so we waited…

We were disappointed to have had only 2 CPs to find with so much time left. Eventually, other teams started to appear and at 10:30 so did the green flag.

We recorded our coordinates and headed out of Dumont Dunes and into the Mohave Desert and Rasor OHV Area

Rasor OHV has rolling hills, open valleys, washes, sand dunes and mudflats (my first!) We had visited Rasor during the inaugural Rebelle Rally, but had entered into it via a different route. Some of it looked familiar, but we didn’t have CPs in any of the same areas this year.

The muddy parts were cool to drive across – it made a squishy sound and it was slippery! At this location, we knew we had to look for a sponsor flag to use as a transition point to keep us in the BLM designated areas.

We gathered our CPs there and left the Mohave to travel across Route 66 to our next flat packed dirt road which ran adjacent to some telephone posts. It seemed to go on forever, but on these roads we can pick up our speed a little.

Our second basecamp was located in Johnson Valley, home of King of the Hammers, and this year, we made it in before dark! 🙂

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Nicole Dreon

We spoke to Emily about our shortage of CPs in Dumont Dunes and she said understood our disappointment and was sorry about that. She explained that for safety purposes they had opted to keep us all close by… She knew we were not upset with her, just at the lack of the challenge… She promises tomorrow would be a better day. A driver’s challenge for sure, and more adventurous! She was right, we leanred this lesson: Friends Don’t Lie!

Oh, Day 5! 11/18/17

The most glorious sunrise – the skies were awash with sherbert oranges, purples and pinks – stunning! You could hear everyone ooohing and ahing at the sight of it. Someone captured me standing in the bed of Goldie, welcoming the day!

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Great times with Meli & Sabrina!

Our start today was different – We were assigned a time and we left off the start line, two by two. We were paired with Pat and Lisa – so fun – Pat Shipley is the oldest competitor this year, at 77 years young!

Our time was 7:45, which gave Sabrina almost an additional hour of prep and plotting time!

Our first stop was a black CP, and we were off towards it, after sweet Kristina counted us down, in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

I love driving with Sabrina. She has the best way of describing heading points, mounds and items she needs me to identify and focus on. This morning we had to head towards a group of two mounds – toward the dip in their middle – to claim our first black CP. It was a great find and Sabs was right on the money with her plotting and tracker coordinates. It was a great start to day 5, and then our day turned…

CP 2, wasn’t what we thought it was, or where we thought

We headed to our next CP – a blue – It wasn’t in the easiest area to get to, but we found it with not a lot of hassle. We pushed the tracker and once Sabrina read the coordinates she realized we were not where we thought we were and let me know as much. We sat together and figured out what happened. Inadvertently, we had gone to CP13, not CP2. We looked at the map and how that could’ve happened that way. We realized that Sabrina took us to 13, thinking it was 3 we were headed to, when she saw a 3 on her identifying sticker. She thought BC was 1, 1 was 2, and took us to the nexxt, which she read as 3. We had a decision to make. We had gone to an incorrect CP, taking us out of order which was worthy of a penalty only we didn’t know how much or which kind. We referred to our rule guide and couldn’t find a clear answer. We decided to continue our day, as if we hadn’t proceeded out of order; We would go to 2, and then 3, and so on, until we finished our day. Once we return to basecamp, we would learn our fate, but now- now we wanted to have a fun day, a challenging day that we were looking forward to! It was a plan and we moved on…

We turned ourselves around, but I could tell Sabs was still rattled. I assured her we were okay – we were, after all, having the most fun of everyone! And no matter what happened with our points, we were determined to have the best day yet.

We found our next blue CP with a lot of teamwork on all 3 of our parts… While we were way up on top of a cluster of boulders, we could see our 1 green, which was our CP4 but we needed to get to 3 first.

We searched for CP3 for a long while before Sabrina made the call to move on to the next CP. It was the right call. If we moved on to the green – we would know exactly where we were in space and that would be helpful in finding our way to CP5. Day 5, CP5 – My favorite part of our day!

We left the green excited to be on the hunt again.

Before I continue, I want to impart a little information about the terrain at Johnson Valley. There are sandy washes, steep, red, rocky mountains, hills everywhere, open valleys full of whoops, dry lake beds and it is ever changing whenever you turn a corner.

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Johnson Valley – Jo Hannah & Susie

On a map, a wash can look like a viable road and a big road might look deceptively small. It is a true art to be able to tell from another. When Sabs decides our actual route, she must choose dirt paths, double tracks, trails or roads which are suitable for driving. OHV areas allow for open running which means sometimes we aren’t on a road at all, and did I mention the rocks?

Every place you look is littered with rocks – some are no larger than a beach pebble. But most are bigger than a softball, and there are plenty which are more sizable than that! There are patches of what looks like jagged lava rocks and the roadways and paths are sprinkled with ill placed “tire poppers” that are pointy and menacing.

So far, on this day especially, we had come across our fair share of rock obstacles. Somewhere between the rock mine fields and the petrified edges of desert greenery in the open areas we had gotten a slow leak in our front right tire. All day, every time we stopped, I used the compressor to air up the tire while Sabrina calculated our course path.

We are still on our way to CP5 a black, and we had gotten off our path. Sabrina knew on the map where we needed to be, the location, and what it looked like, only every real road and path looked the same. We’d get on one, and when she’d notice something off, we’d get onto the next. This was frustrating her because she knew it wasn’t right.

I could see a crossroad and as we made our way to it we could see it was going in the general direction we wanted to be moving. We came upon a parallel sand path and took that further up. We came into a large clearing filled with lava rocks and stopped. We searched around for anything familiar and as we did, I spotted a flat-ish spot high on a hill ahead of us about a km and a half away. I said “do you see that band of sand at the top of that hill at our eleven o’clock?”, she did see. I said I wanted to put us up there so we had a better vantage point. I figured she would be better able to identify features, the higher we were. She agreed and we went.

I think we may have been at the highest point in elevation in the surrounding area, which helped us move from an obvious low point in our day. Once we were up there, we could see forever! Sabrina looked out and shouted, “That’s our road! Right there- down there! That’s our road!” and then… “I’m back!!” best thing I had heard all day! We cheered and hugged and made a plan. We were now back on track and exactly where we needed to be!

We had to get off the hill and we didn’t want to backtrack, so we had two options – both were downhill; one not steep, but very rocky and sketchy looking, the other was very steep but clear of rocks and plants. I talked it through with Sabs, and chose steep and not rocky, and off we went to the edge.

I think Sabrina reminded me to breathe as creeped down the face of the hill. I noticed to my left a media truck and hoped whatever they captured on film was going to put us in a positive light. As soon as Goldie’s front tires hit the level ground, I accelerate us off of the hill. We were squealing and cheering. We got to the black CP location and Sabs got out to work, and I followed with the yellow brick. She asked me if I wanted to press the button. I told her she had earned this one, and we did it together.

Best feeling, and best CP all day!

I can’t explain what it feels like to see your friend doubt her confidence. It is a terrible feeling to know she just needs to work through to find her way back to her surety! The feeling of witnessing the full circle is indescribable and makes me so happy o have her back – not for my sake, or our’s, but for her’s.

This day, I am telling you, was both wonderful and difficult, strange and perfect at the same time. It offers us our highest highs and lowest lows – the lowest was yet to come.

We scooted off on our way without much ado through CP 13, our old friend from the morning. With the day almost complete, we had one green CP and an on-time arrival to basecamp to go, and our day turned once more.

As we were climbing our thousandth hill, our oil light came on.

Allow me to digress a moment to tell of the previous day’s error code in Goldie…

Day 4 had been dusty and hot, we used the a/c all day. Near the end of the day an emission’s light popped up on the dash. We looked it up in the manual and learned it was more pressing if it was flashing. We decided I would mention it at mechanical that night and we figured the dirty and dusty air that was being pulled in from the a/c triggered it.

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Dusty Ride Photo: Paolo Baraldi

Day 5, we decided to run the day without the a/c to help prevent the code from reappearing, and it seemed to help.

When the oil light came on, my first thought was that it was a warning. We summited the hill and pulled off to a flat spot. The plan was to let Goldie cool down enough to add oil. While we were there, we would swap out the leaky tire we had been battling all day.

I had been on the ground just at the edge of the underneath of the truck all day long. I never saw a leak, smelled a smell, or had any indication there was a problem. We were there about half an hour – we saw several competitors go by, on their way from green to home. Everyone we saw made sure we were alright before heading off, and we though we were.

When we were ready, we left our spot on the side for the final green CP, which was about 6 or so km away. We got about 4 km down the way and the battery light came on and we lost all power – no acceleration, no brakes, no anything, except dash lights and battery light. We were coming up to a T in the wash and I could see competitor headlights coming. We flagged them down to see if they could give us a jump.

It was our good fortune that the team we encountered was team #155, Rebelle Angels Syndiely Wade and Melanie Baudin. They jump started us and offered to follow us back to the green CP, to make sure we got there safely. They did, and we did. We lost power a couple times on the way, but stopped and restarted. They offered to escort us home…

We had a time limit to get back to basecamp – 11 hours from our starting time. We started 4 minutes after us. It was getting late and we had about an hour left to go approximately 20 km, or just under. At this point we weren’t concerned about anything but getting home safely as we were unsure what was happening with our girl, Goldie. When we could no longer start up again, Syndiely and Melanie towed us in. We all made quick work of hooking up the tow rope (thankfully, the girls were in a rented Barlow Jeep that was fully outfitted and capable) because we were losing light rapidly.

  • A note about the rope: approximately 8 feet in length – not quite a car – length apart from each other.
  • A note about the terrain: hot flat, in the least, rocky, hilly, bumpy, sandy!
  •  A note about the day: again, crazy amazing, and awful at the same time.

Syndiely is the type of person you want on your side in an emergency. Melanie is as calm as they come. Sabrina – my best partner I could ever ask for – is who I owe my calmness to. Syn made sure to alter her course to accommodate what Goldie was capable of, because their Jeep had a greater clearance on all angles. My knuckles were white as I clenched the steering wheel with all of my strength. Sabs and my eyes were fixed forward, not much distance between Goldie’s front and Dory’s tail! The only control I had was steering and I was so grateful for that small gift.

As we rode up and down hills, slid onto the top of washes and dodged rocks, we were enveloped in the night. At one point, Syn stopped abruptly to keep us on a good path and I had to swerve to avoid smashing into her rear end. We came to rest just against a large rock, making it impossible to move forward. As luck would have it, the Kiwi’s were just behind us. I gave them our Bubba Rope and they gave us a quick yank backwards 5 feet to get us right again.

As I have stated, our day was full of ups and downs. We started off again, leaving the Kiwi’s and team 203, Jaimy & Lori in our wake. We were so close, and not.

Our finish time came and went. Team 155’s finish time came and went. Sabrina fed me water and positivity while I tried to keep my worries at bay.

There would be consequences for our late arrival, and for theirs. I wasn’t upset over ours, but they sacrificed to help us. Sabs and I vowed to fight for their points, to tell our story so everyone would know that they were late because of us.

We were in the home stretch. We could see basecamp getting nearer and I am certain they heard us coming before they saw us, as there was an awful noise coming from Goldie.

As we were pulled across the finish line flags we removed our helmets and wept. We got out of Goldie and joined Syndiely and Melanie up ahead and cried and thanked them, and were grateful.

Kristina and Andrea were there checking us in, making sure we did all of our finish procedures before heading to mechanical. They tried to console us. Andrea said, as I begged for the girls not to have a penalty, that they had made a conscious choice to put camaraderie before competition, and she was certain they knew the risk, and then we cried some more, for friendship, for now even as we compete against each other we still help one another.

Mechanical Diagnosis

We unhooked and said our thanks again to our own Rebelle Angles as they head off to impound Dory and eat dinner.

We were met by “Nickguyver” as he is affectionately called. Nick heard a little of our tale and slid underneath to take a peek. A hole in our oil pan was the start of our troubles. Somewhere along the way – we figured between CP 13 and CP 14, we had an encounter with a rock we presumed, that gave us a puncture. This is a fixable issue and he sent us to eat and reminded us that we needed to return quickly.

In our guts we knew it was probably more than the hole, but we were hopeful as we sauntered off to eat… Drew had made lamb and it was delightful. We had our plates full and were stopped at each step to the tent by our co-competitors who wanted to make sure we were okay. Physically yes, mentally and emotionally, no.

While we were eating, Nick found us before we had time to return to him. The news was not good. The engine was seized, Goldie was out of commission. He told us Emily was on the phone with our Honda GM, Rick Blakemore trying to get us an engine as soon as possible.

We were heartbroken, and when Emily found us, we cried some more. I want to be clear about something – we were not crying for the competition – our tears were for our day of highs and lows, for the losses our friends took on our behalf, for how our beloved truck Goldie burst her heart for us, we cried for getting the day we had hoped for, and for the disappointment we felt. We were on the eve of our visit to one of our favorite places, Joshua Tree, and beyond that, Glamis, where Goldie and I had trained in September, also a favorite place to drive although I think Sabrina has a love hate relationship with navigating in the dunes.

And now our rally has changed, and we knew it. It was time for adjustments, and we knew that too.

We spent the rest of the evening getting cheered up by our friends and then we slept, and dreamed of a different ending to our day. When we awoke, and it was still our reality, it was strangely okay.

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Goldie’s Grave in Glamis Photo: Paolo Baraldi

Day 6 10/19/17

A Thursday, and also a transition day to our final basecamp.

We had breakfast & sweet Sabrina helped Lori with some REC calculations, and we were present at the starting line as everyone left of for their day.

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Sabrina Helping Lori Photo: Nicole Dreon

From there, we climbed in with Kristina Bergstrand, one of our favorites, and made our way to Joshua Tree, which was a first for her.

We saw some sights, posed for a few photos (#gigglefit) and Sabs even found us a shortcut on a dirt road. We learned about rocks growing from underground, jimping Chella that really doesn’t and almost became Jr Rangers, but were over the age allowed.:)

We left the Joshua Trees waving behind us and drove onward to the Imperial Sand Dunes, also known as Glamis, where we joined up with the rest of the staff and got to work setting up basecamp for everyone.

Stephanie had a great plan for the design! Rebelle blue, white and silver everywhere. She could drape or decorate. There were table cloths to be placed and Sabrina and I were put in charge of centerpieces. W also helped hang the score and information boards, cleaned and set up chairs and even relaxed a bit when we set up our camp.

Slowly the ladies returned to camp from the course and we were there to hear the stories of how their day was. It was very close at the top of the competition for the 4×4 class and it was fun to hear the tales of strategy and calculations.

Lori and Jaimy had overtaken our lead by their third CP that day. We celebrated with them and were genuinely happy for their success.

That was a fun day, no stress of competition, no rush to beat the time and the fun was just beginning!

Important!

Bonus side note for the Nate Face.

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Nate’s Face

It was discovered this year that besides his hilarious antics, he has another purpose…

He is the perfect sunshade when he is tucked into the window moulding. He could be moved to block the sun at any angle…

Genius! Thanks, Nate!

I should mention here about Nate, Nate is Sabrina’s hunky fiancé. For his birthday last year, she had his face put onto sticks as a party favor – when he showed up, everyone had his face in front of theirs. Well, last year she brought a couple of Nate faces along on our rally and he brought us luck, so he is tradition now and it was appropriate for him to accompany us this year, too!

Part of the fun of a Nate face is the places he can go! Sabs made a game of placing him for unsuspecting Rebelles to find. On this night he would visit Mama Saxten and with the help of Mama Hoehn, he found his way to her tent. When it was time for Dana to go to sleep, we lingered behind he as she readied herself to bed and I thought we would laugh ourselves silly! First she stood in front of her tent, forever, then she removed her boots slowly at the door. She then wandered away and brushed her teeth – we were literally trembling with laughter as we watched all of this a short distance away. Once she returned, and got inside she turned light out so we figured she wouldn’t see him… We had to intervene. We walked Karen to her tent and audibly said our goodnight and also to Dana – Sabrina asked her if she checked her tent for any visitors and we mentioned about the scorpion we had seen earlier in camp… She finally caught on and searched for Nate and found him. She said she wanted him to stay to keep her safe so he camped out on the edge of her tent and joined us again on day 7 – Final day of Rebelle Rally 2017.

Day 7 10/20/17 Final Day! Steak Day!

We woke to wind gusts and it was expected to worsen as the day wore on. Our morning meeting turned into a safety meeting where competitors were told to shelter on place if it got bad, reminded about dune safety and sent along their way.

We watched all the teams leave and made our plan – First straghten up basecamp – I empited all of the bathroom trash – 72 competitors and 65 staff sure make a lot of trash in one day! Next, we left with Andrea and Lilly to have some fun and make a camp store run. Andrea took us around the outer rims of the dunes and it was fun to be in the passenger seat seeing our exit points. While we were out, we happened upon a family who claimed their Ford truck and large trailer had been stuck since the day before. We four busted out the MaxTrax and helped them in the end with a reverse tug by Andrea – just enough to get them out of the soft stuff…

We headed back to basecamp where we ate some snacks, napped in the beanbag and the canvas chairs and then we went out with Chrissie for some dunes driving in the big stuff! It was so much fun! We hid among the grasses and watched a couple of teams search for CPs.

Chrissie got a radio call about some bikes and buggies at Oldsmobile Hill causing some nerves in a few so off we went to check it out.

There were plenty of folks causing traffic on the hill, but not in the way of our competition.

We watched two teams charge the hill. Sabrina and I got out and offered encouragement to Bailey and Kendra who had tried and retreated to regroup. We cheered them on as they charged again, this time high enough to make it to the flag! We all celebrated for them!

And then we took the hill too! Thanks, Chrissie!

When we returned to our basecamp this time it was close to the camp opened for returning teams. We hung out and got ready for the finishing party.

The winds had picked up considerably during the day so that everything was covered in a veneer of sand, including us, but we were happy.

We chatted with competitors as they crossed the finish and shared tears, hugs, and thanks to Daniel, champagne with them all, or at least the French teams.

One by one, happy tired faces showed up across the line – wearing the same veil of grit – but not only on the outside, it reached deep inside each of them; all of us. We know from last year and many learned anew this year, that an adventure like this changes you in your core.

It enhances what you already carry in you and grows it, to flourish out loud…

There is one woman who knew this secret and luckily she chose to share that knowledge with each of us; She understood that when a group of women get together they believe in each other and create community to raise one another up.

Through driving, navigating, and the off road community, Emily Miller has been making waves since she began her dream of a sporting event that would challenge women, positively influence them and instill the confidence she knew they had.

I feel lucky to have crossed her path and I am going to enjoy the ride as long as it lasts. I know over one hundred people personally who know her and every single one of them love and respect her profoundly.

Emily is the epitome of a Rebelle: strong and refined, gritty and gentle, and everyone knows – not grit, no pearl.

One thing I forgot to mention which adds a little flair to my story is that during dinner on night 6, Chrissie took Sabs and I aside and delivered some news.

She told us:

Since we had not quit, and had not been disqualified, and we were only out because we had no vehicle, but still had points on the board, that were not as “out” as we first thought.

Going into day 7, we knew our farthest away competitor needed 128 points to pass us by. They worked hard, and they came close at 125 points. Our scores from days 1-5 held to give us 2nd place finish!

Though we wished our ending could’ve been different, we were so proud of the hard work we put in.

Honestly, I had more fun this year even amid all the crazy whakado events that took place and I wouldn’t change my experience for anything.

And so our second Rebelle came to a close with a lot of stories packed in our ten day extravaganza – so many friends, so much love and support, endless laughter, memories enough to last a longtime… at least until next October, right?

XO Meli 🙂

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Goldie Getting Towed Across The Finish Line Photo: Nicole Dreon

Special Thanks to the Hoehns

To My Friends, the Hoehn Family:

Last year when I was invited to participate in the Rebelle Rally I said yes even though I had no idea what that was. Because you are all so adventurous, I knew that if you were involved, it had to be special, and I was not wrong.

After placing first in the crossover class with Sabrina I couldn’t imagine having more fun than we had competing in the inaugural year, but I was mistaken.

This year was incredible. It is hard to say exactly why, and it certainly was not due to any one thing, but I am entirely sure that more fun was had.

It is difficult for me to imagine that two years ago I had never driven off road, now as aI drive past dirt roads, patyhs, trails, or double tracks, my heart smiles.

Thank you so much for introducing me to the adventure of rallying. Thank you for trusting me to represent your family name and your business. I wish to thank you for introducing me to so many wonderful people like Sabrina, Emily and Tim Calver who have altered me for the better just by knowing them.

I thank you for Goldie; for allowing me to train with her, and lover her. It may seem silly to some people to love a truck, but it is easy to do when you spend so much time together. Goldie gave us a home and office for two years of Rebelle Rally and during that time, I saw an absolutely new world unfold before me through her windshield. 🙂

I appreciate your kindness and understanding when things went sideways this year. I am grateful that you trust me still, and know that I hurt most of all that Goldie was injured while in my care.

Thank you for reaching in and finding the hidden rally driver in me! I am forever changed in my core from this experience and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you.

I love you all and thank you wholeheartedly for this opportunity.

I wouldn’t have believed this year with its twists and turns would have been my favorite, but it is true!

Though it will never seem enough –

Thank you. Thank you.

❤️ Meli

To My Friend, My Navigator, My Most Wonderful Teammate, Sabrina.

Sabs – thank you hardly seems to say enough, but I know you understand the depth it goes…

I thank you for the belly laughs, and there were many. I thank you for the type of competitor you are, and the level of skill you bring to the game. I thank you for never giving up and for always trusting me, even when things got iffy. I thank you for your heart, your tears, and for loving Goldie & me. I thank you for your strength and for knowing how to support me. I thank you for your understanding that sometimes it doesn’t end the way we hope. I thank you for the songs, the lessons, the stories, and the seat time we shared. Mostly, I thank you for your friendship these past two years… here is where I did win, and for that I am most grateful.

Emily always says , “Navigators will get you lost, but drivers will end your Rally.”

I feel blessed that even though this was the case for us this year, you never let me feel that it was my fault that we couldn’t continue – instead you embraced that our Rally had changed and comforted me when I needed just that. You truly are one of a kind and I am the luckiest to have been paired with you. You will always be my favorite “gift” from the Hoehns…

Thank you, my friend, for it all…

❤️ Meli