Rebelle Rally 2016: An All-Women’s Rally That Puts Navigation And Wheeling Skills To The TestPosted in Events on January 26, 2017
The vehicle in your driveway is more capable than you think. If you take a look at the entries for the inaugural Rebelle Rally you will understand why; a healthy number of stock vehicles were entered. The rally included everything from an off-the-showroom-floor Mercedes G-Wagon to a Porsche Cayenne, Jaguar F-Pace, Nissan Titan, Ram Rebel, Chevy 2500 HD, and Toyota Tacoma for a total of 32 entries. No rally of this kind had been run before in the United States. Seventy-two women navigated the first-ever all-women’s Rally. The event was created by Emily Miller, a seasoned veteran of driving and navigating races in Baja, international rallies, driving schools, and media launches. Emily brings an impressive resume to the table. “I created the Rally I have always wanted to run,” she says. The women on the Rally would navigate a course by plotting waypoints on large topographical maps and use a compass to confirm proper direction. All communications devices would be sealed. GPS units would be disabled. No phones. No social media. No email. There was a “community phone” available for emergency calls home. There were checkpoints the competitors would have to clear to receive points. A green checkpoint was marked with a large green flag, and there was a course-worker to assist competitors. Blue checkpoints were marked with a blue flag and usually right off the road. Black checkpoints were more elusive. They were not marked, and not always right off the highway. The competitors might be required to do some hiking. If a competitor thought they were within 100 meters of the checkpoint, they hit a button on their rally tracker, the only electronic device they were allowed to carry and use. Spend too much time looking for black checkpoints and they might miss the closing time for a green checkpoint. Fail to clear a green checkpoint on time and they lost points for the rest of the day.
Squirrel GirlsThe Squirrel Girls team included Nena Barlow and Kande Jacobsen. Nena runs an adventure company, which puts customers behind the wheel. She offers everything from four-wheel-drive schools to guided trips. Five of her Jeeps were entered in the Rally. Nena and Kande were given the opportunity to drive a ’16 Ram Rebel straight from FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles). The Rebel is one of Ram’s premiere off-road trucks. It comes stock with Bilstein shocks, adjustable ride height, beefy front skidplate, and Toyo Tires. Nena was looking for a capable stock vehicle that could carry a lot of gear and have no problems navigating almost any terrain. “I needed a vehicle that could take a serious off-road beating!” she said. Barlow had a very short list of eligible co-drivers. She needed someone she could put up with for a week. A mutual introduced Kande to Nana. Kande grew up spending time outdoors and going off-road, during which she discovered a passion for off-road. She jumped at the chance to get involved in the Rebelle Rally as soon as she learned about it. “Nena is the perfect teammate; I don’t think I could have found one better,” she said. There would be some very stressful times during the rally, and both had to work together to be successful. One of the most important things they learned was each had their job. They had to trust each other as teammates. Both ladies agree the Rally had been intense, yet fun.
Team TitanThe team of Maria Clay and Sedona Blinson drove a ’17 Nissan Titan in the Rally, which was straight from the manufacturer with no modifications. Sedona’s brother-in-law is an engineer on the Titan project. Nissan saw this as a perfect opportunity to get some real-world feedback on the performance of the truck. Despite having a wider wheelbase, the General Grabber tires had no problem gripping the rocks on the trails. The Nissan Titan surprised the ladies. Going into the event, they had expected some limitations, but the truck performed very well. Dune driving was one of Sedona’s biggest challenges. Once she learned how to drive through the deep sandy terrain, she was able to get the Titan through with no problem. “We were following Jeeps with no issues,” she said. The Rally for the team was emotional, crazy, and rewarding all at the same time. The Rebelle Rally was an event where you can experience almost every emotion at the same time. Overcoming the challenges was part of the design of the event. Both didn’t have the Rally experience that some of the competitors had. It was all about challenging themselves and pushing their drive to the limit. The training they did beforehand helped. Maria and Sedona are best friends, and they spent hours in their truck relying on each other to get through the days. They say the Rally brought them closer together, as well as tested their friendship.
Base CampThe Rally Base Camps literally had all the amenities. While the Base Camps were remote, meals were served in a huge tent, which also served as an area for competitors to work on mapping. There was a full-service food truck, showers, and flush toilets. Need fuel for your vehicle? No problem, as there was a fuel truck with every grade of gasoline needed. Competitors had a time limit to unload their vehicles of tents, clothing, and other items. After that, their vehicles would be impounded and keys confiscated. Basically they were not allowed to touch them until the morning competition began. The Rally was not for high-maintenance competitors either, as competitors were sleeping in tents and sleeping bags. Mother Nature was not always cooperative as well. Temperatures were in the low 40s, and sometimes the wind howled at 30 mph. Competitors had limited time to get items loaded back into their vehicles in the morning. The first vehicle off the line was at 7 a.m. each day.
RallyingThe Rebelle Rally went through some of the most picturesque terrain. Starting in Nevada, the route wound through the mountains just outside of the town of Hawthorne. Each day, the level of difficulty went up as well. The second day of competition took competitors east past graded roads and up through winding mountains passing abandoned lithium mines. Base Camp was set up near the town of Tonopah, an area well-known for desert racing. Nena Barlow and Kande Jacobsen did most of their plotting on the fly. At green checkpoints, they consulted their map and plotted the next several black checkpoints allowing for minimal search time. Time was always in the back of everyone’s mind. The rally passed an old mining town known as Goldpoint. The town has just a few dozen residents, 50 standing buildings, and is littered with rusting machinery. Some competitors elected to stop for lunch here.
The course then headed down the mountains and into Dumont Dunes on the California side, which was the next overnight stop on the Rebelle Rally. Here, competitors “self-camped.” This meant the Dumont Dunes stop would not have the amenities of Base Camp—no fuel, showers, dinner, or breakfast. Dumont involved sand driving. As Nena quickly found out, it’s easy to get complacent. She has plenty of dune experience, but a mistake took her off a dune and straight down into the sand, causing a little damage to the front of the Rebel. Nena says she thought she was on flat ground but instead went over a dropoff. However, the damage didn’t stop the team as it was only cosmetic. As a testament to the Rebel’s toughness, the incident didn’t even affect the truck’s alignment. The Rally wound further into California, arriving in Johnson Valley, famous for its wide-open OHV terrain and rockcrawling. After a two-night stop in Johnson Valley, the course moved through Joshua Tree National Park, which is a very rare feat for a rally to get an approved route through a National Park. The competitors then descended into the dunes of Glamis for their final day of competition. Skill level was critical here, as the terrain looks the same all around so navigation points had to be extremely accurate. Airing down tires to the correct pressure was also critical as no one wanted to waste time digging out. Emily Miller had a surprise waiting in the dunes, and she upped the level of difficulty to find the elusive black checkpoints.
Once the Rally was over, a big party was thrown at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego. The competitors had an opportunity to check into a hotel, clean up, and sleep in a real bed, and final points were calculated. Reflecting on their finish, Kande and Nena say they learned a lot. Team Squirrel brought the Rebel into a Third Place finish. For their efforts, Ram was presented the Rebelle Bone Stock Award. If you’re a woman who would like to hone your off-road skills, challenge yourself, and have some fun, the Rebelle Rally offers that opportunity. For more info, visit rebellerally.com.