Liza (Tuffy) Tough
Rebelle Rookie No More
As I sit here quarantining in my temporary home, I reflect on my Rebelle journey that started as a dream 3 years ago at the BC Overland Rally. I have so many emotions close to the surface that I often get overwhelmed with tears….. tears of I miss my family, tears of wow we just did the Rebelle, tears of OMG did we just make that mistake out on the course, OMG did I just get up out of this bowl in the dunes? And finally tears of missing the friends we made during the rally, our Rebelle sisters.
Our journey to the Rebelle was not easy to say the least. The entry fee alone is steep and even steeper for Canadians wanting to enter due to the exchange rate. Then add in Covid-19 cancelling all but one of our planned fundraising events, the required Covid testing prior to competing, Canada/US border closures requiring us to figure out how to ship the truck and then fly ourselves to where the truck is all while making sure we are safe and stay healthy so we can compete. With all the roadblocks, border closing, cancelled flights and obstacles, I can say with 100 percent certainty, competing in the 5th anniversary Rebelle Rally was absolutely worth all the hard work and tears to get to the start line and 8 days later ultimately cross the finish line. CanToy Divas will, without any doubt, compete in the Rebelle Rally again in the near future. But here is my story on this year’s Rebelle Rally
When we registered in October 2019, we were both excited to officially begin our Rebelle Rally journey. We knew it would take a lot of fundraising and personal sacrifices to make this dream come true. We were blessed to have family and friends that believed in us and were willing to invest in our dream with time, energy and their own sacrifices to make this happen for us. We also had great companies willing to sponsor us:
Four Wheel Drive Association of BC (BC4WD Assoc.) was the first to come on board as an official sponsor with a cash donation which covered our fuel for the Rebelle.
OK Expedition was also first out of the gate to sponsor vehicle upgrades with a complete skid package for Cali (our Tacoma) to keep crucial drivetrain components safe while training and during the Rally.
Napa West Kelowna/Penticton offered a spill kit and spare auto parts at cost.
Dynamic Westside Auto sponsored a set of new BFG KO2 tires for Cali.
Inspirtion2Creation donated custom vehicle and gear decal designs and applications for us.
Mighty Owl Mapping sponsored custom detailed maps of our local area for training.
Freedom Recovery Gear sponsored a complete recovery package including new winch synthetic line and spent several hours training us how to better understand the mechanics of recoveries and how to safely employ those techniques, along with how to make as well as repair the recovery gear we use.
Kelowna Toyota sponsored a new TRD snorkel and related connection parts.
Silver Stratus Global aided in helping cover the cost to transport Cali over the border to the USA.
We also feel blessed and honored that we were awarded one of a few scholarships for rookies sponsored by an amazing group of anonymous past Rebelles which greatly aided in reaching our financial goal so we could actually make this happen. We are so grateful for all of the support we have received during the past year, thank you to all who have supported us.
Training for the Rebelle was high on our list and we would meet weekly and work on the online navigation course offered by Rebelle Rally. We had plans to travel across the border to work on our dune skills/training but Covid closed the border and kyboshed that. Every weekend Doug would take me out with driver challenges and training. Thanks to a member of the BCW4D Assoc. who created an eight checkpoint GPS challenge that both Sue and I took turns navigating using only a paper map, compass and plotter to go find the numbered placards hidden in the bush. We knew our opportunities for dune training/refresh were not going to happen as border closures kept getting extended and were worried about what practical training we could do before the October start line date. We are so fortunate that Overlanding BC an official trainer for the Rebelle Rally lives here in British Columbia and was able to book us for a training session on the iconic Whipsaw Trail. Christopher Walker and Penny Dale were so encouraging, knowledgeable, and ready to whip these two rookie Rebelles into shape.
In August we needed to come up with an alternative way to get to the Rebelle as the Canada/USA border was closed for us to drive Cali across. We were however able to fly in to the US with no issues at all. I put out a query on the Rebelle Facebook group asking for recommendations for auto transport. Within moments I had several messages offering names of auto transport companies and I had one particular Rebelle, Tana White, offering to accept the truck & keep it until we could fly in. Shortly after that multiple other offers of help from other Rebelles came flooding in. I was so moved that fellow competitors were willing to help us out; Tana even picked us up at the airport. This was to be the first example of what a Rebelle is. As the end of September approached and the Canada US border remained closed, we needed to follow through with shipping the truck. Thankfully, we were able to hire US Canada Auto Transport to pick up Cali from right near my home and deliver it across the border right to Tana’s house. On September 22, Canuck Towing a subcontractor for US Canada Auto Transport picked up the truck and transported it to New Westminster to await transport over the border; I patiently, honestly not so patiently, awaited word that Cali was across. September 30, 2020, 8 days before Tech Inspection, arrived and I got word that the truck was being turned away at the border! To say I was devastated would be an understatement. Over the next 90 minutes, several phone calls to the driver, many tears shed and many prayers sent above, the driver called me back and said they were able to correct some paperwork and Cali was officially across the border.
We had flight plans to take us from Kelowna to Vancouver to Seattle to Wenatchee. That also got sent into a tailspin as the Van to Seattle flight got changed on us making it not possible to make connecting flights with our current itinerary. We needed to come up with a solution on how to solve this problem so a decision to drive us down to Vancouver was made (which also helped eliminate one flight and another airport in our “covid safe” travel plans). Saturday October 3rd, 2020 was the first day of our travel to the Rebelle. A huge thank you to Doug Tough for driving us to Vancouver to catch our flight early Sunday am. We used microban (24hr protection) on our luggage and had all clothes in sealed plastic bags. We arrived at the airport for 4 am with N95 masks, gloves and copious amounts of hand sanitizer. Around 3 pm we landed in Wenatchee and Tana picked us up and drove us to Cali. After a quick shuffle of stuff in the truck we started off on our 3 day drive to the Rebelle start line in Lake Tahoe.
We woke early October 8th in South Lake Tahoe to repack the truck and get it Rebelle Rally and Tech Inspection ready. Our check in time was for 10:30am and we were to check into several stations including, decaling, required items check, helmet check, mechanical inspection, medical interview, provide our negative Covid test results, pick up our official vests and swag bags, and lastly team photos. We also were given directions for our first base camp and were to be there between 3-6pm. It was close to 2pm as we left Tech Inspection and we knew we had a 3+ hour drive to basecamp and needed to not dilly dally.
After a longer than I would like pit stop to use the bathroom at Starbucks (they were really busy and one stall was out of commission) we were heading back down the road towards basecamp 1. My personality is one of someone who doesn’t like being late anytime, for any reason. My anxiety was already high because of the tight timeline when we rounded a corner leaving Tahoe and saw a vehicle pulled over on the side of the road on the hill. We quickly noticed it was a fellow competitor with their hazards on. It was the Roaming Wolves, team #141. Without question we pulled over right behind them and got out to help anyway we could. The 1969 Bronco was leaking fuel and Rochelle was on the roof trying to get access to the spill pad to catch the leaking fuel as Melissa was on the phone with one of their husbands. We were able to figure out where the fuel was leaking, and a nice gentleman stopped and offered assistance. Soon some of the fuel was syphoned out of the tank and placed in a bucket with a lid, spill pads picked up and both were safely tucked away in the open bed of Cali. We then followed the Roaming Wolves all the way to basecamp. As we followed the ladies it dawned on me that all things happen for a reason. If we had not been delayed trying to use a restroom, we would not have been behind these ladies to help. We all arrived at basecamp around 6:45pm, a wee bit late, but we made it. Driving up to the Rebelle arch after planning and dreaming for so long brought tears of joy to my eyes. After checking in, surrendering our prohibited items (any GPS enabled devices and cell phones etc.) we filled up our fuel tank with Busby, then parked in the impound area and took our camping gear and clothes needed for the next 3 days. We managed to also make it in time to get some dinner from the amazing Drew Deckman. After a short welcome from Emily Miller, founder, we headed off to bed as the 5 am cow bell comes incredibly early.
Here is a snapshot of a Rebelle day. At 5 am Emily rings the cowbell wandering through competitor basecamp to herald in the day. Upon waking the day starts at a rapid pace, wake up, quickly dress and grab required items for the day, walk to the main tent and grab a table, hopefully with good light above it, get your road book for the day & start plotting check points. At 6 am each day there would be a driver meeting. Emily would give directions & offer any special instructions for the day as the navigators busily plotted checkpoints. Checkpoint and Enduro guides are available two hours before your start time. Sue usually picked up the daily papers while I grabbed breakfast, coffee, bagged lunch for us and topped up our water for the day. If we needed to move basecamp, add breaking down the tent, roll sleeping bags and sleep pad up, take all camp items to the truck including clothes and personal items and walk to impound to load said items (usually multiple trips). I would then do all the Enduro math while Sue plotted the checkpoints and made a plan for the day. We had to be at Cali ready to go 15 minutes before start time. I would also take time to ensure the bed rack and rooftop tent bolts etc. were all tight and secure. I would also wash the windows in preparation for the day. Sue would meet me at the truck, and we would get everything in its place and secure for the day. We then put our helmets on and when Gage told us to, we headed to the start line. Every two minutes a team would leave the start line. Each day there were mandatory green check points (marked by a large green flag) and in between each green were optional blue check points (marked with either a large blue flag or blue pole) and black check points (no markings on the ground what so ever). If you didn’t click the tracker in time before the green check point closed you would not be allowed to collect points for that next section until you clicked on the next green check point. There were also closing times to get to green check points and back to basecamp. Upon arriving at basecamp at the end of the day, you click your tracker, and show your still sealed up prohibited items, turn off the “Emergency Only!” satellite phone, draw your start number for the next day, go to fuel up and then park in impound. You only have 1 hour to refuel, check your vehicle, and remove any items you require for the evening as once your vehicle is checked in you do not have access again until 5am the next morning. Each evening after fueling I would check all Cali’s fluids before I checked her in for the night.
Day Zero arrived with the customary cow bell as Emily walked through camp. The excitement for the first taste of what the Rebelle would be like. We knew that there would be an Enduro and several checkpoints to collect. Day zero is a non-scoring day to help all the competitors get into the routine and for Rookies to get a feel for how the competition will go. Our official start time was 9:32 am and we had a total of 7 hours to find 10 checkpoints over 2 maps and complete one Time/Speed Enduro (on time Enduro). The checkpoints consisted of 4 green, 3 blue and 2 black. There were also Optional X checkpoints that are usually more difficult to drive to or navigate to. To say we were excited was an understatement! We sat with Pam (our start line officiant that always had a smile for us) at the start line, watching the clock creep ever close to our start… 5, 4, 3, 2, go! The feelings of excitement, joy, nervousness, and the rush of leaving that line brought tears of joy to my eyes. Yes, you probably have figured out that I am emotional and not ashamed of the tears that often came during this epic adventure. Tears of joy, compassion for other teams, frustration, disappointment and then right back to joy at clicking on checkpoints or crossing the finish line each day. We worked our way through the first 6 checkpoints and then started the Time/Speed Enduro. The Enduro this day covered 29 km with 25 waypoints over 40.5 minutes. The 25 waypoints are places where there is a direction, could be a pile of rocks, stay straight, turn in a direction, cross or pass a bridge or fence, etc. Also, at any given time you have a prescribed average speed you must maintain. The challenge is to pass the time clocks on time to gain points. We didn’t know for sure but we really felt we did well until the last page when it said to go through 2 berms…… well we missed them and had to turn around…LOL. That threw us off our last time check but we did have fun on this Enduro. We then went on to our final 3 checkpoints and then checked into basecamp. We were pleased with our performance of the day and enjoyed a lovely dinner from Drew and team. I tell you, the food during the Rebelle was fantastic. After a bit while visiting with other Rebelles, Emily came and took me aside to let me know Doug had sent word that my new baby granddaughter had arrived and both mom and babe were fine. She was born as we competed in our first Enduro! Before going to bed we also found out we did well on the Enduro and were 11th to leave the start line the next morning.
Day one started the same as every morning on the Rebelle the lovely Emily heralding the day with the cowbell. We completed our morning rituals and were at the truck and ready for Gage (he always had a smile on his face) to tell us to line up. We left the start line at 7:20 am and started with another Enduro challenge and then had 17 checkpoints to find and be back at basecamp for 5:20pm. We had a few issues during the timed Enduro and unfortunately did not collect any points. We shook it off and went on to the check points. We planned on doing all the green and do most of the blues with a few blacks in as time allowed. The Rebelle is not an easy challenge, Emily often told us you will not get all the checkpoints and you will often be forced to make quick choices that may work or not work. We, after getting a little turned around trying to find blue checkpoint #13 for too long, decided to take a penalty and click our tracker to find out where we were. It was a smart move for us as we really needed to get back on track and we easily found blue #13 and moved on. By clicking on #13 for 10 points it cancelled the penalty out. What we did not know at the time was that we had miss-calculated basecamp closing time and miss-calculated our last green checkpoint closing time. With the 2 hours floundering trying to find #13, we were 19 minutes late to green #16 and we were 40minutes late for base camp. We realized our error as we were heading from the last black checkpoint to basecamp. I was devastated and could not believe we made such a silly error and that we would be out the 36 points we worked hard to collect. On top of that we also had another 2 wide misses (10-point penalties). What would have been 146 points for the day turned into 80. The takeaway and hard lesson learned for the day, TIME MANAGEMENT, be more careful with closing times, checkpoints and basecamp and don’t waste a lot of time trying to find one single checkpoint and getting lost. After being fed an amazing pizza and pasta meal from Drew and many encouraging words from other Rebelles we called it a night and headed to bed.
Day two was a fresh day. We shook off the mistakes from the day before and focused on the day ahead of us. Not focusing on the day before. We found out the night before we were 33 to leave the start line which gave us a few extra moments to break camp and get ready for the moving basecamp day. The day started off once again with an Enduro that covered 196km, the first 76.5km was an on time Enduro requiring exactly 72 minutes and the remaining 119.5 km included checkpoints 1-4 and took 2hrs and 11 minutes. After completing the Enduro we worked on collecting our planned checkpoints for the day which included 4 black checkpoints. I was happy to reach the Ridgecrest area as the landscape was amazing. Sue had also planned a few technical blacks for us to try for. I adore rock crawling and steep ascents and descents; you could not wipe the smile from my face. It was the most amazing section of road we had travelled thus far. We arrived with time to spare to basecamp and I am sure those who watched our social media saw us arrive and heard me squeal in glee crossing the finish line that day. We did have a wide miss on Black checkpoint 14X but overall, we had a blast throughout the day. We drew 7:10am start time for day 3 and after yet another amazing meal with Drew, we fell exhausted into our beds before 9pm.
Waking up to day three in Ridgecrest I was still ecstatic to have one more day in this area to drive the spectacular terrain. As we left our tent, I noticed the start line had been moved to the bottom of a particular fun looking hill climb behind where the competitor’s camp was. I had a feeling today was going to be a challenge. Included in our morning papers were 2 Enduro challenges, one time/speed and one on route. Part way through our morning plotting and Enduro calculations the on route Enduro was picked up and we were told we would get them back later. During the 6am meeting we were told for the on-route Enduro, we were not allowed to stop or turn around for any reason. If you made an error, you needed to safely exit the area and go to the finish coordinates. We lined up to start at 7:10 am and were handed the on route Enduro through the window. We knew we started with an Enduro but thought it was the “on time” and not the on route we were just handed. A lot of confusion for this rookie team as we were looking at the wrong one. Our start time came, and we were still befuddled…. I panicked because we didn’t leave on time and finally figured out we were looking at the wrong sheets. We started up the hill. There were many paths to take and not 100% sure we took the correct one. It was a short Enduro, 1 km distance, but we quickly made a wrong turn and then had to try to get off the mountain and out of the way. Because we did not exit at the correct location we got turned around and the only landmark we could find was the town of Ridgecrest. We decided getting back on track was more important than floundering lost so we headed towards the town. In making that choice we missed out on 4 checkpoints we wanted to try but we tried hard not to let it ruin our day. We quickly figured out exactly where we were and headed off to our first Green checkpoint. After clicking CP 1 we were the first team to set off on the time/speed Enduro near the Aqueduct. This Enduro was 29km long and had a finish time of 34:00 minutes. What a drive! We had speeds from 25km/hr. to 65km/hr. with 28 waypoints. Highlight for me was waypoint 17, traveling 65km/hr. I had to execute a hard right… nailed it and it was the best feeling in the world, to know that I not only executed the turn but we made the time also! A few waypoints later we missed our turn and by the time we corrected another team had passed us. We knew that the rest of the Enduro we wouldn’t be on time, so we relaxed and just enjoyed the remaining travel. For the remainder of the day we focused on having a clean day getting all our greens, some blues and blacks as time allowed and check into basecamp with time to spare.
After parking the truck in the impound we headed into camp. I saw Melissa and Rochelle from Roaming Wolves sitting outside their tent. I had to go over to them and to see if they were ok. What happened over the next hour or so blew my mind. I sat, listened and cried for them due to yet another issue with their truck. I understood their heartache of all the expense and challenges to compete and their third teammate was letting them down. I did however love the new name for the Bronco: “Cranky Bitch” and it did get us laughing a bit. My heart was breaking for them and I wished with all my heart I could fix things for them. The Rebelle is more than a Rally. The number of ladies from other teams even Emily herself that came to sit with us on the ground beside these two ladies was amazing. We talked, encouraged and supported one another. We all rallied around them and more than one of us said if it came to it, we would pull or push Cranky Bitch across the finish line. We ate dinner together and the wonderful mechanics looked at the Bronco that evening to see what they could do to help. I fell asleep that night amazed at #triberebelle and how much these ladies from all walks of life truly cared for one another. Always there for a fellow Rebelle in need and not one thought was given to whether you were a rookie, a seasoned Rebelle or how you were doing points wise for the day.
When we woke on Day 4, we had to break camp and we would be starting the marathon stage. We would have a full day including a massive on route Enduro through Death Valley with a self-camp night in Dumont Dunes. We had no idea what a brutal day it would be. Day four, I can tell you now, is the day the “wheels came off the bus” (as Sue likes to call it) and would be the day of many tears and mistakes. We started off the day nailing black checkpoint #1. The decision to get to green checkpoint #6 and skipping all in between checkpoints, as there was so much ground to cover that day, was made. From #6 we carried on and tried for black# 8. We were a bit off and did not gain any points, but we didn’t have a wide miss so we were ok with that. We managed to get green checkpoint #9 but then things went sideways. We tried for a blue with no success and then made a wrong turn trying to get to Green#14 and ended up heading in the wrong direction ending up at the top of a mountain. Yep, a 100% oh frig moment! The decision to backtrack down to the paved road was made and we hightailed it to the green. I admit I was a mess. It was going to be so close to make it for the closing time for that green, it felt as if time was racing by and I was crawling at a turtle’s pace. We arrived at the green checkpoint, clicked the tracker and I sat there crying and frustrated; we were 5 minutes late! I took some time to cry and try to pull myself together. I was truly falling apart and making my friend and navigator feel terrible. We knew at that point we were done for the day; we could not collect anymore checkpoints and were unsure if we could even make it to base camp on time to get the 20 points associated with check in. Another insight I gleaned from this day is, when we are frazzled we make silly mistakes such as turning right instead of left when leaving a cp or thinking we could bypass a dirt road and still make it to basecamp. We drove the 185km long Enduro through Death Valley and the Badwater Basin. Again it felt like time was racing and we were crawling. After a silly choice to try and miss the dirt road was made, we ended up circling back half an hour later and took the road with a Rally staff member sweeping in behind us. I knew at that point we were the absolute last team. The max speed for this road was 55km/hr. In the state I was in I was not paying close enough attention to my speed and found out days later I had incurred a speeding penalty and another -15 points to an already abysmal day. The whole time we were on the dirt road the light was fading fast and by the time we made it to the other side it was pitch black. We pulled into an OHV parking lot and tried to figure out how to get to basecamp. A Rally staff member pulled up to make sure we were ok to continue as all checkpoints were now well past closed. Side note: I love how much all staff involved really care that everyone is ok and safe. At this point I was falling apart and just could not pull myself together, I made my navigator feel like crap and was a sobbing mess sitting on the tailgate. It took about 15 mins to pull myself together and we made our way to basecamp to have the day from hell end. After fueling up and pulling into the area of base camp I set about getting the tent set up with Sues help and trying to let the day go. I now just needed my happy place in the dark with my camera to help me shake off the day. The night sky never disappoints and is a joy to photograph. While I photographed the stars and the Milky Way, Sue was busy plotting and starting to plan the next day. After an hour or so I finally felt better and more myself and let go the feelings of failure. I apologized a lot to Sue for making her feel bad, it was a team failure not an individual failure and I would not let her take all the blame.
4am on day five I found myself awake and unable to go back to sleep, so I got up and started water for coffee and breakfast and took a few more photos. Sue woke up not long after me and started busily plotting and getting bearings for the day. I was hopeful for the new day and was being positive. We packed away the tent and all items as our start time was 7:32am. Dumont Dunes are spectacular to see. I would be lying if I did not admit I was a bit nervous to drive in the dunes. I had not driven in the dunes since Sept of last year and that was only for a couple days. Before that my only experience was for a very, very short amount in Oregon. Sue took a bearing and said I want you to go there; up a dune. Deep breath, ok I told myself you got this, and off I went. We came up to the top of the dune and I could see that another team was a wee bit stuck on the other side of a bowl and another team was waiting to drop down into the bowl. A Rally staff team arrived onsite and stayed at the top of the bowl to see oncoming traffic and take some photos etc. In a short amount of time they all got moving so I proceeded up to the top of the bowl. I dropped into the bowl and went up the other side and dang it… I let off the gas a wee bit too early. I backed down to the bottom and re adjusted my angle and tried again… no luck. I backed down again and stopped and took a look around the bowl for a better way to get out. The Rally staff came down to see if I had a plan etc. and made sure we were ok. The plan was to get Cali to back up the bowl as much as possible and then get some speed/momentum and ride the bowl up and out the way we came in. After the staff were safely out of the way I made my move. To my surprise, Cali likes to climb dunes in reverse! She made it almost all the way out, I shifted her into 2nd and off we went; down, around and up ….. We’re out! I was beyond happy that I did it! But I admit I was not feeling ready for the big dunes just yet. Looking back now I wish I had more confidence in myself. I had just gotten out of a big bowl safely and at no time stuck requiring digging or needing Maxtrax. But hindsight is 20/20. We proceeded on a different path, a bit longer path to avoid the large dunes and me just taking baby steps. We came across Blue CP3. We had time so we decided to hold off clicking #3 so we could go find Blue CP2. It took a little more time than we would have like but we nailed it and collected CP2. The downside is we now could not find our way back to CP3. Not wanting to miss getting our next green on time we left the Dumont dunes area and headed to our next two green checkpoints. Given the brutal day before we played it safe and made sure we got all our green checkpoints and made it back to basecamp with an hour to spare. Again hindsight…… should we have tried for more blues and some blacks? Now I can say yes we probably should have but I still understand why we didn’t. Day four was a brutal day for both of us and we just needed to have a clean day. It wasn’t a perfect day, we did get turned around a bit, but we made it to base camp with time to spare.
Day six waking up at Johnson Valley, breaking down camp and then hitting the start line at 7:03am was a bit of a rush. This day we had to be ready to go 20 mins before start time. Today we would leave the start line in pairs, 3 minutes apart and drive straight into the sunrise! It was a surreal moment for me. I couldn’t believe after all the planning and dreaming for 3 years this was happening and then it hit me…… this is the second to last day. Today we would drive through Joshua Tree national park and end up in Glamis. We set off driving into the sunrise towards our first checkpoint of the day. We ended up in an area with a lot of other teams. I took a look at the path I intended to take up and over, but as I couldn’t see what was on the other side in the way of my descent we opted to backtrack a bit and cross over in the valley next to where we were. Again hindsight… it would have been an epic challenge. I just did not want to put us in a position where we lost time and had to turn around further down that path. We found the blue checkpoint and headed off to the next. As we approached, we could see 3 blue flags in a row. After checking our distance and bearings we clicked and quickly found out it was not quite right. We had incurred a wide miss penalty. Agh… After checking we realized that it was plotted wrong. We decided to find the correct one and cancel out the wide miss. We were so fixated or fixing our error we made a huge “time” mistake and missed our green checkpoint by 35 minutes. How did this happen again, our hearts sank, how could we get so fixated on correcting a 10-point penalty that we now miss out on the next set of checkpoints worth a possible 48 points. After a moderate amount of time of beating ourselves up we managed to push it aside and focus on the points we could collect for the rest of the day. We had a long transit time from Johnson Valley to Glamis, 311kms. We had a beautiful transit through Joshua Tree National Park and the upper Mojave Desert. We both enjoyed the scenery and the non-stressful transit.
Coming into Glamis was amazing. The dunes give me such a wash of happiness and are stunning to behold. As we pulled into Osborne Overlook my heart leap for joy, team Roaming Wolves was there! Every time we pulled up to a checkpoint and saw them, we both would give a cheer! These ladies during the whole rally have had to dig deep and work around every vehicle difficulty, including enduring this crazy heat with no air conditioning! I cannot convey how brutal it was. At times we were even sweating in the truck and shedding layers and we had working air conditioning! Seeing Melissa and Rochelle was a joyous moment. After clicking on our green and airing down, we joined Roaming Wolves and decided to work together and go for blue checkpoint 14 as it was on the way to our next green. We dropped down to the sand highway and started the journey. I was trying to get a feel for the sand and the mini dunes, not super hard just dipping my toes in. I went up a small hill and yup… lost traction! Oh my goodness!!! I had forgotten about my nanny buttons (traction control) and turning it off for when I am climbing in sand. As I lost traction the nanny cut Cali’s power and I was slightly stuck. Inside my head I started beating myself up. Really!!! I got stuck like this??? Melissa and Rochelle got the winch line out and gave me a tug backwards. I loved that the media arrived on time to capture the action, it was humbling. Yep I did that! This minor delay had us all agree skip the blue, go for the green and then basecamp. I tried not to let it bug me, but it was in my mind that I cost them a possible 5 points and honestly it made me upset. They have been struggling so hard and my silly oops made them not want to go for the blue. Having dinner that evening at Glamis was magical and I could not help but enjoy the time we spent together with them and with a couple other teams. The sadness of the final day tomorrow crept in and I will admit a tear or two was shed as I fell asleep that night.
OMG! Today is Glamis, Day 7! Our final day of competition!!! Literally that is what went through my head as I stirred to consciousness. And right behind that, the small but nagging little pest of self-doubt about driving in the dunes. I honestly have no idea how I can nip that in the butt. It has always been a part of me no matter what the situation. Had we been able to go on the dune trainings we had planned would it have made a difference? We will never know. All I can say is F*&^ing Covid. As I pushed the doubts aside and started our morning routine the excitement of the day started to set in. We made a plan the night before with Melissa and Rochelle that we would work together today. Our plan was to use the train tracks, aqueduct and radio tower to help us get to the checkpoints without going through the massive sand dunes. We also made a conscious plan to monitor the time closely. We would pop into specific points and backtrack out again.
On our way to the first blue checkpoint I tried to get on top of a small dune so Sue could check the heading etc. I think we only got in 500 meters and had another 500 to go. I misjudged my tire placement and I slid sideways down the small dune. I know I scared Sue and at first myself. I was fairly certain that the truck wouldn’t flip and thought we could winch my back end down and back out. But all of us decided we needed some help. Sue made the call and shortly after help arrived. I explained my plan and our fear of rolling the truck. They assured us if we wanted to work the situation, they would allow us to proceed unless we were endangering each other or the vehicle. We decided to try. We broke out some of the recover gear from Freedom Recovery Gear and moved the Bronco to the other side of the dune. Side note; watching Rochelle hop over that dune had a cheer from me, she is a beast!!! We used her winch line, an extension and soft shackles to connect the two trucks and had Rochelle take up the slack making her an anchor to prevent me rolling. First attempt was to dig out the front and rear drivers’ tires and put the Maxtrax under them to aid in getting me on top of the sand. That worked but I slipped off the Maxtrax and stopped. Did I mention it was stupid hot out at this point in the day??? I then tried going forward in hopes the trucks’ back end would head more downhill. That worked and I was now in a position to try and reverse out after we disconnected the safety line and had Rochelle come back over to the other side of the dune. I started to spin and sink so I stopped. I then remembered something I had learned a couple months earlier from training with Overlanding BC that helped with getting through difficult terrain. Cali has active traction control (A-TRAC), Sue and I like to call it ATRAC (like 8 track…LOL). I put the nanny controls back in place and gave it a go. It worked!!!! She slowly crawled down and out and I was free!!
There were tears of happiness and a small celebration and then the conversation of what to do next. Me getting stuck cost us time, cost us going to the blue checkpoint and we had to book it to our green before we timed out. We made it! Both teams had made it in time. I can honestly say I would have been heartbroken if my error cost Roaming Wolves their Green. Our journey to the green was hard on the Bronco and she was overheating. We took some time to let it cool down and discussed options. We were willing to tow them to the remaining greens and basecamp if need be. We were not leaving them behind. Together we started on the path to CP9 and again had to stop for the Bronco to cool down. After more discussion of the route and distance to our next green, Rochelle and Melissa decided Green 9 was not worth it and they would skip it to slowly do the remaining greens and hopefully make basecamp. They insisted we go on without them. Truly leaving them and us driving away hurt some. I wanted to have them with us but I understood that they needed to let that green go, it wasn’t worth it. Sue and I headed off to CP9. I started to try more small dunes and hill climbs, I was slowly gaining my confidence. We made it to CP9 and had some time to spare, win in our books! We decided as we made our way back, we would try our hand at a couple of blues; CP11 & 12. We didn’t want to waste too much time so we put time limits for each. 11 was a bust but we nailed 12 and it was at the top of a small dune. I made it up and clicked on the checkpoint with a huge smile on my face. Another small win for this girl! I dropped down the dune and we were off. I was starting to remember the feeling of dropping down the dunes and smooth acceleration at the bottom, what a rush. We continued the way back to our final greens, all the while hoping Melissa and Rochelle were ok and getting their remaining greens. As we went, I played a bit more cresting and dropping down smaller dunes. I was finally finding my rhythm and feet. Looking back I wish I had done that more on the days when in the other dunes. I really was not ready for this to be the last day, it went by so fast. I wanted to continue on but also inside I missed my family terribly much. Doug, my husband, has been my rock for 30+ years and has always supported me and sacrificed so much. He really wanted to be at my side as I fulfilled this dream but unfortunately Rebelle has never allowed spectators in any year. I missed my kids and three grandsons, also my newest granddaughter, Alivia, born a week ago this day while I was on Day0 of this epic adventure, and I longed to get a glimpse of her beautiful face. I wanted to snuggle all my grandsons and tell them how much grandma loved them. Knowing that I had more than 2 weeks of a wait to see them all again, hug them all, it was overwhelming (14 day mandatory quarantine on return to Canada....)
We made the decision to let go of the final 5 checkpoints as by the time we arrived close to basecamp it was approx. 3:45pm and only had 50 minutes until our close time. One wrong move and we could have been stuck for too long. We drove up to the final finish line, seeing both Rochelle and Melissa there cheering for us, seeing the staff smiling in welcome, we clicked the tracker one last time. We had done it!!! We pushed through those hard days, enjoyed our good days…who am I kidding; even the good days were hard!!! (*Emily* “If it were easy everyone would do it”) We tried to just let go of our mistakes and have a sense of peace with all the in betweens. The tears were flowing, a hug from Emily, jumping out of the truck to hug and cry with Melissa. Final photos were taken, final fuel fill up with Busby and his incredible team, another unfailing smile and warm greeting from Gage and final parking of Cali for the finish of Rebelle 2020. We can’t say we did the Rebelle perfectly, we made mistakes, we laughed, we cried but in the end we did it and we are still friends!!! I was honoured that Sue was my navigator and I treasure our friendship. Rebelle Rally….♥ until we meet again!!!!!