Revelation At Rebelle Rally

Revelation At Rebelle Rally

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Competing in a race like the Rebelle Rally does more than just give you bragging rights. For one racer, the experience still affects her to this day. "I learned in this competition to be present in the moment because it's going to be revealed to us as we live it, as we go. And it revealed things about myself, how I react in tough times, how I react in joy. For me it was all just about revelation and I'm going to continue to process that and how I can apply that in my life now moving forward."

The first all-women off-road rally in the United States, the Rebelle Rally is a 10-day event with seven of those days traversing incredible desert terrain. Starting in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, the race covers over 1,200 miles ending in San Diego, California. The competition tests the women's navigation and off-road driving abilities, and most of all, their physical and emotional determination and grit. For some racers, the gift of this race has less to do with actually winning 1st place and more to do with the bond and sense of adventure shared among the women who compete in the event.  

For the women of Team #154 Roads Less Traveled, their lives will never be the same.

Revelation At Rebelle Rally

The Navigator

Being outdoors is what Rori Lewis knows and enjoys. She works for Total Chaos Fabrication in Corona, California and has known the owners since she was 15 years old—riding dirt bikes with them and her family throughout Southern California. But after a dirt biking accident, she gravitated toward off-roading on four wheels. "I started getting back into the truck, little by little. I had a Tacoma, nothing big or souped-up, but taking it off road and just enjoying it; being able to go to the places that my friends were riding their dirt bikes." After meeting her husband, Eric, they started off-roading together, usually with Rori as navigator, but she felt equally comfortable in the driver's seat. 

Working for Total Chaos, it was only natural that her colleagues encouraged Rori's curiosity for the Rebelle Rally. The co-owner of Total Chaos, Nicole Pitell-Vaughan, is no stranger to off-roading herself—she placed 2nd in the 2016 Rallye Aicha de Gazelles in Morocco, Africa. Nicole noticed Rori's interest in navigation and asked if she would be interested in doing it at the Rebelle Rally. Rori agreed without hesitation. Nicole gave Rori the number to a friend who happened to be looking for a navigator for the Rebelle.

Revelation At Rebelle Rally

The Driver

Tiffany Walker resides in Colorado Springs, Colorado where her work life is dedicated to Compassion International, a Christian humanitarian organization. She tries to spend a few weekends a month off-roading in her 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser Trail Teams Edition with her husband, Tom. "We joke about this, but to save our marriage, I made him get his own vehicle because we realized he would either backseat drive me or I would backseat drive him. So, finally, he got a Tacoma and now we can go out together and just use radios," Tiffany says with a laugh.

It was Tiffany's husband who pointed out Toyota's legendary capabilities. "He slowly started teaching me and then we found the Summit and really that's where I started gaining my confidence," she says, referring to the FJ Summit, held annually in Ouray, Colorado. Going on 12 years now, the FJ Summit brings together Toyota owners from across the country to share their love of the vehicle and off-roading. "You'd be on this trail with these amazing men and women, and somebody behind you or in front of you would give you tips on how to choose your lines and how to use your vehicle, whether it's your rear diff or if you should be in four-low or four-high. It just, for me as a woman, was so empowering to be out there doing this on my own."

Revelation At Rebelle Rally

The Meetup

The first time face-timing with Tiffany, Rori said, "I know this is gold, this is gold right here!" They met for the first time, face-to-face at the Summit in July 2017. "After the first few minutes of our meeting, all concerns washed away about whether or not we would be compatible," says Tiffany. "We were able to spend a little bit of time in Southern California at a sand dune training course—that was the second time I'd ever seen her in person. The third time we were face-to-face again was the beginning of the Rebelle."

That final meeting would begin a friendship and a journey, which created an indelible bond between these two women as they navigated and rallied their way across sand dunes, rocky plateaus, and rugged canyons, while camping out in the cold desert nights.

Revelation At Rebelle Rally

The Realization

"When I heard about the Rebelle, I just thought, that's so not me and I don't have the skill, I don't have the experience. You know, it's really cool and good for those other women," says Tiffany. "And then, I just really felt a prompting like, no, why can't I do this?"

"I feel like for the driver, the preparation part of it just comes with time and experience. I did invest in two courses. One was through Rod Hall and one was a dune driving class in Southern California, understanding my vehicle and its capabilities," Tiffany explains.

For Rori, it started with a four-day hard-core navigation training in May 2017, with the class getting caught in a sandstorm. "We had to wear goggles and we couldn't see 10 feet in front of us. I thought, this is the true experience of the Rebelle, we know what we'll be going through. This is going to be fun." After that experience, Rori went home, ordered more topographical maps, colored and fine point pencils to mark and see lines more clearly, colored sticky arrows to keep track of each checkpoint, highlighters to keep track of route plans to each checkpoint, magnifying glasses, multiple scales in different ratios, and a headlamp. After all the practice runs and application at the rally, she now sees topographic maps in everyday life. "When I see mountains, I see topo lines and how things are formed. I see, like, a topographical map driving to work!"

The Reality

Spending seven straight days with someone you've only met a few times may bring up some concerns on how to deal with conflict with this new person. Tiffany and Rori made sure they were as prepared as they could be, even having a "safety" word for times of duress. "Tiffany and I made the deal that no matter what happens, like if we fought, I would tell Tiffany, 'You stay on your side, I'll stay on my side. I'll tell you where to go and we're gonna finish this. We did a lot to get here, we're gonna finish this!'" Rori says laughing as Tiffany quickly joins in.

The pressure to accurately navigate your team, to not get lost or lose precious time and miss checkpoints, creates a stress like no other. One of these stressful times brings up anxiety in Rori. "There was one day where I completely overlooked something, and I didn't route something right—it tore me—I failed," Rori says as her eyes well up thinking about it. "Tiffany was just the most amazing person to pick me up and move me forward and say, 'Hey, this is day four, this is halfway. We're good. You know, it was nothing.' But it was a downer for me." Knowing how much pressure Rori put on herself, Tiffany's eyes begin to well up, too.

This is hard for Rori to talk about. She had dedicated herself to navigation training for months before the race, even tackling it in the evenings with her husband when she would get home from work after an hour and half drive, one way. "I'm going to say this because Rori won't say it about herself—no question, she had the harder job. Emily Miller, who is the founder of the Rebelle will tell you, if you have a great navigator, but just a good driver, you'll win the Rebelle. You can win the Rebelle."

Other racers were impressed with Rori's navigational skills. At the gala, on the last night of the rally, the first-place team said to them, "'We would love to learn from Rori because she's incredible,'" Tiffany says, beaming with immense pride.

The praise doesn't stop there. Rori explains that she might have worked hard on the navigation end, but her off-road experience was not at the same level as Tiffany's. "I definitely don't have the experience and the knowledge that Tiffany does with her vehicle, and that girl knows her vehicle!"

These two women, who had only met a few months before the race, comfort and support one another like they've known each other forever. 

The Results

Rori's experience gave her friendships she will forever cherish and a chance to escape the mundane. "Number one, you come out with a friend for life. It was an amazing adventure and you get to let go of the stress of the everyday life and you get to live. You just get to enjoy and not have to worry about what you're going to make for dinner or who's going to do the dishes or who will do the laundry. It was nice to separate."

Both women speak highly of their families, and especially of their husbands, for the support they received. "When I told my husband there's this opportunity to do the Rebelle Rally, he was like, 'All right, well let's start planning now.' He was on Amazon that night," says Rori. "He was number one cheerleader, number one everything."

Tiffany's husband watched the live stream of the race online. Understandably, he may not have gotten a lot done at work that week. "I had no idea he was so proud."

With the help of numerous off-road training sessions through sand dunes and hard-core dedication to navigational classes and practice runs, Team Roads Less Traveled placed 7th out of 33 teams—not too bad for a rookie team. To top it off, they were the only Toyota in the Top 10. Tiffany speaks of Toyota quality with help from Total Chaos. "We never ended up in the mechanics camp so it just speaks to Toyota and their capability and the equipment I got from Total Chaos. It was awesome."

Will Team Roads Less Traveled do the race again in 2018? For now, Tiffany and Rori are just going to enjoy and relish in what they accomplished in the rally and this new bond formed between them and their love of adventure. 

As for Tiffany's FJ—"I will be Toyota for the rest of my life. I'll never get rid of the FJ, even if the engine dies, I'll replace the engine." 

Well, if they do decide to race again, we know which vehicle they will likely use.



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