Author: Kaleigh Hotchkiss
On February 2, 2016, I turned 29. On that day, I made a list of all the things I thought I should have accomplished before I turn 30. I laugh at that list now, looking back, because at that time I hadn’t heard of a thing called the “Rebelle Rally”, and all of my bucket list items seem small now in comparison.
So with my 30th quickly approaching – what did I accomplish this year? I entered a contest called The Ladies Co-Driver Challenge. I filled out the application three times since I threw it in the garbage the first two times thinking “I don’t have time for this, I’ll never be able to get the time off work, I’ll never be able to learn how to use a map, I’ll never get chosen ahead of all these other applicants.” But finally, Ryan convinced me to just submit it, what’s the worst that could happen? And after several elimination rounds, I was chosen as the winner to participate in the Rebelle Rally with Charlene. And that was the easy part!
Over the next several months, I committed myself to a minimum of one hour of rally time per day, including reading books about navigation, shopping for camping and navigation supplies, going to an REI navigation class, watching YouTube video after YouTube video about maps, compasses, pace counting, triangulation, latitude and longitude, declination, and the list goes on. The amazing thing is that at the beginning of this process, I couldn’t have told you what half of those words even meant! I love learning new things and most days, my hour commitment turned into two or three, with a glass of wine and a cat cuddled on my lap as I watched a bushman tell me how to navigate in the dark by counting my steps on a string of beads.
The competition arrived quickly, and no matter how many hours I had studied, it’s the type of event where you just can’t feel ready. It was the first year of the Rebelle and no one really knew what to expect. At technical inspection day, everyone was buzzing- with excitement, with nervous energy, with relief that the day had finally arrived.
And with that, the event started. With every checkpoint, we made mistakes. We found out on day one that there are roads in reality that won’t show up on the map. Day two we learned the important of reading the checkpoint guide carefully. Day three we learned that we can’t get every checkpoint every day, and we had to start making sacrifices. And so it went on and on. Did I plot some points wrong? Yes. Am I still terrible at triangulating? Yes, though slightly better than I was on day one. Did we pack too much, make several u-turns, ask for help from other competitors, feel tired and agitated sometimes, almost cry when I saw our last blue pole in the middle of Glamis? Yes, yes and yes.
Rolling into the finish line, we had no idea what the standings looked like. I knew we had missed every black that day (someone, please, tell me how the heck you triangulate in the sand dunes!?), and I knew we had started the day neck and neck with some other teams. But we were happy. In the whole rally we only missed one blue (day 2 – we actually had one more hour than we thought, so we abandoned the checkpoint to race back to camp). One of my biggest stressors was the TSD sections because I had never practiced them or studied them, and we ended up with the second highest points for the long TSD section (with an uncalibrated Terratrip, and a WHOLE LOT of math on the fly). We kept the car together and had no mechanical issues. Our health was good, we had stayed rested and hydrated and SANE. And then we started getting whispers in our ears “I think you guys won!” Surreal!
On the end of day one you think – I don’t know how I’m going to do this for seven days. My neck hurts from looking at this map all day with a helmet on, I am making too many mistakes, I am tired and I don’t want to set up the tent again, I need some alone time, am I ever going to get these knots out of my hair? But then by the time you’re at the final basecamp, drinking a beer with your new friends, laughing about all your triumphs and failures and you’re thinking – I could keep going another seven days, is it really over? Well the truth it, it’s not over. I just have to wait impatiently for the Rebelle Rally 2017 to do it all again.
Author: Kaleigh Hotchkiss