From Reporter to Rebeller: Meet Kathy Woods-Locke, Rebelle Rally Competitor

Rebelle Rally
Front Range Rebelles from Colorado, first time competitors in the 2019 Rebelle rally. Photo courtesy of Kathy Woods-Locke

She loved the competition so much she decided to join.

Kathy Woods-Locke first heard about Rebelle Rally as a writer for a truck publication. She quickly became a huge fangirl. It was her dream to someday compete in the Rebelle Rally, a 10-day all women off road rally in which competitors must rely on themselves, their teammates, their vehicles and their navigation skills. The rally does not allow phones, GPS or male competitors.

Kathy is a passionate Toyota owner; so much so that her “fun” job –aside of taking care of her husband, two kids, and three Boston Terriers in Aurora, CO, is as a freelance Creative Director for Toyota Cruiser & Trucks (TCT) magazine. She’s also the liaison for vendor partnerships for the Colorado FJ Cruisers (COFJC) group, which she joined shortly after purchasing her 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser in 2017.

I caught up with Kathy recently and decided her interview would give better insight into the Rebelle Rally than my story. After all, if there’s one thing I learned from covering the Rebelle Rally, it was that it’s a huge launching off point for women empowerment! So here’s Kathy’s story in her own words.

Further reading: Rebelle Rally empowers women off road 

A Girls Guide To Cars | From Reporter To Rebeller: Meet Kathy Woods-Locke, Rebelle Rally Competitor - Kathywoodslocke

Kathy Woods-Locke clearly sees herself in the Rebelle Rally. Photo courtesy of Kathy Woods-Locke

“Loyota” Toyota Gal

The first car I owned on my own was my 1996 Toyota Corolla. It was a manual transmission and I loved driving it. The first car I learned to drive was my dad’s 1986 Toyota 4Runner, also a manual, which I learned to drive in the snow in low range four-wheel drive. That way, I could learn how to shift without going 40+ miles an hour! My other cars were a 1987 Toyota Tercel and two 2004 Toyota Highlanders (the first one was totaled in an accident, and it saved me and my children’s lives so I bought the same exact one–color and all!). I currently drive a 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser. If you can’t tell, I’m a Toyota girl. I like to call myself a “Loyota” owner.

A Girls Guide To Cars | From Reporter To Rebeller: Meet Kathy Woods-Locke, Rebelle Rally Competitor - Toyotatacomarebelle

“Loyota Toyota” – Kathy even covered the Rebelle Rally in a Toyota Tacoma media truck. Photo courtesy of Kathy Woods-Locke


Off Roading Runs in the Family

I grew up off-roading with my dad and family when I was younger. We would often go out as a group with some of his friends and their families in their off-road vehicles. I remember them always talking on their CB radios to each other. I remember a time when we off-roaded in my dad’s 4Runner and he had it on this massive hill–he actually got out of the vehicle to see how far it was tilting–while the rest of us were inside trying to lean in the opposite direction thinking that might help prevent the 4Runner from rolling over! When I purchased my FJ Cruiser, the first person I went off-roading with was my dad. I wanted him to explain to me how my vehicle worked. It meant a lot to me and I think it meant a lot to him. He also handed down his Hi-Lift jack to me that he used when he went off-roading. It’s almost as old as me!

Further reading: Meet Emily Miller, the powerhouse behind Rebelle Rally 

Rebelle Rally

Emily Miller, founder of the Rebelle Rally, gives pep talk to competitors. Photo by Kymri Wilt

Rebelle Rally: A Role Model

Being a Rebelle means a lot to me. It’s important for me to show my daughter what women can do and that adventure is important in life. I want her to be brave, strong and proud of herself and know that she can get herself through any challenge.

I learned about the Rebelle through the COFJC Facebook page in 2017. They shared a fundraiser for Team 154 “Roads Less Traveled,” Tiffany and Rori. I looked into it and realized the driver, Tiffany, was from Colorado Springs and she drove an FJ, just like me. I thought it was a cool connection so I followed them during the rally with the live tracking on the Rebelle website. I remember thinking this rally was the coolest thing I had ever heard of and it sounded awesome–but it was a pipe dream then. It was something that seemed so out of reach for me and I felt like I wasn’t like those incredible rally women.

I was inspired by Emily Miller and Nicole Pitell-Vaughan, two of the most badass women I have ever met. I learned about their racing backgrounds and thought they were so inspirational to all women, especially off-road women, and what you can do as a woman competing in a man’s world.

Last year, I was able to attend the 2018 Rebelle Rally as media for TCT and that was it for me. I knew I could do this rally. I knew I could drive it and I knew I wanted the challenge and the adventure. But, I also knew my navigation skills were not up to par and that’s the most important part of this rally and something I am really trying to focus on improving.

Rebelle Rally

Front Range Rebelles from Colorado, first time competitors in the 2019 Rebelle rally. Photo credit: Art Silk

Finding the Perfect Teammate 

My teammate is Stacey May and I met her through her husband, TJ, who I work with at JLL. I had spoken to Stacey about the Rebelle a few months before and she seemed interested. The rally is definitely right up her alley. Stacey is creative, an outdoor enthusiast, independent, and an adventurer in her own right. I knew I wanted to be the driver and I felt Stacey would be a great navigator.

Our team name is Front Range Rebelles, which is basically the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. We wanted something to represent Colorado and how great and beautiful our state is.

Strength and Humor…and Finding One’s Way

I feel like my personal strengths are that I’m pretty easy going but firm when I need to be. I joke a lot, so if things get tough, I can at least try and get my teammate to laugh so we can chill out and have a good time! I want us to be serious, but in the end, I want us to really enjoy this opportunity and have a great time. Be challenged, but have fun doing so.

My biggest obstacle, number one, is my (lack of) navigation skills. I knew that would be the one thing that would make this rally really tough for me. I’m confident in my driving skills, but my navigation is definitely in need of improvement so I’m working hard on that now and up until the rally.

A Girls Guide To Cars | From Reporter To Rebeller: Meet Kathy Woods-Locke, Rebelle Rally Competitor - Rebellerallydusk

Dusk falls at the Glamis Sand Dunes on final day of rebelle rally. Photo credit: Kymri Wilt

From Snow to Sand

We’ve mostly been practicing on navigation with two other teams competing in the Rebelle this year–Team Mile High Spirit Rebelles and Team Anam Cara who competed last year. We’ve been getting a lot of snow in Colorado so it’s been tough to get out and practice, but as soon as the weather becomes warmer, we will be out there for sure! We also plan on attending some of the Rebelle U classes as well. The only part we may have trouble with is driving in sand. We have sand dunes in Colorado, believe it or not, but we aren’t allowed to drive all over them. We’ll figure something out.

Meet Kathy Woods-Locke, A Colorado Mom, Writer And Creative Director Who Ditched The Pen For The Challenge Of Paper Navigation And Off Road Driving.


Any final thoughts, or advice for women considering the Rebelle?

You are a different person after you take a 4,000+ pound vehicle over obstacles–you feel strong and confident. It’s empowering!

Based in Cardiff by the Sea, California, Kymri is a freelance travel photographer, writer, and videographer. Between travels, she... More about Kymri WIlt