How this Team of Veterans Challenged, and Conquered, Rebelle Rally

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Rachael Ridenour and Karah Bernhard, Team Record the Journey, Rebelle Rally 2019. Photo: Kymri Wilt

Despite challenges that would sideline the best of us, their ‘Tribe Rebelle’ spirit lifted them to the top. 

“This was not me, this was not Karah…this was Tribe Rebelle…” says Rachael Ridenour after her team’s incredible, and improbable, second place finish in the Crossover Class at the 2019 Rebelle Rally. The Rebelle Rally, the all-women rally that pits 76 competitors against 8 days off road driving via paper map navigation through 2,000 miles of the American Southwest, is one of the toughest, and most elating, on earth.  Teams of two are comprised of a driver and a navigator and they  go completely off the grid: no GPS, tech or phones allowed.

For team Record the Journey, this year’s finish was nothing short of amazing. Neither women are the typical off-road warriors who are drawn to competitions like this; they are military veterans looking for challenges that will continue to fuel their ambitions.  Rachael’s teammate, Karah Behrend, is an adaptive athlete who lost the use of her legs and parts of her hands to a progressive neurological disease. For her, the challenges of Rebelle Rally were amplified. But, so were the rewards. 
Not only did they place second in their class in their Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross CUV, but they went on to claim the Team Spirit Award, too.   
“And you better be proud of that. Just like the military tribe, with great pride comes great responsibility – so we pick each other up, we lift each other up, and we ARE Tribe Rebelle,” Rachael said. 

Related: Rebelle Rally: Empowering Women Off Road

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The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross CUV off roads in the 2019 Rebelle Rally. Photo: Kymri Wilt

An Infectious Spirit that Inspired Others

It’s that spirit that led the team Record the Journey to set the most amazing record: they became the first team with an adaptive athlete to compete. And win. 
That Karah and Rachael chose to compete despite their personal challenges is what truly sets them apart. Their unsinkable spirit and tenacity to do everything they needed to do to compete is what had the entire field of challengers, auto manufacturers, veterans, friends, family and media rooting for them. 

Related: Women in Auto: Inspiring Quotes for Women’s Day

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Rachael Ridenour and Karah Behrend ready to roll in the Rebelle Rally. Photo: Kymri Wilt

Not Your Run-of-the-Mill Rebelles – If There Is Such A Thing

Karah and Rachael are not average Rebelle Rally competitors. Both are US military veterans who have served in some of the harshest conditions in military history.
Air Force veteran Karah became the first ever adaptive athlete in the rally. But, she has everything it takes to compete in the Rebelle Rally: a fierce determination, a tireless attitude and a sense of humor enviable of even the most gifted of stand-up comediennes. Karah doesn’t need to stand, she doesn’t even need to lean, she’s a fully self-sufficient self-empowered woman. 
And Rachael brings a commitment to uplifting others in everything she does — not something you typically see in a competitive challenge. This unshakable spirit led her to start a nonprofit veteran charity Record the Journey as a means to assist service members in the transition to civilian life. She wanted to provide a creative outlet for veterans, so, as an avid photographer, she puts together photography adventures that let veterans explore the world with fresh eyes.

Related: 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV: An SUV With All the Right Stuff

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Rachel Ridenour, Navigator for Team Record the Journey, Rebelle Rally 2019. Photo: Kymri Wilt

A Fresh Perspective and a New Challenge

Rachael is no stranger to the Rebelle Rally. She has been the recipient of the Team Spirit Award two years running, and with good reason. She just can’t help helping others. That’s pretty much how she rolls, on road and off.
But in competing alongside Karah, Rebelle Rally was an outlet for her to change her own view and to see things from a fresh perspective. Her military experience paired with her clean communication skills makes her capable of giving precise directional orders as the team’s navigator. But she also welcomed input from Karah, from Mitsubishi who sponsored them in the Eclipse Cross, and from anyone else associated with Rebelle Rally who had helpful guidance to share.
Karah was the one in control of the vehicle. As the driver, she was calling the shots on the road. But control is something she’s comfortable with. She’s become masterful at controlling what she can: her attitude and effort, and even her hair color – she sported bright pinky-purple hair during the rally.
Ever since being asked by an awe-struck child one Halloween if she was a real mermaid,  Karah has embraced the qualities of a magical creature while remaining undeniably human—pink hair included. And having the dignity to ask for help and the humility to be thankful is one of those characteristics. Literally getting her wheelchair stuck in the sand, she didn’t hesitate to ask for assistance and to thank Tribe Rebelle for the many times she was given a “push-start,” an extra hand, or any offer to do anything to get her on the road.
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Karah Behrend, driver, and the first adaptive athlete competitor in the Rebelle Rally. Photo: Kymri Wilt

Mitsubishi and Record the Journey: A Powerful Pair

That Karah and Rachael ended up driving a Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross was kismet. Mitsubishi had started a “Small Batch – Big Impact” initiative and was searching for small nonprofits and start-up social benefit corporations they could help to support. 
For Record the Journey, seeking an automotive sponsor to compete in Rebelle Rally, Mitsubishi was a perfect fit. Mitsubishi picked the Eclipse Cross CUV for the team, re-defining it as a “Community Utility Vehicle” for Rebelle Rally. It has all the critical features, including all wheel drive, SUV-like ground clearance and capability for off-road driving. The Eclipse Cross was outfitted with hand controls for Karah, as well as BF Goodrich tires for off-roading and a skid plate to protect the underside of the Eclipse Cross. What it needed to compete in Rebelle Rally was “the determination and unwavering passion Rachael and Karah brought to the competition,”  said Kimberley Gardiner, head of marketing at Mitsubishi. And, “helping others embodies exactly what is at the core of our ‘Small Batch – Big Impact’ program.”
Rebelle Rally, as a world-class proving ground for vehicles, quickly put the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross to the test and it proved itself a worthy contender.
And, it proved the ideal ‘teammate’ for Karah and Rachael. 
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Mitsubishi Eclipse Crossover entry in Rebelle Rally 2019. Photo: Kymri Wilt

Shattering Barriers and Inspiring All Around Them 

“The only thing in life you can truly control is your attitude and your effort,” said Karah. And it’s from that perch that she seeks to break down barriers. “We went into the rally with a goal of completion,” she said. But with the support of Tribe Rebelle— the organizers, competitors, sponsors, media and Mitsubishi— we “were able to achieve much more,” and in turn, team Record the Journey inspired everyone they met.  They demonstrated, by example, what it truly means to life each other up.
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Team Record the Journey Rachael Ridenour and Karah Behrend and Mitsubishi. Photo: Kymri Wilt

Disclosure: I attended 2019 Rebelle Rally as a guest of Mitsubishi. Any opinions are my own.

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