Tackling the Rebelle Rally, the Female-Only Off-Road Rally, As A Newbie

Rebelle Rally Here We Come
Rebelle Rally Here We Come

Why on earth would anyone challenge themselves in this way? I’m hoping to figure that out.

I’ve now run 11 marathons, so I’m no stranger to starting a race when you can’t see the finish line. I understand the meticulous training and the physical pain as well as the psychological endurance necessary to do something hard. I’ve hit the wall. I’ve managed to PR (get my personal record). And I’ve failed miserably. 

So, it’s reasonable that something like the Rebelle Rally, a female-only off-road rally that tests not only skills and endurance but also the psyche, would appeal to me. Eight days in the California and Nevada deserts without GPS, showers or my cell phone? Sign me up!

Though I will admit I’m a bit nervous about the social media withdrawal, I’m looking forward to the challenge of finding my way in no-man’s land with nothing more than a compass, a map, my driving partner and the vehicular fortitude of the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz.

Related: The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is the Sports Adventure Vehicle That Wins My Heart

Kristin And Jill And The Santa Cruz. Photo: Jill Ciminillo

Kristin and Jill and the Santa Cruz. Photo: Jill Ciminillo

The Journey Began Before COVID-19. And The Desire Persisted.

I first decided I wanted to do the Rebelle Rally pre-pandemic, but I didn’t know how to select a partner or a vehicle or, well, learn how to use a compass. But then the pandemic hit, and the words “hard” and “endurance” took on a whole new meaning with a family crisis crashing around me and a world on lockdown – with no end to either in sight. 

It was a small group of female friends who lifted me up, who cried with me and sent me encouraging text messages, who saw me at my worst and still thought I was amazing that helped me persevere. We called ourselves the Fight Club because, at that moment, we all were fighting our way through something. 

I found my partner, Kristin Shaw, in that group.

Related: The Rebelle Rally Is Much More Than an Off-Roading Competition

Kristin Learning How To Navigate. Photo: Jill Ciminillo

Kristin learning how to navigate. Photo: Jill CIminillo

Putting It Out to the Universe

At first it was just a passing thought. I wanted to do Rebelle. She wanted to do Rebelle. So, why not do it together? We decided to “put it out to the Universe” that we would do Rebelle in 2022 as partners.

For me, I couldn’t think of anyone better than someone who cried with me at one of my darker times to spend eight days in a desert with. While we’re both concerned this could stress our friendship, I’ve seen how she handles adversity – with calm and grace – and I know (corny as this sounds) she will be the ying to my yang.

Plus, we were of the same mind in targeting an automaker who was also a newbie with an untested vehicle we both love: the Hyundai Santa Cruz.

And, yes, we have had “the talk” about our goals for this competition: To finish. And maybe not die. OK, that last part is a joke. Mostly.

Related: Life Lessons With Off-Road Driver and Rebelle Rally Founder Emily Miller

Jill Changes A Tire On The Hyundai Santa Cruz. Photo: Kristin Vanderhey Shaw

Jill changes a tire on the Hyundai Santa Cruz. Photo: Kristin VanderHey Shaw

Where Do We Go From Here? No, Literally, Where Do We Go?

Neither Kristin nor I are navigators. And though I live in Chicago and know east is the direction of the lake, I couldn’t tell you where that is at any given moment. So, we’ve signed up for Rebelle U and look forward to the intensive four-day trainings.

We both know we have a lot to learn – including which one of us will be the driver and which one the navigator. We’re starting to talk about snacks, a mini fridge for cold water and skid plates. We’re plotting our gear (including Dude Wipes) and the code word for when we’re getting on each other’s nerves (Watermelon).

Related: Rebelle Rally: Empowering Women Off Road

Jill Checking Out Maps. Photo: Kristin Vanderhey Shaw

Jill checking out maps. Photo: Kristin VanderHey Shaw

We’re still working on a team name that resonates, and we’re hoping we’ll have that ah-ha moment during our first training session, which begins this weekend. 

But there’s so much we don’t know that we don’t know.

All that is part of the journey we’re just about ready to undertake. We have seven months to figure it out, and we look forward to bringing you all along with us.

To be continued …

Follow the journey on Instagram: @jillciminillo@kirstinvshaw, @rebellerally and of course, @agirlsguide2cars