Off-roaders map out road to Rebelle Rally
Karisa Haydon and Trista Smith, of Washington, aren’t ones to shy away from a challenge. Especially not one that tests their endurance — and gutsiness.
"That’s kind of our relationship, I guess," said Haydon, who's from Soldotna. "It’s been a lot of — ‘Hey, let’s do this endurance-crazy thing that we've never done before, and we’re going to really enjoy it and it’s going to be amazing.’"
"Yeah, like — are we qualified to do this? Well I don’t know. We’ll figure it out," she said.
That’s the sort of mindset they’re putting to the upcoming Rebelle Rally this October — an eight-day, off-road rally for women.
More than speed, teams compete for accuracy and precision as they find their way to given coordinates in the middle of the Nevada and California deserts. They plot those coordinates on topographic maps and use compasses and other tools to get there — no phones allowed.
This month, they've been testing out their navigational skills in Haydon's hometown. Haydon’s husband has been sending them out to different coordinates on the Kenai Peninsula, from a construction site on Funny River Road, to the Moose is Loose Bakery in Soldotna and to the mouth of the Kasilof River.
"Surprisingly, I don’t think I’ve ever been to the mouth of the Kasilof," Haydon said. "So that was a nice little road trip out there."
Haydon and Smith have a slew of endurance races under their belts, from 24-hour mountain biking races to Iron Mans and triathlons. Four years ago, they stumbled across off-roading at a rally in Washington, where they saw a Rebelle Rally booth.
Two babies and one mountain bike-related injury later, they were still game for the challenge. So they threw their hats in the ring on the first day of registration for the 2022 rally.
And they make a very compatible team. Smith is the navigator, while Haydon drives.
Haydon jokes that’s for the best.
"I think my plan, honestly before I do this is to get a manicure before I go and have an 'L' on one hand and 'R' on the other finger just so I can function better," she said.
The pair’s time on the Kenai has come with a navigational learning curve. They converted military-style maps of the area to the latitude, longitude style they're used to, using a handmade grid. But they had to start over when they messed that grid up. Smith pointed to their maps of Sterling and Kasilof, criss-crossed with hand drawn black and red lines.
"This was our first time that we have created a route together," Smith said. "So we were, like, estimating what’s the information that’s helpful for us to know as navigator and driver together."
She said their estimations proved highly accurate. Most of the time, they came really close to the points Haydon's husband had set.
Now that they have some of the navigational aspects of the rally down, they’ll keep practicing their off-roading skills over the next 70-or-so days leading up to it.
The Rebelle Rally is for women only. Smith said there’s a whole movement of women off-roaders emerging within the sport.
She said the off-roading community has been really welcoming to newcomers like herself — and she encourages anyone who’s interested or curious should jump in like they did.
"I think hard things, you tend to leave to the people that are either more professionally in that space, or the fittest, fastest, strongest," Smith said. "And we’re just coming in — we are not the fittest, we’re not the smartest, we’re not the strongest — and being like, ‘Well, we’re going to just show up and see how it goes.’ And it’s been really humbling and really cool as we’ve been welcomed into motorsport."
Haydon and Smith are, collectively, Team Baby Bronco — named affectionately for the car they’ll be driving in the rally.
You can follow along with Team Baby Bronco on their website, teambabybronco.com. During the rally this October, you’ll be able to track the racers on rebellerally.com.