Have you heard of the all female rally in Morocco where competitors drive 9 days off road in Morocco with no GPS? Yeah, until 2010 I hadn't either.
“Have you ever thought about driving 9 days in Morocco with no GPS?” This is the question posed to me in October of 2010 while at pits at the Mojave Off Road Enthusiasts Powder Puff Race, an annual event that raises money for Cedars Sinai Breast Cancer Center. Representatives from the US office of the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles were out recruiting.
And so began my two and a half year quest to become a Gazelle. To drive in this all female rally where all navigation is done with a compass and an old map, where it doesn’t matter how fast you go, but instead how well you navigate to the checkpoints. After 9 days, after going through river washes, over dunes, and across the desert, whichever team ends up with the least amount of kilometers on the odometer wins.
I joined forces with Michele Martineau as my navigator. We were raising money to go last year, but soon found that Michele, a breast cancer previvor, needed to have surgery. After much discussion we decided to delay a year.
The next year was spent raising money, talking to every contact we had, and raising more money. Then in December of 2012, Michele found out she needed even more surgery. We decided that we had worked too hard (and I had run my mouth to too many people) for me to not go, so she gave her blessing for me to go with Sabrina Howells, a Los Angeles based actress, singer, and song writer with a thirst for adventure.
We leave March 16th for Casablanca. The first few days consist of tech inspections, transfer to Erfoud, and a prologue day. The rally starts officially on March 20th until the 28th. We will have a ceremonial finish on the beach in Essaouira on March 30th, and then I’m back in Washington DC on the 31st.
While we are at the rally we will be participating in a few mini challenges. We rented an Isuzu D-Max specifically so we could enroll in the Isuzu Media Challenge. We partnered with Jalopnik and if we beat the 17 other teams in this mini challenge we will win 15000 Euros for our charity, FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered. They work specifically with women who have a genetic risk of breast and ovarian cancer. It seemed a fitting way to honor Michele.
We will also be entered into the First Participants Challenge and hope to place in the top ten of all the teams who are at the Gazelle Rally for the first time.
You can keep up with us here on Jalopnik. I’ll try to get a report out every day, but there are some days when I won’t have any satellite internet access at all, and there is no guarantee that I’ll make it back to the camp each night. It is the desert, after all and if my off road racing experience has taught me anything, it’s that the desert is a bitch and she’ll eat you for lunch if she can.
As of March 17th you can also send us messages while we are on the rally. I picture this kind of like wartime mail, with everyone dying for a piece of news from home. I anticipate this being one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, and Sabrina and I would appreciate any words of encouragement. Just go to www.gazellerally.com , click on 2013 Gazelle Teams and then click on us, Team 178. Follow the directions and your message will be waiting for us each night in camp. No guarantees we can write back, but know that your messages of encouragement will be welcome.
You can also track us via satellite on the website and monitor our progress as we cross the Moroccan desert. In the 22 years that this rallye has existed, only 8 other American women have participated. This year we will nearly double that with 7 new competitors.
We couldn’t be more proud.