It wasn’t all technical driving while on the Gazelle Rally. There were times where we were driving on roads. Of course, we couldn’t go faster than 50 km/hr, so we had a lot of time to kill. Sabrina is a professional singer and I have dabbled in musical theatre, so we often sang. We sometimes rapped.
“Bonjour Gazelles! C’est quatre heure!”
Every day through eight days of competition a melodic French female voice called out to us and every day I wanted to yell back, “SHUT THE FUCK UP IT’S 4AM ARE YOU CRAZY?!?!”
One of the most difficult aspects of the Gazelle Rally is the lack of sleep. You’re up at 4am, you leave at 6am and you put in anywhere from 10 hours (if you’re a really really good team) to 16 hours (if you’re a new team like we were) in the truck. During that time you never know what will happen. You may dig yourself out, you may help other teams dig out. You’ll probably be running up and down terrain, scouting it out and you might change a tire. Or two. . You’re plotting points and plotting your strategy. Mentally and physically you are spent at the end of the day.
Back at the bivouac you still have to set up camp, fuel the truck, talk to the mechanics, and eat. You may or may not have a chance to take a shower. Mostly I did not.
Getting to bed by 10pm was a luxury. We were usually collapsing into our tents around midnight. Even though it was bulky and took up space in the truck, I was so happy to have my Kelty cot. I was getting some quality 4 hours of sleep. My fellow Gazelles with their aired up sleeping pads often did not fare so well.
This video was taken the day after the infamous Crater Road, where we traversed a giant crater in the dead of night, only to descend down Sketch Boulevard into the maze of a palm tree farm. I still don’t know how we made it out.
It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been back from Morocco, and I’m still trying to process everything. Most of me is really proud that we did it and finished and kept our ranking through the whole thing. We finished in the top half of the First Participants Challenge and in the top ten of the Isuzu Media Challenge. All in all we had an awesome time.
There is a part of me that won’t shut up about the mistakes I made. One of my goals was to take care of the truck and if you followed us at all you know that on Day 2 it all went to a bit of hell. I came up out of a wash, hit a deep trough of some sort, and put a nice dent in the frame of our truck. As a result we had to sign a waiver that said we understood the risks of continuing with a bent frame and that we wouldn’t drive faster than 50 km/hr. They put an alert on our Iritrak system so that if we did it would sound an alarm back at the bivouac.
50km/hr is 30mph by the way.
I’m not sure how much this contributed to our finishing position, but I can’t help but thinking that if we could have gone faster between checkpoints we would have, well, made it to more checkpoints.
But shoulda coulda woulda, right? The lesson to come out of this (besides the given Don’t Break the Truck) is Patience. We were stuck with what we had. We couldn’t go any faster, and I just had to deal with it. This is how I did it:
It’s less than TWO WEEKS until we leave for the Rallye!!! We know a lot of you want to follow us on this crazy adventure. We are proud to announce that we have partnered with Jalopnik as part of the Isuzu Media Challenge. The Media Challenge is a mini-challenge within the Rallye. Participants must drive an Isuzu vehicle and partner with a major news outlet who will post daily updates. The winner of this challenge gets 15000 euros for their charity of choice.
That’s right. We don’t have to win the whole Rallye (although we wouldn’t mind doing that too), we just have to beat the other teams in the Media Challenge to win some serious coin for our charity. We have chosen FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered. We wanted to work with them at this point as they specifically benefit women who have a hereditary risk of breast cancer, like Navigator #1 Michele Martineau.
Of course, we wouldn’t be us if we didn’t try for even MOAR press coverage. During the Rallye, March 19-28, you can follow us at
We hope you will take the time to write to us. After March 16th just go to the Gazelle website and click on Rally Live. There you can find a link to all the teams. Click on us, team 178. Go to Write to the Gazelles and follow the instructions. The Rallye will print out our messages for us at the bivouac each night. We imagine this is a lot like mail call in the Army and any messages we get from our supporters will mean a lot to us. We will try to write back but we have heard that there are only 3 computers for 300 women. Those are not good odds.
And of course, you can track us. Even though we won’t have GPS, we will be tracked via satellite so you can monitor our progress. Just go to www.gazellerally.com. We are team 178, but there are 4 other American teams to cheer for:
Team 107 Lerner/Reina; Third Time Participants
Team 136 Hamilton/Beavis; First Time Participants
Team 182 Klishevich/Chiadmi; First Time Participants
Team 185 Meddows/Barone; Second and First Time Participants
We wouldn’t be going to Morocco without the help we have received from our friends, family, and supporters. We realize these are difficult financial times for everyone, and we thank you SO VERY MUCH for helping us get to Morocco for this crazy, life changing adventure!
Well, we have paid our rally fees and we are definitely on our way to the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles!!! Our final fundraising push is a silent auction, open until February 4th at 11pm EST. Lots of cool stuff is up for bid including some gift cards from SDHQ Off Road, Off Road Vixens, RSK Clothing, and Mary Kay. Plus a discounted pro entry to a MORE race, a photo package from Dezert Wife Photography, a co-driver seat in a few races with Dezert Outlaw Motorsports, and more!! Check it out at www.32auctions.com/tcg
We are now deep in the depths of finding a rental truck…in French. Here’s how you communicate via email to French rental companies:
1. Frantically search the internet for “French truck rental”
2. Realize that there are contacts listed in your Gazelle packet
3. Feel dorky
4. Attempt to write an email in French
5. Proof read it with your terrible French but think, “This sounds good,” and hit send
6. Remember something called Google Translate and run your already sent French email through
7. Laugh at the pathetic translation and rewrite email
8. Resend email with addendum: “Ecrit avec l’aide de Google Translate”
9. Receive email from said French company
10. Reverse Google Translate process
The map has gone up, giving us plenty of time to check out the terrain via Google Earth. It seems I owe a lot to Google Inc, lately! At any rate, here’s a glimpse.
So we now have lots of things to take care of: getting the necessary supplies, a new pair of boots (yes!), tools, a tent…everything we’ll need for 9 days in Morocco. One thing we will NOT need is a navigation unit. Remember, Gazelles navigate with a compass and an old map and nothing more. It’s what makes the Gazelle Rally FULL OF AWESOME!!!
Well, okay not really, but a week or so ago I met Dad up in the high desert for a little bit of seat time in the car that may just turn out to be known as MA’AM (Mean Ass Angry Monkey. Either that or Rooster. What do you think?) Up until this point I’d had a total of 7 minutes drive time in her, and 36 miles of co-driving.
Thursday started off toasty and windy! We settled in at Stoddard Valley and found a few other people out testing as well, most notably COPS Racing. I wish I could have gotten a picture but their damn Trophy Truck went by so fast I was lucky I had enough time to jump behind a bush so as not to get *totally* dusted out.
We were finally able to break out our care package from Slime. They sent us a healthy supply of tire sealant, tire pressure gauges, a few plug kits, and a much needed portable tire inflator that connects right to the battery. Our old one was…well…old. This one by Slime is super fast and much quieter.
I spent the first day just getting a feel for the car. It’s similar in width to the baja, but the wheel base is much longer, so it’s a totally different ride. It has a puck clutch, which is either engaged or not (read: it’s kind of easy to stall). The transmission, however, shifts much smoother than the baja, which I always had to force into 2nd gear a bit. The front end behaves differently and there are bypass shocks and a little bit more travel all the way around. The baja runs a 2180cc motor whereas MA’AM sports the stock 1600cc. However, she’s much lighter. How much lighter I’m not sure since she hasn’t been on the scale, but I can definitely feel it. I keep telling people that any co-driver will have to be 170 pounds or less so we can keep total passenger weight down to 300 pounds or less. I’m not really joking.
Unfortunately, something was keeping my baby down. She was sputtering like Tom Cruise does when reporters ask him if he’s gay. It was most pronounced at the lower rpm range, like when starting out or turning around, but sometimes when going uphill, even if the revs were still high. Hmmmm….a carburetor issue of some sort. We were meeting fellow Courage Girl Motorsports team members Pepper and Martee that night for dinner, so Pep stopped off at Mohr Performance and picked up a fuel filter, new jet, and a carb rebuild kit.
You know how if you live in a small town you run into people at the best and/or worst times? That night at dinner was one of the best times. Martee was telling me about her secret weapon when it comes to shock tuning, the Mr. Miyagi of Shocks, if you will. Well we walked into Chili’s and who is having a beer at the bar? Monsieur Miyagi! It was agreed upon by all parties present that we should meet the next morning for a little go around. Of course, that night we still had to address the carb issues. I changed the fuel filter and helped the guys take off the carb. They went to work rebuilding it while Pep, Martee, and I ran out for supplies…namely zip ties and beer.
Next morning bright and early we were at it again. But still with the sputtering! The carb was totally clean, we had a new jet, new fuel filter. We decided it was the float. I can’t tell you yet if we were right, but the engine is currently at Major Performance getting a going through. But I digress. Mr. Miyagi (I would like to note that Mr. Miyagi is neither a karate master nor is he Japanese. I just like calling him that because he is a miracle worker and the Annie Sullivan of Shocks doesn’t sounds as good.) met us out in Stoddard Valley and the testing began.
We got in the car and he told me, “When I tell you to get on the pipe, you get on the pipe!” Uh..sir, yessir! Most of the session was him and I in the car for a run, him yelling at me, “ON IT! ON IT! ON IT! NO LIFTING!” and me thinking, “This guy is going to kill me today.” Then he’d be out of the car, adjusting things which I don’t even pretend to understand, then back in for another run. And I could tell with each run that something was different. And holy crap I could go faster! A lot faster! Now he’s telling me to stand on the throttle and I have all kinds of confidence! Taking the whoops in the baja at those speeds would mean my back end would get away from me. Now MA’AM leads with her nose BAM BAM BAM right over the whoops and the back end just follows, easy peasy. Of course, we didn’t get a super accurate tuning since the engine was not running at full potential, but it was a good start. Once we get the car back together we’ll go out again and fine tune.
So what is next? We will be running the MORE/SNORE combined KC-Hilites race in September, where I hope to have a fundraiser for Gazelles. We are also running the Powder Puff in October of course. That race will mean a lot as it raises money for Cedar Sinai Breast Cancer Research Center, and it will also be the Revenge Race for Grace, the official truck of Courage Girl Motorsports. Her front driver’s wheel has fallen off two years in a row and we are really hoping that doesn’t happen again. Pepper and Martee will be in Grace, and I will be in MA’AM for that one. I’m also working on an awesome calendar of bad ass female off road drivers. More info on that as it becomes available!
Next week I’ll be part of the drive team for Desert Dingo in their class 11 at the VORRA USA 500 out near Reno. Tech is on Friday July 14th, so come on down and say hi if you’re in the neighborhood. If not I’ll be tweeting as much as I can @MMMotorsports and using #USA500.
Lots of cool stuff happening, y’all, so grab a beverage and sit back for a nice long read. First of all, this weekend I’ll be racing with Desert Dingo in their Class 11 bug. When I say Class 11, I mean nearly stock VW bug. Sure, we’ve got a roll cage and some bigger suspension parts, but you can still only run one shock at each corner, and under the deck lid all you’ll find is a stock 1600cc engine with a 4 speed transmission. As I write this, 1107 is on her way to the Super Secret Hiding Place somewhere in Nevada, while Our Dear Leader, Jim, is at Burning Man.
The race this weekend will consist of 12 hours of racing on Saturday around a 41 mile lap course in a clockwise direction. Then we’ll get 12 hours to wrench on the car. Sunday finds us racing for another 12 hours same course but counter clockwise. The race director of VORRA has this to say about the course:
“We went out and placed course markers yesterday. There are some pretty deep washes across the road starting a 1/2 mile before Checkpoint 2 to about Mile Marker 38. And yes on Day 2 the 11′s are going to need jet packs.”
Um…wait. He’s talking about us. We need jet packs? Dingo leader Jim apparently thinks “jet packs” is code for “tow rope”, as he sent the team these encouraging words:
“We have a tow rope pre-tied to the front bumper so to get a tow, all you have to do is pop the hood, unspool the rope and hold up the end and hope for someone to pull over. I’ve gone on the VORRA discussion forum and asked the other teams to consider helping out us 11s if they can spare a couple of minutes.”
I’ll be tweeting as much as I can this weekend using #the24. If you’re not already following me on the Twitter, I’m @MMMotorsports.
And check out what’s going on with my third race team, Team Courage Gazelles. We are on the home page of Dirt Newz!