By weekday, Tiffany Walker advocates for children in poverty with Compassion International. By weekend, she spends as much time as she can four-wheeling the trails of Colorado. On Oct. 12, Walker will take her Toyota FJ Cruiser and those driving skills and head west to California and Nevada for the Rebelle Rally, the only all-female, off-road navigational rally in the U.S.
Over a period of seven days and 1,300 miles, Walker and her California-based navigator, Rori Lewis, will set aside their cellphones and GPS for topo maps, compasses and road books as “Team Roads Less Traveled.” They’ll traverse dirt roads, open desert and sand dunes, focusing on precision and teamwork to hit the finish line. About 70 women from around the world will compete in either 4x4s or crossover class vehicles.
When we spoke with Walker the week before the Rebelle Rally, she described the undertaking as “a quest to find out who I am, and am I really who I want to be?” Read on to learn why she chose this event for her quest, and what she expects from the road—and off-road—ahead.
Springs: Have you ever done anything like this before?
Tiffany Walker: You know, I have never done a competition like this before. I’ve been doing off-roading seriously for about six years. And, of course, I attribute that to my husband because I had an FJ Cruiser when he and I met nine years ago, and he was the one who basically made the comment: “That vehicle can do a lot more than you’re using it for.”
What do you love about off-roading?
This past weekend, my husband and I went up to one of our favorite trails called Schubarth Loop. It comes out over the Air Force Academy, and I think what I love about off-roading, number one is surprising myself about what I am capable of doing, as I understand my vehicle more. But secondly … you get to go to places that with your regular vehicle you may not necessarily get to go, and all of a sudden you’re in the middle of this just majestic creation, and you think you’re so far from civilization, when in reality you may be 15 minutes away.
Why this rally and why now?
This is the second year for the Rebelle. … I was aware of it last year, but I think there was still this fear inside of me that I’m not qualified, I’m not capable. And I think what’s so unfortunate about—and I don’t mean to stereotype—but I know so many of my women friends who stop themselves from doing what they really want to do because they’re afraid they’re not capable. … For me, it’s this adventure of a lifetime, and it’s discovering what I’m made of, kind of, when push comes to shove.
Tell me a little bit more about the Rebelle Rally itself.
A lot of people say, “Oh I can’t wait for your race.” It’s not a race. It’s not for speed at all. This is 100-percent based on precise navigation, using topo map, compass, plotter. You’re given headings, distance, and latitude/longitude, and off you go to find hidden checkpoints. … We start in South Lake Tahoe, and we finish in Southern California, kind of in the Sand Dunes in Klamath.
No GPS, no cellphone. Just old-school maps, compasses and road books. How good were you at those before this?
I knew that the compass up on my dashboard would tell me if I was pointed north, east, south or west. [Laughs.] But living in Colorado Springs, I am very blessed, because all I have to do is look and go, Oh there’s the mountain; that’s west.
But you put me in any other city, I couldn’t help you with that. And I have to tell you what an incredible skill to learn … just to have the skill. If GPS satellites went out, for whatever reason, I know exactly how to read a map and how to get from Point A to Point B purely based on latitude, longitude, heading and distance. Emily Miller, who’s the founder of the Rebelle, will tell us over and over, “Maps will lie, but heading and distance never lies (sic).” If you’re told to go at 280 degrees for 7 miles, that’s exactly where you’re supposed to be, but maps can be off for any reason. So this is all new to me, and I have to say that I’m glad my navigator is the navigator because, no question, it’s the harder job.
What are you most excited about?
I think, truly excited, is what I’m going to get to see. We’re going to be in some of the most breathtaking landscapes that I just probably can’t even imagine.
Most worried about?
I am my own worst critic, and so if our navigator gets us loss, I’ll give her grace all day long. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll figure it out.” If I get us stuck, I’m really going to have to—that’s what I’m most looking forward to, but anxious about, because I want to learn how I can give myself grace and realize that failing is OK. It provides a learning opportunity. Even in my training two weeks ago, I made one mistake. I went flying over the top of a dune. Fortunately everybody was fine, but I was really hard on myself. … That’s been my MO for as long as I can remember. I think I’m ready to remember what it’s like to be OK with myself when I mess up.
Anything else you’d like to add?
There are so few women in the automotive sports world. When I go to off-road events, it’s 80 percent, if not 90 percent men. And it’s really interesting to see people raise eyebrows, going, “Oh, so what is your husband driving?” “He’s not.” I just love the notion of these kinds of events that give women the opportunity to see what they are capable of. The Rebelle is so unique. And I can say if this is the year that I’m learning how to compete, next year will be the year that I will really try for the podium.
FOLLOW THE REBELLE RALLY
Tiffany Walker won’t get her standings until each evening, but you can follow her and Rori Lewis live (Team #154) via the Rebelle Rally website. You can also follow her journey through the team’s Facebook group.
Watch the Rebelle Rally Highlight Reel from 2016