My dad says, "Sometimes you have to go ahead, even if it’s ass over head.” Entering the Rebelle Rally, then realizing what lies ahead is one of those golden moments. We have two skills to master by October, 4x4 Driving and Navigation.
Hopefully our nightclubbing years will cover the endurance requirement.
Using my google PHD, I entered Help, learn, 4x4 . and picked the third hit Overland Experts (OEX). I nearly dropped the phone when Mike, (Director of Recreational Training) answered my awkward babbling questions with “Sure, we’d love to help you out.”
Telling Pete I was heading to Nth Carolina to learn 4x4 driving from some guys I found online was interesting. I prepared the mothership for my departure and headed south.
DAY ONE I was early to the meeting place. Waiting at the Eldorado Outpost in the Uwharrie National Forest, I was nervous about two things: The Bigfoot merchandise and my choice of clothing for what lay ahead. Mike found me trying to decide between wearing jandals or gumboots. “Hi Katy, we are going to start with a lecture." Ten minutes later I’d met Scott, Jason and a differential. My anxiety over outfit choice was nothing compared to questions directed to the class. A class of one. Me. These guys mean business and won’t let anyone behind the wheel until the methodology behind their curriculum is understood. But in a few short hours I had a handle on the guts of a vehicle. (Far more complicated than a Vitamix)
My brain ached.
After fried chicken and slaw at the Eldorado, we hit the obstacle course, where I learned a two foot driving technique. It’s like changing a diaper with one hand in an airplane. Small controlled movements with little room for error or you end up in the shit.
DAY TWO All things scary were demystified. We drove, got stuck, recovered, winched, repaired tires, built bridges, and made friends with a high lift, always applying the OEX systems. I learned that mechanical sympathy is a thing and that vehicles have feelings too.
I will forever hear Mike saying “shuffle steer” and “drive the rear.” I’m become jealous of the team’s performance cargo pants, especially when I slip in the mud and lose my tools.
DAY THREE I’m careful not to be late for Tony the Military Director. We bond over butter coffee and hit the road. Twenty minutes in, I’m wishing for moisture wicking underpants. Big boulders, large holes and steep hills I couldn’t walk up, let alone drive. My heart was in my throat. But the OEX theory had registered cognitively, and taking each obstacle at a time,
I was overlanding. Tony’s wife Kat joined us with an amazing lunch and chocolate.
I had found my I people.
These guys are something else. When we talk about building brands in marketing, they are a case study for getting it right to the core. Humble, authentic, super smart and safety conscious but 100% badass. I can’t wait to introduce Frances to my new friends in July.
In the meantime I’m off to find the perfect adventure pants. My jeans didn't have the right sized pockets. Convertibles are just ugly. Shorts won't do.
I will obsess over this….
'We've crossed the line, gone all in, paid up, out of the gate committed. "The Frocks" (ever changing team name) have officially entered the Rebelle Rally. That's the "all in" bit.
"Uh-Oh" is the slight freak out about what's to learn in 4 months, in-between kids, work and running households on opposite sides of the world. Frances and I will meet up in October to race and navigate the Nevada Desert having driven together once. We'll take turns navigating and driving so we both need to up-skill in each discipline.
Up-skill = learn from scratch.
Lucky for us two awesome 4x4 companies in New Zealand and the US have stepped up to give the ladies a hand. Our first experience was tearing down Muriwai beach with the legendary Colin Burden from Trackwise NZ. We got a taste of sand antics and recovery. Stateside the boys at OverlandExperts have offered a helping hand.
Katy has signed her kids up for orienteering hoping they can teach her how to navigate.
Frances took a unique approach and headed to Korea for a lecture on roundabout test driving.
Ex-Ski Racers are always searching for the next high.
At 20 I took that literally. At 25 New York with 300 bucks and a hunch was fun. 30’s delivered 4 kids under 5, a sustainable but sobering high. At 40 kiteboarding was on the cards. A sport like skiing that instantly melts away the tautness of life. A primal soul reset.
As 45, rears its odd number, a new high has presented itself.
Speed and adrenaline aside, this opportunity will challenge the brain. As a child of a parent with cognitive decline, I’m more and more conscious of brain health and maintenance.
Just as I was about to take up Suduko, I heard about the REBELLE RALLY.
The first women’s off-road navigation rally in the United States.
NO DEVICES ALLOWED. RACING OFF-ROAD WITH A MAP AND A COMPASS FOR DAYS.
I told my friend Frances, a fellow Kiwi who has a knack for solving unsolvable problems. She’s not afraid to get amongst it, and even better, she's keen.
Next minute, we're a team. (Name TBD)
Between now and October we'll learn how to navigate and drive a 4x4 vehicle beyond the supermarket carpark.
I couldn’t use a compass and/or map to find my way to the kitchen, let alone across the Nevada Desert. (Is that how you spell desert?) Frank have you figured out what triangulation is?
But like all ex-ski racers who stumble across the next high, the question is how high versus why.
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No Shoes. No Shirt. No School.
When an Air New Zealand deal presented itself late one night, I made the impulse buy. With one click I had committed to pulling our kids from school for three months.
That meant homeschooling. Oh F**K.
We had always dreamed of this but could never commit. I have no patience.
Justification set in. “My parents, who live in New Zealand, are slowing down.” “Travel is such an education.” “Kids are resilient.” “What could possibly go wrong?”
Then the panic set in. I hurried to arm myself with devices and apps I’d need to "keep up." As an adult, “keeping up” is something I fiercely reject. But I was deathly worried I might fail my kids. I realised how programmed we are to trust in the system, not our intuition.
I researched homeschooling and hit the forums. I called school teacher friends and panicked about my First World problem. I learned that if we kept up their Math and English, they would survive “testing.” But that meant I needed to fill in the gaps on the other subjects. More panic.
And to make matters worse, my husband’s work commitments now meant he couldn’t come at all. Oh F**K.
Fast forward six months. We are a month into the trip. The Kunkel Kids' first summer Christmas is filled with cousins, swims, fish and chips, and barefoot walks to the dairy. The freedom of these walks is so liberating that it takes them a month to figure out the purpose of a trip to the dairy is to buy lollies.
The devices had run out of power and appeal. The Pukekohe Library was now our favorite trusted resource. We went every week and joined their very awesome free summer reading programme. Academic box ticked.
Writing in journals every day was a treat. Topics ranged from "Dead Swan Found" to "What Is Good Character?" We picked them at random, writing stories and poems or drawing. No rules. Math and grammar were knocked out each morning. My 11-year-old who strugges with school math quickly realized that, at her own pace, it’s a fascinating discipline not to be feared.
All other projects were self-selected. I was witnessing my kids fall in love with learning. We took field trips often. I’d give them a budget and a map, then let them figure out where to go and where to stay. When the inevitable question came up, “Mum, can I have…?” it was so easy to simply answer, “Can you afford it?”
We were all in awe of Pohutukawas, Shining Cuckoos and The Maori God of Earthquakes, Mataoho. We learned teamwork and problem solving. And how to turn crappy days around. (Because we had plenty of those. And I still yelled a lot.)
The kids knew more about Waitangi Day than I did. Every moment of every day could offer a lesson. Once I let my intuition drive and trusted that, by default, kids are always learning, they learned even more. A fight over dishes could easily be a morning of Psychology 101.
Fast forward to today. My 7-year-old has forgotten how to tie his shoes, because he hasn't worn them in three months. They went back to school this morning. I feel sick. We rushed them out the door. I was yelling. They’ll be herded from class to class, bored to tears, I fear. But maybe I’m wrong; kids are resilient, right? Maybe we will homeschool next year, maybe not. Priorities, like work, need to be sorted first. Reality sets in.
But take it from me, if the opportunity presents itself pull them. Do it! Take them home. Book it. Watching my American born kids living, breathing, learning and basking in a real barefoot Kiwi summer has been my most prized gift as a parent. We are all better for it. If you’re on the fence, just say "F**k it." Or give me a call.