Contributed photo by the Rebelle Rally
Photo contributed by the Rebelle Rally
Taylor Pawley of Fossil crossed the finish line Friday after enduring a 1,200-mile off-road rally through the deserts of Nevada and California.
“I hadn’t had my phone for eight days, and I really wanted to call my husband,” she said. “I gave him a call, and as soon as I heard his voice I just started crying.”
The moment burst the bubble of focus, sweat and trials she had been living in, she said, and the accomplishment “felt so much more real.”
Pawley, 27, and teammate Micaela Windham, a working mom of two in Phoenix, Arizona, raced against 32 other teams in the 4-wheel drive vehicle category of the Rebelle Rally, the first women’s-only off-road navigation race in the United States, meaning competitors had to use a compass and maps to steer the course, not smartphones and GPS units.
They met online, this was their first race, and they named themselves Team Why Not because they had no reason not to give it their all. They came in second place.
“I’m still amazed,” Pawley said. “It was definitely a lot of fun and one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.”
Rebelle Rally spokesperson Kirsten Kuhn said their finish was exciting.
“Taylor and Micaela did a fantastic job, and we were thrilled to have them be a part of our inaugural event,” she said.
Pawley and Windham met in person for the first time on Oct. 12, the day before the race began, but they had a good idea of how they wanted to work together.
“We came into it like this was a job,” Pawley said, and that attitude helped them. Pawley was the navigator, and Windham was the driver.
During a typical day, she said, they awoke around 4:45-5 a.m., and Pawley would get latitude and longitude for the day’s points and plot those on the map while Windham gathered their breakfast. The race staggered start times between 7 and 8:15 each morning, and for 10-12 hours, they drove to check points. Most days ended in a base camp, where Windham checked over her Jeep Wrangler and filled it with fuel and Pawley set up their tent.
And they were fortunate, she said, to have a Michelin Star chef with a crew and impressive food truck that prepared “crazy good meals.”
Team Why Not, though, and some other racers also spent one night out of the camp and under the desert skies. Pawley recalled they sat on sand dunes, ate “MREs,” the “meals ready to eat” that fuel military troops, and talked about the day.
Pawley said the rally helped her gain confidence to take on difficult tasks and “muscle down and do the job.” But the adventure also was humbling.
“There were days when nothing worked,” she said, “and the map made no sense and that confidence you get can get torn down in a minute.”
Still, other teams, including off-road veterans, had their struggles.
“It was like, OK, I’m not alone,” Pawley said.
And she said she found the Rebelle Rally served as the “perfect detox to get me into the right mode to get into a big trip like this.”
That big trip is with her husband, KP Pawley, 30, who hails from Echo. The couple is driving a pickup with a camper on a three-year journey that will take them from the Northwest to the tip of South America and over the Atlantic Ocean to Africa and who-knows-where.
They begin the trek this week with stops in Utah at Arches National Park and then nearby Moab, where Pawley said they will visit a fellow Rebelle Rally racer.
“From there,” she said, “we’re just going to keep working our way south and cross the border Nov. 15.”