Women Who Off-Road: Meet 3 Rebelle Rally Teams

The Rebelle Rally is one of the longest, most intense off-road adventures in the world and onX Offroad is excited to be a sponsor. Held every year in the remote desert of California and Nevada, this 8-day, women-only competition tests drivers’ navigational skills as they seek out hidden checkpoints and make their way to the finish line. We chatted with a few teams and asked them about off-roading, training for the Rebelle, and what advice they have for remote, long distance off-roading.

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Jessica Gade and Tasha Booth

Tell us a little about yourselves.

Jessica: I was born in Florida, grew up in Southern California, Chicago, and Milwaukee. After that I disliked snow so much I moved to the one place I knew might never get snow: Phoenix, AZ. I am a physical therapist in the hospital and my passion is trauma, orthopedic and neurological patients. I have a very supportive husband, and two dogs, one who I train competitively for AKC scentwork, agility and sheep herding. Both dogs also love offroading! 

Tasha: I grew up in Pine City, MN and then moved to Colorado. I joined the Army when I was 17 and will hit 18 years of service this January; five of which was spent in Afghanistan. I am a full-time student studying to be a K-12 P.E. teacher, and I’m in the WY Army National Guard in Field Artillery. I am married, and we have a 3 1/2 year-old daughter, and a blue-nose pitbull. We are huge into the outdoors and everything adventure; anything we can do to live a healthy and active lifestyle!

How did you get into off-roading?

Jessica: I got into off-roading 100% because of my husband and his crazy friends. I don’t think I had ever seen a dirt road (or knew they still existed) until I met him. A few of our friends map for the US government and I thought it sounded fun, so we all started going out together for drives.

Tasha: I grew up on ATVs and snowmobiles, but when my husband and I moved to Colorado in 2016, I bought a Tacoma and he got a 4-Runner. From there, we met some people in the off-road community and have been doing it ever since!

How did you hear about the Rebelle Rally?

Jessica: I learned about Rebelle when one of my coworkers and I started chatting and realized we both loved off-roading. She told me she had done the first Rebelle and that I should do it, but the cost of competing didn’t fit my budget at the time. So, I traveled the world for a few more years. Then in early 2020 I was diagnosed with cancer and that was a real wake up call to do the things you don’t want to regret not doing. I also love the challenge of learning new things and I have always loved maps. Now I know a whole lot more!

Tasha: A couple of years ago, my good friend had just come back from a summit, and gave me a call to tell me she volunteered me as her partner in the Rebelle Rally. We were set to compete in 2020, but due to unforeseen life events, we had to pull out of the competition at the last minute. In 2021 I entered again with a new partner. I was impressed by the women that competed, by the founder Emily Miller, and I couldn’t think of a better way to challenge myself. 

How do you train?

Jessica: Tasha and I have trained by doing Rebelle U together and will also participate in Overland Expo. I have read navigation books, watched the online course, and practiced a lot with plotting on maps. It’s really enjoyable for me to plot coordinates and double check my work on GPS maps to see how close I can get.

Tasha: In addition to Rebelle U, I took the sand dune training with Nena Barlow, which was incredible! In addition to the formal training I have been a part of, I hit the trails consistently to get comfortable with how my vehicle moves and negotiates different terrains. I have also done the online training offered in the competitor portal. Lastly, the five-ish years I spent in Afghanistan was conducting convoy operations, which meant that I got to drive, navigate and negotiate the different desertous terrains with very large trucks!

Any words of wisdom for those interested in remote, long-distance off-roading?

Jessica: Safety first. Always! Learn how to rescue yourself and know how to use your gear. Tell people where you are going, what you are doing, and when to expect you back.  Research and download your route and talk to other people about it prior to make sure it is safe. Don’t over pack. 

Tasha: My advice: Go for it! Definitely make sure you are comfortable with navigating and know your vehicle. Part of that is practicing safety through self-recovery training and basic vehicle maintenance, as well as knowing how to use the gear and equipment you have. Be sure to do your research and have a buddy with you, or at the very least, let someone know where you are headed. Wayne Gretzky said: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” If you want to do something, then make it happen and have fun doing it!

Follow Jessica and Tasha on Instagram @tyrannosauruswrecks.134 and Facebook.

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Kristle Slason and Lois Slason

Tell us a little about yourselves.

Lois is a second generation Arizona native. Her love for adventure and the outdoors has her riding horses, fishing, hunting and back-road driving. She has been married for 38 years and has raised their two children, one of whom is her Rebelle Rally partner. 

Kristle, Lois’s daughter, was born and raised in Scottsdale, AZ and is a third generation native. She has been an ER and Trauma nurse for 11 years. As a traveling nurse she has the opportunity to see the rest of the country. She thoroughly enjoys driving her Jeep to the most picturesque places to hike, fish, hunt, camp, and anything that gets her out in nature. She also has a thing about sunsets. 

How did you get into off-roading?

We were kind of born into off-roading. The family has always been outside exploring in the woods — scouting, hunting, fishing, camping, collecting wood, looking for sheds. Because of this, we had to know how to use 4-wheel drive to get to the best places, how to read a map, how to use a compass, and how to find your way back. Kristle bought her Jeep after going out just once with friends. Now being off-road is her passion and a way to unwind from a sometimes stressful career.

How did you hear about the Rebelle Rally?

Kristle saw the Rebelle Rally a few years ago on social media and imagined how fun it would be to participate. So last year, after a stressful time with the Covid pandemic, Kristle needed to take time for herself; what better way than to take the leap and join the Rebelle. She asked Lois to be her navigator, because “She’s the only one I know that can use a compass and map, and find her way home!” Lois remembers: “Couldn’t say no to my daughter! And how cool that she wants to do it with me? Going to be a bucket list adventure!”

How do you train?

We have taken a couple of in-person training courses, including the dunes driving course put on by Nena Barlow. Kristle was initially terrified of driving a big heavy Jeep in the sand, but now, next to crawling on rocks, it’s her favorite thing to do. Lois and Kristle also participated in Rebelle U to learn more navigation skills, and also took a trail training course with Charlene Bower. They also practice by plotting latitude/longitude on local hiking trails, and are continually trying to implement navigation and driving skills while adventuring (and trying to not get lost).

Any words of wisdom for those interested in remote, long-distance off-roading?

Kristle: Be prepared. Let others know where you are going to be. Just go with the flow. It’s not about the destination, but rather the journey to get there.

Lois: Do your homework before you leave. Know how to read a map, use a compass, and know how to use your GPS unit. Don’t wait until you’re driving down a road trying to figure out how it works! Download your map before leaving home. Take extra batteries. Take extra water. Have fun!

Strong women raise strong daughters!

Follow Lois and Kristle on Instagram @sunsetchaser_11.

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Karen Hoehn and Dana Saxten

Tell us a little about yourselves.

Karen

I am a native San Diegan and presently live in Del Mar, California. Other than two different stints of living in the Middle East, I have always lived in San Diego. Our family owns and operates 8 automotive dealerships. My husband, Bob and I have two daughters who are married and we have three grandchildren.

Dana

I grew up in the Bay Area. I have lived in San Diego since the early 80’s. We have run a family owned restaurant company since 1977, with 13 restaurants located in Hawaii and California.The only thing in my childhood experience that might have prepared me for the Rebelle Rally is a love of camping. Camping was our family vacation — Yosemite, Lassen, Shasta, all the beautiful places. 

How did you get into off-roading?

Karen

I got into off-roading through my daughters. Emily Miller, founder of the Rebelle Rally, got them into off-roading and I watched them do it for a few years and decided I wanted to try it. 

How did you hear about the Rebelle Rally?

We heard about the Rebelle Rally through Emily Miller. We were in on the early conception of the Rally. As Emily began to make her dream a reality, my husband loved her ideas and stepped in as an early sponsor of the rally. [Editor’s Note: Karen and Dana are one of the two longest running Rebelle Rally teams!]

How do you train?

Dana

Karen and I have trained out in the desert with Emily and Chrissy from the Rebelle Rally, practicing both navigation and dune driving. We brush up on our Enduro running often, and refresh with the maps and plotters well in advance of each rally.

Any words of wisdom for those interested in remote, long-distance off-roading?

Karen

My advice for people that want to do the Rebelle is very simple…choose your co-driver very carefully. Everyday you spend long hours in and out of the car together, sometimes in stressful situations, and you need a very compatible teammate. You also need a teammate that has the same expectations of/from the competition. Training is of course very important because you really need to know what you are doing out there. 

Dana

I would encourage anyone who thinks they might like to try long distance off-roading just to do it!  It’s challenging, grueling even, and stressful, and frustrating, but also liberating and confidence-building and beautiful! (Also, it’s highly recommended that you like your teammate!) 

One more thing…

Karen

I love off-roading! I’m so grateful to Emily Miller for getting my family involved in the off-roading world. I truly wished I had started this 30 years ago! What Emily Miller has put together for women who love off-roading is nothing short of miraculous. It’s a tremendous amount of work and she has proven herself and is extremely respected in the off-roading world. 

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Jenny Sheets

Jenny Sheets is the copywriter and vertical marketing specialist for onX Offroad. She lives in Montana where she dirt bikes, trail runs, camps, and overlands with her husband, dog, and son, Henry Danger.