Show Notes for Podcast #69
Interviewing Rachelle Croft, Competitive Driver and Global Overlander
We have the opportunity to interview Rachelle Croft, successful business leader, accomplished international rally driver, and global overland adventurer.
Montana native, Rachelle Croft, has always had her eye on adventure. Married to Clay Croft, mom to three boys and fur child Piper, she has traveled the world, runs their business Hiline Productions with Clay (co-founder/producer of the series ‘Expedition Overland' and co-founder of The Overlander Network), and is always in pursuit of what's next. She has completed three of the iconic Rally Aicha des Gazelles Rallies through Morocco, the Rebelle Rally in 2016, winning the 2019 Rebelle Rally in a stock Lexus, and placing 2nd in 2020. She loves to drive anything with wheels and has spent hours in the driver’s seat from North, Central, and South America, Morocco, and South Africa. Through sharing her story of overcoming sexual abuse, her passion is to encourage women of all ages that anything is truly possible and you can live your best life. #startsomewhere
Clay and I just launched the all-new Overlander Network on Special.tv. We are so excited about this as we will be curating additional content from storytellers around theworld! You can find all of our new releases here first.
Insta: @rachelle_croft / @xoverland / @thexelles / @theoverlandernetwork
Facebook: @rachellelcroft / @xoverland / @thexelles
Scott is the publisher and co-founder of Expedition Portal and Overland Journal and is often credited with popularizing overlanding in North America. His travels by 4WD and adventure motorcycle span all seven continents and includes three circumnavigations of the globe. His polar expeditions include two vehicle crossings of Antarctica and the first long-axis crossing of Greenland. @scott.a.brady
This Episode sponsored in part by:
Scott Brady: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Overland journal podcast. I am your host, Scott Brady and I am here at day one of the Overland Expo and I am here with a longtime friend and someone who has been a huge inspiration to me, Rachelle Croft. She is the co-founder of XOverland, which in my mind is the premium Overland video team in the world and she is also the founder of the Xelles racing team. So we're going to talk about racing in the desert. We're going to talk about traveling around the world. We're going to talk about how she manages traveling with Clay Croft because we have some shared experiences. I actually may have spent more time in Russian hotel rooms with Clay then you have.
Rachelle Croft: Absolutely.
Scott Brady: Yeah. There's one pink Russian hotel room that really comes to mind that I think we have photos of somewhere, even the pillows, they were hearts. So Clay and I had a very special moment in that. So thank you, Rochelle so much for being on the podcast.
Rachelle Croft: Thank [00:01:00] you so much for having me. Honored to be here.
Scott Brady: Yeah, you're so welcome. Now, the first thing that comes to mind for me is what did you do before you started adventuring around the world? What was your life like before you decided I'm going to put a truck in a container and ship it to Morocco and go race? What was life like before that?
Rachelle Croft: That's a really good question. So Clay and I met in high school. We were high school sweethearts. I was 15, he was 16 or 17. I can't remember, honestly. We dated long distance. We got married very young and our plan was when we got married, I was 20, he was 21 that we were going to travel the world together, cause that's what we were waiting for. We were waiting for that moment. And then Cyrus came along.
Scott Brady: Surprise.
Rachelle Croft: Surprise, a good surprise, but it was a surprise. We were very young at the moment, and we said, okay, well we've always wanted kids, so we're going to have kids now and we're going to just flip those things around. So let's have kids and then, [00:02:00] because we're brilliant, we decided to start a business and have kids and be broke all at the same time while dropping out of college. So that's where that train hit it, and Clay was figuring out what he wanted to do. He loved being outside and he just recently discovered filmmaking and cinematography and he just fell into it and I knowing him, as long as I had in high school through college, he is not someone you ever put at a desk and tell him to go to work. You do not box that guy in, and I was like, yeah get a camera, let's do it. So I was the kind of consistent, steady income at that moment I worked at coffee shops, which is why I love coffee and I'll post on that sometimes.
Scott Brady: Yeah, for sure. You make great coffee.
Rachelle Croft: Thank you. So we started a film business called Highline productions, we still have that to this day and at that same time I was pregnant and so we were going down that road. So the way we paid the bills [00:03:00] was he would shoot wedding videos, soccer videos for seniors for college applications, we did a few local commercials, and that was how we got by. He got his experience that way and so by the time 2010 rolled around, I was pregnant with Eli who's our third son, and that was my life up until then. So we were married in 2004 and in 2010, and I will be the first to tell you, and Clay will maybe not say this because he's nice, I was not a fun person to be around.
Scott Brady: That's a lot of responsibility.
Rachelle Croft: It was a lot of responsibility. It was very stressful, and I was an adventurous person. I grew up in Montana. I loved just doing things outside and I love travel and I felt like that was my time where I was going to go and travel. I was in my twenties and then I'm like, okay, I'm raising kids now and Clay's working on this business and he's getting to travel. So I was a little resentful that I was home and like I said, I had issues, I had stuff to work through, [00:04:00] a little depressed and you know, some people will hear my story, but I being sexually abused at a young age, all that was feeding into it. It kind of all came to a head and I was finally ready in 2010. It was like, I need to work on this. Like, this is not the person I want to be. I am not the best mom I could be for these kids, and this is not Clay's fault. And if I want my life to change, what do I need to do? So within this window, between 2010 and 2011 that was when we started Expedition Overland in 2010. So... sorry, an answer to your question before that, I was home with the boys, I was working part-time at home.
Scott Brady: How did you make that transition? You had this moment of awareness where you are recognizing that your life was not what you thought it would be, but you're now becoming a person you don't want to be. How did you move from that place to where you are now? What were some [00:05:00] of the changes that you made in your life that really made an impact?
Rachelle Croft: That's a really good question. I started reaching out to people that I didn't know. One, I recognized I needed friends. I didn't have a lot of friends because a lot of people we went to college with had married and moved away. Or they just moved away, and we were the first ones to have kids in our circle. So it was just a very lonely time. We were young, we had kids and nobody else could relate to us and we were trying to start a business. So I realized right away, I need like-minded people around me to help me cause I'm not doing well on my own and so I started reaching out to some girlfriends I had one of our mentors that we'd gone to Uganda with in the past that clay had gone on. He had a daughter who lived in Bozeman, and I was literally like, Duncan, I need to meet your daughter. I don't even know her, but I just need a friend. Which is scary for a girl to come out... like girlfriends are really hard to find. But I needed something, so that was the first step I took.
Scott Brady: So you [00:06:00] feel like reaching out to make other connections with people that you trusted? That was the first step.
Rachelle Croft: Yup. It absolutely was.
Scott Brady: And then what came next after that, that helped you continue to climb that ladder out of that place?
Rachelle Croft: Yeah, I think... I knew in my being and in my gut that it was time for me to deal with my past and everybody gets to that time, and everybody gets that point at a certain time in their lives. You can't rush that. Even if you look at someone, you're like oh, you need to deal with your stuff. You can't rush that it's on your own time. And even.... we did premarital counseling before we were married. And I remember our counselor is like this is gonna come up and I was like, oh I'm fine. It's all good and it took me seven years later to actually be like, oh, I need to deal with this. So I reached out to... I found counseling and local counseling. I found just people in the church that I trusted. I literally was grasping for straws because one, nobody was really talking about that topic and so [00:07:00] I just started reaching out to different churches in the area and I was like, do you have a woman counselor? Can I meet with you? Do you have resources? And just kind of that... it finally led me to someone who could start helping me in that process. So that was a big thing for me.
Scott Brady: Yeah, no, that's... thank you. It's such an incredible journey that you have been on and you being vocal about those experiences as I remember you describing to me soon after you started that process, the number of people that reached out to you that needed that touchpoint, that recognition that here's this person that has done all of these amazing things, and they're talking about something that I've experienced as well. Do you feel like you were able to help others, like that you had a lot of outpouring of folks reaching out to you?
Rachelle Croft: For sure, to fast forward a little bit in 2014, that was the second rally I did in Morocco, and we ran kind of [00:08:00] this whole campaign to raise awareness, to rediscover your voice, and I partnered with a nonprofit out of Atlanta, and the whole reason behind it was to tell people like, hey we need to talk about this, but don't get stuck in it. You can still go out and be the person you want to be. It might take a little extra work, but I'm out here racing in the desert because this is what I found, like kind of lit that spark in me and that's why Morocco was so crucial also to my healing process because I found that thing and that's not it for everybody. It's going to be completely different. You don't have to ship a truck to Morocco to do that, you know? For me, I needed a big shift and jolt, and it just really drew me and so I kind of... it definitely lit that flame in me again to be like, this is who I want to be. Okay here she is... it was like I hadn't even met her yet and being out there with these women and problem [00:09:00] solving and having hard days and getting through to the other side, that was the person I knew I wanted to be.
Scott Brady: Oh, that's incredible. And how did you find out about. The Trophy Aïcha des Gazelles. How did you even learn that it existed?
Rachelle Croft: Yeah, so Clay actually was my touch point there. He was in, I think it was Hollister where he met you for the first time, and he was debuting our very first episode of Expedition Overland and Emily Miller was there talking about this rally in Morocco and Clay had met with her and chatted with her. He's like, hmm this might be good for my wife in a very loving way. She needs something like this, and he brought home this postcard and handed it to me, and I looked at literally was like, well, that'd be nice. Wouldn't it be cool? And I was telling you, I was not a nice person, but that was when I first heard about it and then at our first SEMA show you encouraged us to go and figure out what we could do with Expedition Overland, I met my first teammate Julie Meadows at the Max Trax [00:10:00] booth. And I'll never forget it, Brian McVickers was there and Julie and myself and Ben, and I think one other guy. She was like, hey did you hear about this rally in Morocco? I was like, yeah, it sounds pretty crazy, and she was like, would that be kind of cool to do it? And I said, yeah, it would be awesome. I was like, well I really like to drive. She's like, well I'll learn to now and then all these guys came around us, these men, and they were like, you girls need to do this. This is amazing and I'll never forget that support that we had from them. It was really cool. It really helped propel us and that's literally how we started. The race was five months away. I knew nothing about raising money or driving in sand. I grew up in Montana. I was like, I can drive in snow is it the same. I have no idea... and that's where it all started.
Scott Brady: And so your five months. You reach out to the organization to find out what that means. Did you talk with Emily as well to get some insights?
Rachelle Croft: She was phenomenal. So she really kind of took the role of [00:11:00] kind of the American liaison for us, because one, I didn't speak French and it is a French event, so I didn't even... The website wasn't even in English, like I had no idea and so she really helped, she had done it for... I think she competed for three years as well and she got really passionate about it and wanted to include other women in this, and so she really helped hold our hands and go through the whole process.
Scott Brady: And then what truck did you take?
Rachelle Croft: So we shipped the 2007 Toyota FJ, and it was the Max Trax FJ cruiser at the time. Max Trax came on as our first sponsor for the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles, I will never forget Brad doing that for us.
Scott Brady: Brad is such a great guy, and he recognizes those leverage points. He's done that for people, and he realizes like, if I do this thing, it will make a huge difference for someone, and I've seen him do that a few times. Yeah, Brad's an amazing [00:12:00] dude.
Rachelle Croft: And he did that with Expedition Overland too, he saw that in Clay, and he was like, you know what, I've been where you are starting a business and I needed someone to believe in me. You were one of those people for us and he was like, I will be your first sponsor and he's still one of our longest running members. Incredible.
Scott Brady: Yeah. The whole organization, and of course what Matt and Laura have done with it here in the United States is so impressive. Okay, so now you've got an FJ cruiser. You're going to go and race in Morocco. Did you do anything to the truck? How did you prep it for this and how did you prepare yourself?
Rachelle Croft: Great question. So Emily, like I said, this was new for everybody. So she, for the first-time kind of got a training rounded up in San Diego to teach us how to drive in the sand dunes, and so I flew into Las Vegas and met Julie who I'd only met once and it was kind of that moment you get off a plane you're like, what am I doing? Like [00:13:00] how is this really gonna happen? And I remember... so we stayed with them at their house in Las Vegas. We drove to San Diego; we had a class and the only teacher that could teach us navigation had come in from Canada and spoke French. So it was a very heavy French accent trying to teach us to use a map and plot points that I'd never done in my life and I'm still not good at it. Thank goodness for navigators. So we had a little bit of that for a day. And then we went out to Glamis, and this is really cool. Rob Hall was there because he was one of Emily's mentors and trainers as well. So one of my first experiences driving in sand in an FJ cruiser was Rob Hall on my backseat and he's just. Gun it, you know, just looked at this big sand hill. I'm like, can I make it up that he's like, I don't know, let's find out hammer down, you know? And that was my training as we did other things too, but that was the one that stood [00:14:00] out and it was fantastic. Love that memory.
Scott Brady: That is something about sand is that you have to trust momentum, a little bit. People confuse speed with momentum. Speed rarely does what you want it to do in the sand, but momentum makes a big difference. If you can just kind of maintain that momentum through the dunes with just enough to crest the ridge and it totally makes a difference. So that's your training you've had some navigation done some driving. The truck goes into container.
Rachelle Croft: Yes, thankfully.
Scott Brady: And then where did you fly into, do you fly right into Morocco, or did you fly into Europe first or...?
Rachelle Croft: We flew into Europe. It was one of the years where our official start for that rally was in Paris, which was amazing. We were right across from the Eiffel tower. It was gorgeous and that year we were only one of two American teams. So we fly in our, the truck had been shipped to a friend in Belgium who drove it down to Paris. Julia and I flew into Paris [00:15:00] with all our luggage. We way over-packed, as everybody does. The truck was way too heavy. We had like seven air filters; it was ridiculous.
Scott Brady: You were prepared.
Rachelle Croft: Very prepared, and so we had way too much stuff. It was really heavy, and I remember we had to get something welded to the bottom. It was a skid plate that needed to be fixed and we just drove the FJ down to Paris and we're like, that kind of looks like a service station and we pulled in, not speaking a lick of French, trying to explain to this guy in English and charades, you know, what I need done to the underside of this truck and finally we like run down the road and find someone that can speak English can translate for us and he comes back and translates and then we get it figured out. And I was like, I haven't even started the rally yet and I'm already in a rally. This is like the most I've ever been out of my comfort zone. And it was so fun. You just got to make fun of yourself. That's all you can do.
Scott Brady: You do. I mean, I look back at pretty [00:16:00] much everything I've done and can make fun of myself. I'm like, why did I even do that last week? I don't even know why I did that thing. Well, yeah. The ego is all in our own mind. Yeah. There's not a whole lot of coolness happening. Okay, so you start in Paris and how many teams were competing.
Rachelle Croft: I believe there was around a hundred and.... it was between 130 and 140.
Scott Brady: That is a lot.
Rachelle Croft: It's a lot. They're in their 30th year, this year so it's an amazing event. Yeah, one other American team, we just were kind of flying by the seat of our pants. Like, you know, they're barking instructions at you and French on where to pull up and what time and what your start time is. I don't even know how to stick our car, and we're supposed to stick our car, and it was a whole... it was just one thing after another and I'm like, I have no idea what we're doing.
Scott Brady: So amazing. So then you, you drive from [00:17:00] Paris, I'm assuming you probably end up in Marseille or something for the ferry...
Rachelle Croft: Tangier? Nope. Tangiers on the other side. What's... sorry what's the Spain side?
Scott Brady: So yeah, you went out of probably Gibraltar or somewhere near there.
Rachelle Croft: I believe so... I can't even remember. I need to look that up, that's embarrassing.
Scott Brady: So you took a ferry over to Tangiers, and then does it start in Tangiers?
Rachelle Croft: Nope. So then you drive eight hours to Erfoud where you actually start.
Scott Brady: Yeah, that's a great area.
Rachelle Croft: And we didn't know that at that time nobody had credit card machines anywhere or internet. So we didn't even know how to get from Paris to...
Scott Brady: That was the first challenge.
Rachelle Croft: And I remember we'd see another team and we were like, oh, thank God there's another one.
Scott Brady: And you're hoping that they're not lost too.
Rachelle Croft: Exactly. Yep. So then we ferry. That's an all-night... I think we got on the ferry at midnight. Barely slept. We forgot that our truck doesn't have... you can't have access to your truck when it's on the ferry, which all our food was in. [00:18:00] So we only had enough change to scrounge to like buy a croissant and we split our croissant in the cafe and then we get off in Morocco and drive to our Erfoud, which we didn't know where to go. There was like official policemen kind of pointing at it's all roundabouts, you know, if you've been there and we're like, I think we go this way, and this looks about right. We figured it out. We made it.
Scott Brady: That's so amazing. And then how long was the event?
Rachelle Croft: So the event, there is nine days. You have a prologue day, which they give you maybe three or five checkpoints. It's not scored, but it kinda sets the placement of teams on which courses they'll put you on throughout the rally. We thought we found our first checkpoint on the first day. We're like, this is so easy. And then we get there and it's the wrong one. We're like oh crap... this is how this is going to go.
Scott Brady: So you find a checkpoint, but not the one you thought you were gonna find. Oh, interesting. That's challenging.
Rachelle Croft: There's I think... now they have up to five different groups. So you'll be [00:19:00] A, B, C, D, E, maybe G. So you might find that red flag out in the desert, but it might not be yours and they won't tell you.
Scott Brady: Now, were you also sleeping out of the vehicle too? Or was there a bivouac?
Rachelle Croft: There was a bivouac. Yep. You're actually not allowed access to your vehicle at night because a lot of teams in the past have cheated doing that. They would put in GPS units. So in this rally much like the Rebelle, you're not allowed GPS or electronics, it's all paper maps compasses, rulers, and they would have teams in the past that would plant GPS units and all this stuff. So you lock your car at night, you actually turn in your keys, and you leave. So your tent camping it in kind of a roped off area, but they feed you, they have like trailer showers. Very safe. It's a great experience.
Scott Brady: Yeah. Morocco is a beautiful country.
Rachelle Croft: It really is.
Scott Brady: So when you would navigate by paper map, and I'm asking the question, cause I just competed in the Trek event where I had the opportunity to do more of that kind of [00:20:00] orienteering. Did you find that you focused more on, I want to know exactly where I am by triangulating, or did you use more...? I can tell that I'm most likely on this road and that looks like, and you were doing more dead reckoning on the map. How did you guys find that you navigated efficiently for the race?
Rachelle Croft: Yeah. Great question and you'll see a lot of teams have different styles, so it took us a few days to figure out our bearings. First of all, we always have a I forget what they're called. It's like a, a rally computer, but it counts down kilometers precisely and it's calibrated to your truck. So honestly, that thing is our saving grace, because we'll first put a map, a paper map down and we'll measure... ok to get from check point A to B, this is 27.5 kilometers at this heading. Now in Morocco, sometimes you can go a straight line into that heading in the U S you cannot do that, which is why the Rebelle I think is a lot more challenging in those ways. So you learn very [00:21:00] quickly, if you have a navigator that understands features and can pinpoint that feature on your map. K out my passenger window, I should be seeing this mountain at around five kilometers. Okay that's that mountain of five kilometers we're in the right area but then sometimes when you get to those checkpoints, they'll hide them like down in a divot so you can't see them, or they'll put them behind a bush. That's where you start triangulating to really pinpoint your exact position. So we kind of use all three.
Scott Brady: So you would... that makes sense. So you would take the gamble of, we may just run right across it and be very fast. If we don't, then we're not going to go and try to drive around until we find out we're going to find out exactly where we are. That makes a lot of sense.
Rachelle Croft: The second you get the gut check of like, oh, I don't know where I am, you need to stop because what... and this is the mistake we made. We were lost the whole first year Morocco all the time. Because you keep trying to talk yourself into it and then [00:22:00] you do, what's called Magic Map. So you look at something and you're like, oh, that's totally that mountain. Yeah. That makes sense. And you kind of turn it, you're like, yeah, that's that, you know, ravine. Yeah, that is that. And then you convince yourself because when you get lost, there's like a brain... I forget what it's called. There's a neurological reaction that happens and your body just, it has to know where it is.
Scott Brady: Trying to fill in the gaps.
Rachelle Croft: Yes, and so you'll make really dumb and irrational decisions based on, I just need to know where I am right now. So that's why I tell people the second you feel that something is off, you need to stop and figure it out. Because if you know, at least where you are, even if you can draw a circle, the size of an orange on a map of where you are that calms that response down. Instead of just being like, I don't even know where in the world where I am, because you'll go there. You're like, I don't even know I could be in America, but I'm in Morocco. You just freak out.
Scott Brady: That's interesting. Yeah. I remember when we did the Outback [00:23:00] challenge in Morocco, which is a similar area to where you raced, and Nathan Hinman was my navigator and we're cruising along. We're kind of lost. We're generally going in the right compass bearing. But other than that, we're pretty much lost and we're on this road, and he says I think I know where we're at now and he's like, we're going to come up to this major road and you're going to make a left and I'm doing 80, 90 miles an hour across the desert and then he realizes that it wasn't a road. It was actually the border. So we had somehow gotten ourselves into Algeria and we thought we were going in the right direction, but we were actually heading back into Morocco. And it's middle of the night, can't see the lights only go so far. And all of a sudden, we see like this hut illuminated, and then we see this bar across the road and we see this Moroccan military guy and [00:24:00] literally by the grace of all the gods I can't stop. There's no way I can stop, and he decides to open the gate. He flips the gate up and I never lifted. I just kept... and Nathan and I laugh about that. It was an amazing... but you can be convinced, and we were. We were convinced that we were on Y road going this direction and we were actually on X road heading mostly in the same direction, but we were totally lost. Really interesting.
Rachelle Croft: Yes, and that's tricky in Morocco because the road on your map is probably not the road, you're on because over time you'll see, you'll have five roads right next to each other. You don't know which one is on the map that you think you're following and that's something nobody tells you until you get over there.
Scott Brady: And I found that a lot of those maps over there were not accurate. There were features that weren't there or like usually the mountains was... that stuff was [00:25:00] pretty good, but like a, like a wadi or a field or whatever was either bigger or smaller than... and that was pretty challenging.
Rachelle Croft: And that's when to get into the nerdiness of it a little more, you get out of your car and you take your compass and you actually take a heading of the road that you're on and you can compare that to the math to see if you're on the right road, as well as using your odometer to track. The other thing you can do is you can take a heading from what feature you think that is and see if that lines up with where you're at on the map.
Scott Brady: And did you find on your compass that you would just bake in the declination? Did you have a compass that where you could just adjust for the magnetic declination and then you just stuck with it?
Rachelle Croft: We actually... in Morocco they would, with our checkpoints each day, they would tell us what to declinate our compasses to which is great, because that's almost impossible to keep up with, especially when we're moving at that pace. There was some days if we had a [00:26:00] really big transit day, we might move half a degree or a degree, but it was never too much. In the Rebelle that changes a lot more.
Scott Brady: Got it. Because the distances are longer?
Rachelle Croft: Yeah
Scott Brady: So what, at the end of the Aïcha des Gazelles, you've now completed this incredible adventure. Yeah. What were your big takeaways? Did that feel like you came into this person that you wanted to be? What did you learn from that that has affected your travels and stuff going forward?
Rachelle Croft: Yeah, I learned that one, I really love challenging myself and I need to challenge myself because as humans I think we all... your brain is wired to make you comfortable, and as soon as you are comfortable for a long time, it's harder and harder to get out of that comfort zone and to take a risk or to embarrass yourself, which really is just your ego at the end of the day. I also learned I was capable of [00:27:00] a lot more than I thought I was. It was so easy; Clay and I had been best friends for so long it's just at home even. It's like, hey babe, can you get that for me? Oh, hey babe can you do this? And of course he's an amazing gentleman, so he'll do it. And when you're out there, you don't have that. I can't be like, oh hey can you go air down that tire or fix that tire? Nope. I have to do that and even if I don't know how, I have to figure and it's a great experience because there's no one looking over your shoulder either to see if you're doing it right or wrong, or maybe giving you advice, which is very well-meaning.
Scott Brady: Yeah. Just a note to all that are listening. Can we stop with the mansplaining?
Rachelle Croft: That'd be great...
Scott Brady: Because now I hear it and I'm like, oh, I used to do that.
Rachelle Croft: And I know it comes from a good place. I do, like I have no issues, but as women we're so... we're already embarrassed that we're trying something new, so even if you're really trying to help give advice, it makes us second guess ourselves and [00:28:00] I did things that were totally wrong, but I got to the same solution and then I was able to be like, okay, next time I'm going to try it a different way and it just allows that space for me to mess up and make
Scott Brady: mistakes. So you found that you really appreciated the struggle, being allowed to struggle.
Rachelle Croft: Yeah, not in the moment. But yes,
Scott Brady: I find that I'm that kind of a learner too. If I don't have the struggle a little bit, it doesn't bake in as deep. If someone just helps me get to point Z too quickly without fumbling a bit along the way, I don't tend to retain it as well.
Rachelle Croft: Exactly, and I'll even get. I'll be like, why didn’t you help me with this? And Clay's like hey, you want to do it yourself. I'm like, oh, you're right. Okay I'll figure it out.
Scott Brady: Well, and you did, and you completed this amazing event and then if I remember correctly, you decided to go back. You liked it [00:29:00] enough that... or at least you'd like the struggle enough. I'm going to go do this again. So what happened next?
Rachelle Croft: So these things are very addicting, which is why you see teams come back again and again, and maybe you've experienced this with your rallies or competitions. You're like next time I'm going to do it this way, and so doing the first one, our goal was to have fun and to learn and to finish. We didn't want to disqualify. So we finished that rally, and you learn so much your onsite training that I couldn't wait to get back. And I was like, I've got to get back and then I saw the women and how they've done such a good job at that rally of giving you a platform because you have media, you have photographers, and newsletters, and they really try to elevate these teams and what they're doing and I looked at that platform and where it was at in my journey and that's when I was like I want to go back and I want to use it for something that I can speak to, to hopefully help women or whoever in the world. So [00:30:00] that was year two and then from there we went right away again to year three in 2015 and so we got a little bit better each time. I think our first year we came in like 89th or something. The next year we were 48th and then the year after that, I think we were 12th or 14th? I can't remember. So I was like, okay, we're getting better. Yeah, and I'm sorry, I forgot what the question was. Totally just lost my train of thought.
Scott Brady: No, but that's also good too. What I'm thinking of is what were the key takeaways for you that then helped you go on to the next stage in your travels? So. You've you do the Aïcha des Gazelles for several years; you gain all of this knowledge and experience and confidence. What did you then see as your next goal? Whatever that is. I mean, what was this... cause [00:31:00] there's this great opening that's happening. You're achieving all of this amazing stuff and then you want to go do something else. What becomes the next goal?
Rachelle Croft: Yeah, it was interesting, cause the next goal for me at the time was I wanted other women to experience what I had experienced. So I knew in myself the change that had taken place and the confidence that came with that, and I was like, more women need this experience. They need a safe place to learn, to make mistakes and to gain a little confidence and so my kind of goal came from that was wanting to get more women involved in it. There was also other rallies I looked at doing, which I would still love to go do, but I don't think looking back that wasn't really my primary goal. I would say it was getting more women in the space and waiting for the day when one of these would happen in the U.S. which I was really excited about and to help women with training and get them into it.
Scott Brady: And that's exactly what happens. So Emily Miller, who I look forward to having on the podcast at some point in the near future. An [00:32:00] incredible person with a lot of experience around the world and as a businessperson and everything else like that. So she decides to start the Rebelle rally in the U.S. and now tell me how that came about for you and what was the next steps for you?
Rachelle Croft: Yeah, I was really excited. That was in 2016 when she did the first one and at the time, you know, for Expedition Overland, we had done Alaska at that point. We'd done central America and then I'd always really wanted to just do more in the U.S., and I was like... cause I would hear, we'd be at these events and women would come up and be like, oh my gosh I want to do that, but I can't afford to go to Morocco. That's just a big commitment and it is, it's a massive commitment. So finally I was like, here's your chance now there's one in the U.S. and it's a third of the price there's going to be training. You don't have to learn another language. It's a great entry point, and it's in other ways, it's a lot more difficult. I think it makes you a better navigator. [00:33:00] So Emily, it had been one of her goals for a long time cause she saw all these pieces and she was like, oh, if we could like put these pieces together, what could we create in the U.S. and it would just be phenomenal and so I got to be one of the first teams in 2016 and the inaugural event, and its leaps and bounds different to what it is now. It's amazing to watch how she grows it and changes it every year and the mistakes they've made and then learned and applied it and made it an even better event.
Scott Brady: It seems like that Emily does an amazing job of surrounding herself with exceptional people. And anytime you do that, even if you get a couple of things wrong, it’s like when you surround yourself with that kind of caliber of individuals, you don't stay in that place for very long. It quickly accelerates. That's what I've seen, I mean she's so impressive.
Rachelle Croft: Yeah. Very true. I would agree a hundred percent.
Scott Brady: So talk about... this is a question that I've always had [00:34:00] about the Rebelle is how do they keep people from driving too fast? Because that is one of the challenges with the... it's very easy to say, like I'm gonna do trophy truck light and I'm going to drive super fast. Like how do they manage that? Making sure people aren't driving too fast. Cause these are open public roads.
Rachelle Croft: Yep. Yeah. So the way it's set up is the Rebelle is one, it's not a race for speed. So you get no extra points for going faster. It may save you time throughout your day to get more checkpoints. So there's that concept. It's a very different concept from like a Baja race where you're just gun to the wall, see who gets there fastest. The other thing is, is she really engrained in people that this cars your third teammate and it needs to get you all the way to day eight, because if you break your car, which usually happens because you're going too fast, you might not finish and then look at all of that prep and work that you've put into [00:35:00] this, and you made one dumb error and went to fast and now you have to drop out.
Scott Brady: So it's a combination of sportsmanship and mechanical sympathy that keeps people a little bit mindful of speed, but they don't have any trackers on there so they can keep an eye on somebody doing 115?
Rachelle Croft: So they also have trackers. They can tell how fast you're going at any time during the day and Emily has worked really hard to get the permits to allow this many cars to go through these certain public lands and she tells us all his teammates were like, hey if you guys don't respect this, we will not have a Rebelle in the future because we will get shut down. So that's one aspect is everyone carries that responsibility and then if it needs to come down to it, they'll just take points away if you're speeding.
Scott Brady: That's good, because it changes the nature of the event so much where it [00:36:00] removes some of these really interesting skills and then it just becomes about who can build the biggest, fastest truck. And that's what I really like about it. I like the fact that there are all of these skills that in many ways correlates to travel as well, but it allows for teams to show up with a stock Tacoma and if they've done all of their training and they've learned how to navigate, they can actually place really well without a lot of money being spent.
Rachelle Croft: She really encourages... she actually has its own categorization called the bone stock category. And that was actually the year my teammate and I won in 2019, we took a bone stock Lexus GX 460. And if you looked at that thing and the places we took it... Like it didn't make sense.
Scott Brady: They were amazing vehicles though.
Rachelle Croft: They're amazing vehicles and it's that thing she really wants to drive home is, hey you don't need the suspension and all the things that we think we [00:37:00] need, right? You do need to learn how to be a good driver, because if you learn these simple foundational skills and practice them, you can take just about any car and do what we're doing over nine days.
Scott Brady: What was one of the craziest things that happened to you? You've done that three years now? So you've done three years of the Rebelle, what is the single most insane thing that happened in any one of those events? I want to know. Maybe there wasn't one.
Rachelle Croft: There was a lot that happened. Maybe I blocked them out. There was definitely one area that we had the GX in and it was like... I forget where we were. We were in, we were in an open OHV area, and it sees a lot of side-by-sides and a lot of turfy trucks. It wasn't Johnson Valley; it was another one. And the whoops were like, I mean just giant, and it had gotten a lot of moisture before, and we had these two blue checkpoints that were up around this like canyon kind of mountain, and then it would [00:38:00] come back down to base camp and so as usual, it's getting late, we're close to our time and we're like, I think we can snag those last blue checkpoints. I think we can do it. Let's go for it and I'm going, and the road... the track seems okay and then we turn a corner, and it's just ruts and whoops and so those GXs on the back. You can raise the suspension if you're under, what is it? 18 miles per hour. So I would literally go at it at a diagonal and just creep down in this whoop and put the suspension up and then creep out of it and it was, it took us probably three times, as long as we thought it would take us.
Scott Brady: Did you make it in time?
Rachelle Croft: We did make it in time, and we got one of them.
Scott Brady: Good. So it was worth the risk.
Rachelle Croft: It was worth the risk at that point. I don't know if I would have done it again. If I would've known what that terrain is, I would have been like, it's not worth it.
Scott Brady: I remember talking to Joba Call and I said, what are you going to use for pre-running? He's like, I just take one of the GXs that's what... they would just pull a [00:39:00] GX out of like the test fleet in Arizona and go pre-run the 500 or the 1000 totally stock vehicles. Yeah. They are really amazing. Amazing how good they work. Well, so now pivoting a little bit from your successful racing career in the Aïcha des Gazelles and the Rebelle Rally. What were some of the things that you learned from that, that you feel has directly translated to travel for you? Those takeaways that you found yourself employing when you're in Baja filming with XOverland, what were some of the things that you pulled away from that training and racing that you find applies now to travel?
Rachelle Croft: Yeah. First and foremost, the mental toughness because these are long rallies. They're eight to nine days plus travel time and you're in the car 10 to 14 hours a day, give or take, day after day sleeping in a tent and the mental... [00:40:00] Everyone knows you hit that wall and you have a choice to make. Okay am I going to give up and just throw a fit and just say this sucks and what am I doing here and back off, or am I going to push through that wall, have a good attitude, finish strong, and do the best I can even if I just made a really horrible mistake, which we've done many times. So the mental toughness, it takes to continue going to have a good attitude, learn how to take care of your body and yourself to get you to the end and still come out with a great relationship with your teammate. Communication is the biggest takeaway for me because when we're on XOverland trips watching it, a lot of people don't see it's a slog. It is a lot of work. We're filming, you know, filming comes first. So it's 12-to-14-hour days and you're with eight people and you're all sleeping together. You're working together. You're doing everything for [00:41:00] three weeks, four weeks, six weeks. So carrying all those skills through of communication and knowing when I need to walk away and just have a little bit of a space or alone time, you know, pulling up your bootstraps and being like, hi I'm so exhausted. I don't want to run out there and do we really need the shot? Yes, we do, because we're doing the best work and that's what it takes. So I would a hundred percent say the mental toughness and learning how to communicate effectively.
Scott Brady: And then on the, maybe the hard skills side, how have you found that those navigation skills... I mean, it does make a direct correlation for my mind, but what were maybe some of the things that you took away that you realize, yes, now I'm a better traveler because of being a racer?
Rachelle Croft: Just driving skills for one was a big deal. Knowing how to listen to my car, Clay is always getting so frustrated with me, cause I'm the one that's like, no it's fine. It's fine. It's fine. [00:42:00] You know? It's a Toyota, it's fine, and he's like, where's Rachelle you have to stop. If something doesn't feel right, we have to stop and take the time to fix it and so learning how to be in tune with your vehicle how it's supposed to be feeling what's off get out and look at it, don't be afraid to try things. If something doesn't seem right, even if I'm really bad at mechanics that is... I need to go to mechanic school. I'm really bad at it, but I think Jeff or Clay told me, they're like just look at something. If something doesn't look normal, that's all we need to know and then you can go from there. So just taking those little technical skills is really helpful. For us learning, I'm constantly working on my throttle control, driving well, because if the guys are flying drones or need a certain shot, they need a really smooth driver and that it's a very complex machine, and [00:43:00] then in travel just being a Morocco and interacting with the culture, being in the villages and I loved... the cool thing about that is you go through parts of Morocco, a lot of people don't get to see and we're out there with nomads in the middle of the desert and just having the empathy for people of, oh my gosh, this is your life. You live here with your two kids in the middle of a desert, and you have a goat and this is it and I don't think anybody that sees that wouldn't be changed or moved by that, so it's all of those pieces come into play for me traveling.
Scott Brady: How do you feel like those experiences changed or moved you?
Rachelle Croft: That's a good question, Scott. I think they just continually remind me that my little box of a world is not all that there is in life. There is a big world out there and we can, especially in America, it's just very easy with everything we have going on. [00:44:00] To be very... what is it? Introspective, which can be a good thing, but it can also kind of dictate a lot of things around you, I think. So that's why we love to push people even on XOverland to cross the border and to experience another culture, because when you interact with another culture and you see how others live, I think it just gives you such a respect for other people in the world and why they do the things they do, it makes sense. You know, it goes back to the age-old quote, walk a mile in their shoes. It's so true.
Scott Brady: Well, and you can realize that what may on the surface appear as having less than oftentimes is the opposite, where they have much more than we do, which is they laugh more. They spend more time with their families. They spend more time preparing meals and interacting with their neighbors and their friends. So it's very easy to [00:45:00] look simply at the world through our own lens, which gives us... we miss out on that opportunity to change, and I think that that is where travel is so beautiful is that it just opens your mind to the fact that there's a thousand different ways to live a million different ways to live and if I take a little bit of the good from each of those things, my life might actually change for the better.
Rachelle Croft: Absolutely. I love... I call them nuggets. I love taking a nugget kind of information from where I go. That impacts me. It might not impact anybody else, but it made a difference to me, whether that's a book I'm reading or a show I'm watching, or somewhere I'm traveling, I can always learn something and get something out of that that can better my life.
Scott Brady: And speaking kind of on that front, if someone was to come up to you, like let's say a family member that has been following your adventures around the world and they want to start to [00:46:00] travel and they said, Rochelle, what advice would you give me being new to overlanding what advice would you give someone that they're new to going and seeing the world?
Rachelle Croft: I would say stay teachable. It's trying not to carry our own biases into another country. Cause anytime we travel, it's like going into someone else's house, how do you act in someone else's house? You don't walk in and be like, well I demand this food, or why don't you have this? You know, it's their house. You don't live there and just having a lot of respect and being very. Is a great place to start. Whether you're going up to the state park or in another state, that's not your house either. You know, they have... even by states I see there's a little different culture and things that we have differently. So just be willing to be teachable and to learn and you don't need all the fancy gear. I know at XOverland, we have a lot of gear, but we run a production company out of those [00:47:00] trucks and we have different obligations. So that's how we have travelled but I love being like Curt does, and I know you do you throw a stove or a Jetboil in the back of a car and just go somewhere and you will actually learn more from that experience of what you really need, or what's important to you to make that a better travel experience for you.
Scott Brady: Yeah, and there's a million different ways to travel and I think being very well-prepared with a lot of high quality equipment and especially high quality vehicles, you can actually stick closer to a plan. So you can oftentimes see more, you have less interruptions because you don't need to go find this thing or that, or the vehicle doesn't have a problem. So I think being well-prepared like I see with XOverland, it does have its advantages, but then so does throw in a bag on the back of a motorcycle and just figuring it out. So, yeah, exactly and I think that they both very much have their place. One of the things that I like to ask in these interviews [00:48:00] is like the books that have had an influence on you, or maybe some takeaways, maybe some of those nuggets that you have heard from people that have been your mentors in your life, or maybe a podcast that you like. I mean, obviously XOverland produces some of the highest quality video content in the world. So that's a great place for people to go to learn more. But how about for Rochelle? Where do you draw that inspiration from?
Rachelle Croft: I love a lot of podcasts, I would say. Yeah, one of my... I was definitely on a oh gosh, what is his name? I'm gonna have to get back to you on his name. Obviously, it's very important to me cause I can't remember. I love a lot of Rachel Hollis's books. She speaks a lot... one of the books that I love, it was her first kind of non-fiction. It was called Girl Wash Your Face, and it was basically a book on like, if you want your life to change, then do something. Don't sit there [00:49:00] expecting the same different results, right? It's stupidity to sit in the same thing you're doing and do it day in and day out expecting different results. So go wash your face.
Scott Brady: That's the definition of insanity, isn't it?
Rachelle Croft: Definition of insanity. So it was just a very... It was a book I needed at the time to kind of... it was a good kick in the pants to be like, all right, you know what? Yeah, I need to do better at these things, or this is something stirring in me. I just need to start whether that's writing something down making a plan, making a dream list of, hey in two years, do I want my life to look exactly like it does now, or do I want it to look different? And I would say that's one thing I really encourage people is, you know, we hear it a lot. Well go back to your roots. Well why aren't you doing what you used to do 10 years ago? I'm like, I don't want to be the same person I was 10 years ago. She wasn't awesome. She was okay, but I would never want to not grow because if you're not growing, you're dying.
Scott Brady: It's true. [00:50:00] Yeah. It's very difficult to stay a steady state. We're either getting stronger or we're getting weaker.
Rachelle Croft: So that book to me was really helpful. I love reading. It's called The Gift of Fear and it sounds counterintuitive. It's actually a great book. We recommend it to a lot of our team members that travel with us and it's really about listening to your gut instinct and as women, I was never taught to do that. I was raised to be a good girl and you think the best of people and you don't make a fuss and you're kind and so I always neglected. Cause I would rationalize it away and so that book is really good about being like, hey listen to your gut. So I recommend that to anybody traveling.
Scott Brady: And that's being kind to yourself. I think a lot of times you see people and myself included, I've had to learn this, that being nice is not always being kind either to yourself or to others. You're usually better off being very clear [00:51:00] that this isn't working, or I need to set a boundary here or whatever, especially with your travel mates. If you don't feel comfortable in a place, everyone has to respect that this one individual feels like this is not right. We got to move on.
Rachelle Croft: Yep. That's a rule in our group. If anyone team member does not feel like we should camp here, stay here and talk to this person. No questions asked. We pack up and move. Oh, another good book Boundaries read a book on boundaries. I was never taught that. I don't think a lot of people were it seems to be happening more and more now, but Dr. Henry cloud wrote a really good one. And that really impacted my life for the better, especially when you travel to different cultures like Morocco, they do not listen to you when you say no. I don't know if you had this experience. Hey, come to my shop and buy, maybe it's because I'm a woman I don't know. So come to my shop and buy a rug. I'm like, no, no, no, you have to. And they'll like, literally like take you by the hand and want to pull you. And it was like, [00:52:00] oh, you aren't offended if I say no and I have to actually get very firm with you. Maybe I don't have to do that in the states. But learning boundaries is very key to travel and listening to your gut.
Scott Brady: Yeah, and having those in place with your travel companions, because that's when you can have those misunderstandings and hurt feelings can compound by not speaking up early about how we feel about something.
Rachelle Croft: Yeah, I'm still learning that.
Scott Brady: Yeah, me too. Very much so. It's something I work on all the time needed to get better at for sure. Well, those are, those are great suggestions on the book side. Now how do people find out more about the Rebelle Rally, Trophy Aïcha des Gazelles. Any recommendations that you would have for someone that's listening that wants to go have an adventure like that?
Rachelle Croft: So if you go to, I can't remember if it's The, or just RebelleRally.com, it'll pop up right away and they actually just launched a new website. It's gorgeous. [00:53:00] It's full of information. It's full of a lot of training trainings throughout the year that they will offer in different parts of the U.S. also a Facebook group. I can't remember, they've got a few, but just the Rebelle Rally Facebook group is a great place to interact with others and a lot of the questions that I get asked they're all kind of helping each other out in this group and answering those questions. The Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles, you can also go to their website. If you just Google Gazelle Rally Morocco, it'll pop up. I believe there's an English version. So click the English and it'll pop up they're offering a lot of different rallies now, which is really fun, and there's more popping up throughout the world, which I'm real excited about.
Scott Brady: And then how to people find out more about Excels and how do they find out more about XOverland and you as a traveler?
Rachelle Croft: Yeah. So you can go to Xoverland.com is our main website. We just launched a whole new network and we're really excited about that. We'll be pulling in other storytellers,
Scott Brady: What's the [00:54:00] name of the new network?
Rachelle Croft: Yeah. It's called The Overlander Network.
Scott Brady: Do they just go OverlanderNetwork.com. Is that...?
Rachelle Croft: It's actually special.tv/overlandernetwork, and that will take them to it. It's the first time we've done kind of behind the paywall, and we're really excited about it. It's opening a lot of doors to have future storytellers on there that we can showcase separate projects we can do as well as doing what we do with XOverland.
Scott Brady: What an amazing concept. I think that we need that in this space. A way for... because creating beautiful content is time consuming and expensive and people... it's only fair that they are compensated in some ways. So it makes sense to have a network like that where the creator and the creative and the network manager is able to all make some fair compensation from that.
Rachelle Croft: Yeah. We're really excited about it, and then my own is TheXelles.Com or you can find me there on Instagram under Rochelle Croft or The Xelles and the Xelles kind of comes and [00:55:00] goes because it's not a priority, it's a side and it kind of pops up when I'm in Rally season. I'm hoping in the future to be able to offer more beginner classes for women I just got asked actually right before I popped in here. She's like, when are you doing that? Like, I don't know... but I need to do it.
Scott Brady: Yeah, that's great. And then what is next for you? What's the next big adventure for Rochelle now that you you've done all these amazing things. What's next?
Rachelle Croft: Great question. So yeah well, my next adventure for this year's rebel is I'm actually going to be there, live show host. So they do a live show every day of the rally it's morning. They just do a course check-in afternoon and then a show at night, so you can tune in live, and we give the highlights of the day. I'm really going to be in the competition since I have been a competitor, they're excited to have me come on and kind of think strategy of why teams made the choices they did and where I think they'll go.
Scott Brady: When does the Rebelle start? It's soon. Isn't it?
Rachelle Croft: It's [00:56:00] October seventh I believe. Like a week after I'm home from expo. Yeah, I'll have a week home check in with the kiddos turn around and fly out, but I'm really excited about it.
Scott Brady: That's amazing. Rochelle, thank you so much for being on the podcast, Clay and you both are like some of my dearest friends and I'm so grateful for both of you and everything that you guys have accomplished. I think it is not only a testament to achieving your dreams if you put enough energy and gumption behind it, but also being an inspiration to others, you guys have always done such a wonderful job of inspiring people to go see the world and we are all so grateful for that.
Rachelle Croft: Thank you, Scott. I mean, you inspired us, so it all comes back around.
Scott Brady: It does, absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Rochelle and we thank you all for listening and we will talk to you next time.