Sometimes you choose what to write about; sometimes it
chooses you. A recent issue of Sports Illustrated featured a fascinating
article by Susanna Schrobsdorff about the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc,
an all-female, off-road rally that’s held every year in the Moroccan desert. Women
compete in teams of two, driving 4x4s, trucks, crossovers, quad bikes, or
motorbikes. It’s not about speed: they have to get from checkpoint to
checkpoint using only a map and a compass, and the winners are those who travel
the fewest kilometers—that is, those who navigate best. So I was thinking about
why someone might want to do this… and then I noticed that Schrobsdorff had written that the mechanics
who travel along as part of the rally’s huge retinue of support
personnel are all men. And I thought, Well, this certainly won’t do. My disclaimer here is that I did a lot of reading about the rally, but I’m sure I’ve got tons of details wrong. Also my French is about as bad as my other non-English languages. Anyway,
this piece is proceeding kind of like Pilot, in that something seems to want to be said, but I’m not quite managing to say it.
Myka drinks from her late-afternoon-lukewarm water bottle and wishes she were asleep. Being the only woman among a fraternity of men who think they know more than she does is always exhausting. Being the only woman on a forty-person team of mechanics that’s supporting a nine-day, all-woman off-road rally in the Moroccan desert? There’s probably a word for how much heavier that is, but Myka doesn’t know it. It’s only three days in, and she’s slipping into a very familiar trough of wondering why she ever said she’d do this again, the parched back of her mind cursing the name of the Army buddy who first got her this gig six years ago.