A bountiful soul, this article is in memoriam of Dede Rogers, the backbone of Dustball Rally. Her charity endeavors, including the El Paso Humane Society, El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank, Ronald McDonald House El Paso, Polo Real, and Child Crisis Center El Paso, speak to her altruistic nature and selfless spirit.
Throughout my life, Dede never failed to inspire me. Beyond her philanthropic pursuits, her zest for life enlivened those around her, every presence graced by her radiance. Even enduring her battle with diabetes, having been diagnosed at age 17, under no circumstance did she allow her condition to overrule her life, “Nowadays there are camps and programs to help you learn how to give yourself injections and make good nutrition choices. Dede was given a pamphlet on diabetes, taught how to give an injection, and sent out the door to college. It was a sink or swim situation and she chose to swim. She never let it hold her back. If you asked her about diabetes, she was happy to talk about it, but she never sought attention about it.” Isha Rogers Santamaria, Dede’s sister, said.
Her cherishment of Dustball and its values fascinated me as I longingly anticipated my first Rally.
Because of my parent’s involvement with the Porsche Club, and the beginnings of Dustball Rally in 2005, naturally, I was exposed to their world. I grew up around cars and car people, every car show and meeting being hosted in El Paso, my hometown, I was there. In fact, the blaring motor on my dad’s old 911, Tabitha, used to put me to sleep in the backseat. I have vague memories of early Dustball meetings in El Paso, especially ones that Dede would go to. I was maybe 6 or 7 when I sat in her Porsche for the Thanksgiving Parade that Dustball was in, and with the top down, she let me sit atop the backseat. She used to take pictures (flash, in particular) of my brother and I at Porsche Club and Dustball meetings, and as we got older, she accumulated our growth and lives in her camera roll, up until last summer. Even though I was never around Dede as much as I had liked to be, it didn’t take much for me to know that she would always be someone I aspired to.
As I got older, Dustball grew as well. Events increased from 1 per year to 3, and sometimes 4. When I was around 13-14, I started to resent Dustball for being what would take my parents away from home throughout the year, even more so because I didn’t understand why, and I couldn’t go with them, either. Throughout high school is when it started to get explained to me Dustball’s basic concept and its depths: why my parents had to scout roads before they took a number of cars on them, why they were taking notes at certain stops and directions, why they avoided highways, all of it. My parents began to share anecdotes, take my brother and I on scout trips, and even showed me videos from past events. Eventually, my angered confusion shifted to intrigue and excitement as my dad would talk about taking me on my first rally once I was old enough. I began to see Dustball for what it really is, a family, one I would soon be a part of. It wasn’t until my first event that I realized why my parents were so passionate about this organization, because I had a taste of it myself. Above all, it was made clear to me what Dustball means to people, cohesive with the standard of values by which my parents hold their work to. Immutable values that, over the course of 17 years, has bound a tight-knit community, tracing back to Dustball’s noble beginnings.
A completely modified maroon 1984 911 Carrera, roll bars, supertrapp exhaust, spent most of its time on track days with the Porsche Club in the early 2000’s. Auto-crossing, for Andrew Medley, was just another pique-of-interest activity that fed into his thirst for motorsports. It wasn’t until Willy Williams, Force Recon Marine, needed a co-driver for his time-speed-distance rally on behalf of the Porsche Club in 2004 that early influences of Dustball were inspired.
“He starts telling me about his sports car rallying days… everything from off-road dirt rallies to the Cannonball Run and Alcan 5000,” Medley said., He recalls Willy’s “rally computer” and traditionally written instructions for directions: “the verbiage, everything was very specific… it’s almost like a code, you have to understand what you’re reading to know which way you’re going.”
Coming from the racetrack to this concept served as the pivotal moment, enlightenment, that set the foundation for what Dustball Rally has become today. From the very first event, co-organizers Andrew and Leandra Medley, which ran through the Black Range District in New Mexico, their dedication and commitment to Dustball prevail. A witness to the demanding labor, time consumption and attention to detail myself, my inquiries fixated on, why? What makes an open-road, cross-country rally worth your best efforts, your livelihood?
“The people,” Leandra Medley said, “seeing what it means to them, how it takes them away from work, you know, their daily lives. How it pulls them away from everything, but it also brings them together. Wholesome people. It’s a different type of person who does Dustball Rally.” Justifying that it isn’t just about the cars, but the driver’s experience, which is the key aspect in what makes a Dustballer a Dustballer. As Andy Medley notes, “It has to be understood that the journey is the destination.” Interstateaphobia, or the fear of boring roads, is merely a third of the trickled factors that embody the mental, emotional, and even spiritual effects of Dustball Rally.
On an event, you’re essentially mentally detached from your actual life, leading to new perspectives, relationships, and the opportunity for travel. The mental preparation aspect of Dustball is essential in embracing the experience, for the open road and –most importantly– the disconnect from reality for great periods of time. With no cell phone service and little to no connection to the outside world, combined with the task of figuring out how to get to the day’s location to avoid being lost, the revitalization aspect of Dustball is achieved.
“Dustball has given me an outlet with like-minded people that provides me the ability to put aside the stresses and challenges of everyday life, not only during an event, but also in day-to-day life. If I’m not at a DB event, I’m thinking and looking forward to the next one, which is very positive for my psyche,” said Dustballer Nabil ElDib.
Speaking to mental preparedness and the flow of disconnect, “When we all gather in the morning to get our driver’s packets. That is when I go from reality to get ready for another fun and amazing adventure. Considering a long-distance road trip I had to prepare for many miles of driving,” William Marquardt, Dustballer and car enthusiast, said.
Dustballer’s are encouraged to ‘Find Your Road’, the coined phrase that is the broader seek that leads to higher purpose on a rally, comprehensive of all physical, social, emotional, and psychological experiences individual to every Dustballer on an event; therefore, cultivating the ultimate -unconventional-getaway. “Well, it’s truly a vacation…when you’re in a car for eight-to-ten hours a day and you’re driving, that’s all you’re doing. That, in itself, is a vacation from your normal days…you really do have to concentrate,” David Hartcorn, Dustballer, said.
This style of road rally finds that people who would have no other reason than Dustball to be on these roads and in these places discover not only combined undeniable elements of family and genuine camaraderie, but a distinct adrenaline for more. “DBR has had a positive impact on my mental well-being first and foremost because of the presence of positive emotions and moods at DBR is contagious and prevails long after an event is over. This heightened sense of being promotes living life to its fullest every day of the year. There is no room for sniveling!” ElDib said.
Camaraderie, being essential in Dustball, is a key principle that adds profound value to the experience. On collective commitment in enjoying the journey together, “The interaction with and social networking of Dustball family members is incredible, making an emotional connection with all these other wonderful people. That is one of the strongest things that has brought the family of Dustball together…it is what drives me to return time and time again…the love for enjoying the most beautiful scenic roads. Driving masterfully engineered vehicles. All at the same time enjoying it with like-minded and inspirational people,” Marquardt said.
On the 2017 main event, from New York to Los Angeles, as a result of catastrophic engine failure in secluded southern Iowa, several Dustballers contributed to purchasing a 1992 Buick Roadmaster for Marquardt. One of many testaments to the genuine affinity and benevolence, Will was then able to cross the finish line in Los Angeles, the longest event in Dustball history.
Gimmicking, a long-standing tradition, allows teams to fully immerse themselves in the event. Though predominately optional, those who gimmick reap the benefits of a unique, challenging component that makes calculating your next location twofold mentally engaging.
Each element that makeup Dustball completes each other, forging unparalleled adventure. Medley says, “It starts as a hobby, but it becomes a meaning to life.”
by Amaris Medley