I’m sipping a cappuccino in the Marseille Airport waiting for a flight to Heathrow.  It’s a beautiful sunrise over the Mediterranean and I am feeling the effects of jet lag and minimal sleep.

I flew Reno – San Fran – Heathrow – Paris CDG and had a wonderful and much needed reunion with my favorite Gazelles in Paris on Sunday night.  Monday morning before sunrise I headed south on the TGV and arrived in Avignon on the Rhone River.  I’ve passed Avignon several times in the past, in a hurry to somewhere else.  I am astonished at what an amazing place it is – this magical, historical town behind large fortress walls made me feel tossed back to the 13th century.

I spent two exceptional days with Maienga – the organizers of the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles.  I can understand why they chose Provence as home base as opposed to Paris – I felt quite at home and at peace.  With a nightmare of a travel schedule and operating on almost no sleep for weeks, I felt immediately relaxed when I stepped foot into the offices.

Spending time with Dominique Serra, the owner and creator of the beloved Gazelle Rally, gave me a different glimpse of this magnificent woman.  Serra is a complex person who literally built this event step by step and has fought hard to keep the values and vision.  It is tough to be an event director, promoter, etc. – especially when you are dealing with racers.  Honestly, it is a no win situation if you are hoping to make everyone happy and like you.  Toss in the towel – you’ll never succeed if that is your goal.

I always give props to people like Sal Fish and Casey Folks who run the US and Mexico’s largest desert races.  I sometimes wonder why they don’t just quit or go postal on the next racer who complains.   Dominique is similar – focused, tough, caring and fierce – she doesn’t take s&%! from anyone – but she is a woman.  A woman in such a position can be a lightning rod for criticism and opinion.  Trust me, I know from experience.  But as we sat and I watched her interact with the entire team, I realized how truly exceptional she is.  Her heart is in the right place – the protective mother of the baby she has raised from just a mere idea.

After learning some of the exciting plans for the Gazelle 2012, I couldn’t help but think how happy I am to return to the States and share this event with the American women who have put the rally on their personal bucket list.  2012 will not disappoint!