Rally the Void 12, Bigger, Better, Drier?

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by BkerChuck, Sep 19, 2017.

  1. BkerChuck

    BkerChuck Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2012
    Oddometer:
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    The Void Rally is normally held over Columbus Day weekend but this year in 2017 due to a scheduling conflict with the host hotel in Fredericksburg, VA the event was moved up a month to September 15th and 16th. Mona and I were originally planning to skip this year but after talking to Scott, the Void rally master during the Mason Dixon rally we reevaluated. Scott said this year would be, “Bigger, Better, less boring! No historical highway markers, no post offices! Think Americana, think world’s largest ball of twine! Think America!” Cryptic yet enough to make us curious so once more we sign up hoping the 5th time will be the charm and we won’t be riding in a hurricane.

    For those of you unfamiliar with a long distance rally let me try to explain it. These rallies are like a scavenger hunt but instead of being asked to bring something back to the finish you’ll be bringing pictures on a digital camera to prove you were at the right place. Each picture will have to contain your rally flag. Rally flags are normally about the size of a hand towel but thinner. Think Motel 6 not Waldorf Astoria. Each flag will be imprinted with your specific rider number and the rally logo. A week before the start each rider will be emailed a list of available bonus locations and their point values. Think restaurant menu, the big kind with too damn many choices where you finally cave in and get the same thing you got the last time you ate there. Much like a menu bonus locations will have different point values indicating the degree of aggravation they’re likely to cost you. Small point values are like appetizers, not very filling but often worth picking one up. Big points are more like the signature dish. They can cost you dearly and you may wonder if they’re really worth it. They usually involve a big city, an obscure hard to reach location, or a time constraint with nearby traffic gridlock to make you work for you meal.

    In the case of the Void rally there are 3 different starting locations available with riders from the 3 points all converging on Fredericksburg for the finish. This year the start cities were Wilkes Barre, PA the easy choice for us, Franklin, TN or Kingsland, GA although that last city was changed to Waycross only 48 hours before the start due to Hurricane Irma. All starters were given the same 260 item long bonus list from which to create a route they thought would garner the most points in the allotted miles. There would be a minimum 777 and a cap of 1595 to be accomplished in just 31 hours from the start until your final paperwork had to be handed in for scoring. The final twist the rally masters throw at the riders in the case of the Void Rally is that the final rally book, the “Bible” of the whole event isn’t given out until less than 48 hours before the start. What this means is that while you may be able to figure out where you’re going and with the help of Google Earth look for what you think they’ll want you can’t be sure until you’re given this final puzzle piece. The final book may also contain previously undisclosed bonuses or combo bonuses where the rider must perform a series of tasks sometimes in a specific order to garner higher points.

    Mona and I are in this for fun. We might get to play with the big dogs but we’re just puppies in the long distance arena. It’s enough fun for us to just ride around and see things we may never otherwise have even known existed. Her schedule recently doesn’t give her much time to sit down and help me with routing and though I normally do the bulk of it this time it’s all on me to come up with something. My first plan involves riding from Wilkes Barre west to Cleveland, OH but the timing is cutting it close. One of the bonuses must be achieved by 3:00 and it’s better than 300 miles until our first stop. For IBR vets that’s nothing but as I said we’re puppies playing with the big dogs so I look for other options. I try to avoid big cities but there is a big point bonus in Philadelphia and only a short distance from that is a bonus location on the Team Strange Love & Merci tour so I decide to “double dip” and carry that rally flag as well so I can hit that stop while I’m there. A few hours in Basecamp running scenarios and I come up with a plan I think fits our abilities and level of competitiveness. We’re looking at 23 bonus stops, a 6 hour rest bonus, and just under 1000 miles.

    I’ve already booked a room in Wilkes Barre so after a half day of work on Thursday we run home and load the bikes for the 2 hour trip north. There’s been discussion on the rider’s board of meeting for dinner that evening so 12 of us converge at a TGI Friday’s for an opportunity to share a meal, a drink or two, and routing strategies. I’ve also gone ahead and booked a room for our rest bonus. This is a recent strategy that’s worked well for us because it gives us a goal for the first part of the rally. We know going in how far and how long until we’ll next get some sleep. Friday morning we’re up before the alarm, shower, dress, and repack the bikes ready to start our adventure. Checking out of our room we ride about 2 miles down the road to a Sheetz gas station joining another batch of riders waiting for the start window for PA riders of 8:20-8:30 am. Shortly after 8:20 am we each fill our fuel tanks, record our odometer mileage on our receipts and text our start information to the rally master. The text must be in a specific format of rider number, first initial, last name, starting state, time from your receipt including seconds, and odometer reading in full miles. After sending in the text you must wait for an acknowledgement and then you’re off to go bonus hunting.



    Our first bonus stop is in Quakertown, PA for a picture of a giant barbell. It’s located in rear of a parking lot for a store that sells exercise equipment. It’s about 75 miles from our start and we cover it in about 72 minutes. I allot about 7 minutes per stop. You must take a picture with your rally flag clearly legible and the required object and record on your score sheet the time and odometer from you bike. 7 minutes isn’t a ton of time but we’ve gotten pretty efficient compared to our first event. Punching the next location into the Garmin’s we’re off to Philadelphia and the highest point bonus in our plan. Knowing big cities are time sucks I allot 20 minutes hoping this will cover us.



    This is where I plan to double dip and before we head to the Void bonus we stop and I get a picture with my second camera of the AMOR statue with the appropriate rally flag then we redirect to an extremely large clothes pin right across from city hall. Pulling close to the bonus we can see another rider’s bike already parked and join him parking not so legally and realizing a short walk is the best choice. As the other rider, Curtis returns to his bike he warns us the sidewalks are closed and fenced off making this stop even more trouble than we’d anticipated. Walking carefully between the Jersey wall and traffic I make my way to the corner, hang our flags on the fence and quickly get our pictures. We record time and odometer as a parking enforcement officer approaches telling us we can’t park where we’ve stopped. Apologizing and thanking him for his warning we get moving before he can reconsider. The traffic getting out of this part of town eats up some time and we head east crossing into New Jersey and on our way to visit a halfwit. And I thought I had the day off of work.







    The halfwit is a muffler man figure standing about 15 feet tall in the parking lot of a small drive in restaurant. Parking is easy and I just hang my flag on my windscreen for the picture. Record time and odometer, eat some trail mix, some beef jerky, and drink a bottle of water. We’re only off schedule a couple of minutes so far and other than New Jersey and their weird jug handle roads to turn left we’re doing pretty well. Our next stop will be about 27 miles away and will be a house which the owner has decorated with an array of old fashioned glass insulators from electrical poles. These insulators are everywhere lining fence posts and poles surrounding the house. A quick fuel stop on the way and as we pull in we see another rally rider and chat briefly about where we should take the photo from. The book calls for the picture to be taken from the furthest corner away from the driveway and we debate if this means a rear corner of the property. Trespassing is discouraged and we opt to use the property edge along the road out front. The three of us walk to the corner of the property, hang our flags on the fence and take our pics. Back at our bikes we all record time and odometer then Mona and I watch Andrew depart one direction while we peel away going the other way.






    We’re about 20 minutes behind our plan by this point and only 5 hours into the rally as we head south in New Jersey to our next stop, a Viking Muffler Man at a carpet store. Approaching the bonus I fail to see it but Mona thinks she caught a glimpse of him. We park at an antique shop that has a variety of statues in their lot expecting our Viking to be there. The store owner greets us from his front porch and we inquire about the Viking. Apparently we’re not the first riders that day to ask. Leaving the bikes parked we walk across the street and about 50 yards back in the direction we’d just ridden to find our prey. How I never saw him I don’t know. We take the pictures and head back to our bikes for another quick snack and some water. Next stop Cowtown.




    We’ve visited this bonus location on a previous rally. There is a large cowboy Muffler Man out in front of a rodeo complex here but this time it’s a cow we’re after. Rolling towards the cowboy we spy the large cow less than a hundred yards from where we’d stopped on a previous visit. Photos taken, time and odometer recorded and it’s time to get out of New Jersey. Less than 30 minutes later we’re in Delaware for a doctor’s visit. Well maybe not a doctor but he did let his bag sitting outside of the office. This doctor’s bag is 20 feet long and 15 foot high and I hope he’s not a proctologist! Somehow we manage to pick up a minute or two and are only 19 minutes off schedule. Our next stop is in Baltimore and we have a little over an hour ride to get there.



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  2. BkerChuck

    BkerChuck Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2012
    Oddometer:
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    Our prey this time is a dinosaur. He’s made out of old Caterpillar equipment parts and stands about 15 feet tall painted Cat yellow and in the lot of a Caterpillar equipment dealer. I did mention this is close to Baltimore? Traffic on Friday afternoon around 5 is killing us. The 19 minutes we were off pace leaving New Jersey has become 27 minutes by the time we get here. We discuss and agree to drop our next planned bonus in Hagerstown, MD because it’s only 12 points and we fear going into another decent sized city may cost us too much time for the small point value. Deciding to now head for PA and the first of a string of 5 bonuses in combination on the Lincoln Highway we tell the Garmin’s to take us north.






    Set for fastest time somehow Garmin decides route 40 through the city of Baltimore is the fastest route. Seriously? At 5 o’clock in downtown Baltimore? As we slowly travel block to block catching every red light I think they have to offer I see another bonus location pop up on my GPS screen. This is a stop I hadn’t considered but since we’ll be passing within about 3 blocks of it Mona and I agree to add it in to offset the 12 points we’d chosen to drop. The bus stop is a 14 foot tall art installation that serves as a functional bus stop. Pretty cool but the traffic is killing our time. By the time we finally emerge from Baltimore after hitting more traffic lights than I could possibly count we enter our home state of PA and manage to get to the first of a 5 bonus string.




    This is a giant apple truck outside of Chambersburg, PA. It is part of a series of art installations “Giants of the Lincoln Highway”. These giants are all projects of vocational technical schools in the counties the highway passes through. If we can manage to get all 5 in order and not screw up we’ll score the 36 points each bonus is worth plus 144 points for the combo. The trick is you can’t claim any other bonuses during this run and that includes your rest bonus. Additionally you’ll be riding right past a 72 point bonus in the middle of the string. Devious rally master trick there. Tease you and hope you screw up! We had planned on arriving here around 5:50 but as mentioned Baltimore killed us and real time of arrival is 7:24. You can’t make up that kind of time deficit and we’ll have to decide what bonuses to drop as we head west into the setting sun.




    The second in the combo string is a giant quarter slightly off the main road in the parking area of a golf course. At 8:18 it’s now dark enough to require parking in such a way as to get our auxiliary lighting on the object so a photo will be legible. I also carry a large spotlight and add that to the mix so our flags are legible. Of course it also takes a couple of pics to make sure we have it right. The extras are immediately deleted so they don’t penalize us at scoring. Number 3 stop is 44 miles further west and located on the wrong side of the road making us pull a U-turn to find it. The giant bicycle built for two is difficult to light up but our pictures are clear enough for the scorers. I wouldn’t mind seeing this in the daylight some other time.






    A mere 17 miles away we pull over for stop 4 of the string a giant gas pump. We nearly roll past it in the dark and getting enough light on this subject will not be easy. Several cars actually pull over to see if we need help and one couple in a pickup truck pull over into the road across from the bonus and put their high beams on to help illuminate it for us. People really can be decent and this is a pleasant surprise. We’re behind schedule by an hour and 10 minutes as we roll the 19 miles to the final giant in our string. The giant Packard is also on the wrong side of the road for us but there is a sufficient parking area that I can get my bike situated to light up the scene. Taking the picture we record time and odometer and discuss our next move. Being so far behind on time and with a high point night time only bonus in Ohio in our plan we elect to drop the next 2 bonuses we had planned and head straight for a pizza chef in St. Clairsville.






    The Void has a mandatory 3 hour rest stop but to encourage riders to get some actual rest they are awarding a bonus point for every minute beyond the 3 hours up to an additional 180 points if you stay off the bike for 6 hours. We’d already planned on this and some quick math helps us to justify dropping the next 2 stops. We calculate the value of these 2 at 84 points but with being this far behind we’d need to shorten our planned rest in order to get back on schedule in the morning. Losing 90 minutes of rest is 90 points. 90 is greater than 84 so those 2 stops get dumped. I’ve also booked a room in St. Clairsville only 6 miles from the chef bonus and about the same distance from a daylight only bonus first thing Saturday morning.

    Rolling west on I-70 in the dark we’re passed by a Dodge Ram pickup and the driver is moving. We’ve been running at speed limit plus a few but this guy is flat out hauling ass. Deciding he makes a bigger radar target and deer spotter we wick it up and tuck in behind him for several miles making up some of our lost time. With a plan having us at chef around 12:01 am we slow to a stop in front of the pizza shop at 12:02 to find 5 rally bikes and riders parked and taking their pictures. It’s not real common to see that many riders at one location and especially this many hours into the event. At the first or last stops maybe but we can’t help but laugh at this scene of selfie sticks, flags, and cameras. Pictures taken and information recorded we can now go to our hotel and such much needed rest.




    I’ve picked an inexpensive hotel with a gas station nearby because the way to document a rest bonus is with 2 receipts from the same location. One will be like your time card clocking in for work. We usually splash just a little fuel into our tanks and write the odometer on the receipt. Hours later you finish filling your tank at the same station and record that odometer reading to clock back in. Approaching our hotel we discover the gas station closed at midnight. In the hotel parking lot I ask the GPS to find us food nearby and we backtrack about 2 miles to a McDonalds and each buy a cheeseburger. This gives us each a receipt and we go check in and unload what we’ll need so we can sleep a little.

    Mona showers first and while she does so I begin to fill out my scoresheet for the finish. The scoresheet requires to report each bonus you wish to claim, in order, with the time and odometer readings you’ve been recording. There are some extra bonuses you may claim so you must properly document these as well. In the case of the Void Rally they raise money for the Fisher House and we’ve each made a donation prior to the start. Recording all of my information and where we’ve been so far after Mona is out of the shower I take my turn and using my sheet as a guide she fills out her own reporting her information. Plugging our communicators in to charge as we sleep we turn out the lights and drift off.

    Our 6 hour rest is brought to a screeching halt by an alarm clock after only 5 minutes. Okay, not really but that’s what it feels like. We pack the bikes and head to McDonalds for breakfast and a receipt so we can get back to work. Our timing is near perfect as the times between the two receipts is 6 hours 5 minutes. Heading east out of Ohio into Wheeling, WV it’s foggy and cool but we know that will change as the day progresses. Our bonus stop is an old building painted with Mail Pouch Tobacco advertising. Pulling in there’s already a rally bike there with its rider finishing up his pictures and while we wave and say hello we’re totally ignored. I don’t recognize the rider but we feel a little snubbed. I understand you’re “on the clock” but seriously? Snob.

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  3. BkerChuck

    BkerChuck Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2012
    Oddometer:
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    With our time losses from Friday carrying over a little into Saturday our next stop is an ice cream shop near Canonsburg, PA and we roll into it about 20 minutes off schedule. It’s a really cool building I’m glad we put it in our route. Next up is a menagerie of fiberglass animals in someone’s yard completely out of place with the location. We stop for our pictures, record time and odometer and then pull into a gas station and refuel for the next leg. We’re now going to backtrack slightly to visit the art deco inspired gas station the rally masters put in the middle of the 5 stop Lincoln Highway combo string. This 72 point bonus is a building I’ve seen pictures of in the past and have always wanted to see in person. The old school Gulf station has been here, in operation since 1933 and is still selling gas and working on cars. Very cool!








    Next we face a near 2 hour ride southeast through West Virginia and into Virginia. The day is warming up nicely and traffic is light. Almost a hundred miles after leaving Bedford, PA we roll into Dinosaur Land for a picture of some very large fiberglass dinosaurs. It’s 11:41 and as most riders will be heading for the finish it’s no surprise to see one of the GA starters wrapping up his picture as we pull in and by the time we leave a TN starter is pulling in behind us. We roll across the street to a gas station and take a few minutes break. We only have one more stop in our plan and I go through the GPS to see if there may be another bonus I can add in before the finish.




    Nothing jumps out so we head to our final stop, a silo painted to look like a corn cob. This is visible way before you get there and there is a large parking area making it one of the easier stops of the whole trip. Recording time and odometer it’s now just a matter of getting to Fredericksburg and Rally HQ. This final ride is bittersweet as we know the event and our rally is coming to an end. We roll into Rally HQ a little after 1:30 and are issued our finishers envelopes. These large manila envelopes have your finish odometer and official stop time recorded and are for riders to put all needed receipts, their finished scoresheets, and their camera memory card in for scoring. Parking our bikes we grab the clipboards we each use for paperwork, our cameras, and a bottle of water and head into the hotel where there is an open conference room for our use.




    Having done a few rallies before we knew enough to have started our scoresheets during our rest bonus so we only have 6 stops to document now and a few odd wild card bonuses that were in the final rally book. After filling out these final items we each review our photos and delete any extras we’ve taken. The rules allow for up to 3 photos of each bonus but any photos beyond that incur a 10 point penalty for each picture. Memory cards go into the envelopes and we seal them then head downstairs for scoring. We’re back with plenty of time and there are scorers waiting for riders so we’re seated and scored right away. Our scorers are both IBR veterans and Mona and I have been with them before. I’m informed right away that I’ve exceeded the mileage cap.

    WTF? There’s no way I could have exceeded it. We just barely broke 1000 miles! Well, it turns out on my start text I fat fingered and reported my starting odometer as 71,618 miles and not the more realistic 81,618 I have on my receipt and everywhere else. The rally masters use the start text and prerecord it on the score sheet in the computer. There just went 24 points for a bungled text and we haven’t even looked at a picture yet! The rest of scoring goes smoothly and fortunately for me when we were at the gas station in Bedford I preferred the way Mona’s picture looked to my original so I took a second picture. It’s a good thing I did because my original shot didn’t show the gas pump which was required to be in the picture. Scoring complete I finish with 1608 and Mona at 1632. We’ll find out shortly if that’s good enough.

    Checking into our room and unpacking we each grab a shower and fresh clothes as we’ve worn the same stuff for almost 2 days. We walk around the hotel chatting with friends and then grab an appetizer and a beer at Outback then head back to wait for the 7:00 banquet and awards. As with every other Void rally the meal is excellent and seated with some old friends and a few new ones we all commiserate with our trials and triumphs. Trophies are given out for the top 3 finishers from each start location and for the 10 hour mini rally. We don’t finish high enough to get any bling but as the standings are announced we’re pleasantly surprised to find we’ve taken 5th and 6th places for the PA starters. Looking over the finishers list and seeing Jim Owen, the only 2 time IBR winner in first and 2 other IBR veterans in the top 4 we can be sufficiently proud of our ride. Losing to names like these is no loss in my book.




    The 10 point penalty I mentioned for extra photos? This year a new Void record was set. One finisher from GA failed to clear his memory card of pictures from a whole slew of family events before the rally. He finished the rally with a final score of -8357 points which was fodder for the rally master and his humor.

    Congratulations to all the top riders and actually to all the riders regardless of finish position. The Void Rally is a great time with awesome hosts and always a lot of fun. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, for the first time in 5 years it didn’t rain!
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  4. Boondoggle

    Boondoggle no good deed

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    great write-up chuck, it was great to meet you and Mona. We'll see you out there at another one soon!
    #4
  5. LudemJo

    LudemJo Iron Butt Dreamer

    Joined:
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    Excellent rally report! Scott has posted my rally report to the Void Archive. Hope to get a chance to get formally introduced next year.

    John
    #5
  6. lakota

    lakota Geeser

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    Great report... but a shower in lieu of sleep?
    #6
  7. BkerChuck

    BkerChuck Been here awhile

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    It hadn't rained so I felt it necessary. Wouldn't be the Void otherwise.
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  8. lakota

    lakota Geeser

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    Now that's a good story
    #8