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.