Since first doing a rally at The Minute Man this year, I have been hooked. Rallies work for me on several levels. They are a competition, they involve motorcycling and everyone I have met at a rally so far is a fun person. All those points make rallying a perfect activity for me.
The Void was my first "real" rally. I did the Minute Man, which was 24 hours, but I was in the Saddle Sore portion of the event, which was on a set path and I just deviated and picked up points. I am very proud of that accomplishment, tempering that pride against the above caveats.
I then did Team Lyle, New England and did quite poorly. Fun rally and lots of riding, but not a result I was proud of.
The Void is a "Known" Rally. People in the community know it and it draws a lot of riders. This year there were 80+ people riding from multiple locations and my location, Allentown, PA had 35 participants. If I was going to do well, I would need to plan well, perform well and have some luck.
The riders received their rally packs several days before the start of the rally. In those packs were the Bonus locations with GPS coordinates and the Rally Book which describes the tasks to be performed at a bonus location and a list of combination bonuses.
This is the part of rallying I probably enjoy the most. The planning. I probably spent 20 hours working on my route to get the most points possible, in a distance and time that would fall under the rally limits (28 hours and 1400 miles). Once I was happy with my route, I then went about researching each bonus location to see if there were any "gotchas", which there were.
One of the bonus locations was listed about 2 miles from where it was actually located. Using the power of Google, I was able to find the real location and plot that into my route.
At another location, Streets and Trips instructed me to stop and I would be at my location. Problem was, where it wanted me to stop was on a bridge. Doing some more research I adjusted the coordinates to get me to the pier under the bridge correctly.
At two other locations, I had to do math or use reading comprehension. I know that under stress, both can be difficult, so I planned on snapping pictures of the bonuses using my cell phone, so I could process the information at a later time, when I was stopped and purely in thinking mode.
Giving myself a clear plan for handling those locations gave me a leg up. There was some consternation relating to two of these bonuses at scoring. I was lucky enough to avoid that with research.
A friend, Bruce, had arranged a dinner at an eatery for some of the Allentown starters. I got to Allentown early enough to check into my room first. I pulled up and there, in the parking lot, was this bad ass Orange Tiger 1050. Coming out of the hotel was a woman in riding gear. My guess was they belonged to each other and I was right! I met the famous +Rachael Fuzzygalore , a.k.a. Rachel. She is quite the pleasant person and her blog is not to be missed. Tons of fun to read.
Fuzzy and I head over to dinner where we meet another 4 or 5 riders and Bruce joined us shortly thereafter. Had a good meal and met some more great people. Lots of BSing and then Bruce, Fuzzy and I headed back to the hotel.
Kate, my better third, had to work late and joined me at the hotel later that evening. She would be riding to Lynchburg, VA the following day while I was riding my rally. She was doing the 10 hour rally that would start the day after that.
Friday, Rally Start
I had prepped. I was mentally ready. My bike was ready. It was go time. Except I needed to go to Walmart and get a flashlight for one of my bonus locations, where I suspected I would need it. No big deal, this rally kicked off at 8:50 AM, which is late by rally standards. Perfect for me, since I am not a morning person. At 8:00 AM I headed off to the Walmart which was 5 miles away. 1 Mile later BOTH of my GPS turned off abruptly. No power problems, not "Shutting Down" message, just OFF. The Rally Gods have announced their presence.
I then could not find the Walmart. Obviously, working GPS are much more important than a flashlight, so I turned around and went back to the hotel to try and figure out my GPS problems. And then both GPS turned on. SOB. Stupid technology.
A group of 5 or 6 of us gathered at a gas station where several of us had checked for good starting receipts. Kate was there and I had a brilliant plan. The first stop on my route was at a Cabellas a few miles down 78. Kate was headed down 78. I asked her to go ahead and get a flashlight for me, and when I pulled in to take my bonus picture, she could just hand it to me. I am so smart, S-M-R-T.
8:51 and receipt secured, Start announced to Rally staff and off I go. Head to Cabellas and pull into the parking lot. I see my friend Chuck there, and we wave frantically at each other while going about our business. I have a system for quickly getting in and out of bonus locations. I am confident in it and it works well. Too well. I was on auto pilot and right after snapping my picture and gathering my data, I roared out of the parking lot. Without the flashlight. WOW.
My route took me southwest on 78 and 81 towards several bonuses. After grabbing those, I headed South East towards DC and the VA shore. I never really hit traffic, per se, but once n town, it amazed me how long the lights in some of these towns took. I mean, a red light was costing me 3 or 4 minutes. UGH.
I was on time, or ahead for the first batch of stops. As I got more in to the settled areas, I was losing a little time each stop. Eventually, I was a bit behind, but nothing awful. I was at one bonus and a nice older gentleman asked what I was doing. I hate to be rude, so I took the time to try and explain this silly thing we do, while taking pictures and gathering data. I then saw Bruce coming down the road towards us. I quickly put my stuff away, and said to the gentleman "I am really a new guy at this stuff, but that guy (Bruce) coming down the road can explain the whole thing to you!" and with that, *poof*, I was gone.
Moved through my bonuses and go to the fishing pier discussed earlier. Got through that with no problem. When I arrived, I asked the nice park lady where the rules were. She told me "I can't tell you." I asked why not and she told me that someone dressed like me had come by earlier and instructed her to not tell anyone else. Classy move. She then sheepishly told me "it is over there, but don't tell him I told you." Sweet lady. She was legitimately concerned for having told me. I assured here it was perfectly OK and others would be coming by.
The Orange County Airport Episode
By the time I got to OCA, I was a bit behind schedule. I had allotted 10 minutes at OCA, which is a lot for me, as I suspected it would be a bear to find the bonus. As luck would have it, another rider was there when I pulled up. Sometimes it works out like that and you get a break. This was not one of those times.
Turns out he had been scouring for the bonus and it was not there. We saw a sign pointing us to another building on the other side of the airport and we headed out. Spent more time there looking to no avail. This rider called the RM and discussed it and the RM told us to just take a picture of the sign and move on. Good enough, but I had eaten a bunch of time. I was about 30 minutes behind at this point.
I headed out to the next location with a plan in mind.
You can't ride a Concours 14 in the woods
I ride a Concours 14. It is a 650 lbs sport touring motorcycle. With me and gear on it, we are well over 900 lbs. Not a dirtbike.
The next bonus was a location "at the end of a half mile trail". I knew I could not afford the walk and stay on time. As I rode to the location, I made a decision. If there was a sign there that said "No motor vehicles past this point" or anything like that, I would drop the bonus. If no sign, I was going to ride Consuela to the bonus. Got there, no sign, so away I went. The C14 has traction control, and an indicator light showing when TC is in use. That light almost burnt out from overuse. But I got in and out quickly. "HA-HA" I said, riding out of the parking lot, right before the Rail Road gates dropped and I sat there for 15 minutes waiting for a freight train to finish passing through.
Friday Ends and my Rest Bonus
The rest of the night involved riding up to Pittsburgh and gathering bonuses. I had one bonus that was way off the beaten path and would take an hour to go get. I was 45 minutes behind schedule, so I tossed that one away. That had been my bail out plan when designing the route, so NBD.
I arrived at a location that had a gas station and hotel right around 2:45, which was when I planned my rest stop, so I was in good shape. I got my receipt from gas station, went to the hotel and was told "No Vacancy". Rats. Iron Butt Hotel, here I come.
I put my bike on its center stand, dropped one of the side bags, pulled out my little stool and went to work on paperwork. This is where I recorded all my bonuses and information into my rally book. Took about an hour, in which 3 people came up and asked if I was working on my bike. Very nice of them, as I assume an offer to help would have followed. I counted the number of Last Names on a sign, 3 times, marked each down with a Tick mark, and wrote a total. More at the scoring table.
Grabbed 2 hours sleep behind a KFC and off into the wild black yonder at 6:00 AM, right on time with an extra 10 minutes of rest thrown in to boot!
I head out and get on some twisty road section in WV. This road would be AWESOME in the daylight. For starters it was quite dark. But I have pretty good lights, so was not that big of a deal. Then the rain started. So I dial it back a little. Wet, unfamiliar roads in the dark are no good. Especially when the leaves start falling from the trees and turn the wet, dark, unfamiliar roads into wet, dark, unfamiliar, leaf covered roads. That then became off camber. "What could be worse?" I said out loud. And the Rally Gods responded "FOG!", which they promptly delivered. I thought it was awful nice of them.
Once the sun came out, fog burnt off and the roads pretty much dried out, I was moving fairly well again and gathering bonuses. I came into several locations where it became clear that those following would have a crappy time. A Parade was being set up and a College Homecoming was kicking off. Luckily, I got through both before the real stop ups started.
It was becoming clear that finishing at 1:30 and allowing myself 30 minutes to fill in my rally book was not gonna happen. All indicators pointed to 1:45. I dropped a bonus, which only netted me 2 minutes. I looked at my second GPS to see why, and it was because the bonus was right off the highway. Bonus went back in. Worst case scenario, I would lose 7 points for submitting late, but picked up 14 for the bonus, so a net of 7 positive. Easy decision.
I ended up at DIN, which is a girl riding a dinosaur. Don't ask, but it is not unusual in Rallies to see these things. Briefly spoke to another rider re: OCA and he indicated he had found the stamp. Rally rules state that if you take an alternate picture of a location, but then someone does the location correctly, you lose that location. I was MAD. I mean riding down the road, screaming obscenities mad. Now, have I mentioned I had my helmet flipped up so it was effectively an open faced helmet? And that I have a particularly loud voice that projects very well? All I can say is "you're welcome" to the children of that town I rode through for giving them some creative new curse words involving donkeys, goats and mother fornication.
My next concern was getting to rally HQ. I still had a hope of getting there in time to complete my rally book and submit before 2:00. But only if I did not stop for fuel or any other reason. My GPS showed 60 miles to go. My fuel gauge showed no bars. From that point, the next step is for my "Low Fuel" light to come on. From there I have 40 miles of range.
So there I am, hyper miling a 650 lb motorcycle. Doing all I can to keep up a decent speed, but save as much gas as possible. I just needed the computer to show me less than 40 miles before my Low Fuel light came on. AS the miles ticked away, I became more and more optimistic. Once I crossed to 40 mile barrier, I felt pretty good. Low Fuel light came on at 37 miles to go. Gonna be close. When I filled up my tank the next day, it took 5.65 gallons. Publish capacity is 5.8.
As I rode into the hotel parking lot and got my scoring sheet, I told myself "accept the 7 point penalty and make sure your book is filled in correctly." I am glad I did. I caught an error that would have cost me 21 points and the rally. Corrected that, went over all my answers one more time, dropped the memory card, rally book, etc into the envelope and submitted at 2:10.
I sat down to score and was all ready. I was as nervous as I could be. I had planned an aggressive route and made it. I only had to drop one bonus. I was sure I had filled in all my bonuses correctly. Here we go. The scorer went through my book and kept making positive notes. Check mark after check mark appeared, then when he got to the bonus of the last names (LIN) he had a confused look on his face. He checked and said "you have the wrong answer". How could that be? I asked for the correct answer. 43. I had written 23. I then called up the piece of paper I had written the tick marks down on in my minds eye, and counted again. 43. How did I do that? Stupid mistake and 21 points gone.
Got done with my scoring and I had 693. No idea if that was good or not. Got on the next line for "final" scoring and there stood Wallace French. Wallace is an EXCELLENT rally rider. As a matter of fact, he would earn the "Rally Rider of the Year" award at dinner that night, as given by all the east coast rally masters. Yeah, he is that good. He is the guy, who when I saw he was starting in Allentown, I basically said to myself "well, hope I can come in second." I asked his score. 616. I was floored. Maybe I have a chance after all.
I sat down for final scoring and the man behind the screen said "looks like you had a good ride", I replied I thought and hoped so. He said, "well you can go, I have a lot of people to get to." I took that as a positive, since there was an announcement that top scorers would be reviewed before final results.
End of days
I then went to my room, stripped down to something reasonable, and went downstairs for a beer. Waited for Kate to finish her ride, and in she came, safe and sound. (whew). She is a good rider, but I worry about the idiots on the road. It is the Mom in me, which is a frightening thought given my dimensions and amount of hair on my person.
Kate got scored, we napped a bit, and went down to the awards.
Lots of hilarity ensued and Scores were announced. I was very nervous and not sure where I stood. I was confident I was either 1st or 2nd. Wallace came in third with 616. Second place was announced with a score of 679. It then hit me like a wave that I had won. I had entered a established rally, rode against real competition and had managed to come out on top. I was elated. I can not wait for my next rally.
Great meeting all of the riders.
THANK YOU to C-Dog for finding and bringing my heated gear cord back to Rally HQ. The ride home would have been miserable without it.
Kate and I left the hotel at 10:00 AM. We rode into Newark, NJ and the NJ Performing Arts Center at 7:20. In our seats for a Jethro Tull concert at 7:30. Music started as we sat down.
Both of us were a bit dragged down the next day, but managed to get to work.