Since turning 40, it seems like I have become highly sensitive about squeezing all of the fun out of each day. There aren’t a lot of things that I really want. Sure, “stuff” is nice but it doesn’t usually set my heart on fire. My daydreams are filled with colorful imaginings of traveling on my motorcycle or some deeper human connection. Maybe that’s why I am constantly stuffing my brain full of beautiful, interesting or curious destinations.
A few weeks ago, I picked up a copy of “Offbeat Museums” by Saul Rubin. You know, just ‘cuz. On an unassuming Wednesday, just like any other humdrum humpday, I discovered that there is a Toilet Seat Art Museum.
That’s right. Toilet. Seat. Art. Museum.
I’m not really sure how I moved through my life for all these years without knowing such a place existed.
Do you stop in to small museums when you’re traveling? Have you been to the toilet seat art nirvana?
After being away for a long weekend, I opened my email to find the Void Rally 9 bonus location coordinate files. The bonus stops are awwwwesommmme. Just by eyeballing ‘em, I know what some of them are and this is going to be like… roadside nirvana. Just thinking about visiting some of my favorite stuff has got my fun-meter pegged. I can’t wait to get out there and ride!
Did I tell you that this year’s rally theme is Yahtzee? You know – that dice game. I haven’t played that since I was in elementary school. That’s the one where you get 5 dice and you have to roll to make points in groups like straights, full house, 4 of a kind and log them on a scorecard. Sounds kinda cool, right?
Who’s got two thumbs and is super excited?! *Points to self* THIS GIRL!
I’m going to have the most kickass route ever because I am totally in love with everything. I can hardly wait to get our rally books on Wednesday! WHOOOOOO! I’ve got to high five SOMEBODY up in here!
Okay, rally diary. Gotta go. I’m going to make a cup of coffee and start reading the rules rally packet that came a few days ago. I’ve got to start stringing a route together.
Dear Rally Diary,
What the fuck?
[dream sequence harps]
Rallymaster:So? How’s that large straight coming along?
Me: Why, Rallymasters? Why?
Rallymaster: Muhahaha… Muhahahahahaha…MUHAHAHA…
The Challenge, Should You Accept It
In 30.59 hours or less, ride a route to visit bonus locations that will allow you to fill out a Yahtzee scorecard with the most amount of points. Bonus point values will range from 1 to 6 points. There will be several wildcards that can be used in some categories as well.
For sequence bonuses such as a large or small straight (4 or 5 sequential number bonus values) you must obtain the bonuses in ascending order with no other bonuses in between – INCLUDING your mandatory rest bonus. You may not use a wildcard.
The Rallymasters will of course make sure that at least one of those necessary sequence numbers, such as a 4 will be painfully far out of the natural route. But that’s why you’d better show up with your big girl panties on and bring your A game. Rallyin’ ain’t for sissies.
Riders to the Starting Grid
After work on Thursday, I zipped out to Lancaster, Pa. – my rally starting city. At 7pm, a group of us met for dinner at the Iron Hill Brewery. Some of the more seasoned ralliers shared stories about past experiences and we listened trying to glean some pearls of wisdom.
It was great to meet some new faces and finally be on the other side of the fence when talking to a rookie rally rider. I can’t call myself that anymore. *pats self on back* But I remember all too well what it was like facing down the unknown of how this whole rally process works. Not that I know what I’m doing now or anything. But I think I’ve become more adept at looking less like a deer in the headlights.
And Away We Go
Bad Kitty – My Tiger; Prepped and ready to hustle with Russell.
My first bonus location stop was ::drumroll::… The Shoe House. The motherf’n shoe house! Can you believe it? That place is only like, my most favorite-est house in the world. When I drove out to Cleveland last winter to run a 10K in a pink bunny suit, we stopped at the shoe house on the way. It’s that shoe-tasticly good.
And Remember: When it’s open, you can buy ice cream in the heel. Ice cream… in the heel!
Moving on, we also got to hit up such roadside giants as Mr. Ed’s Elephant Museum and the Giant Paint Can right off of 81 near Chambersburg. It was a roadside lovers dream.
So big, so painty.
Hot Crack Repair
There is no telling what will lodge in your brain over the course of 31 hours. In my case it’s usually something nonsensical and absolutely absurd that will have me giggling like a school girl.
On my way to pick up my first bonus at the Shoe House (greatest house in the world, ice cream in the heel) I rode past a sign that said 3 words: “Hot Crack Repair” and then listed a phone number. Chuckling, I thought – man, that’s gotta burn.
Little did I know I would find myself giggling out loud about it while rolling down 81 on my way to see a giant pencil many hours later. Then giggling again at 4am on a dark lonely road thinking about someone having their buttcheeks spackled.
I don’t know why it struck me so funny. Maybe I should just chalk it up to dehydration.
Trust Your Best Self – Dispense as Written
Leaving the Giant Paint Can, my planned route sent me down 81 towards Staunton, Va. That actually gave me 3 hours between 2 bonuses. That’s a lot of time to think, which can be good… or, not so much depending where you are in the rally.
The VOID 9 was my third trip down the rabbit hole. Even though I’ve said “plan our ride, ride your plan” before, the two previous rallies saw me deviating from my original plan even if only slightly. When I left the giant paint can, I reasoned with myself while I still had command of my faculties.
I repeated, “trust your best self” over and over like a mantra.
When I planned my route I did so from the comfort of my desk, in my nice warm house with a cup of coffee in hand. I was well rested, well fed and feelin’ fine.
While I was planning, the little man who works all of the alarm bells, levers and whistles inside my brain sat relaxed, arms folded across his chubby belly, feet up on the console. Yes, Brainman surveyed the gauges and dials and tipped back in his chair satisfied that we were indeed in good shape and safe for rally route planning. Full steam ahead.
When well-rested Brainman is at the helm, I have a better chance of putting something together that:
A) I can physically & emotionally handle riding.
B) Makes sense in terms of the rules.
C) Allows for realistic time to stop and to take a break.
D) Has a nice mix of stops that I want to make.
E) Allots for bailouts that would still salvage a route I could be happy with.
F) Pads extra time in because life is random.
Fast forward 10 hours into riding, when the rain has been relentlessly dogging you, your belly is growling and a cup of good coffee would be like liquid sex. These moments are when you simply MUST recognize that you are not functioning as your best self. Brainman has been on a bender and is stumbling around the control room, knocking papers off of the desk and then trips over the extension cord that powers the CPU. You do not want to give this guy the keys to drive.
Every once in a while when stupidity came knocking in the form of “fortune favors the bold,” I had to remind myself that fortune just might be a sadistic asshole.
I had to just trust that I knew what I was doing when I planned my route and to stick with it.
This rally was especially memorable because I can count the hours of riding in dry weather on one hand. The rain was relentless all throughout the corridor I chose.
At around 2am in the Raleigh, NC area, I was treated to a spectacular cloud lightning show. As it crackled across the sky, it illuminated the clouds in surreal shades of pinks and yellows. Strangely enough, this was one of the only times it wasn’t raining.
PROTIP: If you don’t close the front pocket zippers on your waterproof jacket and rain pours in for 2 hours at 70mph – You will soak your camera, if that is where you’re smart enough to keep it.
Well, Hello, Bucket List Stop!
When I saw that the Shell station in Winston Salem, NC was a bonus stop during the rally there was no way I was skipping that one. It was on my life’s To Do List, for cryin’ out loud. I’m only sad that I was there in the dark. The old station is just lovely. I hope to be able to stop in some time during the day and get a look inside.
The Rest Bonus That Wasn’t Very Restful
With the Yahtzee rules in play, picking up a bonus combo for the Large Straight category meant that you had to knock out 5 bonuses in ascending sequential order. With the way that my route was playing out, that would mean that I would have to take my rest bonus much earlier or much later than I would normally want to. Being on the conservative side and not really a night owl, I didn’t think I could safely ride until 4 am with no break, so I opted to take my mandatory rest at… 9:50pm. [and the crowd groans]
In hindsight, it sucked. Actually, it sucked at the time, too. Knowing that I would have to take a quick nap and get back out on the road at 12:50 was hard. It left a lot of hours in play before the sun would be back up.
I picked a hotel in Thomasville just down the road from the big Duncan Phyfe chair. It had a gas station right next door and easy access to the slab. Perfecto. After getting my rest start receipt in the gas station store, I squeaked in to my room, ate a half of a Subway sandwich and tucked in for a 2 hour nap. At 12:15, my eyelids popped open and I looked at my phone. I had 30 minutes before I had to head back out in to the rain but I couldn’t fall back to sleep.
Willing myself back out in to the rain was painful. But not nearly as biting as glancing across the parking lot at the gas station where I got my rest bonus starting receipt and noticing that ALL of the lights were out. Even the lights above the pump canopy were shut off. As I rolled across the parking lot my heart sank. “Noooo. No, no, no, NO!” The rules state you must get your rest bonus starting and ending receipt from the same location. This… could be a problem.
The rally gods must have taken a little bit of pity on my case. The pumps, even though they were unlit, were working. I got my ending rest bonus receipt from the pump and off I went for my first bonus in my large straight. Whew!
Is it just me or does this dude kinda look like Catfish?
Fireflies in the Night
The dark hours are when I seem to feel lonely and begin to question everything about what I’m doing. It must be when my body rhythm is off kilter. The highway legs felt extra long, the dark felt extra deep and with the darkness comes doubt. Did I plan the worst route ever? I haven’t seen anyone else for hours. What is it that they know that I don’t? What if I get eaten by a rabid yeti out here?
The last riders that I’d seen were Keith and a couple others at the big chair in Thomasville, NC. They pulled up just as I was getting ready to leave. That was around 9:30pm. It wouldn’t be until the sun had just come up when I saw another rider. Matt zipped by on his GS while I was at the railroad museum in Crewe, Virginia.
Just seeing another rally rider was like a lifeline, a firefly in the night. It gave me a shot in the arm that I needed to feel like I wasn’t alone in the world.
Not Firing on All Cylinders
The effects of being tired are insidious and creep up on you. Small mistakes can mean big heartbreak.
While I am in the thick of riding the rally, I fill out a ‘working’ copy of my bonus log sheet. Then upon return to check-in at the end, I transcribe whatever I wrote while out on the road onto a clean copy of the bonus log sheet.
Based on a small sampling of other riders, there are two schools of thought on this process.
On one hand, when you transcribe something you open yourself up to making typographical errors on your new sheet. You’re at your least rested point of the event and are more likely to be mistake prone. Re-writing things might be bad news.
Then on the flip side, rewriting what you’ve been doing for the previous 24 hours when you were focused on riding and maybe not so much on paperwork – you might actually catch some errors you’d made along the way.
On the working copy of my log, at about 4am, I decided that the year was 2012 and I apparently stayed in that time warp right through to the end. I guess my addled brain thought 10, 11, 12 made more sense than the actual date: 10/11/14. Too bad 10,11,12 wasn’t a sequential bonus. I would’ve cleaned up.
Calling it a Day
One of my last stops was to the sweet little Grove’s Store in Somerville, Va. Just look at the teeny post office attached to it. Don’tcha just love it?
By this point I was ready to call it a day. I was tired, sick of the rain, hungry and happy to see that there was only 1 more bonus to hit before checking in for my finishers envelope.
I pulled in to the host hotel parking lot around 12:30 on Saturday afternoon. I rode my route as planned. I didn’t have to drop anything, didn’t have any mishaps, and felt pretty strong overall. I was happy.
All that was left was to submit my paperwork and be scored.
The Results Are In – So How’d I Do?
I left the scoring table with all 270 points and 34 bonuses that I went for. Apparently If I would’ve made a change or two to my YAHTZEE scorecard, I could have picked up about 10 more points. File that under woulda, shoulda, coulda.
I’m happy with my standing in the top 10 of my starting location.
I covered 1,117 miles in just about 28 hours, including my mandatory rest bonus.
Administrativa Diva – The Nuts & Bolts of Doing Paperwork
It is a heartbreaker when you manage to ride a full rally safely only to return to the scoring table and have the rug pulled out from under you due to a clerical error. This year I tried to make every effort to minimize my risk of losing points on paperwork and photos.
At scoring we had to turn in the following in our finishers envelope:
YAHTZEE Score Sheet
Mandatory Rest Start Receipt
Mandatory Rest End Receipt
Fischer House Receipt (if applicable)
Digital Media Card
When I received any paperwork that required my name and rally number on it, I pre-filled that info in before I even left for the rally using Adobe Acrobat. That way when I printed anything – however many copies – that information was always there. One less thing to think about.
After settling on my route, I also pre-filled in my Bonus Log with the bonus names in the order I planned on stopping. When I turned up at a bonus, I just had to manage to fill in the time, odometer, and date. It’s amazing what a challenge something so simple can be.
In the rally book, which I consult along the way – I used Post-It tabs to write the bonus name on to flag the pages that I need. Some other riders were also saying that they just copy the bonuses that they need into a new alphabetized PDF and make a working rally book of just those items.
The need to attach a pen on a string to the clipboard I work from cannot be underestimated.
I also created a checklist to use as I completed my final paperwork. My finishing checklist had columns to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything related to getting points for a stop. They were a gentle reminder to check things like the number of photos per bonus on the card, check that photo and bonus log timestamps were close, verify that odometer was on the receipt or that I actually HAD a receipt – things like that. I found this to be helpful and as a result this year (unlike last year) I didn’t lose any points at the scoring table.
You’re Beautiful, Babe – Don’t Ever Change
Yet again I met lovely people during the rally. It’s no secret that I’m a socially awkward nerd. But as it turns out, people will talk to me in spite of that. This riding community has a generosity of spirit thread that runs throughout it. I’m grateful for the willingness of people to share their stories, innerworkings, advice and even their foibles with me.
The rally banquet went by in a blink this year. It seemed like we just sat down and as I lifted my fork with the last grains of rice on my plate everyone was getting ready to file out of the room. Perhaps that’s a symptom of enjoying good company.
Birds on a Wire
As I steamed towards home on the Jersey turnpike the azure sky stretched out to the edge of the world. To my right a superhighway of power lines rose and dipped from tower to tower. In unison a swirl of black birds took their leave from a stretch of wire and painted the sky. They looked like a school of fish while their back bodies made a whirlpool against the blue. This way and that, the color of the waves changed as their flapping wings reflected the sunlight from different directions. Then just as fast as they came in to view, they were off to someplace out out sight.
There were a few birds that remained perched on the wire. They didn’t fly with the others that made pictures in the sky. Instead they just watched the traffic rolling by.
As the Tiger purred on I thought about my weekend at the Void and about those birds. It struck me that people are much the same as those starlings. Some will soar and make something wonderful happen. In their singularity they are beautiful, but when they come together they can become something even greater than themselves.
And some? Some will just sit around watching.
Thank You Rallymasters and Staff
Scouting locations, research, planning, administrative nightmares, scoring, giving free time to babysitting a bunch of tired, soggy nutcases – It’s a tough job that these folks take on. They don’t have to do it but – they choose to do it anyway. For that we’re all grateful.
Thank you for putting together a fun and exciting adventure for us. This year really took the ride to a different level moving the event beyond ride, snap, scribble, repeat. You made us really have to think about what we needed to do to earn those points at the end of the day. Please don’t do that again.
I’m so knocked out by how many people have sent in their addresses to get a postcard from me. Thank you! I’d love to get postcards from you, too. If your pen is burning a hole in your pocket and you want to send me a postcard from your travels, please do!