Category: The Void Rally

Rally Riding: Free Points, Organization and Bonus Paperwork

Rally Riding: Free Points, Organization and Bonus Paperwork

A great rally ride can be undone with bad paperwork and poor reading comprehension. Beyond simply riding and taking pictures, successfully completing a rally requires you to follow instructions and provide clear, concise documentation to earn points.

Your perspective changes when you’re standing in the pouring rain in the middle of the night trying to fill out a bonus log sheet. Easing the burden on the administrative work where you can is key. Coming up with a system or a plan for yourself may take some of the pressure off when you’re on the clock.

The Rally Book

Many rallies will send you the rally book and/or bonus listing in advance. When it comes, read the rally book. Every page. Then read it again. And maybe once more for good measure.

By reading each page you will absorb an awareness of everything that is on the table before you. By re-reading it, you will inevitably pick out some detail you missed on the first pass. You’ll be surprised what details will stay with you about a bonus ¬†later on down the road.

Free Points

Go through the rally book and pick out all of the opportunities it presents to earn “free” points. Things like:

  • Points for sending a text
  • Point for making a phone call
  • Points for having a sticker placed somewhere
  • Points for declaring your route
  • Points for taking a selfie
  • Points for farting
  • Points for a bonus photo that isn’t time/location specific
  • Points for buying something in a gas station

Plan to do those. They’re easy money!

Extra Rest Bonus Points

Each 24-hour rally will require you to stop and take a mandatory rest bonus. If you don’t take and properly document your rest, you will DNF.

Sometimes a rallymaster will add an incentive for you to rest longer. For example, they will say something like:

The mandatory rest bonus is 3 hours. Earn an extra point for every minute you rest beyond the 3 mandatory hours, up to 6 total hours maximum.

So they’ll “pay” you for resting up to an extra 3 hours. Here’s where the math comes in – you should determine whether you would earn more points resting or more points riding. If you were to jump up and head out after the mandatory 3 hour rest would you pick up as many points in the next 3 hours as you would snoozing for an extra 3?

For a middle of the pack rider like me, I often earn more resting. For riders who have aggressive or tightly timed routes, they can’t afford to dilly-dally and have to get going. Be realistic and thoughtful around your time to rest. Sometimes more rest equals more points.

The Rally Book – Administrative Work

Over time, I’ve settled in to some routines regarding rally paperwork that help me.

  • When the rally book and bonus log sheet come, I pre-fill any fields that I can on my computer before I print them.
    • Examples: Name/Initials/Rider Number on every page
  • Print 2 copies of the rally book
  • Print 3 copies of the bonus log sheet
    • Keep the extras copies separate in case I need them later
      • Examples: waterlogged papers, lost pages, torn, ripped, illegible, cross-outs & scribbles, not enough room to write, having an extra log sheet for a friend who lost/tore/messed up/doesn’t have room to write
  • Highlight the bonuses I think I will go for in the rally book. Paying attention to 10 things is easier than 100.

Bonus Breadcrumb Flashcards

For me, too much information can be just as bad as too little. I use a process that tells me only what I need to know, when I need to know it. Though I have an awareness of everything that needs to get done, directing my focus to one thing at a time keeps me centered. Thinking about A to B works better than considering A through Z.

Once I’ve settled on a route, I use a stack of index cards on a ring to write each bonus, in order, on a single card. I include the bonus name, date, what I estimate my time of arrival to be, and any other helpful notations to remember about that bonus. Do I need to do something immediately after logging the bonus? Do I need to make a special notation in my log sheet? Is it part of a combo and I need to remember to do something specific to satisfy it? I make a note of it on the card.

I stick my index card stack in my tankbag window so it’s always visible.

If you have room on your card, cutting up an extra rally book and taping the actual bonus entry would probably be helpful.

When I get to my bonus location, I look at my index card. It helps me see what I need to do satisfy the bonus and if I’m on schedule. When I’m done taking my photos and logging my bonus, I flip to the next index card and set off.

I do create index cards for non-location specific bonuses like the “free” bonus items. I slot them in the general timeframe in which I want to do them. For example: if there is a call-in bonus between the hours of 11am and 1pm, I’ll put that call-in bonus card in the roster closest to 11am estimated arrival time. That way when I flip to the next card after finishing a 10:xx am bonus, I see my 11am call-in bonus and can pull over the satisfy it.

Double Check Your Work

When you get to rally HQ before the paperwork turn-in deadline, you should double check your work. I also sometimes use part of my rest bonus stop to double check my paperwork up to that point.

Having a checklist of things you need to do or verify doesn’t hurt.

  • Bonus Log Sheet
    • Does every entry have a date, time, odometer entered?
    • Are the dates/times correct?
    • Are the entries in the order in which you visited them?
    • Is your name/initials/rider number on the bonus log sheet?
    • Does every entry have a bonus name? Is it correct?
    • Did you log your rest start AND rest end?
    • Did you log the “free” bonuses? And are they in the correct order?
  • Rallybook
    • Is your name/initials/rider number on every sheet?
  • Photos
    • Do you have any non-bonus photos on your camera? If so, remove them.
    • Do you have the correct maximum number of photos per bonus?
      • You may be allowed a maximum of 3 or so photos per bonus. Extras will be a point penalty.
    • Do the photo timestamps coincide with what you entered on your bonus log sheet?
  • Receipts
    • Do you have your Start receipt? Did you write your odometer/bonus name on it?
    • Do you have your Rest Start receipt? Did you write your odometer/bonus name on it?
    • Do you have your Rest End receipt? Did you write your odometer/bonus name on it?
    • Do you have a receipt to satisfy a bonus? Did you write your odometer/bonus name on it?
  • Miscellaneous
    • Did you have to buy something to satisfy a bonus? Do you have it with you?

Of course there is no right way to prepare or organize yourself. Losing points at the scoring table because of paperwork is a heartbreaker. Also not taking advantage of easy opportunities to earn points is silly. These things are just my way of trying to avoid that – advice from a middle of the pack rally rider.

Every rider has a method that makes sense to them. For the first time rally rider, you’ve got a lot on your plate figuring out how everything works. Anything you can do to ease the process along is good.

Do you have any organizational tricks that you use to manage your ride and keep all of your points?

Rally Riding: Know Your Camera and Learn To Take Pictures In the Dark

Rally Riding: Know Your Camera and Learn To Take Pictures In the Dark

Have you decided to throw your hat into the ring and ride in your first bonus location rally? On the surface, the premise is pretty straight forward – ride around, take pictures, log your location details, arrive safely at the rally end point. The devil, of course, is always in the details.

Knowing your tools long before you set off on your ride will be one less stress point while you’re on the rally clock. Next to your motorcycle, your camera is the most important arrow in your quiver. No pictures? No points. Knowing your camera well – how to use it’s menus, features and how to operate it in variable light conditions is important.

If you are riding in a rally that spans 24 hours or more, you will need to know how to take photos in low-light situations.

Sometimes simply using your camera’s flash will work against you. The light from the flash may not reach far enough. Parts of the image may be overexposed or reflecting, while others are in complete blackness. Practice taking photos without using the flash so that you can quickly do it in a rally setting.

Some suggestions:

  • Learn how to turn off your camera’s flash
  • Learn how to use your camera’s timer
  • Get a small tripod
  • Does your camera have a night shooting mode? Know how it works

If you’re going to turn off your camera’s flash and use a longer shutter, keeping the camera steady is key. Otherwise your image will turn out blurry. A small cheap tripod can help with that. A Gorillapod or some other articulated tripod can wrap around things like mirrors stalks, etc. Resting your camera somewhere on your motorcycle like a topbox or seat can also do the trick and it’s free.

Have a portable light source

During the course of a rally you may find yourself in a dark area without any ambient light. Depending on the parking situation or the position of the bonus, you may not be able to use the headlights of your bike to illuminate the area. Having a flashlight will help.

Some riders carry 50-bajillion candlepower flashlights in their bags. Me? I’ve got a simple and small LED number that I got as a giveaway. I keep it clipped into to my front pocket. Even a small amount of light can make a big difference when shooting in low light. It could be the difference between keeping and losing points.

Example: No Flash, Small Light Source

In the above scenario using the flash created too much reflection off of my white rally flag and the bonus sign. The fix was shining my little flashlight on the sign and turning off my camera’s flash. The result was a clear photo and earned points.

During my first 24 hour rally, I asked a sheriff to shine his cruiser spotlight on a bonus that was on a rooftop. Sometimes you just have to be resourceful ūüôā

Other Important Camera Considerations

I hate to say it, but: RTFM

  • Know how to set your camera’s date and time
  • Know how to set your camera’s photo resolution and maximum image size

Rally rules usually dictate: that your photos must be within a specific dimension, under a certain number of megapixels, and should have a correct date and timestamp in their EXIF data. Not adhering to these guidelines means you will not earn points for all the awesome riding you did and you will be sad. Knowing where these setting are on your camera is key.

Oh. And don’t forget to charge your battery!

Do you have any rally photo advice to share?

The Void 12 – A Motorcycle Scavenger Hunt Rally

The Void 12 – A Motorcycle Scavenger Hunt Rally

Scenes from Void Rally 9

The Void Rally
September 15-16, 2017

Ladies and Gentlemen… there will be wackadoodle.

Few events have put a spring in my step like the Void Rally. Ride around, look at stuff, take a few pictures, collect some points, drink beer at the end. Sounds perfect, right?

Each year the bonus locations have followed a central theme – boardgames, movies, music. Well, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that based on the description of this years Void 12, the bonuses sure sound enticing!

If it’s weird, unusual, off color, or many colors, different, creepy or just plain whack-a-doodle you can count on it being in this year’s bonus list. You will experience a cornucopia of the things that will make you want to visit the rest of the bonus list on your own time.

Yesssssssss! When I read those words, this is pretty much what my face looks like:

I like weird. I like wackadoodle. I like cornucopias of things I’ll want to visit in my own time. If you’re reading a blog post from me – chances are you do too. So, what are you waiting for?! Go on, now. Register for the Void. You know you want to.

See you at the finish line!

The Void Rally
September 15-16, 2017

The Void Rally 11 – The Wet and Wild Monopoly Edition

The Void Rally 11 – The Wet and Wild Monopoly Edition

Prologue

This is the story of my time riding in the Void Rally 11. For the uninitiated, an endurance rally is a timed event in which you must plan and execute a route to log stops at bonus locations to acquire points. Think of it as a scavenger hunt that covers many states. In the case of the Void Rally, the rally timeframe was 31 hours from start until turning in your complete paperwork. Please see the How it Works section of the Void Rally website for more detailed information.

As an extra special twist to the basic ride and collect bonus locations format, this year the Rallymasters instituted Monopoly rules. Not only did you have to ride to a location, you had to make sure that you had enough money in your bank account to collect the bonus. Money was accumulated by riding miles. Insufficient funds would mean you could not collect the bonus points.

Add a pinch of Hurricane Matthew and stir.

The Void Rally 11 – Monopoly Edition took place Friday October 7 through Saturday October 8.


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…

-Charles Dickens

On Your Marks. Get Set. Rally!

Friday morning dawned under¬†a damp fog and the sound of a Jake brake brapping down a highway¬†exit ramp. Sleep still weighing heavy on my eyelids I shambled towards the bathroom, remembering not to turn the light on. All things considered, it was best that I didn’t summon¬†the demon that lived behind the overhead lamp on rally day.

A video posted by Rachael (@fuzzygalore) on

With my wits starting to gather about me, the ache behind my eyeballs sent the clear signal that I was in for a long night. Knowing that I’d be riding for at least 24 hours was something it was best to not contemplate too deeply. I’d slept terribly as I always seem to do the night before rally lift-off. But when you’re already tired, you can only get so much more tired, right? That’s what I told myself as I readied myself¬†to¬†leave.

After a few wrong turns and bumbling around like a big dummy, I made my way to a WaWa gas station along with a dozen or so other Pennsylvania starters. Scanning across the group, it seemed like everyone else was calm, cool and obviously had confidence in their route. Meanwhile, inside my helmet swirled a whirling dervish of insecurity. The big dogs were all heading for Boston. Me? I was going to continue my trend of not going for glory. No, no РI would be steadfastly plucking off bonuses that would secure my place in mediocrity. Woohoo! Go middle!

Away We Go!¬†…Eventually.

Peeling away from the gas station with my rally clock finally ticking, I missed my very first turn on to the highway sending me on a 6 mile detour to finally get going in the correct direction.¬†I wish I could say that it was the first time that it’s happened but I did the very same thing on my first Void. Henceforth we¬†shall be referring to this maneuver as a “tradition.”

With 60 miles until my¬†first bonus location in Wilmington, Delaware I settled in, trying to relax and methodically do what I needed to do. That was to learn to accept that time will be wasted, traffic happens and if I just do one rally-stop step at a time in a methodical way, I won’t have to do it 3 times over to correct my mistakes. Write odometer, date and time in log sheet, take photograph, safely stow camera and zip that pocket, flip index card to next bonus location, don’t drop your motorcycle.¬†If you’ve never ridden in a rally, you’d be surprised just how frazzled the feeling of being on the clock can make you. Having a “system” helps.

The southern east coast was pummeled by Hurricane Matthew on the same weekend as the Void 11. Though my route was north enough to be out of Matthew’s direct path, the Mid-Atlantic region was still being soaked by the outer rain bands of the storm. For me, the rain began at about 4pm on Friday and continued all through the night and¬†in to Saturday long after the rally was over. The pouring rain was merciless and just plain rude.

The Night is Dark and Full of Terrors

As the night wore on, the rain compounded some of the already naturally challenging aspects of riding. When darkness came calling those challenges were tripled and quadrupled and highlighted the poor choices that I’d made when planning my route. The timing of my bonus locations did not allow for enough daylight cushion. With all the time I’d lost in traffic and to the weather, I was over an hour behind the schedule I’d set for myself.

There was no one to blame for my troubles but myself. I was foolish. That always stings when you have to face your own idiocy. Riding isolated, unlit mountain roads in West Virginia at night is its own sort of¬†trouble. Adding in blinding rain, fog, the oncoming glare of headlights on a rainy visor with no other ambient light around? My stress-o-meter was pegged at 11. For the first time, I’d seriously considered dropping out of the ride. Tip-toeing around foggy corners and desperately trying to follow a painted line on the road had me saying, “why am I doing this? I can’t… I can’t do this!”

Here’s the thing about “I can’t do this.” Actually, you probably can. You are infinitely more capable of carrying on than you may initially¬†believe. That’s one of the things that this Void in particular taught me. When I was at a mighty-low low, by avoiding the thought of the bigger picture I was able to move forward. That and calling home to my rock, my biggest cheerleader, my husband Kenny. I cannot stress how much of a positive shot in the arm a familiar voice, a kind word, hell – even another pair of motorcycle headlights in the distance can be.

Kenny gently reminded me I didn’t have to finish the rally at 1:00am. I just had to make it to my rest break. Just a few more miles… that was all I had to do. From my rest stop I would no doubt be feeling better and all I would have to do is make it to the next stop. And from there, the next stop. I just had to baby-step my way to the finish line.

When I pulled in to¬†Beckley, West Virginia, where I’d planned to take my rest bonus, I¬†was knackered.¬†According to my route, I was an hour and a half behind schedule. But at that point, I didn’t care. I was soaked, tired, hungry, cold and mentally spent. The rally book designated extra bank account dollars for taking more rest time above the 3-hour requirement. You didn’t have to twist my arm to take it. I knew that my next bonus after the break was in a little out-of-the-way place and I was hoping that by the time I’d woken up from my nap that the rain would have subsided or the sun would be up. Preferably both! True to rally fashion – neither of those things happened.

Many times over the course of the night I found myself trying to bargain with the universe. “Please, please, if it’s going to rain just let it stay like this – just a mist.” To which the universe laughed and opened the flood gates sending sheeting rain instead.

Sometimes I think the universe is a sadistic bastard or perhaps a really special kind of asshole. But the truth is much more dastardly. The universe is indifferent. If it were sadistic, you’d know what to expect and would plan accordingly. But when the sun shines on you one moment and unleashes a hurricane the next, the unpredictability takes you from your highest highs to your lowest lows. It’s up to you to sail your own ship towards happiness.

To recap, I made a few critical mistakes in my planning. Some of which were things that I knew to avoid and yet, I disregarded my own previous experience.

  • Avoid mountain roads at night
  • Plan extra-extra time at EVERY bonus when routing
  • Eat something
  • Watch your timing around cities to avoid rush hour
  • Meditate, take a pill, drink a beer – do something to get some sleep the night before the rally
  • If you think the mileage between bonus stops *might* be too long when routing? It’s sure to be too long when you’re riding
  • Negativity will spiral out of control – AVOID

Bonus ID: GAPO РThe Abraham Post Office

It’s no secret that I’m scared to be out on lonely roads in the dark. That’s why I wished with all my might that the sun would come up by the time I had to exit the highway for the Abraham post office. When I got off at the exit for the town of Bragg, WV I couldn’t see a thing. The fog was thick. “Greeeeaaaaat…” I sarcastically said to who I’d hoped was no one. What followed was a little goat trail that¬†was sure to¬†lead me to where a cannibal cult would put me in a big black cauldron, boil me up and serve my chubby rump to¬†the village.

Over and over as I trundled along at a snail’s pace I repeated to myself, “I am brave, I am fearless.” My thinking was that if I could just concentrate on those words I wouldn’t have enough room in the ole noggin to think about how scared I was.

Abraham Post Office in the 1970’s:

 

The Abraham post office marked a milestone in my mind. It was the thing I was least looking forward to. Once I’d conquered it, I felt a lightness that everything else following would be “easy.” And while it was still a challenge to persevere through the awful weather, the mental hurdle of a dragon to¬†slay had evaporated. Baby-stepping to the finish line didn’t seem nearly as bad in the daylight.

Through wind and rain and dark of night, I finished my rounds and turned in my paperwork in about 30 hours. I’d made it.

Rallying – What’s It Really About?

Whenever I sit down to write about my experience in riding a rally, I struggle with a preconceived idea of what a rally ride report is supposed to be about. My first inclination is to follow the standard nuts and bolts approach of saying “I went here, here and here. This is what it looked like. These were the points.” But, you know? Eh. ::shrug:: ¬†Clearly, I’ve not done exactly that.

It occurred to me that the story of a rally is larger than its stops. They are but a blip on a timeline; a period on the last sentence of a larger paragraph. The bigger story is the one that occurs in between. And while the bonus stop is the beacon that guides you along and may in fact be as cool as all get-out, it marks the end of the line. Or if you prefer, the beginning of the next mini-adventure.

Over time my understanding of what it is to ride in a rally has changed. Sure, you’re still influenced by the undercurrent of the game but what you’re doing, at least in my case, is something different from attempting to win. For me, it isn’t possible to win. I’ll say it again: it isn’t possible for me to win. Not against other competitors, anyway. With a few go-rounds on this event I have a clear understanding of the effort required to win and I am more sure than ever that I don’t have that type of drive or determination. Or perhaps desire. Because I don’t know that I would enjoy the experience exponentially more than I already do if I came home with a trophy. Besides, there’s never any room in my topbox for one. ūüėČ

With that in mind the next logical question would be “why do it then?”¬†Well? Because. Like other physical endurance events, their value is in their doing. You are ultimately competing against yourself¬†– the you who planned a route, fat and happy at your computer. When push comes to shove, it is cold, wet, tired, scared, hungry you that is hurtling through space trying to compete with that comfortable version of yourself. Can you do what you set out to do? Can you achieve your goal? Can you arrive safely, make good decisions, re-route on the fly, overcome fears that you’re presented with along the way? Could you have a good time in spite of it all or if you earned zero points for your effort?

I’ve learned that¬†in many ways the points become something of a psychological trap that you willingly fall in to. But even knowing this, knowing that I could simply disregard them and just ride my ride and see things I want to see – I still cannot remove the achievement of points (however few) as something to strive for.

Riding in a rally is taking a huge gulp of life and gluttonously swallowing it down in a very short time. It is extreme and frustrating, scary and exhausting, and in the end regardless of points or placement or anything else Рwhen you turn in your paperwork and stop the ticking clock Рit is triumphant. The internal war you fought with yourself was won.

Bonuses Not in the Rally Book

What the rally book could never tell you is that over the course of your 24+hour stint on the road, you will see things out there in the world that will leave an indelible mark on your mind. I think part of the reason for that is because they are unknown entities. As you plan your route, bonus locations become “known” because you’ll probably use Google streetview in the routing process. But these unknown things, things you happen across along the way? Well, I like to think of them as extra-special bonuses. You saw them all because you decided¬†to take part in a rally. That oughta be reason enough to try one if you’re on the fence.

Here are a few:

After being jammed up in traffic and bleeding time around the Pittsburgh area, I was treated to a short but hellacious rainstorm just to round out the stress experience. Perhaps it is was the powers that be telling me to positively refocus, maybe the Rallymaster ordered it special-like, I don’t know. But when I needed to see one, the rain stopped and something I’ve never seen in my 40+ years bowed resplendently across the sky above the Pittsburgh airport – a¬†quadruple rainbow. Yes, four. It was startling. There are moments in your life that will stop you in your tracks because what you are witnessing is so unbelievable. A quad rainbow will do that to you.

Unfortunately, my iPhone photo on the highway could never do justice to what took place there in the sky. I can only suggest that you see one for yourself ūüėČ

The apocalyptic backlit cooling towers of a nuke plant rising out of the silvery fog. Their black, hulking shapes looming and intimidating everything around them – including me.

Creeping along in the Pittsburgh traffic gave me an opportunity to look at the city and some of its bridges in a way that I never have before. At the time, it was a most unwelcome delay. But with the gift of hindsight, the yellow trellis of the Fort Pitt Bridge is burned in my memory.

I didn’t even know that the Governor Harry Nice bridge existed! It was a curious sight to approach with its high arcing roadway over the Potomac. Something about it felt very wrong and perhaps slightly unsafe, which made it exciting.


 

Thank Yous

As always, I have to thank the Rally Masters who host the Void Rally. Their seemingly tireless enthusiasm and dedication to showing their participants a good time is nothing short of awesome. While their intent might be to have to rider play a “game” of sorts, whether they know it or not, they do something greater. They get you off of your couch and out experiencing the world. They deliver you to its dusty corners and secret tucked away places. Places you would probably have never visited otherwise. That for me, is the greatness of a rally.

Over the course of the weekend I made some new friends and got to hug a few old ones. Thank you all for sharing your wisdom, laughter, foibles – all of it. You’re wonderful.

Void Rally 11: RTFM, Dummy!

Void Rally 11: RTFM, Dummy!

 

Remember that time I posted about how I had planned my Void Rally 11 route and it was done and dusted and I was okay with it? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…heh… hoooo… That was funny, wasn’t it?

Perhaps it’s because I live too close to high-tension wires and I’m being bombarded by EMFs but somehow I forgot to carefully factor in one aspect of my route planning. And so… I re-did my route a little more carefully last night. It wasn’t until after I declared my route to the gang at Rally HQ that I realized just how badly I’d bungled what I was doing. It’s embarrassing being dopey in front of others. They must have looked at my proposed route and said… “whoa, dim bulb, this one.”

Being a mathematical moron has it’s drawbacks. Hopefully my friend Excel has put me on the right track. At least now I don’t have that nagging feeling like something is amiss. Gotta listen to that little voice!

Okay, so I’m taking a ride on the Reading this afternoon. I suppose I should stop biting my nails now, it’s time to accept my fate.

Rally-ho! Rider 68, out.

%d bloggers like this: