Registration for this year’s American Roadside-themed Void is only open until Friday, August 18th. If you miss out on registration you’ll be sad. The last time someone wanted to register and dillydallied and missed the deadline – a great flood came and wiped out all of the unicorns. You don’t want that kind of pressure hanging over you, do you? Just sayin’.
This year I’ll be doing the Void a little differently and am looking forward to getting underway.
Registration for the 2017 running of the Void Rally will close on August 18th. If you’ve been on the fence about registering, it’s time for you to pick a side and leap.
The Void has three starting locations to choose from, before finishing your rally ride in Fredericksburg, Virginia:
Wilkes-Barre, PA / Franklin, TN / Kingsland, GA
You’ll get to ride around, look at cool things, take some pictures, and then stuff your face and drink beer with some other fun motorcyclist at the end. Riding. Cool things. And… stuff your face! Sounds good, right?!
And.. ANNNND… dare I say, this year’s bonus teaser sounds perfect.
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.
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.
Go through the rally book and pick out all of the opportunities it presents to earn “free” points. Things like:
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?
Is your name/initials/rider number on every sheet?
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?
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?
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
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.
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 🙂
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.