Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
In peace, there’s nothing so becomes a man,
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood.
Blood? Summoned. In the words of the master thespian Spongebob Squarepants: I’m Ready! IIIII’M Ready!
Rider 98 reporting for duty.
Mania. It’s not for Wimps.
It is Saturday October 5th at 8:30am. I am checking my email for the bonus listing for the Void Rally 8 with a possessed mania that is usually reserved for the type of people who write ransom notes by cutting pictures of letters out of magazines.
The schedule on the Rally website says that they are due to arrive via email no later than 10am. It’s 8:30. That’s before 10. Why aren’t they here?
They’re Here, They’re Here!
The bonus listings arrived not long after I began the downward spiral into a refresh the page hell of my own making.
The files that came in this part of the Rally pack consisted of semi-detailed information. Included was a .gpx file of waypoints to load into a route planner, some additional information about the rules of the rally and an excel listing of the bonus locations with their city, state, coordinates, availability hours and their point value.
Still to come was the final installment of Rally files. That will be the Rally Book itself which is the full fat, detailed listing of where you’re going and what you should do when you get there.
The theme of the 2013 Void Rally 8 was music. Each of the bonus locations made reference to a facet of music from artists, musical history, famous music-related locations to the recording industry itself.
Well, it’s one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready now go cat go, so why don’t you, take a picture of Elvis outside the Happy Day’s Diner.
The time and effort that went in to creating all of the Rally Book bonuses and researching must’ve been tremendous. The Rallymasters did an excellent job putting together an entertaining packet. Well done, sirs.
Pre-Rally Planning Update
It won’t come as a shock but it has to be said. I have no chance of winning. But there are some things on the bonus list that I’m excited about the possibility of seeing! *runs away squealing*
Plan Your Ride, Ride Your Plan[cue sad trombone]
You know? The whole not being a long distance rider thing can really put a damper on things. There were some really awesome bonus location listed in the Rally book in cities that were just too far for my riding ability and timeframe.
One such heartbreaker was not being able to stretch out my route to Kingsport, Tennessee where there’s a muffler man holding a giant hamburger on the roof of a Pal’s Sudden Service. He was not a bonus location but there was a stop in that town just a hop, skip and a jump away.
Instead, I’ll be riding a conservative route – sticking to a 9xx mile ride. I just don’t have the stamina to do more than that.
My plan? Don’t be overly ambitious. Be realistic, be safe, don’t DNF. My route isn’t sexy but it works. I think.
AND – Stick with that plan!
My route was concocted from a comfy office chair, when I was rested and fed. For sure, my ability to make rational decisions in that environment trumps making them on the road after 12 hours in the rain.
The route that I came up with would have me pingpong-ing around PA, NJ and DE for most of the daylight hours on Saturday. By dinnertime, I would begin my dip into DE, MD, DC and VA before turning around and heading back north. I tried to be mindful about staying away from high traffic zones like Washington in the middle of the day. That would be a complete time-suck.
The most important concept for me was to get the most amount of points that I could in the least amount of distance. I read and re-read the Rally book several times to see how I could earn points that were “giveaways,” such as texting the Rallymaster at a certain time, doubling the point value of a bonus by visiting it an a specific sequence, etc. If they’re giving the points away, it would be foolish not to take them.
In my planning with Garmin’s Basecamp, I applied a 10-minute layover on every bonus waypoint. Every single one. If I didn’t take 10 minutes at each stop? Great. Then I would be ahead of schedule.
On top of the 10 minute padding I scheduled my mandatory 3 hour minimum rest stop to be 4 hours. Having that built-in cushion across the board gave me a realistic sliding time window that was forgiving with things like weather, traffic, the need to use the bathroom and stopping for a drink.
Let’s Dance – Time To Get This Party Started
I decided to take Friday off so that I could sleep in and head out to the Pottstown starting location by lunch time. When my eyes popped open at 4am I laid in bed trying to will myself back to sleep for the next hour and a half. Sonofa! So much for being well rested in preparation for the Saturday Rally start.
At least I would be able to pack up my stuff and head out early. *snort*
Somehow I missed the memo that everyone on Earth would also be traveling at the exact same time as me. The 200 mile ride to Pottstown turned in to a blood boiling 5 hour ordeal where I met with resistance at every turn. At one point I called my husband Kenny using my Sena headset so that he could talk me off the ledge. I was considering abandoning my motorcycle on the road.
New York metro traffic can drive a sane person to plumb the depths of complete irrationality. You go from feeling like all is right in the world and wanting to buy every person you see their own unicorn to what the fuck are you looking at you, fucking fuck? Fuck you and fuck this in about 8 seconds.
Okay, I’m being silly. It’s more like five. Five seconds.
Dinner with Pottstown Starters
By the time I got to Pottstown my sense of humor was all but gone. I’d been doing my best to remain patient and not be angry as it did me no good. With a growling belly, after checking in to the hotel I made my way over to the restaurant where the gang was meeting for a pre-Rally dinner.
It was nice to see some familiar faces from last year’s Void Rally and to meet a few new friends, too. I settled in to good conversation with Hammy, Rick, Chris, Rob, BJ, Jeff & Connie, Tom, Keith and Rob. Soon the aggravation of my trip to Pottstown was nothing more than dissipated smoke.
And We’re Off! Mostly.
When Saturday morning dawned I found myself stalking around outside of the motel in the dark hours. I packed up my bike, drank 14 cups of coffee and ate some bacon until Keith came sauntering out and kept me company. We whiled away the time talking and twiddling our thumbs until Rally lift-off.
Patience is difficult.
At about 8:30 there was an organic happening that swept across the motel parking lot. Bodies and bikes began to rumble into action. There was a palpable feeling of excitement as one by one we headed over to the gas station to get our starting receipts.
While standing next to the pump preparing my starting text message a message from Catfish popped up:
Thankfully, our new buddy Rob had cables and motored back over to give him a hand. Rob was quite excited to say that he was going to “jump Catfish.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Within minutes the Starship Catfish FJR was at the gas station. Crisis averted.
Inside a span of 5 minutes all of the wondering, the excitement, the planning had come to an end and motorcycles began to filter away from the gas pumps. The Void Rally 8 was underway.
If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you’re probably familiar with the notion that I have no confidence in my ability to do, well,… anything. It only stands to reason that I assumed my planned route was a real stinker; just a bunch of low point fruit strung together.
Other than within the first half hour around Pottstown, I didn’t see any other riders all day. My fears were surely being confirmed. This route was a bomb. No doubt the Rallymasters were going to ask me to never come back to their Rally because I’m a pox on the rosters full of elite scoring dynamos.
Oh well. There was nothing left to do but press on. Plan your ride, ride your plan.
Big Bonus Points in Capitals
The Rally book offered a combo bonus that would garner an extra 200 points if you could pull it off.
Obtain 5 consecutive (no bonuses in-between each capital; rest bonus is allowed) capital bonus locations listed in the rally book and earn this combo bonus.
During my route planning I looked at the combo bonus carefully and wondered, could I do that? In an uncharacteristic fit of confidence it seemed that, yes! Yes, I could! New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Washington DC and Virginia. BAM! Look at me being all kinds of amazing.
The first capital up on the block was Trenton, New Jersey. I’ve got to admit, my planned stop at a post office there was kind of sketchy. It was not such a nice area. While stopped at a traffic light there was a man pacing around the intersection mumbling. I hoped with all my might that he wouldn’t see me as an opportunity to chat. As soon as the light turned green I happily zipped away.
And then the Rains Came
While making tracks towards Dover, Delaware the rain I dodged all day descended with a furor. From the time I crossed the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal Bridge on Saturday night, I wouldn’t see the dry until Monday morning.
From Dover I set a course towards Annapolis, Maryland. The route I was taking offered few streetlights and little traffic for the better part of a half an hour. When there were oncoming cars it created a whiteout of rainy glare across my visor.
Each time a car came my way it felt like I was flying blind. I would try to find something away from the headlights to focus on – the outside white line, the curve of the pavement and I’d hope that the road went where I thought it should. Thankfully the Earth didn’t abruptly turn into a plank and send me careening off of the edge into the abyss of space.
When I made it to Annapolis it was still pouring. The pleading to the weather fairies I was doing inside my helmet didn’t seem to be working. The incessant pelting of rain and the darkness was doing a number on my enthusiasm. Though I was surrounded by cars and strangers, a sense of loneliness came creeping in.
I pulled off of the highway to get my Maryland capital receipt, changed my gloves and got some much needed Chapstick. As I rode up the entrance ramp back on to Route 50 – who should zip right in front of me in a hi-viz blur? Catfish. In that moment of soggy self doubt just laying eyes on another Rally rider was enough to lift my spirits. Even though we weren’t talking or interacting directly, it felt good to have company.
We rode together for about 15 – 20 minutes before I ducked off the road to get my Washington DC receipt for my 4th capital. When I walked in to the gas station, I met another Rally rider there. He said he’d been having an okay ride so far but had gotten a little lost earlier and had to drop a couple of his New Jersey bonuses to stay on schedule.
With time tick-tick-ticking and the rain coming down in buckets, I said my goodbye, wished him safe travels and motored on towards Richmond, Virginia for my 5th and final capital. It would also be the southern-most point on my route. Whew!
A little after midnight I pulled in to Richmond, Virginia and shined my headlights at the silver letters on the side of the post office. I’d actually pulled off the capital combo.
How Many Times Do I Need To Say It?
Plan your ride, ride your plan.
With my 5th capital bagged, I felt pretty proud of myself. It would be the perfect time to take my mandatory rest bonus.
In a stroke of brilliance, rather than stop at any one of the many motels with vacancy right there at the edge of Richmond – I decide to press on to squeeze in one more hour and head to Charlottesville on I-64.
I must have been deprived of oxygen or something. My plan all along had been to stop after the 5th capital and rest. People who are far smarter than me have said to me over and over – plan your ride, ride your plan. What did I do? Deviated and I paid for that mistake.
The circus must’ve been in town in Charlottesville. I spent about a half an hour ducking in and out of motels and hotels looking for a room but there were none to be had at any of the usual suspect chains.
The kindly desk clerk at the Days Inn suggested I try one more place up the block. He was sure they’d have a room for me. Yay!
When I pulled in to the parking lot my brightly burning joy shorted out like a flickering fluorescent light. Oof. When the desk has to buzz you in? The place is a shithole. But I didn’t have the energy to keep riding to look for another place to sleep. It would have to do.
After buzzing me in the lady at the desk asked “how many?” When I said “just me” she eyed me up suspiciously as if to say, “Yea, right.”
After paying for that dump I had to ride back to the 7-11 to get a receipt to start my rest bonus. It felt like the longest 1 mile ride of my life. Between the rain, the sitting all day and the late hour I was tired and needed a break.
Once more back to the roach motel, I went where I unloaded my bike and carried my stuff to my ground floor room. There were two men milling around in the small parking lot. They then began rummaging around in the trunk of their car. Dead body, perhaps? Looking back at my sweet Tiger I prayed that it would still be there when I emerged from my cave a few hours later. When I opened the door to the room I was punched in the gut with the wafting stench of stale cigarettes.
As tired as I was I just had to try to get some sleep. I pulled back the comforter and looked for visible bugs on the sheets. The coast looked clear so I laid down to rest my eyes. In a last ditch bid for self preservation, I left the lights on.
While I laid there wishing for sleep I was bombarded by the sounds of people doing the horizontal rumba next door and the room above. Shagging in stereo.
On some level that should have been titillating, but given the location and the conditions – there was nothing sexy about it. It struck me that the kind of sex that goes on in a place like that is reserved for icky (and cheap) creeps and people who probably have to pay for it. Who may also be creeps.
I slept lightly. I’m not sure it could even be called sleep. It was the sort of one ear open type of rest that is almost more painful than not sleeping at all. A tantalizing tease that makes you want deep rest all the more.
In that overtired, semi-conscious space where anything seems reasonable worry plagued my thoughts. I was worried about my bike, worried about the lone chain on the door that even I could break with little effort, worried about the guy pacing back and forth past my ground floor window shouting “SHERRY! SHERRY! YOU UP THERE?” SHERRRRRY?” Was he a pimp? A jealous husband? Who knew? I just laid there hoping that I wasn’t in Sherry’s regular room.
Three hours went by in a blink as I drifted in and out of twilight. I had glanced at the time on my iPhone approximately every 35 minutes until it was time for me to repack my stuff and head back out in to the dark, wet morning.
Bringing it all Home
Without a decent rest, I was still groggy and had a headache making itself known. Now that the bulk of the long dark night was behind me, I had a few more bonuses to pick up before I was going to pack it in.
I made it as far back as Washington DC, which was lovely and deserted early on Sunday morning. As I cruised in to town, I couldn’t help but think that there is something majestic about DC’s monuments and buildings. It was beautiful even through the mist and rain.
By this time I could feel that the weather, the lack of decent sleep, being hungry and having to use the bathroom were all joining together to form a mutiny against me. After picking up 2 more bonuses in DC, I made the decision to stick a fork in my Rally. Though I had 2 more stops on my planned route, I had done all that I wanted to. It was time to head back to the barn.
By 10am, my boots were squeaking down the hallway to my room in Fredericksburg. My Void Rally 8 was complete.
Scoring Heartbreak in the Capitals
I’m a man who discovered the wheel and built the Eiffel Tower out of metal and brawn. That’s what kind of man I am. You’re just a woman with a small brain. With a brain a third the size of us. It’s science.
“Do you have everything you need with you? Once we start you cannot leave the table, ” said Ande the scoring volunteer.
“I think so, yes,” I replied.
…fast forward 10 minutes…
“I don’t see the Washington DC capital photo here,” Ande said.
“Oh, that one was a receipt,” I said confidently. I’m rather surprised that I didn’t dislocate my shoulder patting myself on the back for being so awesome.
Ande looked at my receipts and said “I don’t see that one here.”
Um, whaaaaa…? My heart sank. Oh. My. GOD!
I… am an idiot. An idiot of colossal proportions.
When I pulled off the roadway in DC, I ran into a gas station and grabbed a pack of gum to get a receipt. By the time I got back outside the rain started coming down in buckets.
In my haste to close up my topbox and not soak my paperwork, I shoved the fresh receipt into a zipper bag that was inside rather than unclipping my receipt baggy from my Rally log book and risk exposing it to more water. I never took the DC receipt out of the zipper bag …until AFTER scoring.
That receipt and my buffoonery cost me 200 points for the combo bonus and 19 points for the bonus itself. My route as planned was good for about 1600+ points. My foibles and dropped bonuses brought my score in at 1372.
Is crying allowed in rallying?
Congratulations! You’re Average.
My tradition of mediocrity has been upheld! I managed to find myself scoring in the middle of the pack again, even after completely bungling my Capital combo. I guess my route wasn’t so terrible after all.
And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.
I’m proud to say that I’ve earned myself another Void Rally t-shirt. There is pleasure in the struggle of working through the puzzle of the process.
The hours spent riding the Rally take you on an emotional journey of excited highs and self-doubting lows. In reality though, I seemed to spend the most amount of time dwelling contentedly somewhere in-between. The drive to complete a task or do the job to the best of your ability is strong enough to carry you through to the other side of the 24 riding hours.
The people that attend the Rally are diverse and above all warm and welcoming. I’m not sure what I enjoyed more – the Rally itself or the finishers banquet and hanging out with everyone.
There is so much to learn from people who choose to fling themselves out into the dusty corners of the world exploring. I find their stories endlessly fascinating.
After all of the build up and the excitement in the time leading up to Rally weekend I felt a bit melancholy that it was over so quickly. There was an immediate tug at my heart that said, ” This was fun. Let’s do this again next year.”
Thank You, Rallymasters and Volunteers
The time, care and effort that goes in to making the Rally a success does not go unnoticed by it’s participants.
To the army of elves who man the tables, score the riders, take phone calls in the middle of the night, answer stupid questions, sift through nonsense, talk riders off the ledge and generally give their time to the Rally riders – Thank you.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.