Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Rally the Void

October 9-10 2015

The Void rally is actually four rallies in one hosted out of Fredericksburg, VA every October. There are four available starting points with three of the starting locations some distance from the finish; these allow 31 hours between start and finish. For 2015 these were State College, PA, Murfreesboro TN, and Moultrie, GA. The fourth only allows 10 hours with a start at the host hotel in Fredericksburg where everyone finishes. I started in Moultrie.

For a detailed description on how rallying works check out the description on the Void website here  

The start was 468 miles from my home in North Carolina. I took off work on Thursday for the ride to Moultrie. The ride down was uneventful but did get fairly warm with temperatures in the mid-80’s. Upon arrival at the hotel in Moultrie I met a few other riders in the parking lot and we chatted for a bit. Later several of us gathered for dinner at an Applebee’s that was a short walk from the hotel. This part of these events is always enjoyable and it’s great catching up with the folks that participate in the rallies year after year.

The Void has a theme each year and for 2015 it was based around movies. This year had what was probably the most complicated rally book I have seen in my six years of doing this. There was a somewhat standard rally book and six additional “B-Roll amplification” bonus lists. These were referenced in the main rally book and could be used to meet the requirements of various bonuses. There were a number of combo bonuses. Also certain bonuses could be claimed more than once as long as they were in different states or on different days. All total there were over 300 bonus locations to work with. Considering all the options available planning this rally took quite a bit more time than normal. Fortunately the rally books are distributed a few days before the start allowing time to work with it.  

In most rallies I look for a cluster of high point bonuses and work to build a route around that. I tried that here and there were some fairly high points in Kentucky but the distance required for points available just didn’t work. For this rally the big points seemed to center around combos. There was only one bonus worth very high points in Kill Devil Hills, NC but it was only available from 8am to 9am on Saturday. Also to get the most points you had to get it very close to 8am. I plugged my start and the Kill Devil Hills bonus into Basecamp and started filling in others so that I would arrive just before 8am. After looking at several options, and considering the combos available, I finally had what I thought was a good route that put me at the big bonus on Saturday. From that point I had two different routes to get to the finish. One was faster but fewer points where the other had more points available but could have been a time suck.

Start – Moultrie, GA
To start you had to obtain a valid receipt between 8:40 and 8:50am and send a very specific text to the rallymaster. Failing to get this correct would result in a major loss of points. I chose to get a receipt toward the end of the time slot to allow a few minutes in case I needed them at the end. My receipt time was 8:48am. I had the text composed and sent at 8:50. I had 31 hours to be at the finish point in Fredericksburg and have my scoring packet turned in; this gave me until 3:48pm on Saturday. Not having it turned in my then meant a DNF (Did Not Finish).

Bonus 1 – Improvisation, Anywhere, 2000 points, planned arrival 9:37am, actual 9:32am

This bonus required that you create your own bonus. You could submit anything that would make a good bonus in a future rally. I spent some time on google maps street view looking around other bonuses I would be stopping at for something that would work. I chose a memorial to the Flood of July 7, 1994 in Albany, GA. The reason for this one is it was just down the street from my first planned bonus and since there have been disaster themed rallies in the past I actually though it would be usable at some point.

Bonus 2 – Ray, Albany, GA 300 points, planned arrival 9:38am, actual 9:35am

Take a photo of Ray sitting at the piano. Not a lot of points for this one, but it was very close to my base route and so close to my stop for bonus 1 that it would have been silly to skip it.

Bonus 3 – TPA (combo), Columbus, GA 300 points, planned arrival 11:14am, actual 11:08am

Take a photo of the “Train Station” sign. This was part of a combo which required a plane, train and automobile bonus from the choices on the “B-Roll” be collected all on the same day. If you got all three it was worth 2500 additional points and could be claimed once on Friday and once on Saturday. While not an actual train station this is a Burger King but was counted as a train.

Bonus 4 – You’ve Got Mail, Anywhere, 500 points

Between 11:15am and 11:45am on Friday send a text to the Rallymaster that consist of your rider number and the word mail. I stopped about 11:18 and sent the text and start moving toward the next bonus. My cell phone is paired with my headset and I receive text notifications in my helmet audio system. Shortly after getting back on the road I received a text back from the RM that stated no. This meant I had messed up the requirements. I stopped again and did indeed mess it up. Fortunately you could resend it again as long as the bonus was still open. I entered the correct information and sent it.

While stopped sending the second text my idling motorcycle stopped running and everything went dead. I attempted to restart it and there was nothing more than a dimly glowing warning lamp. Obviously I had a power problem. Hoping it was just a bad connection on the battery I pulled the cover and checked the connections, everything was tight. It became apparent the battery had a problem. There were some guys putting a roof on a house not far from where I was so I pushed the bike to near their location and asked if anyone had jumper cables. They did and helped jump the bike. I got it started but it died whenever the RPMs dropped below about 3k. I tried riding it and keeping the RPM’s up but didn’t get far before it stalled and I was again stuck.

At this point I called my emergency service provider, Riders of Kawasaki, who were very helpful. Fortunately I was near Columbus, GA when this happened. They found a dealership about 10 miles away that had the battery I needed in stock. The dealer agreed to fill and put a fast charge on the new battery while I awaited a tow truck. It took about an hour for the truck to arrive but we loaded the bike and proceed to the dealer. I purchased and installed the new battery in the dealer parking lot. Fortunately the bike started right up and everything was back to normal. The whole event cost me a bit over two hours but I was back in the rally. Had this happened in the middle of the night or out in the boonies I would have been done.

Bonus 5 – TPA (combo), Warner Robbins, GA 300 points, planned arrival 12:53pm, actual 2:57pm
Take a photo of the B-52 aircraft with 085 on the nose. This one was at the Warner Robbins AFB Museum of Aviation. Needless to say there were lots of planes. I had looked on Google maps and tried to find this plane prior to the start. Fortunately the one I spotted online was the correct plane so I grabbed the photo and back on the road. I had planned to snag another 500 point bonus about 15 minutes from here but since I was so far behind schedule I skipped it.

Bonus 6 – TPA (combo), Hampton, GA 300 points, planned arrival 2:27pm, actual 4:35pm

Take a photo of the Atlanta Motor Speedway sign over the entrance. I almost gave up on this one as traffic on I-75 heading toward Atlanta was really heavy with a lot of stop-and-go. However this was the last bonus I needed to make one of the 2500 point combos so I pressed on. I thought once I made it to my exit traffic would get better but I was wrong. There were a couple of schools along the route and again traffic was barely moving. I finally made it but the GPS took me in to the wrong gate and there was an event going on. I finally got up to the guys taking money for parking and told them I just needed to get a picture and would be out. They let me pass without paying; I got my photo and moved on. Traffic getting out was again terrible for about 10 miles but finally cleared up as I got away from the populated area.

Bonus 7 – Sac-O-Suds, Monticello, GA 475 points, planned arrival 3:15pm, actual 5:35pm

Take a photo of the Sac-O-Suds used in the movie My Cousin Vinny. This was a nice easy one, photo taken and moved on.

Bonus 8 – Walking Dead Lunch Mansfield, GA 600 points, planned arrival 3:39pm, actual 5:57pm

Take a photo of Harvest Realty Company. Apparently you could see this building in the background when Rick and Shane were sitting in the car in the pilot episode of The Walking Dead. I’ll have to re-watch that episode and take a look for it someday.

I had planned to bag another couple of bonuses at this point but skipped them to make up an hour. 750 points dropped.

Bonus 9 – Laurel and Hardy, Harlem, GA planned arrival 5:43pm, actual 7:16pm

Take a photo of the Laurel and Hardy museum. I had been to this one before in a different rally. One day I’ll actually go inside and see what’s in the building.

I had two more bonuses planned in Augusta, GA but just kept going in I-20 as the exit came up, another 950 points lost. Even though I probably had time to get these I was very worried about traffic in South Carolina. There had been a tremendous amount of flooding in the state recently. As I departed I knew a big part I-95 and many other roads were closed. Even though my route put me on I-95 just north of the closed section I had no idea how bad traffic would be. I thought it better to save 20-30 minutes I might need later than get the extra points. Looking back I wish I had grabbed these as it would have made a significant difference in the end.  

Bonus 10 – Columbia Pictures, Columbia, SC 300 points, planned arrival 7:30

Get a receipt in Columbia. This one substituted Columbia, SC as getting the actual Columbia pictures in California would have been a bit difficult in a 31 hour east coast rally. I needed fuel anyway so I stopped at a Flying J right off an exit, filled up got a good receipt and hit the road.

Bonus 11 – Days of Thunder, Darlington, SC 600 points, planned arrival 8:44pm, actual 9:55pm

Take a photo of the HHM titled Darlington Raceway. This should have been simple and quick however I could not find a HHM but there was another informational sign seeming labeled correctly. I took this photo but it just didn’t seem right.

I retrieved the full rally book from my top case and read the instructions and knew I had the wrong thing. After looking around some more the correct sign was obvious so at least I got the right picture.

Bonus 12 – Rest for at least 3 hours, Anywhere 25000 points, planned arrival 9:46pm, actual was closer to 11:30pm.

The rally masters for the Void really wants you to rest and make it impossible to finish well without taking the rest bonus. In addition to the 25000 points, you could claim an additional 10 points per minute for every minute over 3 hours up to 180 additional minutes. My original plan called for me to take 5.5 hours of rest but I was still behind so I planned for closer to only four hours. I had reserved a hotel room in Lumberton, NC before the start. It is not always the best idea to make reservations on a rally as plans can change but for me it provides a known destination with a guaranteed room. It still worked this time but I would have preferred to stop sooner than I did.

To start the rest bonus clock I stopped at a 24 hour gas station close to the hotel and got a good receipt. Upon arrival at the hotel there was a line and only one slow clerk. I waited for my turn and got a key. The room they gave me had someone’s belongings scattered around in it. I went back down and the clerk told me there was no one in the room. I argued there was and he finally reluctantly gave me a different room. I set the alarm on my phone to go off 3.5 hours later and again 10 minutes after that just to make sure I got up. I woke on the first alarm checked out, got another receipt from the same fuel station and was on the road now back on schedule.

Bonus 13 – Coming to America, 30 minutes prior to or after any other bonus. 250 points, planned arrival 3:28am actual 3:26am.

Take a picture of your motorcycle in front of a McDonalds. This one was pretty simple as there are always McDonalds along the Interstate. This one just happened in the right place to meet the timing requirements. It helps that at 3:30am no one is around to get in the way or question why you’re taking a picture.

Bonus 14 – Two Tickets to Paradise, various locations, 275 points, planned arrival 4:17am actual 4:22am

Take a picture of OfficeMax and submit a receipt from the same town. I planned to get this one in Smithfield NC. I exited the interstate and found an open fuel station to gas up and get my receipt. With that in hand I followed the GPS to the OfficeMax but ended up on a dead end street in a neighborhood. I had to exit the neighborhood and locate the store myself with the GPS complaining the entire time. It took a few tries to get a decent photo but once I was satisfied I was on the way.

Bonus 15 – The Big Lebowski, various locations, 250 points, planned arrival 4:49am actual 4:55am

This was another B-Roll location where there were many locations to choose from. The requirement was to take a photo of a bowling alley.  I chose Westview Lanes in Wilson, NC since it was close to my base route.

Bonus 16 – TPA (combo), Plymouth, NC, 300 points, planned arrival 6:24am actual 6:20am

Take a photo of the red caboose behind the museum. Nothing too difficult here although there was apparently a fishing competition going on as there were lots of pickups pulling boats out and about. Since this was a different day I could claim the Trains, Planes and Automobiles bonus again for another 2500 points. This was the train.

Bonus 17 – TPA (combo), Kill Devil Hills, NC 200 points, planned arrival 7:51am, actual 7:44am

Take a photo of the Wright brothers Memorial entrance sign. This was another easy one and served as the plane for the combo bonus.

Bonus 18 – Time-lapse Photography, Kill Devil Hills, NC up to 6000 points, planned arrival 7:55am, actual 7:50am

This was the biggest bonus available. The requirement was to obtain a receipt from Lowes Hardware in Kill Devil Hills between 8am and 9am and turn in whatever you bought at scoring. At 8am it was worth 6000 points and lost 100 points per minute for every minute past 8am. Being the largest bonus available there were a lot of riders here. The folks at Lowes were very accommodating and opened most of the registers to get us all through quickly. I selected a pack of batteries and got in one of the lines as the fourth individual to be checked out. While I was waiting additional registers opened and I was able to be first in line. I obtained a receipt with a time of 08:00:02. The full 6000 points was mine.

During my planning I had developed two routes to take from this this point. Both led me toward the Chesapeake VA area where I had to make a choice. Route one was quicker but fewer points and took me toward Hampton, VA and then over to Richmond where the routes once again converged. Option 2 took me to Petersburg first and then to Richmond. It was worth more points and it looked like I could make it so I took option 2 and headed toward Petersburg.

Bonus 19 – Lincoln, Petersburg, VA 500 points, actual 10:37am

Take a photo of the South Side Depot. This building was used in a scene from the movie Lincoln. It was easy to locate but riding on the old brick roads in this area was an interesting challenge.

Bonus 20 – Patch Adams, Richmond VA 200 points, arrival 11:05am

Take a photo of the VCU Medical Center, Gateway Building. This one was in downtown Richmond and as a general rule I try to avoid these areas as they can be a major time suck. However it was only a few blocks off my route and close to an Interstate exit so I decided to try it. Fortunately it was easy to get to, grab the needed photo and get back to the Interstate. Not long after this is when the problems would begin.

Bonus 21 – Two Tickets to Paradise, Glen Allen, VA 200 points

Take a photo of OfficeMax and get a receipt from the same city. This was right on my route but at this point traffic on the Interstate was at a standstill. I was stuck in the left lane going nowhere. There was a split on my right and traffic was moving over there. I made my way in between a few stopped cars over to the exit and took it. It didn’t really matter where it was going as long as it was moving. I told the GPS to recalculate and took some surface streets to my destination which took far longer than I had expected. I got the photo and headed back to I-64W which was still at a standstill.

The GPS was no help in rerouting at this point so I just located surface streets heading west for several miles. I made my way back to I-64 to check it and finally saw the problem. It was down to one lane due to repaving. I took an entrance ramp that put me at a point where it was one lane and once through the construction it opened up and I was moving normally again.  

Bonus 22 – TPA (combo), Staunton, VA 300 points, arrival 1:25pm

Take a photo of the Pierce-Arrow at the Woodrow Wilson museum. This was the last bonus I needed to make the second TPA combo. It was a long 103 mile ride from the last bonus as I was watching the clock as I had be at the finish and have my scoring packet turned in by 3:48pm. I got the photo and saw at least one other rider in the area which gave me hope. All there was to do now was make the 101 mile ride back to Fredericksburg. 

Finish – Fredericksburg, VA

Traffic getting to the host hotel in Fredericksburg can be a bear. My route from Staunton took me east on I-64 initially but the last 30 miles or so is on VA highway 3. This is mostly a four lane with lots of stop lights and traffic that kept getting heavier the closer I got to the finish. I was OK on time but not by much. Sitting in traffic watching the arrival time on the GPS creep up is one of the most annoying things for a rally rider.

 I managed to make it to the finish and quickly completed filling in the riders log and submitted my scoring packet before time expired. Since I was one of the later arrivals I was pretty far back in the scoring queue. While waiting there was time to chat with other riders and share experiences. It is always interesting to find out what other did differently and learn from their efforts.

I was finally called and went through scoring. Fortunately everything was in order and no points were lost at the table. 46,520 points were awarded with 1,335 miles ridden. Time to check in, clean up and rest a bit before the banquet.

If you have never attended a rally banquet hosted by Scott LaShier you are missing something fun. Let’s just say he is very entertaining. Scott is also one who seems rarely at a loss for words but this year was an exception. It seems the other half of the rally team, Gary, was running a bit behind schedule completing the scoring and coming up with the final totals. Scott did his best to keep us entertained until Gary entered the room to a resounding round of applause.  

As the winners were called I landed in 3rd place for the Georgia starters, 854 points behind the winner. Not too bad but if it was not for the lost hours dealing with the battery first place could have been mine. There is always next year and with any luck at all I’ll be playing the game again.

Thanks to Scott, Gary and all the volunteers who make this event happen.


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