This weekend was the Void 5, the East Coast Fall rally. The theme of the rally was ‘Weather’, or more importantly Tornado’s and Hurricanes, stuff like that.
If you don’t know what a rally is, see my MD 2020 Rally report, I explained it there.
The Void is unique in that it’s really 5 different rallies at the same time.
(4) 24 hour rallies, all starting from different locations, but ending at the same place. And a 10 hour rally starting from the rally headquarters in Lynchburg, VA.
My group started from Lexington, KY. All four starting locations were given their rally books on Tuesday the 5th, with the Rally scheduled to start at 11 am on Friday at their respective locations. That gave us 3 days to look at the locations, the points and try to come up with a route.
The rally window was 26 hours, minus a 3 hour minimum rest, meant we had roughly 23 hours to work with.
23 hours at a 52mph average would mean a decent route would be approximately 1200 miles.
The bonus list was provided and when mapped out it looked like this:
This was a photo rally, which meant to prove you obtained a bonus you’d have to visit it and take a photo of the required item with your rally flag. In the above image, the ‘big rocks’ were hurricanes worth 500 points, with each hurricane was 4 other bonuses that went with them. You could earn a sequence bonus if you got them in order 1-4 plus the related 500.
Upon examination, I didn’t think that was worth while. Each sequence involved some back tracking.
There were a few other bonuses that had tight windows. One that was only available 1 hour before the rally ended, and according to most mapping software it would take you 59 minutes to get from it to the finish. Given that you were losing points for each minute you were late, any traffic jams or any delays and you’d be in penalty land.
In all of my previous rallies I’ve ridden with someone else, either Kyle or Kyle and my dad. Riding with more than one person slows you down some. Not a lot in our case as we’ve probably all logged over 30k miles riding together so we know what to expect from the other person(s).
My dad decided he wanted to run a more conservative route, about 900 miles. Being a competitive person, I wanted to score well. I’m simply not in the league as the top guys. They ride many rally’s per year and have been doing it a long, long time. But I believe I can compete at the ‘B’ level. So I created a route based upon what I thought I could do and hopefully score well enough to be in the top 5.
My route tried to hit the basic rule: Get the big rocks and use big roads to do it. That mean a lot of highway time. It’s hard to make time on two-lane twisty roads. While that’s the type of road I most enjoy riding, it’s not a good choice for rallying. Especially at night.
My route had me starting in Lexington, running over to West Virginia, down past Charlotte, then up towards Washington DC, then back to the Rally HQ in Lynchburg. There was quite a bit of out-and-back, but those runs were all for big points (500 point bonuses) so I felt it was worth it. I had discovered a route that would allow me to get four of the 500’s and two 200 point bonuses for a total of 2400, which would have been a top score with the rest bonus and gift bonus. But that route had absolutely no room for error. It was definitely go-big or go-home. If something bad were to happen, if you got behind by as much as 30 minutes you were doomed. There was no saving it. Often it’s a route like that that wins but I elected not to run it, maybe I should have, it was only 50 miles longer than my chosen route.
At the start we had a window of 20 minutes to get a starting location receipt, and call into the rally master. A receipt from Lexington with a time stamp between 10:50 and 11:10am on Friday. If you started at 11:05 your finish time (penalty time) started at 1:05pm on Saturday.
IF you wanted to take a crack at that tight 200 point bonus it was in your best interest to start as late as possible like 11:09, to buy yourself 9 extra minutes to get from it to the finish before you started incurring penalties. I wrote this bonus off, it didn’t fit into my route.
I started at 10:59 which meant I had until 12:59 to check into the finish.
My first stop was the “Vortex Loop” street sign. I got there ahead of schedule.
From there I ran to General Jenkins historical marker.
At this point I was making good time and could see I was running ahead of schedule. The biggest factor for this was that I *think* Streets and Trips thought a number of the highways were 55 MPH roads which were now 70 MPH roads. Running at roughly 5 over, meant I was picking up almost 20 miles an hour. The General Jenkins bonus was 200 miles into my route, so I had picked up almost 30 minutes by then. Things were looking up and I was excited.
3rd stop was to get a photo of the wooden sign in front of the Hurricane Fire Department, in Hurricane, WV. As rallies go, you have to get a photo of exactly what the book says. The sign in question was covered by the ‘Change your Clock/Battery sign’ and that wasn’t a good thing. If they had taken this sign down during the day and another rider returned with a photo of the actual sign, I would be hosed. No points for you!. So I call the rally master, made him aware. Actually he was already aware, he instructed me to make sure he could recognize the fire department. I took quite a few alternate photos just in case.
Then off to Tornado, WV
To get a photo of the post office and volunteer fire department there:
These two bonuses were literally 15 yards apart. A lot of folks missed this because in the mapping programs they were so close, they looked like (1) location.
50 points each!
My next bonus was about 100 miles away, on good twisty roads to get near Fayetteville, WV. Actually at the BOTTOM of the New River Gorge Bridge. At this point, or at least on my way to this, I was 45 minutes ahead. This was good because my next bonus was on the list, but according to the plan I would be 20 minutes late. It was only available 8am to 8pm. But I was going good, until… I got to Fayetteville. So on the east side of the gorge, there are two roads that run down to this point. At one time they were two way, now it’s a one way loop. But Garmin didn’t know that and tried to run me down the wrong way on a one way road. It took me a good 15 minutes to get that sorted out and to get down there. Photo take at: 4:59pm My scheduled time was 5:27pm so I was still 30 minutes ahead.
As I came out of the gorge and tried to go south on 19, it was backed up, bumper to bumper as far as I could see. @%$#%@ so I mashed the detour button on the GPS, and started following it. Through Fayetteville, all back streets, all 25 mph, not the 55 mph I was counting on. I was losing minutes and fast.
I finally escaped, and got back out on 19 past the backup, which I think was construction I don’t really know.
My next stop was either the Stone mountain state park 170 miles away if I could get there by 8pm or all the way down past Charlotte, NC, in Chester, SC.
I was doing my best to get there, but I didn’t have time to stop for anything other than fuel. For 3 more hours I sat there, and twisted that.
The Stone mountain bonus was almost 20 miles off the interstate, twisty roads, and it was going to be in the dark. When I departed from the Ferry bonus, my ETA to Stone mountain was 8:04pm. I had to make up 4 minutes, but with given 150 of the miles were interstate and I had the benefit of Garmin thinking at least part of it was 55 and not 70 I thought I’d be OK. I’d make the call when I got to the exit. The sun pretty much dropped out of the sky around 7pm, and so did the temperature. It was 48 ish degrees, and I wasn’t dressed for this. I still had my mesh jacket and summer gloves on. For what ever reason, my heated grips weren’t heating and I was freezing my arse off. But I didn’t have time to stop and put better gear on. I figured I could man-up and tough it out for the last 60 miles.
At the exit, my eta was now 7:50 so I thought I’d give it a shot. As I pulled up to the gate the ranger was sitting there waiting to close it at 8pm sharp. They don’t mess around. He flashed his lights, and I rolled up to the ranger’s truck. He asked if I was camping tonight, cause if so, I needed to head back he was closing the gate. I explained I was on this scavenger hunt thing, and needed a photo of a stone mountain park sign. He pointed to a metal sign that said Stone mountain and the hours. I pulled over, read the instructions which specifically stated the the sign was the map of the park with the ‘You are here’ sign at the visitors center.
I showed the ranger the rally book, and said, they are pretty specific, it needs to be ‘THIS’ sign, and I have to snap the photo by 8pm. He looked at his watch and said, well, it’s about a 1/4 mile down, the road is not lit but there should be a light at the Visitor’s center. Go get your photo, you have 6 minutes. I’m locking the gate at 8:06, if you aren’t back you’re spending the night. (he said with a big grin).
I ran down to the Visitor’s Center, had no trouble finding it. Jumped off the bike, grabbed the rally pack (with flag) and took the photo.
At Exactly 8:00pm
I got out of the park, he closed the gate behind me and I quickly pulled over in a parking area and started digging for my heated liner.
I slammed a protein drink, some blueberry and dirt flavored concoction. It was horrible! I washed it down with a bottle of water and hopped back on the bike. The next bonus was in South Carolina, a little over 100 miles away. That’s roughly 100 minutes to get there, and I’d need to stop once for gas.
My plan was to ride back up near Stone mountain and find a hotel for my required rest bonus. So I was looking at another 3-4 hours in the cold before I could get some rest and warm up. It was gonna suck.
I beat feet for NC, at the exit I noticed there was a boat load of hotels, and even a Motel 6 advertising $39 rooms. This was perfect. I only needed the room for 3 hours so the cheaper the better.
I picked up the Cyclone restaurant bonus, which was another good 500 point bonus at 10:42 pm.
My original plan was to run back up north, half way to the next bonus, then sleep for 3 hours. The rest bonus couldn’t be started until after 10 pm. It was after 10 pm and I was freezing, even with a heated liner. I still had mesh pants on and needed to put on my Long-John LD Comforts or something. So I figured I’d grab some sleep here, then head north after the nap. I was still 20 minutes ahead. So sleeping now made sense. I rolled back to the highway, stopped in at the Motel 6, grabbed a room, checked in at 11:04. The minimum rest bonus requirement was 3 hours. I asked for a 1:45am wake up call.
I got in my room, got out of my riding gear, laid out some warmer stuff for the morning, sent a text to my wife that I was still alive, and updated a buddy (Kyle), then set the alarm on my phone for 1:47.
As soon as I nodded off, my phone went off. First my wife, thanking me for updating her. Then 5 minutes later, Kyle asking more questions. I didn’t have time for this, so I tried to go back to sleep. Which as tired as I was is difficult.
You are still amped up, on adrenaline from riding and the time pressures. You’re constantly thinking; “What can I do better tomorrow?”, “Are there any other bonuses I can add?”, “If I need to bail tomorrow where is my point of no return?”. I resisted the urge to open up the laptop and look for more points. I was still 20 minutes ahead and considered that a blessing. A blessing which wasn’t going to last long…
I awoke with a start at 2:20 am… What the? The hotel didn’t call me or if they did I didn’t hear it. I grabbed my phone. Oh… I set the alarm for 1:47pm, no wonder. I scrambled to get dressed and back out on the bike. I got my receipt as another rider was checking in. Thinking about it now I should have just given him my room key. I only slept on one of the two beds.
By the time I got on the road, I was now 20 minutes behind, not the 20 minutes ahead when I went to bed. I was pissed.
It was dark, and cold. Even with LD Comfort long pants on under my mesh pants it wasn’t enough, even on an FJR. My legs were cold.
Body was good thanks to Gerbings[tm], but I had neglected to hook up my heated gloves and my heated grips were not working.
I couldn’t make ‘good’ time. It was dark and foggy, and deer were everywhere on 77. Then I rolled past this section on 77 marked as a ‘high wind gust area’. It was 46 degrees, then in an instant it was 66 degrees, and the wind came. First from the left and nearly blew me over a complete lane. Then from the right. For about 8 miles it was the most incredible thing I have ever experienced. I’ve ridden through some storms, and literally, only a few miles form a tornado in Kansas, but this was incredible because it kept changing and violently. It kept me awake, then just like that it was 46 degrees and calm.
My next bonus stop was through Floyd, VA on the south side of the Blue Ridge parkway. It was dark and twisty. I have some aux lighting but it’s only for visibility, they are see me lights, not help me see lights. It doesn’t add any appreciable light to the road, and this sucked.
I then realized that not only was I 20 minutes late but I was loosing minutes fast. I looked at my secondary GPS, it shows I was running about 35-40 mph, but, it thought the speed limit was 55. Not good. 55 might be fine in the daylight but I didn’t have the lighting to travel at 55 at night.
The bonus was a corner marker from 1824:
It was not easy to find, at least not in the dark. Photo taken at 06:43. I was supposed to be there at 06:03 or even earlier. I was bleeding time, and given the road ahead to the next couple bonuses, it wasn’t going to get better.
As it was, my planned time had me back at Rally HQ at 12:59, so I was now officially ‘worried’. It’s not about riding fast, it’s about being efficient. Not getting off the bike, short ‘fast’ stops.
I decided to head to the next bonus because it was on the way. The key to my route was another 500 point bonus near D.C so I still had 500 miles to ride. Any more slippage and I would be late and that’s a bad thing.
The next stop was in Roanoke, a bridge, I had to take a photo of the water level gauge.
I had another Garmin issue, trying to take me down the wrong way on a one way street. I was losing time and not happy.
I found the bridge but by the time I walked to it, took the photo and got back it was 7:40, per my schedule I was supposed to be done with this bonus by 7:06. I was still late.
The next bonus was just across town.
I had started for the next bonus that was literally only a mile or two away, but traffic was holding me up. I started running calculations on the GPS, what if stuff.
I grabbed the photo and started thinking about the next one. It was on the way, but slightly out of the way.
The ‘IF’ part was that ‘IF’ I was still 30 minutes late after getting the next bonus, I would then be late and start losing points. As I got closer, I could see that the part that was off the route was going to take me too long so I aborted that bonus and beat feet for D.C. (Strausburg to be exact).
I figured it was mostly highway, and if the route software still thought the highway was 55 MPH I’d be OK.
In Strausburg, I had to take a photo at a plantation.
Per the plan I had made up some time. I was supposed to nail this by 10:09, I figured if I made up 20 minutes going there I could make up the last 10 coming back. It worked out well enough that I could bag my final bonus near the finish.
I finished at 12:56, with 3 minutes to spare, and only dropped one 54 point bonus.
At the end of scoring with rest bonus and gift bonus I had 7808, which turns out was 4th, one away from a podium finish. 3rd place scored 9 more points. 2nd was like 20 points higher. Over sleeping cost me a 2nd place finish… Grrrr…
At the end of the day I learned a valuable lesson about alarm clocks and still had fun. 1229 miles in 22.5 hours. More of it than I wanted on twisty roads in the dark.
I should have gone for the big money route.
I still don’t know how the winner scored over 8000 points. I hope he will share…
I’m already looking forward to the Void 06
(Posted while still exhausted so a good portion of this likely doesn’t make sense).