Photos From The Family Christmas (2011)

Matthew was all about Santa.

Santa and Mrs. Clause read the children a book.  Something about trying to outsource labor and replace the elves.   They tried dragons, they tried polar bears and other workers but it just didn’t work out.

Not real sure what the moral of the story was.

We all sang Jingle Bells with Santa, then Matthew wanted to sing a song…

Of course his favorite Christmas song was “Bad Boys, Bad Boys, whatcah gonna do”

Everyone was there except for my slacker Canadian cousins 🙂

Peyton and Matthew learning about Santa’s magical keys.

And of course gifts.

All of the photos can be found here.

The Void 6 (2011 Edition)

Rally the Void for 2011 is in the books.  If you don’t know what a long distance rally is check out my report from the Mason Dixon 2011, or the Void last year for explanations.

This years theme was water towers and spooky stuff, and by spooky stuff the bonus locations focused on Hard Drive Data Doctor and other things that were supposed to be haunted and/or had some bizarre thing happen at that place in the past.

Example from the rally book:


The Void is unique in that it’s run from multiple locations at once with each starting location essentially being it’s own rally (since there is no way to ensure parity).   Our starting location was Clarksville, TN.

The rally was run from 0900 Friday morning to 1400 Saturday.  In order to be in Clarksburg for Friday morning we rode down leisurely Thursday.  Stopping at Makers Mark distillery, and a couple National Parks so dad could get his passport stamped.

OK so normally, or at least in the past you’re given the list of bonus locations ahead of time.   Sometimes as much as a week ahead of time.   This year the schedule indicated that the bonus locations would be available “No Later Than” 8pm Wednesday the 5th.   Which sucked for us, since we knew we’d be leaving early Thursday.  This meant we’d have less time to plan and even less time to second guess ourselves.

I was very happy to find out that the bonus locations were available Tuesday evening.   So basically Tuesday night was wrecked planning routes.

The initial map of bonus locations looked something like this:


The colors represent point ranges, the shapes represent availability, the round spots are available 24 hours, the squares are ‘daylight only’, and the triangles have additional restrictions.

The rally start time was 0900 on Friday with a finish time of 1400 Saturday.

(for those doing the math that’s 29 hours total).

Subtract out the mandatory 3 hour rest bonus, that left us with 26 hours to work with.

26 hours at 55MPH average = 1430 miles.   55MPH average is a good average for me, and one that I’m comfortable with.   It’s not but burner gold pace (1500 in 24 hours = 62.5MPH).  But this isn’t that type of ride.  These east coast rallies usually involve lots of two-lane twisty roads, so in all honestly a 50MPH average is probably more realistic, unless you’re just a monster.

The rally also had a 1421 mile cap.  So any miles ridden over that would be penalized at 50 points per mile.

So our target route length was set, at 1400 miles give or take.

For the purposes of planning I disregard any what I call ‘standard’ bonuses.  They are standard in that everyone will likely have them.  They include the donation bonus, the don’t lose your flag bonus, and the rest bonus.

There were really any wild card bonuses in this rally so we didn’t need to consider those either.  We just had to work with what was on paper and I liked that.

The one ‘wild-card’ in this route was that if you stopped by the Rally headquarters on ‘Saturday’ and did an Odometer check route (using up about 35 minutes).  You’d score 1 point for doing so, but any bonuses you collected after that check ride were worth double.

So our initial ride had us killing a bunch of bonuses up to roughly 8pm, sleeping for 3-4 hours, being at the rally HQ at midnight to do the check run.  Departing the rally HQ for leg two and slaying a bunch of high valued bonuses at 2x their normal price.

We had a good route, one I was confident would be a top 3 finish.  It wasn’t overly aggressive, it was just right.   In fact I slept like a BABY on Tuesday after working out our optimal route.

Then came Wednesday.

It was noticed that we would hit two ‘high value’ bonuses on Friday that weren’t available until Saturday.   I spent my lunch out re-working things and was once again confident that we would have a good route.

At the end of the day I printed out the rally book and was marking page to make retrieving the information easy.   That’s when I stumbled upon bonus number 109  The group-N combo bonus.   This lovely bonus instructed that if we got 6 of them in a specific order and claimed the combo bonus, that we could score 6666 points.   That was about 1/2 of our 12,000 point route.  WOW, this was a game changer at the 11th hour.

So, of course more time was wasted trying to work that in.   It had lots of pitfalls.   All of the bonuses were only available on Saturday, so it had to be done in 14 hours.  Worse, 4 of them were daylight only bonuses.   Daylight was defined as:  Enough light to get a photo with background items clearly defined or some such nonsense.   That meant with Sunrise being at 0700, it left you with roughly 7 hours to get the remaining four.   While I was sure someone could pull it off, I was sure it was on the edge of our ability and was more likely to cause us to DNF so we wrote that bonus off.

Still we were confident that our route would score well.  Maybe a group-n getter would beat us.   But maybe they’d DNF for trying too.

We left Thursday morning for Clarksville confident we had a good route.   Then we read a question posed to the group.   If you took your rest bonus after the odo-check would that be doubled?  Pfffft I thought.   That doubling nonsense isn’t meant for those types of bonuses, I thought to myself.

Well it wasn’t meant for that but there wasn’t any wording saying it couldn’t so it would be allowed.   The rest bonus was worth 2000 points.  Ugh, making that worth a potential 4000, one that 3/4 the field would go for was a game changer.

We’d have to reassess for the 87th time.


After completing our tour of Makers Mark, and visiting the National parks we landed at our hotel for the start.  Went and got dinner, and re-evaluated the plan.   We still felt that our plan was good, in fact, shifting things around to double our rest bonus would actually score fewer points so we elected to skip that.

At the start we were discussing our plans with John Frick.  We told him what we were going to do.   He said it was a good plan but risky.  We agreed.  Then he mentioned that it was smart that we were starting our rest bonus when we did, and reminded us that we couldn’t start it before 10am.

We got our start receipts, and we were off.

On the way to our first bonus, I looked at our schedule and timeline.   Uh, our rest bonus was supposed to start at 8pm.  For roughly 4 hours.  That meant we wouldn’t have enough rest since it couldn’t be started until 10pm.  How could we have over looked this?   (Knob Creek, that’s how).

I love Knob Creek, but uh maybe it shouldn’t be consumed when planning a rally.

Just before grabbing our first bonus I mentioned to Kyle that we were ‘screwed’, and we were.

At the bonus location we discussed it, and decided we’d just have to adapt and make the best of it.   If we converted our 2000 rest bonus into a 4000 rest bonus by doubling it, we could shift it and pick up some other stuff to make up for it.

It was a good plan, a good adjustment.

We grabbed the first bonus at 10:08am #74 the Factory Water Tower in Franklin TN worth 222 points.

and moved on to the next #73 Billy Hollow Road sign in Pleasant Shade, TN worth 333 points.

and then #70 the crossville water tower with Budd’s sign in the photo for 111 points.

We added Willy G’s grave for 555 points in south Pittsburgh, TN, to help buffer the and make up for dropping stuff later:

it was quite a bit out of the way.

Then we got crushed by traffic in Chattanooga and Knoxville.  Which cost us almost 3 hours on our way to  Kingsport, TN for 222 points.



The photo was taken at 8:30, in our schedule we should have been there at 6pm.  The gig was up.  At that point we knew we were way off schedule, and way off our core route.

We headed to the barn for the 12:01 ODO check and 3 hours rest and recalculate.

Things just weren’t going our way.

We ended up at the Rally HQ at 12:30 instead of 12:01.  We took off in the fog on the ODO check ride, only to miss a turn, which forced us to do it AGAIN by the time we were done it was 0130 which meant we couldn’t leave the hotel until our 3 hour rest bonus was up at 0430.  About an hour later than planned.

A word about rest bonuses.

We’ve slept in church parking lots, we’ve slept in gas station parking lots, we’ve slept on picnic tables.   But last year at the Void, I learned the VALUE of even as few as 3 hours sleep in a bed, in a warm hotel.   It’s worth $50 for a cheap hotel, even for only 3 hours.

I was sure that we’d be able to get a room at the host hotel.  And since the hotel is (or was) a complete dive, it would have to be cheap right?  Wrong.   They have or are in the process of renovating it and making it nice.   The group rate for the rally was $89 a night.   Honestly I thought that was outrageous and price gouging for that luxury hotel, and by luxury I mean total shit-bag.  But upon returning I was mildly surprised that it was in better shape and was clearly on the path to being a better place.   So I asked the clerk if they had rooms, he said ‘sure’ but he wasn’t able to give us the rally rate and that it would be $125 for a room.

Uh, no.   At that point I wasn’t aware that the rooms were recently remodeled, even so, no, not $125.  Not when I can sleep in your lobby for FREE.  The hotel was kind enough to let people sleep on the floor of the meeting center room.  But honestly the last place I wanted to sleep was on a concrete albeit carpeted concrete floor with 25 other guys snoring like you wouldn’t believe.  So uh, no thanks.

Instead of taking $50 or $75 from me, they let a room go un-sold for the evening.  That’s hotel management 101 failure right there.

So anyway, we decided to see if there was any possibility of resurrecting our botched plan.   I spent about 45 minutes looking at what we could do and we decided to bag it.  But we couldn’t check into our room until 12pm the next day.   We spent our 3 hours in the lobby.  Kyle napped upright on the couch.  I simply can’t sleep like that so I stayed up the whole time talking to Hooch, and Jim Pucket.    When our rest time was over we decided we’d run out and get the low hanging fruit.  After all it would all be doubled.    We identified 3 bonuses that would be an fairly easy 400 mile route and add 1400 points to the bottom line.

We saddled up and rode ~70 or some miles, in the dark, in the cold (we saw 38 degrees in some valleys, and arrived at our destination at 06:15.  I grabbed the rally book to read the description.   But we weren’t at bonus number 98, we were at bonus number 90.    So instead of being worth 444 points it was only worth 12, and best of all it was daylight only so we had to stand around for 45 minutes to get the photo:

This was the last straw.  We chucked.   It wasn’t mean to be.   A nice family restaurant at this location opened at 0700, so we stopped, sat down and had a nice breakfast.  Western Omelets and Biscuits and gravy.  Yum.

We left there and grabbed two more bonuses, a 111 pointer and 222 pointer (each to be doubled) and headed back to Rally HQ.

We were back early, like 2 hours early.   But hey we were finishers 🙂 and as it worked out we were right there at the top of the bell curve.

So now we need to buy a shirt 😉

We had a blast, just over 1020 miles or something silly low like that for a rally.   That coupled with mileage to the start and home on Sunday wrapped up a 2000 mile weekend.

We didn’t have nearly the luck or results we wanted but we had fun, and that’s what it’s all about.   Good roads, good friends, good times.


Can’t wait until next year.

Mason Dixon 20-20 for 2011

What is a motorcycle rally?

If you already know what a Motorcycle Endurance Rally is.  Maybe because you read my report form last year (2010) or 2009 you can skip this section and go straight to the Ride report.   Otherwise, the basics are explained in the (2010) report.

This year’s rally them was the 500.

A Racing theme, no the rally still isn’t a race but the bonus location were race related.  Race tracks, and race teams, race horses, and race things in general.

We were given the bonus locations a week a head of time.  There’s software we use to sort and organize the bonus locations and place them on a map for route figuring.   We color code them based up on value.  This year the values were *special*, in that most were worth less than (1) point.  Like .66 or 1.05 or something silly.  Why is this important?  For one it breaks the excel macro’s for color coding and it just sucks to ride a bunch of miles for like 18 points.

Once the bonuses were fixed and plotted the looked like so:


(Click for larger image)

Rally HQ was Hagerstown MD.

Essentially, to be a finisher you had to score 3 numbered bonus locations plus the mandatory visit to Fort Indiantown Gap cemetery to visit Jim.

As mentioned all the bonus points were sub 5 points, with the exception of 6.

Flight 93, Battery Park (Manhattan, NY) and Arlington Cemetary, DC were worth 11 points each.   There was a bonus of 467 points if you got all 3 (for a total of 500).   So that pretty much made these mandatory.

Then there was Indianapolis for 100 points,  Randleman, NC for 42 points and some crazy location in Wyoming for 751 points.  (The Sucker Bonus).

So after review:



It was clear to score well you’d have to get the big 3.  If you wanted a shot at winning you’d also have to get Indy and possibly Randleman.

To complicate things, NY, DC, and Indy were daylight only bonuses.  You had to get them between 5:30am and 8:30pm.   Pretty crappy, since you only had from 5:30am to 2pm on Sunday.

There was one other wild card, at the rally hotel in Haggerstown, there was a bonus location available from 5pm-8pm Saturday.  Some skill challenges where you could score between –30 and 30 points.  The races/skill test was undefined, and since this is the Mason Dixon rally we had no ideal what type of shenanigans Rick would pull. 30 points would be a LOT in this rally, but with the chance to also lose, we decided we’d pass on those.

I won’t bore you with the 72 iterations that I went through to figure out where we’d go.  If you just got the big 3 you were in a for a nice 800ish mile ride.

But we weren’t in this for a nice ride, we wanted to score well for a change.  It was clear to me we needed Indy.  On Memorial weekend, yeah, race weekend, thanks Rick.

In the end we settled on this route:


From the barn, straight to flight 93, then beat feet to Indy.  Getting there around 1-2pm.  I did my homework, there was a parade at noon, and generally speaking the area around the bonus would be off-limits.  (Streets closed) but I figured that’d be cleared up by the time we got there.   There was no way I was going to try and go there on Race day, but some folks did at 5:30, about the only time you could *maybe* get it.

From Indy we’d pick up the low hanging fruit along I-70 that was close on our ride back to the hotel for our rest bonus.

We planned to sleep for 4 hours (1 more than the 3 hour minimum rest).  Then get up and run down to Arlington and be there at 5:30am, snap the picture of the memorial and get out of dodge before Rolling Blunder, with special guest Sarah Palin who would be in town (again, thanks Rick)

From Arlington, beat feet to Manhattan, get there around 9:30am, hopefully before to many tourists would hit Ground Zero.

Then to Jim’s grave, again picking up low hanging fruit on the way back to the barn.  That was the plan.  1620 or so miles in total.

And so it began.

With a LeMans start.  Rally riders 50 yards from their bikes with the helmets between us and our bikes.  (nice touch Rick).

Unlike 2010 we got started on time.

And we beat feat to Flight 93


From there it was a long ride to Indy.  We didn’t stop for anything other than fuel.

We made it to Indy, we had budgeted 1.5 hours to get this bonus.   We rolled right in like we owned the place.


Now technically this is NOT the item we were supposed to take a photo of.  But it met the definition.  “Take a photo of the 100 Year Anniversary Logo on the Museum” or something like that.  Hard to see in the photo but that white sign says “Museum Entrance”.   We were also parked right next to a vendor and bought our ‘wild-card checkered flag bonus’.   3 additional points were available if you crossed the finish line displaying a checkered flag.  At the pre-dinner, desert was cup-cakes that had little checkered flags in them.  I knew we needed that damn flag, but neither Kyle or myself had cupcakes and neither of us grabbed one.

From Indy we actually ran out west of Indy go John Force’s place to take a photo of Eric Medlen’s statue, a driver killed during a test run of one the Force Chassis.


We headed back to Haggerstown.  I –70 would be just as exciting the 2nd time around (not).

On the way back we grabbed the bonus at the John and Annie Glen Historic site:


From there some dilapidated old dirt track.


We got Holeshot motorsports in MD


Did I mention yet that riding the slab for 30 hours sucks?  Yeah, all interstate, who’s Idea was this?

At some airport that had been used for a makeshift race track a few times we were supposed to get a photo of ourselves on some playground equipment, but that playground no longer existed.  We called the Rallymaster and were instructed to get a photo of ourselves at the terminal so we did.


From there it was back to the hotel for the rest bonus.  Which is best documented by using an ATM receipt.  We each got them, then the ATM ate Kyle’s card.  Doh!

The idea given to me by the Void rally master when I had an issue getting a good ending receipt from the hotel last fall.  He said go to an ATM check your balance and use that for the start and ending receipts.  So that was the plan.

We discussed what we’d do to get him a stop receipt.  If you’re staying at the Ironbutt Hotel (sleeping on your bike or on the ground you’ll often just go to a gas station and buy something.   We did this the year prior.  Used a gas receipt, then slept on the ground for 3 hours and bought a cup of coffee from the same joint in the morning.

We decided that I’d just pull two receipts.   What was important was that the receipt came from the same location, same machine, not who’s card was used.  We reasoned that if I had paid for his coffee the year prior, it wouldn’t have mattered, so using my card wouldn’t matter.

We slept for 3.5 glorious hours.

We left a little early to get into DC with the least amount of fuss.

While we had budgeted an hour and a half to get the Indy bonus, it only took us about 20 minutes.  However that extra time we booked vanished over the next few hours.   We were concerned that we wouldn’t close the loop in time.  We had 600 miles to do and figured we’d probable loose ~30 minutes over that time.  Which meant we’d get the big ones and drop all the extras.

We ran to Arlington and go there about 5:15 and had to wait for 5:30 to roll around to take the photo.


We had to take a photo of the memorial and have the Washington memorial visible in the background.  (note there isn’t a time/datestamp on this photo because I switched to ‘night’ mode to get the monument to show up.

Then we ran straight to NY, dropping two bonuses along the way.

The trip inbound was pretty uneventful for NY.  We rolled up the the target, hopped off our bikes, and snapped the picture.  Kyle got some random tourist to hold his flag.


The target was the globe in the background.   The guys directing the bus traffic weren’t real happy with us but we were in and out in less than a minute.

From NY it was all down hill.   We had one more mandatory stop at Jim’s grave.


We blew off a couple other bonuses and just headed to the barn.


In the end we clocked in with 1640 miles (or there abouts, I don’t know what the final corrected value was).   783.28 points with all wildcard and check in bonuses.  A good ride.

(IF) we’d a picked up just one or maybe two of the other planned bonuses of which we probably had time to get since we were back 15 minutes before penalty time, we coulda maybe won.  But then again, (IF) my aunt had balls she’d be my Uncle.

Good enough for 4th and 5th.


I’m happy with this finish all things considered.  We planned our ride and rode our plan.  We rode safely, and slept well.  Or at least well enough.

But the story doesn’t end there.  After scoring I went out to put the cover on my bike and was greeted with this:


Ouch, with 500 miles to ride to get home, that wasn’t going to work.   At the banquet I asked about tires and tried to find a solution.  Most motorcycle shops aren’t opened on Monday’s let alone memorial day Monday.   It was looking like I’d have to spend an extra night and buy a tire on Tuesday.

Then Ron Moser came to my rescue, he was quite sure he had a ‘take off tire’ that would get me home.  His place was on the way.  150 miles on the way but on the way no-less.  He also had tire changing equipment.   Now I just had to get there.   150 miles was doable with the aid of… wait for it …


Gorilla tape.


Stop laughing now.

It actually worked out fairly well.  We taped it up, rode 10 miles checked it, it was good.  We stopped about every 20 miles, checked it, re-taped if necessary and eventually got to Ron’s

Things learned: this works.

It works best when you keep the speed down, like under 60, more like 50-55.   Yeah it was hard being passed by trucks, and Harley’s for 150 miles.  But I swallowed my pride in the name of safety and we made it.   150 miles is pretty much the max though.  That tire was way beyond done by the time we got to Ron’s place.




But with my newly mounted new to me Pilot Road, I was good to go.

For what it’s worth, the tire was a Pirelli Angel.  It had 5500 miles on it prior to the rally and looked really goo, good enough for me to take to a rally and expect to be able to put 2500 miles on.  I really though it had another 2500 in it or I would not have ridden the rally with it.   While these tires were ‘good’ they weren’t great, and obviously give up rather quickly toward the end, which isn’t good for me.

At the end of the weekend I piled 2599.2 miles on the FJR, now affectionately named ‘Trigger’.   I need personalized plates.


The end…