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.

Rally The Void

Rally the Void

Back in May I did the Mason-Dixon 20-20 Motorcycle Rally. Despite being run off-route and into the wilderness by Mr. Garmin, Kyle and I still scored respectably for first-timers.

The Void Rally is run in October. It’s essentially the last rally of the year for the east coast. I was looking forward to giving this rally thing a go again and hopefully scoring better.

It’s not easy to explain this rally thing in just a few words. But essentially, about a week before the rally you’re given the bonus locations and point values. By locations it’s simply something like this:

Bonus ID: 69 Latitude: 38.7928 Longitude: -77.0475 Point Value: 150
Availability and Notes: 24 hours

What you don’t know is what you actually have to do at that particular spot in order to get the points. You might have a clue, maybe you’re familiar with the area or have seen this bonus location on another rally.
Now if you’re smart you’ll at least look at a satellite photo or something:


As you can see, the photo, and probably your Garmin will stop you around the green arrow. I’ve circled the most likely target for this bonus, the light house. A mere ½ mile hike to get to it. In this case the bonus was actually the first boundary stone for the District of Columbia placed in the 1700’s.

You don’t know the details of the bonus locations until the night before when you get your rally book.

The Void has 2 formats, a 24 hour format similar to the MD-2020, with the exception that it starts in 3 different locations all ending up in Lynchburg VA. The other mode is a 10 hour rally that starts and ends in Lynchburg.

Dad traveled with us to the MD-2020 but didn’t participate. He’s done 24 hour rides but isn’t too keen on riding Virginia or West Virginia roads in the dark if he doesn’t have too. Something about your night vision going as you get older. So I elected to run the 10 hour format with him.

I mean how hard can this be? 10 hours? 500 miles tops?

Well, if it can go wrong it did. We (or I) broke a number of the cardinal rules for rallying and routing.

  1. Your route, if you can help it, should be circular, or at least have a couple bail-out points just in case you can’t get all the way through it. Our route was more an out-and-back, route, with the out part being too far for the conditions at hand.
  2. Know where you’re going if possible. Neither of us had ridden in any of these areas, but we’ll know what to expect next time.
  3. Avoid Big Cities, during daylight hours, and completely if possible. (We hit D.C. in the middle of a Saturday afternoon and traffic was crazy, I can’t imagine what it would be like on a weekday).
  4. Stay on big roads. (We didn’t do too badly at this, but we still ran into a lot of traffic on 2 lane roads through Fredericksburg and other towns).

It started to go bad with Bonus location number one on our stop. Take a photo of a sign at a historic tavern and mill.

We got there no problem, but we couldn’t find the sign. We had suspicions that it no longer existed. I didn’t get a chance to see any of the photos that other ralliers took so I didn’t get to confirm that. We did find the wording on the building itself in a glass case, and we found a sign post that was missing it’s sign. We documented both just in case.

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We screwed around at this location for far too long. What should take 5-10 minutes tops took us almost 40 minutes? Minutes we simply didn’t have. Time wasted looking for the sign, deciding to take the photo of other things, screwing around with cameras that weren’t working properly, etc.

We also needed fuel; we didn’t start with a full tank and should have. We then beet feet for a gas station and the next bonus location, only to arrive at said location at 7:45 am to realize that the bonus location wasn’t open or available until 9am. Ugh! This wasn’t all that wasteful; it didn’t really take us out of the way and was only a mere 25 point location. We made the executive decision to skip it. It wasn’t in the cards to come back.

Along the way we spotted a John Deere dealership. Since this was the Blue Collar Rally (aka the Red Neck Rally) it only made sense that we’d have bonuses like:

Find a John Deere Dealership: Get a photo of the dealership that showed the sign and a piece of equipment. For additional points get a photo of you in a piece of JD equipment.

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We’d like to take this opportunity to thank the fine folks at Virginia Tractor. They were more than gracious about our silly request and even gave us John Deere hats!

Other bonuses included: Purchasing moon-pies and beef jerkey. Getting your photo taken in front of a laundry mat with a just married sign attached to your bike.

At the next location we found the gate to the bonus location was locked, however, the rally masters knew this was a possibility and the book instructed us that a parking permit from the visitor’s center would suffice. The only problem with that was it was another 8 miles down the road out of the way, and took a conversation with park officials to get.

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After obtaining said permit we marched onward.

Our next location was the ballpark for the Potomac Nationals. We needed to get a photo of their team store sign. Simple enough right? Well, no! Prince William Parkway is 3-5 lanes wide and total chaos around 11am and goes through a shopping district. It was insane. The longest traffic lights in the world are located along this road. We also needed to hit a Famous Dave’s BBQ in this area to get a take-out menu. Of course when we realized this, it was on the other side of said 6 lane divided thru-way.

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By then we pretty much figured we were sunk. Just prior to this series of stops we hit a McDonalds to check on our progress and it wasn’t good. We were going to have to bail early, we were running over an hour and a half behind and this last series didn’t help at all.

We decided to throw caution into the wind and head for D.C. anyway. Why not right? I’d never been there before. Holy smokes traffic on I-95 heading into the city, in fact 30 miles outside of the city it was getting bad. Traffic that very much reminded me of Atlanta. 12:00 on a Saturday afternoon and it was slow and congested. Trying to get to the lighthouse was an adventure.

When we finally arrived it became clear we were hosed. We had a 3/12 hour ride back to Rally HQ, but only 3 hours to do it. You can make up 10 minutes on the interstate, but not necessarily 30 but we decided to give it a go.

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The Boundary Stone.

By the time we were at Fredericksburg again, we had shaved our deficit to just 15 minutes. We weren’t riding all that hard, in fact we were mostly trying not to get run over on I-95. There was still a problem though, we needed fuel again. After some stop and go traffic in Fredericksburg we decided, it’s just a game, it is what it is. We’re going to DNF, so let’s take it easy, get something to eat, all the Rally bubba’s and let them know we won’t be back in time.

We stopped at an Arby’s to make the phone call. Dad parked his bike but somehow didn’t have it just right. I was just about to dial the phone when I heard this horrendous ‘crash’ and the sound of plastic breaking, no, shattering. Dad had somehow managed to park his RT in such a way that after he dismounted and went to open a side case it just tipped over. The sound of a 600 lb motorcycle crashing down on top of his helmet pretty much marked the end of what was otherwise a great ride.
We picked up the pieces, and grabbed some grub.

It just wasn’t meant to be.

We still had a blast, saw some spectacularly beautify country and rode some great roads.

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For what it’s worth:
Route 311 is in WV, is awesome. So is 611/606 Grove Hill Road. Well worth the ride if you’re in that part of the country.

Until next year!