Monday, October 8, 2012

2012 Void Rally Ride Report

Wow…another great Void Rally is in the bag. The Void is essentially the end of the rallying season here on the east coast. There are one or two short local rallies after the Void this year, but the Void is the last of the 24-hour rallies on this coast.



The rally book for the Allentown starters came out on Tuesday, 2 October 2012. That gave me Tuesday evening and Wednesday evening to think about the routing options, before heading northeast to Allentown on Thursday. I worked up a couple of what I thought were good options, and slept on it to see if I got any more insight.

One of the themes for this year’s Void (there’s a theme every year) was SQRT(49), so the bonus location values were all a multiple of 7. I fixated on a bonus location at Fort Monroe, VA – this was a bonus location that I didn’t select during Butt Lite 6IX, and I got it into my head that I just had to go this time. To add to the challenge, the Fort Monroe bonus didn’t open until 1030, and the route between Fort Monroe and Lynchburg meant that I had to leave moments after 1030 to make it to the finish before penalties started.

With a couple of options plotted out, I was ready to head to Allentown. Connie was originally to ride with me, but she wound up on the injured list, so I rode this one solo. Bummer.

I got my usual late start out of Northern Virginia, so I wound up arriving in Allentown after midnight.


I stayed at the Hampton Inn in Allentown on Thursday night. I had called ahead to make sure they (a) had an Allentown address on their receipt, and (b) could give me a checkout time on the checkout receipt. I was very happy about getting this critical planning element out of the way so early.

The hotel certainly came through on (a), but I didn’t find out until 0850 (the opening of the start time) that the counter person couldn’t manage to get a printed time on the checkout receipt. Ugh. Well, I was off to find a place that could generate a proper receipt before the 0910 deadline. I stopped at a Sunoco station (that other riders had tried), only to find that the clock on the register was over one hour off. Amazing. So, I tried a CVS – didn’t have an Allentown address. Finally, I located a Rite Aid that was in the right place, and had the correct time on their receipt. With a couple of minutes left until I became a DNS (Did Not Start – riders that weren’t officially on the road by 0910 were out of the event), I had my receipt in hand, and the required text was sent to the rally staff. The lesson here was to skip the reliance on the hotel, and scout out the big box drugstores in the area.

The Ride.

My first bonus location was the Cabela’s store in Hamburg, PA. I had visited this store during its grand opening several years ago, and it was nice to stop by again, even if only for three minutes. The store is a spectacle of outdoor gear and activities – I heartily recommend it as a stop.

There’s a nice sculpture of a canoe out front, and my assignment was to get a photograph of my flag and that sculpture. As it often is, my bike was a perfect rally flag holder.


From Hamburg, I traveled southwest to visit the highway marker for the Tapeworm Railroad. As you can see in the photograph, there were several of us on this route.


Funkstown, MD was the next stop. I overshot this location by a bit, and had to do a U-turn to get back to the parking lot where my bike (and others) are parked.


The next stop was the Road Kill Café, located in Artemas, PA. The road to and from the Road Kill Café was awesome.


I’ve been to the Farnham Colossi earlier this year (one of my Roadside America trips), so I knew what to expect. I didn’t expect the novel route that my Garmin GPSr would suggest – I knew of the paved road adjacent to the property; what I didn’t know is the goat trail that allows a “shortcut” to get to that paved road. Helpfully, the Garmin maps showed the speed limit as 55 mph on the goat trail, so every foot of 15 MPH to avoid shaking the bike loose on the gravel and washboard cost time against the budget. Oh well, “they” say that there’s a GS hiding under all that RT “tupperware”, so off I went. I got there safely, found the correct statue (third from the left), and got the photograph.


From there, I headed south to find a historic marker on Rt 50 in Virginia. I’ve been by this spot many times over the years…this time, I got to stop, take a photograph, and snag 49(!) points.


My next stop was the John Marshall’s Birthplace memorial near Midland, Virginia. I’ve been here before, too, so I knew that there was a ~1/2 mile hike to the monument that was likely to be really muddy. I’d factored in the 20 minutes I’d need for the hike the trail, take the photograph, and then hike out. There was a couple of fellow bikers hanging out on a picnic bench as I arrived – I imagine they thought it was odd that riders in ATGATT were showing up, doffing helmets and jackets, and hustling down the trail with a camera and golf towel (err, rally flag). I was happy to have them hang out on the picnic table, though, figuring that they’d keep an eye on my bike.


From the John Marshall Birthplace memorial, I had a nice (but slow – “rush” hour traffic) ride to Orange, Virginia. I had misjudged the effect of Friday afternoon traffic on my schedule. I simply hemorrhaged time as I sat behind trucks and school buses on the two-lane, no-passing-zone roads in that part of Virginia.

The Orange County Airport is located just outside the historic town of Orange, Virginia. As some (not me, thankfully) visitors say, “stop for the speeding ticket, stay for the history”. The goal at the Orange County Airport was to locate a stamp, and use the stamp on my rally book. I searched both the old operations building, and the new one, and couldn’t locate the stamp. A quick call to the Rally Masters settled on a substitute – a photograph of the Orange County Airport sign.


Orange is also home to one of the more popular Harley-Davidson dealers in the mid-Atlantic, Waugh Enterprises.

From Orange, I needed to head west, to the crest of Skyline Drive, in Shenandoah National Park.

This highway marker is on the eastbound side of U.S. 33, across the street from the entrance to Skyline Drive. I hadn’t scouted this location online, so when my GPSr said to find it in the park, into the park I went. I realized after looking at the GPSr closer, that the marker was outside the park. I lost a couple of minutes fumbling for my park pass and doing a few U-turns.


From the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe bonus, I needed to ride to Natural Chimneys Regional Park to get a photograph of the sign at the entrance. It was getting dark, so I used my headlights to help illuminate the sign.


I’ve been by the golf course at Swannoa several times (while motorcycling, not golfing), so I had a good idea what I should find at the bonus location. It was dark by this time, so I brought a flashlight, along with my camera and flag, to find the bonus location.


There was some huge social event going on at Washington and Lee University the evening I stopped by. I imagine that the young women dressed up for some kind of party were amused with a ATGATT rider stopping by to make a quick photo stop.


This is a photograph of a bikini-clad woman riding a dinosaur in Glasgow, VA. This hasn’t been on my giant critters list until now. I’ll have to come back in the daylight to get a proper picture.


I’d been by the next location on my own travels – it had been a bonus location for this year’s Cape Fear Rally, but I didn’t stop for it then – I thought it was too far off the track. My GPSr said the location was right off the road. It was dark, but I couldn’t find anything like the description given in the rally pack (something like “find a gate hanging from two stone pillars”), so after thinking about the problem for a few seconds, I elected to head up a gravel road (past a sign letting me know that the area was really closed after dusk). After going up the gravel road a few hundred meters, the gate became visible in my headlights.


Having taken the needed photograph, I turned around in the gravel very carefully, then continued south.

I’d lost enough time during “rush hour” in central Virginia that I dropped one of the bonus locations south of Roanoke. With that one dropped, the bonus in Roanoke was the last one before heading to Lynchburg to get a couple of hours of sleep.

Connie and I had been to Roanoke earlier in the year; while there, I wanted to snag a particular virtual geocache (I build practice rallies using virtual geocaches, normal geocaches, and roadside attractions, among other things). Imagine my surprise when I find myself back in the same spot, in downtown Roanoke, reading historical markers! There was some kind of event going on, so it was fun to find a safe place to park the bike near the marker. One of the EMTs on duty came over to ask me what all the motorcyclists were doing, jumping off their bikes, writing down numbers, then getting back on their bikes to get out of town. Pretty funny.

After Roanoke, it was time to take the mandatory rest stop. Because of my fixation on Fort Monroe, I elected to take the mandatory rest at the Rally HQ hotel in Lynchburg. During the Void in 2011, I did the odometer check just after midnight, and completed the rest bonus at the rally hotel.

I scoped out a place to start and stop the mandatory rest bonus – it was a 24-hour grocery store in Lynchburg. We were to put no more than 6 miles on the odometer from the start of the mandatory rest to the end. I thought I had a LOT more margin that I did…I nearly used up all six miles in getting from the grocery store, to the hotel, and back again.

After some nice rest, I was off again, heading south and east.

This highway marker near Pleasant Hill, NC, discussing the exploits of Lord Cornwallis, was missing the good stuff. I got a picture of what was left, then went off in search of a receipt. By this time, I was a little short on fuel, as well, so I was hunting for a fuel station.


This nearby place was happy to sell me a candy bar, but couldn’t produce a computer generated receipt with all the right information, so I snapped a picture, then went off in search of fuel.


My next stop was to visit a historical marker to retrieve some dates (one of the other themes of this year’s Void was math, so there were several bonus locations that involved numbers).

My next stop was the Ruritan Memorial in Sunbury, NC.


I visited the Fort Monroe National Monument to get a stamp for my rally book (28 points!) and for my National Parks stamp book (which I carry in the tank bag). Fort Monroe really turned out to be a bad idea – I got caught in the usual traffic jam on I-64, and there was just too much riding and not enough bonus stopping. Oh, well.

So, after getting out of the I-64 traffic, I was headed back to Lynchburg. I knew I was going to be in the penalty window, but that I could get enough points at the next bonus to pay the incremental penalty and give me enough time to complete the scoring packet before the next penalty increment kicked in.

This would have been a lot better, were it a chicken…had to settle for a nice dairy cow, though.



I made it back to Lynchburg a few minutes after the penalty window started, but the elevated cow offset the first penalty increment. I got my stuff off the bike, scribbled the last bit of data necessary to get the scoring packet complete, then checked in to stop the clock.

I did okay at the scoring table, leaving no points on the table (which is really good).


The banquet was first-rate (as is usual for the Void Rally). I got a lot of time to chat with my friends, before I headed back to my room to get a nice night’s sleep.

The journey home.

We’d had spectacular weather for the rally – reasonably clear skies, with very pleasant early October temperatures. That was not to hold, though. The rain started sometime overnight, so the area was pretty damp when I got up on Sunday morning.

I waited for the weather to clear a bit – I’m usually either nearly the last or the last out of the parking lot to head back for the barn. Today was no exception. It was a bit chilly and damp, but it was still a nice ride home.

I can hardly wait for the 2013 rally season to begin!

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