Getting my feet wet (depending on the weather)

I may have spoken too soon about the appeal of long distance riding. I specifically referred to ‘hard-core’ events like the Iron Butt Rally. I read and researched what I would need to do physically, mentally and mechanically to prepare for a a very long lap around the continent and guess what? I became completely immersed in the world of these people.

At first, I focused on Wing3Stuff027accessorizing and augmenting the hardware – better lighting and a more reliable, robust electrical system, GPS navigation system, communication – and figured I would learn from the masters of “farkles.” The term, farkle, well known in the sport touring community refers to an add-on that offers “function” and “sparkle” (some have suggested the acronym F.A.R.K.L.E. — Fancy Accessory Really Kool Likely Expensive is more accurate, some long distance riders’ machines are as tricked out as a modern fighter jet.)

I wanted to know what worked, what didn’t, and why. Ride Reports are commonplace from many enthusiasts, whether detailing the preparation and participation in a rally, or just a day trip to enjoy the open space and vistas. I looked for reports highlighting the success (or failure) of new ideas, but the more I read, the more I wanted to get involved… now!

Then it occurred to me – golf tournaments were scheduled weeks in advance, planning for these days afforded me more chances to play; upcoming one and two-day rallies were the incentive I needed to start taking those rides. So I signed up for one – The Void.

Rallies are akin to a scavenger hunt on wheels; given a long list of locations (sometimes located hundreds of miles away from each other) received just before the start, select a route that includes the locations you will attempt to visit, take pictures of your steed (and a flag with your ID# on it) in front of the landmark or collect a time-stamped receipt, converge on a checkpoint and add up the scores. The Void Rally is being held for the 9th time this October. It’s a chance for old friends (whom I’ve yet to meet) to use a very large map as a playground. It starts on a Friday morning in (for me) Lancaster, PA, and ends 31 hours later in Fredericksburg, VA. There’s a clever twist to the scoring of this rally; typically harder to get to locations are more valuable (on a large scale of points.) This rally’s locations are worth 1-6 points, and you have those 31 hours to fill out the best Yahtzee scorecard you can. This should be fun!

In preparation for what some consider a “nice little rally,” I read the book Against the Wind by Ron Ayres. Written in 1997, it’s out of date technologically – discussing the advantage of a cellular phone, and the German who built a computer into his fairing to use SATNAV (GPS) signals – but it is an excellent account of the determination and tenacity these riders display.

AgainstTheWind_Sm

Most long distance riders are asked why they take on such grueling challenges for up to 11 days at a time (Jim Frens finished the biennial Iron Butt Rally with 14,185 miles in 11 days!) and Ayres’s answer is succinct:

“Endurance riding is as far removed from traditional motorcycle touring as mountain climbing is from hiking well-worm paths through national parks.”

I’d like to think I have the fortitude to accomplish what others have, and this rally is dipping my toe into a world known to just a few. It’s a big country, why ride across it? Because it’s there.