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The Void 9 Ride Report

And we’re off!  Arrived at the Sheetz gas station I had previously scoped out around 8:45, to be sure I had time to spare.  After some final checks that things were secured where they needed to be, I pulled to the pump and with 5 fresh gallons on board, I had my start time of 8:51 a.m.  Fire off the start text to the rally master, and head west on Rt. 30 for about 30 minutes to York, PA.  On the exit ramp, I check for the SMS reply acknowledging the start text… and there isn’t one.  Call the Rallymaster and get generic voicemail.  Uhm, that’s weird.  Let’s not take a chance and call the other RM phone number.  Gary says that Scott’s phone is very busy, but when I recite the number I had programmed into the phone, I’m referred back to the rally pack.  Fair enough… DAMN!  mistake #1, I programmed the WRONG phone number into the phone!  Copy & past the text into the right number, and almost immediately get the “K” response back at 9:18 a.m., less than 2 minutes before incurring a penalty.

2014_Void9-01-SHO

A few turns from the first bonus, The Shoe House, and I see some other riders headed in the same direction (this is a good sign) and park so that I stay out of everyone’s way.  I didn’t want to be “that damn rookie” folks trade stories about at the end.

Mistake #2, thinking the back pouch on the Alpinestars jacket was a good place for my rally book.  Picture a large man doing a comedic imitation of an emperor penguin trying to get a “Kick Me” sign off his back.  I’ll be taking this jacket off at least twice more to get at the book; must start thinking of alternatives during the next leg.

Mistake #3, failing to preload waypoints into ANY GPS.

2014_Void9-02-6-TAP Continue reading The Void 9 Ride Report

The Void 9 (2014) – Results

When in doubt, put the ODO reading on everything!  I had lost the Rest Bonus wildcard for lack of an ODO reading on the hotel receipts.  More humiliating, I had not put the Rest Bonus wildcard on the Yahtzee score sheet!  Much ado about nothing.

After the much needed shower and costume change, Virginia and I head down to the ballroom for the Void 9 banquet.  The points I left on the road and on the table haunt me as I wait for the result to be announced.  Scoring 292 of the 314 points I had originally planned should have me placing well, possibly even a podium finish.

Of the 38 Lancaster starters, 3rd place was announced with Jon Good & Ande Bergman’s score of 296, 2nd place was had be Don Stadtler with 305 and Billy Connacher finished 1st with 328 points.  I still can’t imagine how he pulled off 328 points; I hope the RM’s will post the Yahtzee score sheets of the podium finishers (I understand the privacy concerns around the logs themselves.)

When the full results were posted at the end of the banquet, I saw that I had placed 4th.  The lost points had actually cost me a podium finish, but this was a remarkably good finish for my first event.  It also strengthened my desire to do this again, so I will be signing up for a couple of east coast events in 2015.

The complete results of the 2014 Void 9 rally were:

Continue reading The Void 9 (2014) – Results

The Void 9 (2014) – Preparation

The Void Rally is one of the few rallies near enough to the New York City tri-
state area for me to “try it on for size.” You see, I’ve never before competed
in a rally. For that matter, I’ve never ridden more than 250 miles in one day.

Competed might be too strong a word for a motorcycle rally. A multi-day rally
might have some serious competitive weight being thrown around to be podium
finisher, but this sounds like more of a get together for dinner two nights in a
row, with a lot of miles in between. The reports I’ve read from these events
sound like regular reunions of old friends that only see each other when one of
these rolls around.

The first of three parts of the rally pack, the rules and instructions to follow came with what must have thrown rally veterans, a Yahtzee score sheet. The twist for this rally was that bonii would not simply be valued higher based on difficulty or distance, but deviously and strategically valued 1-6 points like the six side of a die. The instructions included special rules about scoring, particularly how to log and score “straights” and “wildcards.” Straights (small=4 in a row, large=5 in a row) must be claimed (logged) in sequential order with nothing breaking the sequence (except fuel stops.) This should make for some creative routing! Wildcards would be actions taken (and logged) by the rider; texting the rallymaster, resting (both mandatory) or a receipt of charitable donation etc.; which could be used to fill in scores where you needed, but not in any straight!

So as the start of this rally approaches, I need to start preparing myself and the bike, which got a some new electric circuits to power the electronics in the tank bag and a USB power adapter to feed the Garmin GPS and a brand-new (actually, second hand) Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4″ tablet. Maybe that photo of the Gold Wing with a FLiR system made an impact, maybe I was at a very impressionable age when I saw Jackie Chan’s Mitsubishi in Cannonball Run, maybe I resort to throwing technology at a problem… but this was to be my view from the saddle:

Android Dash

Waze routing with live traffic and road conditions, live weather radar, Bubbler GPS reporting to SPOTwalla (or so I thought…) even Google access and my music library; all presented in a 4-way display with a customized view of Android.

A few days out from the start, and the rally flag arrived in the mail. Inspired by other riders’ ideas, I pass small key rings with clips and magnets at the four corner and decide on a safe and secure place to stow this important prop; under the GPS pouch on the tank bag. This was easy to get in and out, and secured by large strips of Velcro. Secure the camera in the sleeve under the tank bag case, and this should allow one-stop shopping at bonus locations.

New hydration pack tested (how do you wash these things properly???), what will surely be WAY too many snacks (jerky, trail mix, meal bars and shakes etc. and so on) packed, I watch my inbox for more morsels of information.

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.

Starting to think about LD Riding

Long Distance riders participate in aptly named events like SaddleSore, BunBurner and Iron Butt Rally. Usually these accomplishments are hard-core, like 1,000 miles in 24 hours, or some multiple thereof. These really don’t appeal to me, but the idea of traversing, even circumnavigating the country, or North America… that kind of a goal seems to suit me just right.

There’s a guy from Oregon that’s planning a 50/60/70 trip; 50 states/provinces in 60 days for his 70th birthday.  Let’s not wait that long to try something like that. There’s the Ultimate Coast to Coast – Key West, Florida to… Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. I’ve been north of the Arctic Circle, but we never made it to the Arctic Sea due to fuel constraints; something that needs to be rectified.

But the really appealing option ride is the Ultimate Circumnavigation of North America: Home to Key West, Florida to Brownsville, Texas to San Diego, California to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Inuvik, NWT to Goose Bay, Labrador to Madawaska, ME and back home. 17,000 miles in one month! (https://goo.gl/maps/Uyzby).

Over the next few years, with progressively longer rides throughout, I will prepare myself, and my ride, for the rigors of riding that kind of distance, perhaps before I turn 50.