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 accessorizing 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.
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.