Rally the Void 11, Voidopoly

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BkerChuck

Second hand vegetarian
Joined
Aug 20, 2012
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Location
Etters, PA
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Columbus Day weekend marked the 11th running of the Void rally a 31 hour long distance rally and the 4th attempt for Mona and me to take our chance and roll the dice on a good ride. Registration took place in the early summer and the rally masters did their usual trick of slowly dropping clues regarding this year’s theme. Our first time riding this event was music themed, the second time we played Yahtzee. Last year was a movie and TV theme and this year we realized early on it would be a variation of the board game Monopoly. The normal procedure on these rallies is for the bonus list to be revealed about a week prior to the event and for the final instruction rally log book to come out only a day or two before you leave. In the case of the Void rally riders have the option of starting from one of 3 start locations and everyone finishes in Fredericksburg, VA. This year’s starting cities were Reading, PA, Columbia, TN or Tifton, GA. Riders must declare their starting location when they register.

Being from PA it only made sense for Mona and I to start from Reading and we reserved a hotel room for Thursday night so we could ride over after work and wake up ready to go rather than having to ride 60 odd miles before even getting on the clock. I’m sure most of you have played Monopoly at some point and remember how many rules there are. Voidopoly would be no different and in order to give riders an understanding of how we would play they released that list an extra week early. All 9 pages of it. Like the board game we would be trying to gather up like colored bonuses so they could be improved with houses and hotels. Riders would start the game with $1500 in their bank and every mile they rode would add $1 to their account. Bonuses had different point values and one must have enough money in their bank to “buy “the bonus.

After getting 5 colored bonuses, trains and utilities don’t count, you could claim to pass “GO” and add $200 to your bank. “Free Parking” would be the mandatory 3 hour minimum rest bonus but you could take longer and each minute past 3 hours added $1 to your bank up to an extra 3 hours’ worth. All riders had to claim “Income Tax” as their first bonus on Saturday and pay either a flat tax of 200 points from your score or 10% of their score they had accrued by midnight Friday. After completing a set of colored properties by riding to them, getting the required pictures, and having enough money in your bank to complete the deals you would automatically be granted 1 house. The house didn’t cost any money from your bank they simply gave you points for at scoring. If your plan enabled you to gather up a second set of the same color it added a second house and so on. As usual in these rallies more details would be revealed later.

One week before the start the email arrives with the list of available bonus locations and their point values. 142 possible locations varying from 60 points to 400 points ranging from Florida to Massachusetts. From the Atlantic Ocean to St. Louis, Missouri. Some were time restricted to specific hours through the day but most were 24 hours. I import the GPX file into Basecamp and set about color coding and putting in our start and finish locations. It was also revealed the minimum mileage to finish would be 777 and the cap set at 1595. Starting to play around with some locations we thought might interest us we then made up a mock score sheet to make sure we’d always have enough in our bank to buy all of our bonuses. As much as we liked our initial route it quickly proved out we’d be broke before we made it to Ohio so scratch that. A few attempts later we thought we had something we could live with yielding a fair score taking us south to near Virginia Beach then into Raleigh, NC and west then north into WV picking up boni along the way. Gathering up 4 or 5 sets of property while passing GO twice and taking a 6 hour rest break. Deciding we really liked this route I went so far as to locate a hotel in Beckley, WV and reserving a room for our rest break. Of course we still don’t have the actual rally book but we do have an increasing unease watching the weather and Hurricane Matthew.

2 days before the official rally start we get the email containing the rest of the files we need. Printing out the 23 page rally book and score sheets we have roughly a day and change to read through them and make any last minute changes of plan we might have to. Of course once the rally book is out we find a previously unannounced combo bonus. Being that this is an election year the rally masters have made sure most of the properties relate to names of past presidents. The combo bonus is different though. In a lesson in American history the combo involves following the trail of the first presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth. If you gather these 5 bonuses in order with no interruption you would garner an additional 175 points on top of the bonus values themselves. Having watched the weather we decide to reevaluate our plan and try to incorporate this and maybe stay more north to avoid the rain.

The combo requires visits to Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC, the Surratt House in Clinton, MD where Booth stopped for supplies for his escape, Waldorf, MD for the house of Dr. Samuel Mudd who treated the broken leg suffered by Booth when he leapt from the balcony, on to Bel Alton, MD to the Rich Hill farm. The Rich Hill farm was owned by a Southern sympathizer who hid Booth and his accomplice and arranged their safe passage back to Virginia then finally on to Port Royal, VA to get a picture of the historical highway marker where Booth was ultimately killed by Union soldiers.

Counting on the combo bonus points allowed us to stay further north and with some careful strategizing we even figure out a route that maintains our already reserved hotel in Beckley, WV for our 6 hour rest bonus. There are even extra points for arriving at the finish early and turning in your paperwork for scoring. Every 30 minutes short of 31 hour gains you an extra 75 points up to a max of 225 points but only full 30 minute periods count. Our final route calls for 1080 miles with 15 bonus stops garnering us 5 matching sets with 1 house on each and 1 railroad passing GO twice and having the maximum rest bonus, the maximum early paperwork bonus and still some cushion for unexpected events. Satisfied we’re not going to do any better than this I break the route up into manageable legs and send everything to the Garmins as ready as I think I can get.

There is a Yahoo rider’s discussion board and we learn that quite a few of the PA starters are going to meet for dinner Thursday night at an Olive Garden near the major hotels we’ll all be staying at. Mona and I realize with our work schedules it’s unlikely we can make it in time so we simply wish everyone luck figuring we’ll see most of them Friday morning at a gas station nearby. We get a later start than we hoped for Thursday but our ride over is pleasant enough with minimal traffic and we find our hotel and check in. Unloading the bikes we decide to scoot over to Olive Garden and take our chances on seeing some stragglers still there. In the parking lot we chat with a few friend then go inside and eat before heading back to our room for what will be our last good sleep for the next day and a half

.

Friday morning we’re up before the alarm sounds, grab showers and repack the bikes for the ride ahead. It’s only about 4 miles to a Wawa gas station that another rider has already scouted and verified has good receipts. Gas receipts are a critical part of the rally experience. For a receipt to be acceptable it must contain the name of the store, address with city and state, date and time and if a gas receipt the number of gallons which can’t exceed your bike’s capacity. Pulling into the lot there are already 8 or 10 bikes parked in the back lot with riders milling around anxiously awaiting our start time. Official start time for the PA starters requires a receipt time stamped between 8:20 and 8:30 am. To officially start your rally clock riders will then text in to rally HQ the following message; Rider number, first initial, last name, starting state, odometer reading, time from your receipt. Text must be in this specific format and must be sent no later than 8:40 am.

A few minutes spent chatting with the other waiting riders and it’s time. Everyone moves to a gas pump and fills their tanks for the first leg of a 31 hour long adventure. Mona and I each top off and get our receipts then pull aside to text in our start info. Carefully typing in the required information we each get a reply and it’s time to ride. Our first leg is 3 stops and has us heading east into New Jersey starting with the Chester, NJ post office. As we leave Reading we have to contend with the Friday morning work traffic and watch in dismay as our arrival time gets later and later. Route 222 is busy this morning and as we approach I-78 we have our first glitch. Both GPS units are telling us to get on 78 West then turn left. Huh? New Jersey is east of us and you can’t exactly make a left turn at the top of a highway entrance ramp. Pulling over we both realize we really need I-78 east and against the wishes of Ms. Garmin head that way.

Merging with traffic onto 78 East we’re rewarded with a 31 minute drop in our estimated arrival time. Wow! These things must be really screwed up. I have an index card in my tankbag map pocket and know if on schedule we should get to our first bonus at 10:13. Traffic is rolling about 10 over the posted limit so we’re banking a few minutes where we can knowing we’ll lose time eventually. Entering New Jersey we expect to soon see the marker on our screens indicating our first bonus location. Rolling along and still not seeing the bonus we start to encounter some traffic. At a signal light I push the menu bar to determine how much further we have to travel. Scrolling through to the second page my heart sinks.

We’re heading towards our second bonus location. Apparently the 31 minutes we picked up when we got on 78 East was the GPS dropping our first planned stop. We pull into a parking lot and I stop the route we’re running and enter the saved location for our first planned stop. After Garmin recalculates we determine we have to backtrack almost 40 minutes to get there. We’ve only been on the clock for less than 2 hours and we’re going to be almost an hour behind already? Silently screaming in my head I tell Mona we need to turn around. Heading back the road we’d just traveled we make our way to our first bonus location. There is a reasonably large parking lot and we get our pictures, both noting the place really needs to trim their shrubbery.

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Laughing about how quickly our plan went to crap we head back once more towards our second stop. The plan calls for us to now go into Princeton, NJ and get a picture of the gravesite of former president Grover Cleveland. We find the cemetery easily enough and a small open gate right on the side street we’re riding. Entering the graveyard we park off to one side of the road and begin to walk up and down the rows of markers and monuments. Not finding it we decide to drive further in hoping to spot what we’re looking for. At the opposite end of the cemetery we spot a maintenance building with doors hanging open and decide to ask for help. I approach the open doors and peer inside but no one is around. Turning back towards the bikes I spy a literature display case offering free maps of the cemetery. Grabbing one, Mona and I quickly determine where the marker is and ride back to the entrance we’d just come in. Looking back through the rally book we realize the gate we’ve entered is apparently not normally left open and we were expected to enter from a different street. Taking our pictures we record time and odometer on our paperwork and head for Delaware.

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On our way to the next bonus we opt to stop for fuel first as soon as we get out of New Jersey. For whatever reason that state doesn’t utilize self-service fueling and we always run into grief when we get gas there. In Delaware we stop and refuel then head into Wilmington to find a memorial to former president McKinley. In 1862 during the battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day of the entire Civil War, a soldier delivered coffee under fire to the exhausted men on the front lines. That soldier was future president William McKinley. I don’t know about your history class but mine never told me this story! We take our pictures, record time and odometers for scoring and are off to follow the assassin’s trail.

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Interstate 95 heading towards Baltimore, MD goes smoothly enough for a Friday afternoon but as we approach Washington, DC our plan begins to unravel again. Mona and I rarely deal with traffic in our daily lives. We’re fortunate enough to have a 18-23 minute commute for work with only 4 traffic lights of which we usually only get caught up at one. We’re now approaching Crofton, MD and all we see are tail lights. Slowing to a crawl we inch along for quite some time until my Sena headset rewards me with the dulcet tones “Low Battery”. Informing Mona we’ll need to pull over somewhere and plug in to charge them we negotiate our way into a nearby parking lot. Plugging in both of our com units we discuss just how much time we’re losing and debate the likelihood of being able to complete the combo bonus at this time of day.

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We decide to scrap a significant part of our plan justifying the decision by agreeing that moving somewhere is better than our current state of inching nowhere. Dropping the DC bonus at Ford’s theater we head for Clinton, MD and the historic Surratt house and Tavern. Arriving more than 90 minutes later than we’d hoped even after dropping a bonus we take our pictures and a short break grabbing some snacks out of my top box and split a drink. With our combo thrown away we decide to bypass the Samuel Mudd house and head for the Rich Hill bonus hoping we can recoup some more time. By this point most work traffic is significantly lighter and the skies are getting darker. Bel Alton, MD and the Rich Hill HHM is easily found, photographed and recorded but not much time gained. Skipping the final bonus of the combo we head straight for Colonial Beach, VA and the birthplace of George Washington

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Heading toward the bonus location it’s getting very close to being dark. Arriving at a slightly smaller version of the Washington monument in the middle of a roundabout we spot another rally bike already parked to one side. The rider, Bob Vincent on a Harley Davidson Road King, trying to aim enough light to adequately see the memorial and his rally flag. With no traffic around I simply park nose in as close as possible and throw my lights on high beam. Mona parks nearby and we start figuring out the best way to get a clear photo. Chatting with Bob about our different routes we’re soon met by a park ranger in an SUV. Getting out to see what 3 idiot motorcyclists are doing she chuckles as we explain. Moving her car slightly she turns on her spot lights in order to help us out.

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Photos taken we all record the info we’ll need at scoring and after a little more chat with the ranger Mona and I leave to get some fuel for our bikes and ourselves. 10 or so miles back the road we’d just come in we stop at a Sheetz store and fuel up. Recognizing our routes shortcomings we take a short break and order food and make use of the restrooms. As we stand near our bikes eating we watch Bob roll by heading for Newport News, VA and his next bonus. Our plan calls for us to head west to Lexington, VA and a HHM of Washington and Lee University.

Rain starts to fall now. Slowly at first but building as we near Fredericksburg, VA our eventual finish line. I ask Mona if she’d like to stop first and punch the rally master in the head for once again having us ride this rally in the rain. She laughs, but only slightly, telling me we can’t afford the down time. By the time we reach Lexington and the bonus the rain is pretty much a steady, cold companion and we’re not having very much fun. The actual bonus location doesn’t give us much room to park the bikes so we continue past it to a parking lot about 150 yards away. Grabbing my spotlight from the top box we trudge back downhill to get our pictures not bothering to remove our helmets. Mission complete we now have about a 130 mile ride to Beckley, WV and our rest break.

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On our way to our hotel we should have one more stop before calling it a night. Riding across the state though the rain intensifies and knowing this stop would be down some fairly desolate roads we opt to skip it and go back for it in the morning. One more fuel stop and quite some time later we stop at a gas station within sight of our reserved hotel and splash $2.00 into our fuel tanks to get a receipt and go off the clock for a well-earned rest break. An Econo Lodge might not be the Ritz but when you’re cold and wet it can sure feel like it. She jumps in the shower first as I copy information onto my final score sheet documenting what we’ve done so far. It’s now almost 2:00 am and we’ve been riding since 8:30 am the last 200 miles or so in rain. Setting 2 alarms we crawl into bed for what sleep we can hope to get.

Alarms chirp at us what feels like only a few minutes later. In reality 5 hours have passed. Jumping into the shower again to wake up we dress and load our bikes once more in the rain. Checking out we backtrack the 18 miles to the Abraham, WV former post office. It’s a foggy morning and visibility sucks. Traversing what I hesitate to even call a goat path we’re glad we saved this for daylight. This former post office sits on the corner of a poorly maintained road and a private driveway. Judging by the condition of the building it probably hasn’t been a post office in close to 50 years. Our plan calls for 4 more stops today on our way to the finish but the weather is the real winner. Discussing the fact we’re out of dry gloves, temps are only in the high 50’s and our general lack of enthusiasm at this point we elect to drop 3 more locations and head towards the finish hoping to get in early enough to get the bonus points for turning in our paperwork early. Besides, 3 of the remaining 4 bonuses would be on twisty West Virginia secondary roads that lose their luster in the rain. Setting the GPS for the one bonus between here and the finish we point ourselves eastward just wanting to be done soon.

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The ride is pretty much a rehash of our journey from last night. Zip along on the slab just wanting to get it done. Approaching Charlottesville, VA we stop for one last tank of fuel then look for the train station. The bonus requires a picture at the train station of a sign displaying both the Amtrak logo and the name of the town. Pulling into the train station parking lot we’re both scanning looking for the sign. Unable to find it I go into the building and ask the 2 employees where it might be found. Neither seems to know but suggest they think it was up 2 flights of stairs on the bridge running above us. Trudging up the stars there is nothing there. As we look down upon the building from above we see the Amtrak logo on the building and the Charlottesville name on an adjoining restaurant. We take photos of this just in case.

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The general rule is if the bonus can’t be found you can call in and talk to the rally master and ask about it or take a picture that may clearly identify you were in the right place and if no one else arrives with the exact photo you’ll get credit. We walk back down and reenter the building noting some signage inside that could also be useful. We take pictures of that and call it a day. Information recorded we gear back up for the final push to the finish and slowly roll out of the parking lot. STOP! Right there, in the parking lot next to the tracks is the correct sign. Dismount and take the picture then carefully delete the extras. Extra photos cost penalty points. Knowing now we’re as done as we intend to be the final ride to Fredericksburg takes about an hour.

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Traffic close to rally HQ is almost as bad as what we’d dealt with Friday afternoon. Don’t these people have lives? We know we’ll be cutting it close for the full 90 minute early bonus and pull in stopping our ride clock around 1:40 ish. Our scoresheets must be sealed up and handed in inside of our finisher’s envelopes before 1:54 to get the full points. Fortunately most of our scoresheets were filled out during our rest break. Putting our start receipts, rest start and rest stop receipts, score sheets and camera memory cards along with all other required papers into the envelope I seal mine and hand it in at exactly 1:57. Dammit! 3 minutes too late! Because we’ve finished early we’re directed right into scoring.

I’m going to be scored by former IBR finisher and friend of mine Chris Comly. Chris rallies on a HD Sportster and is also a big dog in the Tour of Honor. As it happens I’m about to be the very first person he scores in a rally. Instead of riding this year he volunteered to help as staff. Once seated I’m asked the regular questions. Do you have everything you need to be scored? Have you completed all of your paperwork? Responding that I was ready Chris tore open my finisher’s envelope and dug out my papers. As soon as he did laid them out on his side of the table I saw it. My very big mistake that was about to cost me a whole lot of points.

In every rally Mona and I have participated in there is a charity involved. In the Void Rally the charity is the Fisher House, an organization that helps provide housing for the families of wounded servicemen and women so their loved ones can be close to their places of treatment. Making a donation to the Fisher House and putting a copy of your receipt in the finisher’s envelope is worth 500 points. I’ve claimed the bonus on my score sheet but in my rush for those extra 75 points I failed to include the needed receipt. To make matters worse is the knowledge that I’d even missed out on the 75 points by a whole 3 minutes!

Chris can see by my expression that something is wrong and asks about it. I point it out saving him the trouble. Smiling slightly he takes a red marker and puts a check next to that line. It’s not personal it’s rallying. He then recounts his own screw up last year on this same rally. Transposing letters for a bonus location he lost 6000 points after riding the whole way to Kill Devil Hill, NC. He feels my pain. Going down the score sheet things proceed pretty smoothly until “GO”. Somehow, and I can only blame myself, I failed to report an odo reading. Showing me the rules for Voidopoly it clearly states we’re to use our odometer reading for the last bonus claimed. No points lost but it does short my bank account for $200. Checking the rest of my claimed bonuses it works out that I had just enough money to claim each of them thanks to the FJR optimistic odometer. Had we stopped before our rest to claim the post office I would have come up short. Mona will not be so lucky. Her BMW odometer being more accurate will hurt her this time.

Checking the rest of my scoresheet and my photos Chris finishes up with me telling me my final score is 4435 points and I’ve covered an indicated 987 miles in an actual seat time of under 24 hours. Mona remembered her Fisher House receipt for which I’m eternally thankful. Unfortunately she copied my “GO” mistake and her odometer left her short by only a few dollars costing her the 300 point Abraham, WV post office bonus and the 150 points for a house. Ultimately her score of 4615 points and 974 miles is enough for 16th place from the PA starters. I end up in 18th due to my own stupidity. Now let’s get our room, a hot shower, and an adult beverage! We’ve earned them.

Cleaned up and wearing dry clothing we walk across the parking lot to Outback to split an appetizer and a few drinks then back to the hotel for the banquet. The Void banquet is always a good spread with fresh salad, Chicken Florentine, Beef tips in Gravy over rice, Fresh vegetable medley, Crab meat wrapped in Tilapia, and a full desert table. After a great meal scores are announced and trophies awarded. Stories are told and friendships formed. As miserable as we were in those hours of rain, we weren’t alone. Riders dragged in enough water the hotel set up a fan to dry the hallway carpet! All things considered we had a good time. The ultimate winner took the big chance and scored the big points. Leaving PA he headed straight up to the Boston area and grabbed 2 of the highest point bonuses available then scooted back south to pick off the combo bonus in the early hours of Saturday morning. Congrats to Dylan Spink on a killer ride. Well done sir!

One final note I must add. After the banquet, Chris finds me to tell me a little story. It seems several other riders had the same problem in Charlottesville at the train station. 3 riders came in with alternate photos and their scorers questioned the rally master for a decision. While the rally master was pondering it Chris who had scored me and Nancy Oswald who had scored Mona were able to show him our correct pictures. We certainly didn’t mean to rob them of the 200 points each but at least I felt better about my own goof up.

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Thanks for reading.

 
great write-up, it was an interesting rally for sure. I don't think we got to speak at dinner Thursday, and I didn't make the finish (mechanical in Pittsburgh)... look forward to catching you next year though.

Best,

Lance

 
Lance, we didn't make dinner Thursday. Work combined with last minute prep gave us a late start. We never got to Reading until almost 8:00. Sorry you had a breakdown.

 
Great ride report. Kind of read like it was anything but relaxing, but I guess any day upright on two wheels is a good day!!!

 
Pants, This one was tough. The rally masters on this one really make it a challenge to finish well. The weather was just a killer though. Everyone that finished was dripping wet at the end. It didn't matter if you were in a low level Joe Rocket jacket or an Aerostitch one piece you were wet. If the weather hadn't beat us up so bad we could have recouped some of our route. Wind and rain, fog at spots in the mountains of VA and WV. I think we had close to 14 hours and almost 500 miles in crap weather that just beat both of us to the point that just finishing became our goal.

Just wasn't our year.

 
What an adventure! I would really LOVE to get into this kind of thing, but at the moment time just isn't on my side. Maybe once the boy gets a bit older I can attempt these kinds of things. I think I'm going to attempt the Tour of Honor next year and see just what I can accomplish.

 
Tour of Honor is a great reason to do some riding. This is my second year participating. You might consider next year's Rock and Ride Rally. Youngstown, OH is one of the start locations and finish is in KY. Held in late April we're considering putting it on next year's schedule.

 
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