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pjuddfan
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Posted: 04 November 2008 at 10:20pm | IP Logged Quote pjuddfan

Part 1

The Void 4 Rally Report (very long-winded)

No matter how many lessons we learn, there is a long line stretching to the horizon with lessons waiting their own turn. Such is my story for the 2008 VOID 4 long distance motorcycle rally.

I will dispense with an explanation of The Void Rally, assuming most readers will be familiar with the 24-hour bonus-hunting rally format. My trip would begin in Harrisburg, PA and end in Lynchburg, VA. In 27.5 hours, including a high point-value 3hr rest bonus. Gotta be safe!

My planned route was calculated at 1256 miles in MapSource, with a mix of interstate and secondary roads. I chose 12 bonus locations along the route which, along with a few wildcard boni should earn about 8000 points. I felt it was within my abilities and might even be enough for a podium finish. I also knew there were a lot more riders with a significant amount of experience entered as well.

Having staked out a gas station in eastern Harrisburg suitable for a quick getaway, I took care of some housekeeping: fill the gas, fill the Camelbak, check the tires, pre-check a store receipt for requisite city, state, time info. I run a relatively low-tech bike, a ’99 Triumph Trophy 1200 with an aux fuel tank and a Garmin 2610. Stock seat (to go with my stock ass), heated grips and a green Triumph topbox to mismatch with the rest of the platinum paint. Hey, it’s hard to find a used platinum topbox, and the new ones ain’t cheap!

Getting close to the 10am start time, a 2-up FJR pulls in to the pumps, and I recognize this combo as Catfish and Mrs Catfish (ok, it’s Jamie). We had not met before, but having done business with his Farklemasters site, and following his recent acquisition and speedy farkling of this FJR well-documented on his blog, I was very interested to see all the toys. After introductions, I only had a couple minutes to drool over his setup before our starting phone calls had to be made.

I had prepared good notes on what info needed to be relayed to the starting officials, so I was able to get through the call process quickly and accurately, and then I was on I83 headed for Hershey, and away we went!

Traffic was moderate in the easterly 2 lanes of I83, becoming 422 into Hershey. The bonus was a marker describing a sit-down strike by chocolate workers many years ago. After the Hershey exit I pulled up behind a blue Gold Wing which I had also recognized by its NH plates. It was C-dog, a fellow NH rider which I had yet to meet in person. We shook hands at the light, then proceeded to the marker and bagged bonus #1 for the day.

I quickly headed for 83S to my next stop, a minigolf course south of Harrisburg. There was a wildcard bonus involving getting a photo of 4 minigolf courses. One had to be of your helmet on tee box #4, the other three could just be the entrance. I had listed more than 4 of these in my route just to be safe. Good thing, because as I crested a hill on the dead-end road where the golf course should be, all I saw was construction of a new housing development. OK, no problem, just a  little detour. But the clock is always ticking, so I quickly rejoined the Interstate for the next bonus on my route.

Caledonia Golf Club was a bit farther off the highway than it seemed on the map, but extremely easy to get to and there was very little traffic up to this point. All I needed was a pic of the entrance sign so it only involved a u-turn in their drive.

Heading west, I knew I would be on Pennsylvania secondary roads for the next couple hundred miles before entering OH and eating up some serious interstate mileage, in order to increase my overall average speed. It wasn’t long before I was in downtown Chambersburg in Friday lunchtime traffic. I battled the stop & go for 20 min before 30W opened up before me and I enjoyed some really good riding for the next hour. A short 10 mile detour onto I76 felt great, being able to open the throttle a little more. Before long I was entering Jenner Twp, where I needed to find a statue of a giant praying mantis. I drove through the little town, and knowing I must have passed it, I doubled back.. Pulling up in front of an antique store (Clever name, Second Time Around), I retrieved the rally book form my tankbag to review the location instructions. “…mantis just to the right of Second Time Around.” Ummm, so where is it? I turned and slowly rolled to the right end of the building, and there next to a dying flower bed was the mantis on its back!

Not so tough now, are we, Mr Mantis?

I continued on 30W looking for my next stop, which was simply to get a receipt from Latrobe, PA (Home of Arnold Palmer; It’s a golf theme, ya know). I didn’t really need gas yet, but splashed some into the aux tank to get the receipt. As luck might have it, I spotted a minigolf area just off 30 as I was leaving Latrobe, so I stopped in for a shot of my helmet on the #4 tee. How easy was that? And I still had several planned minigolf locations on the route, so it looked like I’d bag that bonus earlier than planned.

The next bonus required a slight zig in the route, so I need to head south about 20 miles before continuing west. This was a Gingerbread House attached to a chocolate manufacturer, Gene & Boots. Interesting place, and I heard later about some riders who stopped here in the middle of the night without much light to work with, but got their shots nonetheless.

Now I needed to head back north and west to a small town north of Pittsburg: Sewickley. Like Latrobe, this was home to a pro golfer as well, and simply required a receipt or a photo of the local post office. Coming north on PA Rt. 51, the best route to Sewickley involve portions of I279 and I79 around the west side of Pittsburg. As I approached the ramp to enter I279, I could only see a trail of brake lights on the ramp and the interstate. I had been looking forward to enjoying a quicker pace than that of the secondary roads I had traveled on all day, but would have to wait  a while longer! I decided that slow is better than stopped, and determined a detour through Pittsburg’s western suburbs. I located the receipt I needed and headed just south to where I knew another minigolf park was.

 

-Part 2 next-

 



Edited by pjuddfan on 04 November 2008 at 10:31pm


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Posted: 04 November 2008 at 10:40pm | IP Logged Quote pjuddfan

Part 2

One more stop following secondary roads before I could hit the interstates: a large point bonus northeast of Columbus OH, it was a relief in brick of Lt Gen Putt (cute, that golf theme).

 

 

 

At this point, about 7pm, I had traveled about 400 miles since leaving Harrisburg at 10am, nine hours earlier. That’s about 44mph average. My planned route would total about 1250 miles, and the remaining 850 would be largely interstate miles for the rest of the rally, so I was not too concerned time-wise, in fact I was glad to have most of the slower roads behind me. All I could do was hope for no construction or accidents to impede my progress. I also remembered it would be a good time for a chain lube, so I took care of that before climbing back on. I also remembered a trick I had learned in Ron Ayres’ book “Against the Wind”, to put a couple strips of electrical tape across the top edge of the helmet visor for a cheap sunshade, as my particular helmet does not have the neat-o integrated pull-down inner visor as some do. Just gotta deal with the tick-tock sound in the back of my head!

 

Now on the highway, it’s about 120 mi to Columbus, where another receipt awaits. I found a minigolf location just down the street from a perfect gas/receipt stop. Traffic was light on I70 as the sun flashed over the horizon. Glad I learned the tape trick, it blocked a great deal of the setting sun!

 

The gas stop took longer than planned due to restrictions on the pump. You had to walk in and pre-pay, and if using a credit card you needed to pay for extra, then get a credit of the overage, or hand a wad of cash, then come back in to pay with a card. Either way it was 2 trips into the store and having to wait in line. Good thing the minigolf bonus was so easy, and just down the street! All they had was a tall sign at the entrance, but it was easy to pull in facing the sign, throw my flag on a bush and got a decent shot.

So that’s 3 golf locations in the camera, and I knew there were 2 in Lynchburg just before the finish!

 

 

The next segment was the longest straight shot, just over 200 miles to Louisville to get a pic of the huge Slugger baseball bat. I had just been through this area in early August, and tried to use specific landmarks or exits as intermediate points to look forward to. Again, traffic was light and the trip was relatively uneventful. A couple things were in my favor: I hadn’t felt tired at all yet, and mental calculations were telling me I was slightly ahead of schedule.

 

An easy entry into downtown Louisville with virtually no traffic for the bat pic:

 

 

Then gas (another pump with no usable receipt, so a trip inside), and a short 50 miles to Frankfort. I debated whether to get the Daniel Boone bonus first, then start the rest bonus, or vice-versa. Rest won out, not because I felt tired, but it seemed like I would be able to maximize highway time and minimize city driving by stopping the clock just off the exit. I bought a water and Gatorade to start the rest bonus (strange look from the girl because of the receipt request), then parked next door at a Waffle House to get some late night breakfast. When I was in college, I never visited a Waffle House outside the hours of 1am-3am. I guess that record remains intact. This place was Grand Central Station, but I managed to get a booth in the corner near the restroom. A quick change of shirt and into colder weather undergear, and I ordered the biggest breakfast on the menu. This was a good time to review my progress, so I had brought my rally book and laptop in with me. I was riding my plan, I was on time, feeling good. Since the restaurant was so busy I went out to my bike and moved it into a darker corner of the lot. There was a police officer on duty, so I had no concern about lying down for a quick nap on the curb. With all the traffic coming & going, I just could not fall asleep. So I got out my Front/Back 9 sheet and began to play with alternate scenarios for the rest of the route. My original plan seemed the best, and I would be back to the finish with time to spare.

 

I did, however, notice that no matter how good reading comprehension is thought to be, usually there is something that will go awry. I did not read the minigolf bonus correctly during the route planning stage. I missed the part where it stated you could not claim a minigolf location from the state you started in, and all must be from 4 different states. So of the 3 I already used, only 1 was valid! Not to panic, I booted the laptop back up while noticing I had about 40 minutes left on my rest break. I will now thank Waffle House for the wireless access point! I searched for minigolf areas in the major cities along the route, and luckily found one in Lexington KY, and one in Hurricane WV. The Lynchburg area would be the fourth. One major lesson learned and disaster narrowly averted! I would still have plenty of cushion in the schedule to finish early.

 

Here is the Lexington minigolf. I passed it a couple times and had to ask at a gas station, and being 5am it was a good time to “walk on” to find Tee #4. The original shot had the dog wearing my helmet, but I was not confident a scorer would see the helmet clearly.

 

 

 

Heading east out of Lexington, it seemed that the sun did not want to come up. West Virginia is comprised mostly of mountainous area, so I assumed it delayed the sunrise by almost an hour. I also had noticed the almost continuous red strip on the centerline form Louisville into WV, from all the deer/animal strikes. I was definitely on the lookout for movement on the shoulders. Soon I was on the exit for Rt 19, which would join with Rt 2, a straight shot to the Hillbilly Hotdog bonus. Not far up on 19 was a construction sign indicating a bridge out ahead. A glance at the 2610 showed a river just past the Rt 2 junction, so I thought I’d be OK. But sure enough, the road was completely blocked, necessitating a u-turn and alternate way to Rt 2. Coming back down 19, another rider approached, and I gave him a signal to go back. As I pulled over at a side road which looked like it would be a suitable shortcut (it was), and the other rider caught up, but he decided to continue a different way (I learned later this was Ed Day, the eventual VOID 4 winner). I was quickly back on Rt 2 and at the hotdog stand in minutes. There was a Void rider just packing up as I pulled in. As I was snapping my photo the other rider from earlier pulled in. Our time difference was mere minutes. Since I pulled off the side of the road and did not drive up the gravel driveway, I was able to make it a very short stop and was on my way.

 

 

Off to Point Pleasant and the famous Mothman statue.

-Part 3 next-



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Posted: 04 November 2008 at 10:43pm | IP Logged Quote pjuddfan

Part 3

I had seen the movie “The Mothman Prophecies” and was interested in seeing the bridge which was central to the events in the movie. The morning fog wasn’t helping, but the light traffic was welcome.

 

 

The two riders were pulling up as I was getting back on the bike. I needed gas, and wanted to find something on the route and not have to go the opposite way even 1 mile. Getting on Rt 35, the 2610 told me the next gas on the route was in 21 miles. Not good, too close to call. So I turned around, and actually had to cross the Ohio River into OH for the closest gas station, wasting an additional 10 min. Rt 35 was a nice road, although more people were out and about, so I found myself behind a few Saturday morning drivers, out for coffee, newspapers, etc. My original route put me back on I64 near the Kanawha River, but since I needed to backfill a WV minigolf area, I diverted due south past the highway into Hurricane for the bonus. It was closed, but I just need an entrance shot.

 

 

At this point I felt I was in the home stretch. My only remaining boni were the last minigolf bonus and the Canada Guy (six-pack) bonus, both higher values and just a couple miles west of the finish. Most of the ride would be on I64 so I would be able to maintain a decent pace and finish before the penalty phase. You would have to be an idiot not to simply finish, right? A complete moron, right?

 

Let me digress and tell you about the Raiders of a Lost Bike tour, if you’re not familiar. Simply, it’s a list of cities, towns, and items related to the Indiana Jones mythology which you can photograph with your bike and a rally flag to earn points. It runs from May 1 through Oct 31. During the Minuteman 1000 in June I double-dipped during the rally and claimed several Raiders boni. And DNF’d by just a few minutes. So in the Void, it would be ok to collect ONE Raiders bonus, if it was right on my route, huh? (Rick Miller’s advice later that day: “NO! NO! NO!)

 

 

London, WV is located just over the Kanawha River about 5-6 miles off I64. I would have enough time to claim that bonus, return to I64, and still finish the Void on time. But being so smart, I began to mentally calculate an alternate “shortcut”. 85 miles on I64, or 55 miles on WV60? Seems like to would take the same time! What I didn’t know was that WV60 goes over two very steep mountains. I did more twisties in the next 2 hours than I had done all summer! And where the hell did all these cars come from? And why are there tractor trailers up in these mountains??? As the clock ticked I watched my arrival time enter the middle of the penalty period. Seemingly eons later, I was back on I64, trying to predict whether I would have time to still claim the last 2 boni.

 

Finally I was exiting the interstate and jumping onto VA501 which looked onscreen like a pretty straight shot into Lynchburg. Immediately leaving the highway I was met with detour signs all over. The route was shut down for a street fair or Columbus Day weekend event! Not even consulting the 2610, I sought a way around, and in minutes I was back on 501 east. Country driving at its best – straightaways and easy sweepers. Then before I knew it I was back in the twisties behind a line of cars averaging 15mph climbing steadily. Any remote thoughts of improving my arrival time were quickly squashed. Upon crossing the peak and beginning a slow descent, I found one last hurdle, a stopped line of traffic awaiting the clearing of a rolled-over semi on the mountainside, and I found myself relieved to finally be rolling into Lynchburg. During that last 30 miles between the interstate and Lynchburg, I had found little service on my cell phone. Coming into Lynchburg I was able to connect with the RM to let him know I was going to arrive, with any luck, barely on time.

 

The final sets of traffic lights were miraculously working with my tight schedule, and the Quality Inn finish line very easy to find. When I pulled up to the entrance and met the rally staff member checking riders in, the clock finally stopped, and it seemed I was literally seconds from the dreaded DNF. Woo hoo! And what a sense of relief, a pressure valve letting go. But now I had little time to complete my paperwork for the scoring phase of the rally. The incomplete minigolf bonus and the lack of a six-pack certainly hurt my score, as well as the penalty minutes. I managed, in my hastily prepared score sheet, to fail to claim a couple easy boni, and also leave an odometer record blank. So coming in late, leaving easy point on the table, and rushing my paperwork dropped my placing from a likely top 5 to 13th. It’s a learning process, right? That is my theme when looking back on the rally season of 2008. So look out guys and girls, 2009 is almost here…

 

On a positive note, I was happy to make some new acquaintances, reconnect with a few faces of some I’ve met at other rallies, and put faces on the names I’ve seen on the lists and forums. My chief regret is falling asleep at 5pm, and missing the entire banquet!

 

PS – true story: on the way home from the VOID, I had a chance encounter at a gas stop in the middle of Connecticut. Outside the pump area a passing guy says “Nice Trophy” to which I reply “Thanks!” (without fail, I find myself in interesting conversations at gas pumps with elderly men who had Triumphs back in the 60’s), and he comes over to continue “I have one exactly like it (size, color, etc)”. Before I know it we are exchanging info so I can buy his Platinum-colored Triumph topbox, since he never uses his. So whatever happens in 2009, at least I will be coordinated!

 

I really enjoy reading others’ ride reports, so if you’ve made it this far, thanks for your endurance!

 

Jim Abbott

Harrisburg Rider #77

 



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