October 9-10, 2015
Murfreesboro, TN to Fredricksburg, VA
I've been riding long distance for several years and earned my Iron Butt Association (IBA) number in 2008 for doing 1,000 miles in 24 hours, known as a Saddle sore 1K. After following some of my friends in the Iron Butt Rally (11 days, 11,000+ Miles), I decided I wanted to try a similar event but on a much smaller scale. The best way to describe a rally is a scavenger hunt done by motorcycle.
On July 10, 2015 I decided to pull the trigger and sign up to run The Void Rally. I'll let you follow the link above and visit the rally website to get familiar with the event, this years rally had a movie/TV theme. The Void Rally offered both a 31 hour rally and a 10 hour rally option, I wanted to try the 31 hour rally version. There were three different options for a start location: State College, PA-Murfreesboro, TN- Moultrie, GA. As this was my first rally it did not appear that any one start location provided any advantage over another as the starters from each location would be scored against the starts from that location only. Since Murfreesboro was the closest to home I figured I might as well use that as my starting location. Once getting signed up there was not much to happen until the rally got close and a rally packet was issued. I did consult some rally veterans and ask for any tips and guidance they could provide to me as a rookie.
After much anticipation, on September 28 my email notification went off and there it was in my inbox- Rally Packet Part 1 of 3. Rally packet part 1 was just a couple of pages with a few reminders and instructions on how to notify the Rally master by text to start the rally. Rally packet part 2 was sent on October 1 and it provided all the bonus locations (boni) via several different formats, txt, gbd, and gpx. I utilized gpx and loaded them into basecamp, there were a total of 330 boni locations provided. There were a total of six sets of bonus, the main bonus list and then five sub list call B-rolls. I didn't know exactly what each of these B-rolls were going to entail, but after entering some of the coordinates in google maps a pattern was developing that gave me an idea of what I would be looking for, more on that later. At this point we now have the location and point value, but did not have the packet that provided the information of what was required to claim the bonus, buy "X" item from store, take picture of statue, etc. The rally packet also includes important information about bonus location as to what time they are available such as day light only, or 10AM to 6PM only. Without having all the information I started taking the bonus locations and deleted out the ones that were out of reach or did not make since. It was apparent to me once loading all the boni that all the starters from all three cities had probably received the same boni locations. Some of them were clearly able to be reached from the other starting locations but wouldn't make since for a Murfreesboro starter, so I started deleting anything that I thought was out of reach and narrowed down the list. Then, even without part 3, I started laying out routes and adding up points within mileage and times that I felt comfortable with, some of this was a complete guess since it was my first rally and I didn't know how much time to allow for a bonus location stop. I had built two routes that made the most since to me and came within a 1000 points of each other, so I stopped there and waited to receive the final part of the rally packet to determine how that might affect each route.
On October 6th I received part 3, the meat and potatoes of the rally book! I finally have all the information and can work on finalizing my plan. I will start off with the B-roll bonus list. As I stated earlier there were 5 B-rolls- HIP, LMS, TBL, TPA, and TTP. The rally book now explains how each of these works:
HIP- Home Improvement stores (based off Tim "The Toolman" TV series). The list had both Home Depot and Lowes Stores. Home Depot were only available on Friday and Lowes on Saturday. You could only claim this bonus once per state per day. A photo along with receipt with city/state within 30 minutes of photo was required to claim the bonus. Each bonus was worth 500 points.
LMS- Last Man Standing (based on the TV series). This list had consisted of Cabela's and Bass Pro shop stores. You could only claim this bonus once per state. A photo along with receipt with city/state within 30 minutes of photo was required to claim the bonus. Each bonus was worth 350 points.
TBL-The Big Lebowski (Movie). This was a list of bowling alleys. You could only claim this bonus once per state. A photo was required to claim the bonus. Each bonus was worth 250 points.
TPA-Trains, planes, automobiles (Movie). This was a list of locations that were either a Train, Plane, or Automobile. This was a combo bonus and could be claimed once Friday and once Saturday. The combo meant you have to visit one train, one plane, and one automobile location each day. If you did not get all three you could not claim the bonus. If you completed the combo it was worth 2,500 points
TTP- Two Tickets to Paradise (Movie). This was a list of Office Max Stores. You could only claim this bonus once per state. A photo along with receipt with city/state within 30 minutes of photo was required to claim the bonus. Each bonus was worth 275 points.
There was then the main list of bonus location that I assume was standard to most rallies, nothing special and nothing difficult. Just read the information and do as it instructs you to do, reading comprehension is very important. This is where the bulk of your points would come from and if you could fit some of the B-roll bonus in your route you would.
After receiving part 3 I found that both of my routes would still work with a few tweaks. One of them would take me to the Outer Banks for a 6,000 point boni, but there was a catch that the boni opened at 8AM and every minute past 8 you lost 100 points per minute till 9AM when you were out of points. This route was longer than my other choice, required more time on the bike and would only allow me to take the 3 hour rest stop that was worth 25,000 points. Essentially if you did not take the rest stop there was no chance you were going to be near a top finishers. Most bonus stops were worth 400-800 points. With the risk of losing points by the minute on the Outer Banks where I've heard traffic can be a stand still I opted for my other route. The route I had chose had a few advantages that really pushed me that direction, like an extended rest break.
With my route now finalized I only had to pack the bike and head to Murfreesboro to start. Its a relatively short ride to Murfreesboro for me at about 4 hours. I took the whole day off Thursday as I wanted to take some back roads down and wanted to be there in early evening so I could meet up with the other riders starting in Murfreesboro for dinner. We meet at a BBQ joint and I listened to the tales that the more season veterans had to tell. I'll be honest that between work and planning for this rally I didn't catch much news this week, and they were all talking about the flooding that was going on in South Carolina. I was already nervous about my first rally and then they all started talking about flooding and that surely nobody was planning to go to Columbia as it was possible that you would not be able to make it. So I sat there and ate my dinner and nervously waited to get back to my hotel room where I could check out the conditions as I had Columbia, SC on my planned route. Once we were all done eating and parted ways I jumped on my bike and headed straight for my room, it was to my relief after checking local news stations for Columbia and the South Carolina State Highway website that I determined that while Columbia had received a bunch of rain that it was passable and would not be an issue in getting the bonus. So I settle into my bed and
The next morning seemed to come quick. I fueled up at a gas station, which is where I got the receipt I was required to get that was time stamped between 9:00AM and 9:10AM and then text the rally master, the directions were specific not to leave till you got a response back. I was lucky I followed those directions as I had entered the wrong number and the text did not go, so after getting the number right I sent the text, got the reply and was on my way. The basic frame of my route was south to Atlanta, east to Augusta, then on to Columbia. There I would turn back north to Charlotte where I had a room reserved on the north side for my rest stop. The next morning I would continue north and the over towards Fredericksburg. As I headed south from Murfreesboro I started to settle in and focus on the task at hand. My first stop was about 15 miles off I-24 in Alabama, I was to take a picture of a plaque at the Stevenson Railroad Depot. This was the train bonus as part of my TPA combo.
Next I went back up to Chattanooga for a picture of a tow truck bench at the National Towing Museum, I didn't know there was a such thing but this was the automobile bonus for the TPA combo.
The next stop was a bowling alley in Chattanooga as part the TBL B-roll list. I'm skipping the picture as it's just a bowling alley sign. I grabbed that and was off to the north side of Atlanta where I grab a Home Depot picture as part of the HIP B-Roll list. This boni requires a receipt also, so I go in the store and grab a bag of peanuts to purchase and get my receipt. Seemed like a fool proof plan at the time, but after review of the receipt it did not include a city/state and would not satisfy the requirements. So, my next stop is in downtown Atlanta and I figure I need to get gas before I head there and there is a Kroger right next to the Home Depot. I go over and fill my tank and get my receipt. Guess what?!? No city/state on the receipt here either so now I've spent valuable time chasing a receipt and went to another gas station and bought a pack of gum, finally a receipt that will work and I am off headed to downtown Atlanta. I was rather nervous at this point because I know what Atlanta traffic is like at times. To my surprise it was smooth sailing and I got to the next boni easily. This was an odd location, you literally ride right past a goat farm in downtown Atlanta go get to this bonus.
Next I was off to the Northeast side of Atlanta to take a picture of an airplane on a stick that was the plane combo of the TPA bonus. This would complete my TPA bonus for Friday and put 2,500 points in the bank.
Its now about 2:00PM and I figure I can slide out of Atlanta just before rush hour and start heading east. There were several boni between Atlanta and Augusta, GA that required me to zig zag back and forth from south to north of I-20. My first stop out of Atlanta was Sac O Suds in Monticello, GA. Considering its location the quickest route was to go south on I-75, but this is where my travels came to a screeching halt...Literally! Traffic was a dead stop or crawling slow. I figured I would jump off the next exit and take an alternate route to the boni, while I was moving traffic was still heavy and slow going. I figure I lost at least an hour and a half in traffic, but that's how it goes sometimes. I knew it would mean at some point I would have to drop some bonus location off my plan. I grabbed the Sac-O-Suds Photo (From My Cousin Vinny)
The next several bonus went on without a hitch as I headed north, then south, then back north, then back south. Next was Mansfield, GA for a picture of the Harvest Reality Building (Walking Dead Lunch). This is also where I ran into another rider from the Moultrie start and we each claimed a bonus called trading places, I got my picture with his rally flag and he took one with mine.
I was then off to Rultledge, GA for a picture of the Hard Labor Creek State Park (Little Darlings)
Things were going smooth at this point and I was in a groove. I headed the Susie Agnes Hotel (Parker Hotel)
I then turned back south and headed for General Putnam Motel (My Cousin Vinny)
Now it was time to head back north to Washington, GA for a picture of a Gone with the Wind Mural. At this point is was pretty dark and I was glad I got a good flashlight to use.
I was still way behind schedule but was off to Harlem, GA for a picture of a mural on the Laurel and Hardy Muesuem.
I was glad to finally have reached this point because from here on out I would be mainly on interstate the rest of the night till I reached my rest location for the night. I got on I-20 and headed for Augusta, GA. The first stop there was another B-roll bonus and was a picture of Cabela's with a receipt. I went in and bought a bottle of water, again no city/state on the receipt. I figure I will swing in to a gas station and get it between the Cabelas and downtown Augusta where my next bonus was. Unfortunately there was nothing to stop at that was convenient to get the needed receipt. So I moved on to get a picture of a James Brown Statue in downtown Augusta. Let me tell you that Augusta has a lively down town on a Friday night and there was some sort of festival going on. I ended up parking a few blocks away and walking to the bonus and found what appeared to be permanent sidewalk residents hanging out next to the statue, they were friendly and one of them took my picture (I do admit I was concerned about whether I would get my camera back).
When I left the James Brown Statue I saw a gas station on the one way street I was on and was able to get the receipt I needed, however the 30 minute time window had now passed from when I took the picture so I had to go back to Cabela's and take another picture. At least it was right off the route on my way back to I-20. My next stop was Columbia, SC and the only requirement for this bonus was to get a receipt from anywhere in Columbia and make sure ithas the city/state on the receipt. I needed fuel and this worked well for my receipt. After a quick fill up I was back on the way and taking I-77 north toward Charlotte. It was time to start dropping some bonus stops to make up the time I had fallen behind. I had planned four stops on the south side of Charlotte and I dropped all of them. Three of the four were B-roll boni that would have required a receipt, that wasn't working out to well for me anyway so I ditched them. This put me shooting through downtown Charlotte at midnight which was great. I stopped on the north side at Davidson for a picture of a historical X-ray marker.
This was my last bonus before my rest, but I still had about a 30 minute ride to my rest location. I headed to Salisbury, NC and found a Sheetz gas station and got a receipt to start my rest. The bonus for a 3 hour rest was 25,000 points, but you had the option to take addition time up to an additional 180 minutes past the 3 hours and you would be given 10 points per each additional minute. What better than a 6 hour break? I figure I couldn't gather another 1800 points by riding the 3 hours when I planned my route so I might as well rest and get points for doing nothing. Now that I had started my rest I figured I better find something to eat. I'm in luck as there is a Waffle House right by my hotel, I had a few crackers while I rode and I carried water in my camel back, but this is the first meal I've had since I started the rally. I ate my....ummm Breakfast?!? I don't know what to call it since I didn't eat all day and it was now about 1:30AM. I then headed to the Econolodge and checked in for some sleep. Once again I laid there for along time contemplating the next days ride, I think I manage about 2 hours of sleep, but a nice warm shower sure was refreshing to start the next day out. I got back to the same Sheetz station and get another receipt to end my rest stop, six hours exactly and 26,800 points locked up. The reason for the stay in Salisbury is there was a Lowes there part of the B-roll list that I could get early. I got the receipt easily this time. I then back tracked to the X-Ray marker for a second photo, this was a special bonus that required you to visit any previous bonus you had already visited and take a second photo, the second photo had to be at least 8 hours later than the first. The sequel bonus would be worth double the points of the original bonus. The 6 hour rest helped me accomplish that requirement.
I then headed up I-77. Along the way I picked up boni at a McDonalds, another bowling alley, and another Lowes. As I was making my way north my GPS was saying I was going to arrive at the finish about 20 minutes before my cutoff time, and this rally required you to have all your paperwork in by the cutoff time or you did not finish (DNF). So I had one bonus this morning that was probably 15-20 miles off the interstate and up a couple curvy mountain roads. I was also riding in a heavy mist/sprinkle, it was more annoying than anything because it was just enough to mist your visor but not enough to bead up and run off. Back to point, I decided to drop that bonus and pick up some time on the back end to make sure I got all of my TPA combo bonus for the day and still make it back to finish. I was lucky that my route this morning had nearly all my stops within a couple miles of I-77 or I-81. After the few of the B-roll stops I was off to Natural Bridge, VA for a picture of a pink Cadillac.
That one was quick and I was now down to my last three bonus before I headed to the barn. As I alluded to before my last three stops were the plane, train, and automobile combo and worth 2,500 points. I was back on I-81 heading toward Staunton, VA with my GPS indicating I should arrive at the finish at 3:10PM which would give me about 50 minutes to gather my paperwork and double check things prior to turning it in. I pull in Staunton headed for the Woodrow Wilson Museum for a picture of the Pierce Arrow limousine. The automobile of the combo.
I head out of Staunton still in good shape. I think I actually hit every light on the way in and out of town green, luck must have been on my side. I am now headed for a historical marker for the Wreck at the Fat Nancy. The train part of the combo.
Still on time and just one stop to go. Feeling pretty darn good right now, but that soon will change. My next stop is at Culpeper Airport for a picture of a bronze plaque. I had looked this airport up on google maps prior to leaving and it seemed like a small airport, thinking this will be an easy in and out. So I'm cruising along and am about 10 miles from the airport and I start seeing the signs about parking for the AIRSHOW at Culpeper airport. These people are parking several miles away and being bused in. I think to myself, gee this must be some of the Cheesedickery I've read about and why some people refer to the Rally Master as the Rally Bastard! I'm in to far now to give up so I keep going, much to my surprise I cruised right in and parked right next to the Culpeper Airport main office. I am looking for the plaque and cannot find it. I go in the office and ask some people in there if they know where it is, none of them did but one of them tracked down an employee that finally said it was removed. My first rally and I didn't know exactly what to do, so I ring the rally master and told him my situation. He told me to take a picture of the sign on the building and that would suffice (I later learned from others that I got lucky, they said never call the rally master and just do what you think is right because normally the rally master will make you jump through another hoop like finding somewhere to get a receipt, etc.).
I've lost a bunch of time and am now showing I am going to arrive with 20 minutes to spare. Of course the next town I need to go through has a street festival going on and I have to take some tight side roads around and work with the cars coming the other way. Finally out of that town and the GPS is showing I arrive with 10 minutes to turn in my packet and now my low fuel light has started flashing. I'm very nervous as its going to be extremely close to if I make it in time or not. At this point I forget about the gas because if I stopped for fuel odds are I wouldn't make it to finish, so it was either finish or run out of fuel. I ended up having enough fuel and made it in, lucky I didn't hit much traffic.
I kept a good riders log as I made each stop so I didn't have to do much with it. I clicked through my pictures on my camera and verified I didn't have any extras and they were all clear for scoring. I put my receipts, riders log, and SD card in the envelope and made my way to turn it in and be scored. There were several bonus I claimed for doing some simple things that didn't require a stop like making a donation to The Fisher House prior to the rally start, sending a text to the rally master in a certain time window during the rally, declaring my route prior to starting, and having my Void sticker visible at the finish line. So I sit nervously as I wait for my rider number to be called for scoring. Its finally called, seemed like hours but I am sure it wasn't near that long. I go in and sit down to be scored. The scorer asked me some basic questions and asked me how the ride was and then he began. First receipt he asked "where is the starting mileage? I had not written it on there. That was sure quick, didn't take long for me to lose my first 100 points. It got better though as I went through the rest of scoring and did not lose any additional points and it turns out that 100 points would not have affected my finish.
So now I am done and its time to get into some street cloths and hang out with the others while scoring is finished. We had about an hour before the banquet would start and I headed to the hotel bar where most the others were. After a light snack, first time I ate since Waffle house, and watching some of the Cubs game we headed to the banquet room and had a nice meal. Now was the time we were all waiting for, the results! There were 16 starters from Murfreesboro and I had finished 4th, not to shabby for my first try. I rode a total of 1,227 miles and averaged 40.49 points per mile. I believe that all of the top three riders did go to the Outer Banks for the 6,000 point bonus.
Overall if a few things had gone better I could have finished a little better, but that is water under the bridge and something I couldn't control. In the end your finishing place doesn't really matter, its that you showed up, were safe, and had a good time!