Rally the Void 3 (2007)

BMW R850R

Rally Thoughts

I had a blast at my first 10-hour rally, and placed 8th in the 10-hour group. I was 7 points out of 7th and 1 point ahead of 9th. Most of all it was challenging and fun.

First and most importantly, my bike ran great and started every single time I hit the button. Looks like the relay really was the problem all along. So... 3 weeks of work, new fuses ($15), new spark plugs ($20/box of 4), new spark plug wires ($134/pair), a used ignition coil ($48), and a new ignition switch ($88/incl. new bolts & a set screw) all meant basically nothing in the face of the $11 part that was actually the problem. By my estimates that's... $309 I didn't have to spend and $11 I did, not to mention the probably 8-10 hours of work it was to try each of the wrong fixes. The actual fix took all of 2 minutes to do. I digress.

    The Good:
  1. I chose a route and stuck to it, resisting the temptation to grab extra bonuses (er, boni) that just happened to be close to my route.
  2. I only dropped one bonus from my list as I went along, and that was early in the day.
  3. I was able to stumble across all 4 of the Wild Card boni.
  4. I remembered all the "funny" boni from the original list.
  5. My crappy, old, and slow computer and GPS worked incredibly well.
  6. Nancy's index card organization worked wonderfully and helped me keep everything straight when it came time to file my paperwork.
    The Bad:
  1. I wasted too much time at one specific location trying to find the right thing to photograph. That cost me quite a bit, as I could have picked up at least one other 25-point spot had I not wasted the time.
  2. I relied too heavily on my GPS and the co-ordinates provided by the Rally Masters instead of heeding their urges to pay attention to the instructions in the rally book.
  3. I did not stay hydrated, which didn't affect me so much on Saturday, but far more so on Sunday with a lingering headache and persistent dry mouth.
  4. I had to refer back to my rally book far too often, wasting precious minutes as each consult to the RB required a full stop in a safe(ish) location, at least one glove off, and a root-around in the side case.
  5. While the index cards worked great from a logistical standpoint, the tank bag I kept them in did not - it had no map pocket on top, which meant to look at the cards (faster than looking at the RB), I had to stop the bike and get into the tank bag.
  6. I kept my photo log on the index cards instead of on the photo log from the rally book, thinking (incorrectly) that I would have time to transcribe the card photo notes to the log before downloading my card onto the scoring computers. Luckily, I was allowed to verbally tally my photo count for the downloaded and file my photo log with my rally book after my download quarantine ended.
    Solutions to The Bad:
  1. Reading comprehension. If the rally book says "find the flagpole", find the friggin' flagpole instead of wandering around the park.
  2. Read and copy down the instructions.
  3. Drink more water at more stops. With the new flip-up helmet, there's really no excuse not to be swigging water occasionally.
  4. (Touratech Compact Rallybook, photo from their website.) I won't have this problem any more, as I picked up a technique from Chuck Gittner, the 2nd place finisher from the 24-hour starting in Dothan, AL. He uses a Touratech "Compact Rally-Book", which looks like the pic posted here. It fits cash register receipt paper and you just turn the knobs to move the paper. Chuck transcribed data from the rallybook onto the roll and went from there. So - in the future - bonus location data in the rallybook, point scoring data on the index cards. Chuck lamented that he did not purchase the lighting kit for the C-RB, which would have been helpful to him as he was a 24-hour rider and it was dark between about 6.30 p.m. on Friday til about 7.15 a.m. on Saturday. I will not suffer from this "mistake", as I purchased both the C-RB and the lighting kit at the same time.
  5. I obviously need a new tank bag. I prefer magnetic ones, as they are easy on & off when it comes time for gas. I like the one I have now because it has multiple pockets. The main pocket held my camera, notebook, rally "flag", index card pack, and tape. The large aux pocket held my sharpie markers and receipts. The small pocket held my ink pen (a backup), the spare battery for my camera, and the download cable for the camera, as I didn't want to be screwed if their card reader didn't read my card and I couldn't download that way. I just took my whole tank bag into the download-quarantine area.
  6. Obvious - keep the running photo log on the log sheet rather than on the index cards, or at least transcribe it before entering the quarantine area.

Rally Report

I left work at 1130 on Friday (12 Oct 2007) and headed home to replace my taillight bulb and load my bike. Here's everything I took:
     Left side case: first aid kit, tire repair kit, air pump, compression sack w/fleece jacket liner, sweatpants, and heavy gloves.
     Right side case: bag w/ clothes (2 t-shirts, 2 pr socks, 2 pr unders, 1 pr basketball shorts), good leather gloves, shaving/toiletries kit
     Tail pack: laptop computer (in padded sleeve), book to read if I had time, cabling for camera/computer/GPS, notebook & bonus listing, spare battery for camera, extra pens.
     Top case: tools, spare bulbs, baseball cap.
     Tank bag: camera, painter's tape, cell phone.

I was on the road by 1.30, hit Safeway to buy a 6-pack of juice and some sharpie markers, then pretty much rode straight to Lynchburg.  I gassed up before going and got gas along the way, arriving with about 60 miles gone on the tank, leaving me with at least 100, probably closer to 120.  I took I-95 to Occoquan/Lake Ridge, then US 1 to Stafford, then I-95 again to SR 3, 3 to Constitution Highway and thusly to some other back-ish roads, eventually ending up on US 15, then I-64, US 250, and finally US 29 just barely south of Charlottesville and on to Lynchburg.  The hotel/rally base was easily accessed from that road off the exit for Odd Fellows Road.  Odd fellows, indeed.

I checked in about 4.30 or quarter to 5 and established my first bonus of the rally - the "Guy From Canada" bonus, in which you must provide, upon check in, a 6-pack of your favorite beverage (my orange-pineapple juice), got settled in my room, and tracked down Chaz & Pam, the only other 10-hour riders I knew.  My friend Nancy (Kitty) and another BMWBMW guy, JB, were riding the 24-hour starting from Altoona.

The Rally masters (RMs), or Rally bastards (RBs) as they are often called, arranged for a deli/sandwich tray so everybody wouldn't have to scatter to the winds for supper.  Smart - I helped myself to a couple of cheese & spicy mustard sandwiches with onions & lettuce and enjoyed the pasta salad and pink lemonade as well.

The rider's meeting kicked off precisely at 7.30 with Scott announcing the first wild card bonus - 20 points for taking a picture of your bike in front of a laundromat with a "just married" sign on it.  He also announced the popular "license bonus" - by telling us to ask our starting odometer checker for the license envelope.  Don't ask?  Don't receive.  Don't receive, impossible to get the 35 points for not having to take your license out of the envelope - you know, for a friendly local police officer.  It's one of the ways they enforce the "no speeding" rule.  There were lots of other instructions, with constant reminders to READ THE INSTRUCTIONS in the rally books.

After the meeting ended - about 8.30 - I went back to my room to study the rally book to see if I had any questions, which they would be answering until 9.30.  I asked my questions - minor things - and set about planning my routes.

void route map First thing I did was throw out every route I'd planned in the previous week and start fresh.  I ended up planning a route that cycled NW out of Lynchburg, up I-81, across I-64, then up to near Culpeper, over to Fredericksburg, down to Spotsylvania, near Orange to Gordonsville, then down to Louisa, back to I-64, then to US 29 for an hour's blast into Lynchburg.  It basically looked like a figure 8, but the actual legs were mirror image 3s instead of a crossover in the middle like an 8 has.

Just for grins, I had MapSource invert the route and saved that as well.  My plan, whether I ventured clockwise or counterclockwise, was to pick up 13 hard target bonus locations and as many wild cards and other bonii (that's rallyist plural for bonuses) as possible that I might spot along the way.

I made up an index card for each of my hard target locations - thanks to my friend Kitty for that suggestion - and studied the route closely, turn by turn, on the computer.  One thing that worried me was that US 501 between Lynchburg and Glasgow looks really curvy, and I'd be hitting that at 6 a.m.  In the dark.  Deer-thirty, as we call it.  That did, however, enable me to make up any "lost" time at the end of the day by blasting down US 29, which from a few miles south of Charlottesville (basically the cross-point of my pseudo-8) to a few miles north of Lynchburg is hilly and curvy, but 2 lanes wide with no stoplights, few crossroads, a speed limit of 50-55-60, and few police.  Perfect for making up lost time.

Unable to focus any longer on route planning, I watched House on TV, shut off the tube at midnight, and got 4.5 hours of sleep.

My alarm clock is no screaming meanie (a popular device amongst hardcore LD riders), but it did the trick, and my cell phone's alarm went off 10 minutes later just in case.  I wiped the dew off my bike and got it loaded up - or rather, loaded down.  Left most of the stuff in my room and only took what was necessary to keep the weight down.

I moved my bike to the staging area a little after 5 and got my start odometer read (32937) and asked for (and received) my license envelope.  Rider's meeting started promptly at 5.30 a.m., where we got some more wild card boni and 2 sheets to add to our rally books.  Scott released us to run at about 10 til 6, and I was the last rider out of the parking lot at 5 til 6.

I wore my 3-season gear - Firstgear Kilimanjaro jacket and FG overpants.  I had a t-shirt & a sweatshirt on, as well as basketball shorts and sweatpants - my same rig from the Vermont trip in August, only without the perforated summer gear.  It was cold.  Within 20 minutes I was wishing I'd worn the fleece liner instead of just the sweatshirt, and my heated grips were on high to keep my hands warm.  I rode through the dark, shivering and watching the horizon for the first hints of sunrise (which didn't come until at least 7.15 or 7.20).

(From this point forward, all locations are in Virginia - I won't keep saying "VA" every time I mention a town.)

I booked up US 29, then caught I-64 east for a while, then went north again into Louisa to bag my first photo of the day at 7.30, the VFW memorial on Main Street (bonus location 48).  It was just light enough not to need to use the flash.  My folks live outside nearby Mineral, so Louisa is "town " for them, and I've driven past this memorial a dozen times and never seen it.  Go figure.  Anyway, in Louisa I got gas (fuel bonus), took a leak, and fulfilled 1 of the 4 wild cards - the "nutrition" bonus - by buying beef jerky (yuck!) and Moon Pies; 1 Moon Pie for the points, 1 for me.  Map for this leg.

Next up was a trifecta worth 100 points - 33, 42, and 37 at the Spotsylvania Battlefield.  I couldn't igure out why my computer was routing me funkily through these three locations - all less than a mile apart - until I got to the park Saturday morning at 8.30 and discovered a one-way road between 42 (Ramseur's Brigade) and 37 (Michigan Regiment).  The Ohio Regiment memorial was first - fitting since so much of my family is from Ohio.  I left the last of these at about 9 a.m. - there was quite a bit of walking through brush and along paths to get the photos.  Map for this leg.

Between the S-vania boni and the Fredericksburg one, I spotted both a laundromat (photo of bike w/"Just Married!" sign) and a Salvation Army (photo of sign).  That covered 3 of the 4 wild cards - and I had no idea where to score the 4th, a photo of a fireworks stand.  I tore that bit of tape off my windshield and forgot about it.  Map for this leg.

I messed up royally in Fredericksburg.  I planned to hit F'burg early to avoid traffic - which I mostly did - but instead of following the RBs directions to the location, I trusted the GPS coordinates - which were off by about a mile.  Then when I finally found the cemetery, I wasted at least 20 minutes (if not more) wandering around the park instead of finding the actual cemetery - which I found when I'd finally given up and was getting ready to leave.  I asked a groundskeeper "where are the cannons?"  "Up there," he gestured, "you can see'em from the flagpole."  In the rally book it said, "you can see the bonus location from the flagpole."  Argh.  Bonus #30 bagged.

I had to fight a bit of traffic out route 3 to get to the next location, Stonewall Jackson's arm's grave in Elwood (30), part of the Wilderness Battlefield park.  I'd passed Elwood on my way down Friday, so I kind of knew where the turnoff was, but it was a "typical" bonus location - about a quarter-mile of gravel road followed by a short hike into the woods.  I think every single photo location had a steep hill involved with it as well.  I got to this particular location a mere 5 minutes after the attendants had opened the gate that blocks off the gravel road and learned later that several of my competitors, including my friend Chaz, had arrived pre-unlocking and abandoned the bonus.  On my way out, I ran into Kevin Craft, a GS rider out of Quebec and, coincidentally, the RM for the Rendez-vous, a 12-hour rally I plan to try out next September.  I'd already lost about 10 minutes chatting w/the lady that runs the place - she felt bad that I was there before the museum opened at 11, but I explained to her what I was doing and that I really only needed a photo of the gravesite.  She queried me on the rally, and we parted ways after I got precise directions to the location.  Then on the way out, I chatted w/Kevin briefly and headed out.  I learned later that when he got to the gravesite, he discovered that his Polaroid camera was out of film!!  D'oh!  Back to the bike, reload, back to the grave, back to the bike and go.  It's probably why he only finished 7 points ahead of me instead of more.  Map for this leg.

From there I went to Brandy Station and answered a question by reading an HHM - historical highway marker - about General Lee's activities before the Gettysburg Campaign (29).  Map for this leg.

I needed to blast down US 15/29 for a spell before venturing back into side roads, or rather, what US 15 becomes as it splits off from US 29 near Culpeper and heads for the roundabout in Gordonsville.  I quickly bagged #27 by reading the sign at the historic Exchange Hotel (how much fried chicken parts cost in the olden days), then bagged 70 by photographing the sign at the Barboursville Ruins.  I took a couple minutes there in the parking lot to scarf the spare Moon Pie and drink about half a bottle of water I'd bought at my gas/nutrition bonus/pee stop.  I learned later from Chaz - and MANY others - that I totally ignored a brand-new John Deere dealer that was having their grand opening celebration on US 15 just north of Gordonsville.  I'll explain why that cost me 30 points in a bit. 

Map from 29 to 27  Map from 27 to 70

Gertrude, my trusty Garmin 2610 GPS device-unit, calmly told me to take some gravel roads to reach the main road again, and I dutifully obeyed her instructions.  I'm not the best gravel/dirt rider, and honestly, my bike's not the best for it - straight street bike, street tires, and a fat guy on top of it.  I kept chanting to myself "stay off the front brake, stay on the gas" as I fishtailed and washed out and nearly fell over more than once.  Gertrude told me the road was only .4 of a mile away, but she DIDN'T tell me that there was a locked gate between the road and me.  I could SEE the road from the gate, I just couldn't get to it.  Sigh.  Back through the gravel, but I did much better the second time through.

I was starting the homeward swing of my route now, and I threaded my way down to I-64 so I could pass, turn around, and bag the photo bonus at the VDOT Memorial between mile markers 103 and 104 on the eastbound lanes.  That was just after 1 p.m., and I got gas again at the next exit up the road, then got back onto I-64 westbound to continue bonus hunting.  Map for this leg.

Exit 99 brought me back to Fishersville, the place where my bike died several weeks ago and I was stranded for hours waiting for my stepdad to come pick me up.  No such luck this time, and I quickly found the John Deere dealership (28), located exactly where the website said it was.

What the website didn't say, though, was that it was a commercial-customer location that's closed on Saturdays!  I could only bag half the bonus - a photo of the sign and some JD equipment - and missed out on the 30-point bonus for a photo of myself on or in something JD branded.  Those 30 points would have helped a lot!!  I left there at 1.45 and got back on I-64, then I-81 south to head for Lexington.

My drive-in theater (41) was in Lexington, right on US 11, but lo and behold - my luckiest stop of the day - a fireworks stand!  I grabbed the last of the wild card boni less than a mile from my chosen drive-in!  Grabbed the drive-in and plotted my next location in the GPS.

I went further down I-81, then got back on US 11, where I noticed that going to 45 (Dino Girl in Glasgow) took me right past 44 (Foamhenge, near Natural Bridge) and told Gertrude to plot me to Foamhenge.  She resisted, wanting me to go back to the intersection of I-64 and I-81 first.  I prevailed though. Getting the photo at Foamhenge (of the surfing wizard statue) was another uphill run in full motorcycle gear.  Fun.  I found out later there was a driveway around the back of the hill.  Meh.  Almost 3 p.m., and I have to be back by 3.59.59 to avoid penalty points.  Map from 70 to Foamhenge, incl. John Deere, fireworks, and the drive-in.

After Foamhenge, I cut onto SR 130 to get to Glasgow and Dino Girl, then took US 501 back to Lynchburg.  Map for 44 to 45.

That road is very reminiscent of US 211, another twisty, turny, somewhat scary (and fun) mountain road.  I started to get worried though.  When I left Glasgow, Gertrude told me I'd be back at the hotel at 3.41.  As I continued to ride US 501, my arrival time kept ticking later and later.  By the time I got off the mountain and into Lynchburg, I'd lost 10 minutes.  The "problem " was that I've told MapSource that on state highways I go 55 mph.  US 501 is a state highway.  Unfortunately for me, it is a state highway on which you simply cannot go 55 and live.  It has 15 and 20 mph hairpin switchbacks - both uphill and downhill - and going 55 on those sections would be suicide.  May for final leg.

When I finally got off US 501 I hit some afternoon traffic, which pretty much sealed the deal on me dumping bonus 55, buying a nut and bolt at Lowe's.  The bonus was worth 50 points, and with late penalties running 10 points a minute, I'd be far later than 5 minutes late - not worth the stop. I reached the hotel, grabbed all my camera gear and notes and made it inside to stop my clock at 3.52.  Whew!

At that point, I was "quarantined" until I finished downloading my pictures onto the scoring computers.  As far as I know, this is only the 2nd rally of this type to allow digital pictures - they're really done with polaroids, so this was kind of a big deal.  The RBs and their crew did a great job of it though - at least as far as I'm concerned - and I had zero problems getting the pictures off my camera's card and onto the scoring computer.

After getting my finish odometer read (33323) and recorded, I retreated to my room after that to fill out my rally book - I'd been writing everything down on the index cards.  I had to have my finisher's envelope in "the box" before 5.30 or I risked scoring a ZERO for the rally.  Since my goal was to avoid the dreaded DNF (did not finish), a zero would have been OK, but come on - I wanted to do better than that!

I carefully checked my index cards, made sure they were in the right order, and started transcribing my notes into the rally book.  I put my rally book, Just Married sign, photo log, beef jerky, and Moon Pie into the finisher's envelope, sealed it, signed it, and turned it in.

At that point I dug up Kitty, she had a beer while I drank a hard lemonade (no beer before medicine).  I had to wait til all the 24-hour riders were scored before I could sit down at the scoring table, and thanks to my attention to my rally book as well as great advice from Kitty, I breezed through scoring.  I did get denied on one bonus - the Exchange Hotel - because the official answer was in list format, and I had written my answer down as it appeared on the sign.  All my photo boni were accepted without question though, and that was the thing that worried me the most - what with the bias toward polaroids that the hardcore rallyists seem to have.  No problem for me, though, none at all.

I was able to successfully challenge that denied bonus at the RM's table, where Gary pulled up a picture of the sign and I explained that I had done what they pounded into us at the rider's meeting the night before - ANSWER THE QUESTION VERBATIM FROM THE SIGN.  Gary double-checked my point total, I signed my score sheet, we shook hands, and my first 10-hour rally was official.

Here's all my bonii, then, whether they were an answer or photo bonus, and their points:

Total - 961 points

The rider's banquet started a bit earlier than 7.30 because everybody was anxious and hungry.  It took quite a while to score all the 10-hour riders, but we ate and drank.  The food was good - what I could eat of it, anyway.  I had cole slaw, excellent potatoes, and corn.  Everything else was either meat (pork? BBQ and chicken) or had meat in it (baked beans and green beans).  I got plenty to eat, though, and had an excellent cherry-based dessert.  Drank a beer after dinner, and enjoyed the festivities, stories, and finally got to hear Scott announce the top 5 finishers in each group.

The 10-hour riders were dominated by 2-up teams, which took first through fourth.  I placed 8th, 7 points behind Kevin and 1 point ahead of my friend Chaz.  Maybe next year they'll give the 2-uppers their own division!  I had to go ask Gary about my placement in the group later.

I was back in my room before 10 and asleep before 11.30.  I did some organizing, cleaned my helmet, packed a bit, and crashed out.

Sunday was pretty relaxed.  I woke up about 7.15, putzed around, took a shower, and loaded my side cases.  I ran into Kitty in the parking lot, she was loading her bike too.  She knows a lot more of these rally riders than I do, so it was cool to be around her and get to meet them.  Names escape me, as always, but I met the guy who dropped his R1150RT down into a ditch - it was all scratched up, but obviously still ran fine as he finished the rally!

We ate some breakfast - yogurt and a bagel w/peanut butter and orange juice for me - and talked with Chaz & his wife Pam - who also ran the 10-hour - and a few other people.  Heard some more stories and then got serious about hitting the road about 9.

I chatted with Chuck Gittner, a guy from Florida that rides a K1200LT and was having some trouble with his bike - it was only running on 3 of the 4 cylinders.  I quizzed him about his cockpit - that's where I saw the Touratech Compact Rally Book that I bought earlier today - and wished him luck on his repair. Kitty led me out of the parking lot about 9.30 and we headed for Lovingston, where we collected that QIT bonus - it was her LAST one.  She's gotten them ALL - I think the total is 50,000 points.  Crazy.

We got gas there, then stopped again in Gordonsville to remove some layers.  We stopped again briefly at a Sheetz where US 17 crosses US 15/29, and I took the lead after that, taking us up that road til US 15 splits off to the left, then onto I-66.  I took the Fairfax County Parkway the rest of the way, cutting across where I normally do to pick up US 1 and get home.  Last thing I did before hitting the driveway was gas up once more.

Once inside, my weekend went straight to hell as I learned that my daughter picked up lice from somewhere and the rest of the day - from about 3 p.m. on - got spent dealing with that.  She now has a very short haircut, we did the funky shampoo and crazy-narrow-toothed comb, and I spent the rest of the day doing laundry.  All the bedding, towels, and all her clothes had to be washed in hot water and colorfast bleach.  Same with my wife's stuff, and she had to do the whole shampoo & comb routine with her hair as well - but hers is long and thick.  I showered again, used that nasty shampoo and painful comb on my beard (after trimming it very short).

Monday morning, it was back on the bike to ride to work - as usual!  The traffic was terrible though, due to an accident - took me 70 minutes to ride 17 miles.  A far cry from the weekend, no doubt about that.