Monday, October 8, 2012

The Void 7

The Void 7 - another rally report.
Each rally we participate in is the same same old stuff but totally new and different stuff and the same time. Concepts remain pretty much the same - start here at a certain time, end there at a certain time - same old stuff. The different stuff is in how you go about doing it!

This year we started in Statesboro, GA. The 400 mile ride over on Thursday was uneventful and after checking in it was the usual social time meeting old friends, sharing dinner and drinks, and then getting a good night’s rest before the start of a long 29 hour ride.

Start time was between 0850 and 0910 on Friday morning. We had to be in Lynchburg with all our paperwork completed and scoring envelope turned in before 2:00 PM in order to prevent losing points. Route selection was made, GPS’s (all 3 of them) were loaded, and all we had to do was to ride to 18 different locations through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland, and Virgina. The plotted route was 1213 miles by GPS. Easy peasy - right!

Normally when I establish my route, I just use an average speed to figure out how far we can go in a set period of time. We don’t worry too much about hitting specific checkpoints at specific times as long as that average speed stays at or above our goal. I played it different this year and figured out the exact time we needed to be at each bonus in order to stay on schedule. We also made a reservation for our rest stop (something we almost never do). It worked our and probably will be our adopted method in future rally situations.

On to the show!
Start time was 0852 with a starting odometer reading of 144955. First bonus was a HHM (Highway Historical Marker) in Aiken, SC at the Graniteville Cemetary established in 1850. No problem, found it, photographed it, and moved out. Scheduled arrival time was 1035 actual time was 1026. Woohoo - 9 minutes ahead of schedule and 95 miles down. Sometimes, 30 seconds makes a difference because we were 30 seconds too late to cross a train track before a loooonnnnnggg train went through. We sat, and sat, and sat slowly watching our time click away!

96 Historical Park is next in Ninety Six, SC!

Next stop is Ridgeway, SC at the World’s Smallest Police Station that was operated from 1940-1990. Scheduled arrival was 1:18 and we got there at 12:57 - 21 minutes ahead and 229 miles down. Things are looking good!

Onward to Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, NC. We had to find a specific sign - Gate 20, Diamond Tower Tickets, Section 223-207, Suites 195-208. We don’t know how many gates there are, but the one we wanted was of course on the opposite side of the track from where we entered. Schedule time 2:24, arrival time 2:33 - still 1 minute ahead but lost a lot of time watching the train roll by. 319 miles under our belts.

Exiting the speedway, traffic on the interstate went to stop and go. It’s hot too! That 1 minute disappeared really fast as traffic was slow for almost an hour!
Wytheville, VA was our next bonus to take a photo of a giant pencil. Sure enough, right at the coordinates was an office supply business with a giant pencil as their sign. 473 miles now. Scheduled time 4:59 actual arrival 5:32. Thanks to traffic we are now 33 minutes behind. That‘s gonna be hard to make up!

We’re headed to West Virginia now. A side note - West Virginia has never been kind to us. Every time and I mean every time we cross that state line it rains on us. Sometimes a little, most times a lot. I had made a decision to avoid West Virginia this year, but the route dictated we go. Fingers crossed and no rain in the forecast, we went.

Lewisburg, WV and a photo of a bell at the Lewisburg Graded School from 1878 was the bonus. As we approached the coordinates in the dark, we saw nothing that looked like a bell or a bonus or a school. I just happened to glance off to the right into a dark parking lot and saw a motorcycle. Ha! Maybe that’s it so around the block we went, into this dark hole of a parking lot, and sure enough there it was. Another competitor had found it! Scheduled time 6:57 actual time 7:43 - 46 minutes behind. We have ridden 596 miles - almost half-way and we're way behind.

Off to Eagle Rock, VA and a photo of a gate to Roaring Run Furnace. Found the coordinates only to see a narrow dirt trail leading off into some very dark woods. What the heck - down the trail we go and sure enough about ¼ mile in is the gate. Photo made, a quick potty stop in the woods (yeah there are advantages to being a guy), and off we go. We are now exactly 1 hour behind and 645 miles into the ride.

Roads weren’t too bad and traffic was light. We had to get to Monterey, VA to take a photo of a giant fish on top of the Maple Restaurant. Monterey is a small town and dark! I finally got enough light focused to see the fish in the photo. Scheduled time 9:00 PM arrival time 10:16. Now we are even further behind and the best is yet to come.

Now we have to make our way to Elkins, WV for a photo of the giant statue of Minnehaha, a fictional character from Longfellow’s epic poem, The Song of Hiawatha. West Virgina is not know for it’s long, straight highways, but rather for winding, twisted, rising, falling goat trails that often are not well marked with no lines and no reflectors and maybe an occasional sign telling you the next turn is almost a complete circle. We know this but off we go.

Let’s summarize by saying that roads from Monterey onward follow the paths of mountains goats under the influence of fermented berries and acorns with a touch of hallucinogenic mushrooms thrown in for good measure. It is late, we are starting to get tired and riding the mountain roads at night is just not fun. But, in the true spirit of long distance riders, we pressed on!

We found Minnehaha at 11:57 PM when we should have found her at 10:31. Time is slipping by and we are now at 780 miles. Photo done and now off to Kingwood, WV. Roads are still typical West Virginia but the good thing is no rain with light traffic.

In Kingwood, we had to take a photo of the Westbrook Esso Station circa 1937. Arrival is now a new day - Saturday morning! Time is 1:16 and 8:40 miles. We are over 1.5 hours behind schedule

Off to our scheduled rest bonus in Frostburg, MD at the Day‘s Inn. They were quite proud of their rooms and it cost us almost 100 bucks to rest for 3.5 hours - that’s about $28.50 an hour but worth every penny! We got our rest start receipt at 2:24 AM and were back on the road at 6:07 AM. It was a very short sleep! 903 miles into the rally now.

We are obviously way behind schedule but had some buffer time built in on the end. We discussed cutting some bonus locations, eating breakfast, and having just heading to the barn. The competitive spirit in Barbara won out so with daylight looming just ahead, we forged on.

Let me mention at this point that the West Virginia curse was alive and well. Yep, it rained and we went back and forth across state lines. Thank goodness not much, but the record is intact - West Virginia plus a motorcycle equals rain!

Road Kill Café in Artemas, PA was the goal. We hit the café at 6:54 AM and the smell of breakfast cooking almost won us over. We pushed onward like all good long distance riders do and headed for our next stop. 941 miles into the rally now.

The next bonus was a bit weird. We had to take a photo of a giant Midas man statue. Not usual to find those in front of muffler shops or auto repair shops. This was strange as the GPS routed us off the main highway and down some more crooked roads. The bonus was right where the GPS said it was - in the yard of someone’s house, along with lots of other giant statues. Story is this person has 20 odd of these strange art forms!  Sorta creepy and we weren’t about to pull into the yard. We eased up on the side of the road and snapped the picture. A rather odd looking old man came out of the house across the street, stared at us for a while, and wandered on to his mailbox. 8:00 AM and 995 miles. 2 hours off our schedule.

We have our second wind now and started figuring that we could make it and have a little time left for a buffer. Gas was going to be really close but it only takes a few minutes for a splash and go!

We cruised through Berkley Spring, WV and as we entered town started seeing handmade signs for parking. The closer we got into town the more obvious it was that there was going to be a festival and parade soon! Kids were loading up on their floats, chairs lining the side of the highway to watch the parade. We luckily made it through without incident but never found out what the party was going to be about until now. Seems that the Apple Butter Festival is a pretty big deal. Google is my friend!

Middleburg, VA and a quick stop for a photo of a HHM titled Mosby’s Ranger’s. 1047 miles down in just 4 minutes over 24 hours. Not shabby considering the roads, stopping, resting, etc.
We skipped the next bonus since it required a 1 mile walk. Wasn’t even gonna try that.

Orange VA and what was supposed to be a stamp from the airport. Evidently there was a problem with the stamp and an e-mail was sent telling us to get a photo of the sign instead. Just so happens another rider was there and let us know about the change. Whew! 1116 miles at 10:16 AM.
Side note - This section of Virginia is beautiful with expansive farms and miles and miles of dry stacked stone fences that are absolutely amazing.

Afton VA and a photo of a sign detailing the 1st hole of a golf course. Just so happens the course sits on top of a ridge with a really curvy steep road up. Funny place to put a golf course! 1175 miles down…..we’re nearing the end and the time is 11:24. We have to be in Lynchburg, paperwork done and turned in before 2:00 PM with 2 bonuses yet
 to go.

Lexington, VA is the home of Washington & Lee University and Virginia Military Institute. Just so happens it is homecoming for VMI and the place is packed and our routes goes right by the stadium. We made it through and got the photo at Washington and Lee - barely! 12:13 PM 1224 miles. Heck, we got plenty of time.

The last bonus is a photo in Glasgow, VA of a woman riding a dinosaur. Not something you see every day, but there is was. Photo snapped at 12:41 and 1245 miles. Nothing to do now but head for the finish line.

Rider’s are starting to sorta stack up as everybody has the same plan. The route takes us up and over a ridge on some curvy roads but no problem since it is dry, except for the old folks wearing matching hats in a Miata. They weren’t in a rush like we were. No choice but to follow the line of cars and watch the clock tick.

My low fuel light has been flashing off and on depending on which was the bike leans. I normally have 1 gallon after the light comes on but with all the leaning and turning, now we aren’t sure. I think we can make it on fumes but what an embarrassement it would be to run out of gas 5 miles from the finish.

A quick splash of a couple of gallons certainly increased the comfort level.
We hit the finish line at 1:27 PM, 1279 miles on the odometers and 33 minutes to get our paperwork in order.

Barbara does an excellent job of record keeping on the road so it is just a matter of transcribing times, dates, and mileage into the rally book to turn in. There was the usual quick banter with other riders before we got serious about getting scored. We checked, we double checked and all was well. Our envelope got turned in with 3 minutes to spare before we would incur penalties.

The rule is once you sit down at the scoring table and are ready for scoring, you can’t leave and if you forgot something, well, you just lost points. We had everything we thought we would need in hand.

Everything went smoothly until the Orange County Airport bonus. Somehow, I forgot to write down the time and odometer reading in the rally book. We had left our note cards in the work room…….arrrrgggghhh! 21 points down the drain for a simple stupid mistake!

We ended the rally with 533 points which was good enough for a 5th place finish. In the shoulda, woulda, coulda category, had we not lost 21 points at the table and had we not skipped the walk the outcome would have been much better with a possible top 3 finish.

Shower and food were priorities! The banquet wouldn’t start until 7:30 and we hadn’t eaten since breakfast the day before. A stroll to the Outback for cold beer and appetizers hit the spot and then back to the bar to swap lies and meet and greet. Another big plate of food during the banquet and we were peacefully asleep before 10:00 PM.

We got up late Sunday morning to gloomy skies, rain, and cold temperatures. We drug our feet getting packed hoping the rain would stop which it didn’t! It rained periodically on us all the way to Bristol, TN when the skies finally lightened up. 632 miles home in exactly 12 hours. Sure was nice to sleep in our own bed!

The Void is normally our last rally of the season. This year we are headed to Texas in a couple of weeks to participate in the Big Texas Rally which is going to be a 36 hour rally totally within the confines of the state of Texas.

Stay tuned!

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