COVOID 2020 – Good Ole Boys to the Rescue

As we all know, 2020 has been one crazy year.  It was to be the final year of the premiere east coast rally, the Mason Dixon 2020.  With the ever changing lockdowns and restrictions it was first postponed, and then combined with The Void to become the COVOID 2020.  And it was to be a virtual rally with no pre or post rally banquet and all photos submitted by email.

We were all impacted to different extents and in various ways.  I found it difficult to get motivated to do anything – at all.  That included reading the emails from our Rally Master (sorry Rick and Scott) or doing anything that I needed to do for the rally.  Fortunately I got the paperwork needed in just in time, however I missed minor things like the steps required setting up my ability to submit photos during the rally and was one of the subjects of the email of shame. 

And then it was suddenly the weekend before the rally.  Just after midnight on Saturday October 3rd we received the bonus listing.  This included the location based bonus locations, their point values, and any restrictions (day, night, etc.).  Everything one needs to start planning their route.  Unfortunately I was fast asleep and did not think to check my email until Saturday evening at 10pm.  I downloaded the files and set everything up by importing the locations into my mapping software.  After 2 or 3 hours I had a route but once I added in the time required for each bonus and took into consideration a few night time bonus  locations and a mandatory bonus being my last bonus of the rally I was nervous that I could not afford any delays without a huge impact to my rally so I reversed the route and voila I was done … for now.  My revised route had me starting at Ft Indiantown Gap PA and ending in Binghamton NY.   I was certain that I’d be making changes when I received the full rally book.

And then it was Wednesday October 7.  Before 7am we had received our final rally materials, the rally book.  And I had to work all day.  After work I was able to review the rally book.  I made some changes to my route but nothing major, just a tweak here and a tweak there.  I did however note that we were told to expect an update for the following morning at 8am.  And of course work wasn’t going to let me go too easily as someone had scheduled a noon meeting on Thursday that I had to attend. Fortunately my start location was only 100 miles from home so all I really lost was the option of sleeping a little late.  Thursday morning the email came right on schedule.  I noted this included a few additional bonus locations, a combination bonus that we could claim and some on the fly boni such as taking a photo of a road gator (tire tread), buying a York Peppermint Patty, and a Sheetz bonus where you could get points for stopping at a Sheetz store before and after a physical bonus for a few points. After work I modified my route to include some of these and at 4pm headed to my hotel.

To start the rally we needed a dated electronic receipt with the time, date and address.  On the way to the hotel I decided to check the gas station next to the National Cemetery which was my first bonus.  And it was 38 minutes off.  I went inside for another receipt and it too was 38 minutes off.  That would have been too easy…  Up the road was an ATM, so I pulled into the bank and did a balance inquiry.  Time was spot on, but the address was building #108, Ft Indiantown Gap.  I was unsure if that would work and no time to contact the rally master so I decided I’d see if I could get a receipt near my hotel since it was only 6 miles away.  Surely an extra 10 minutes would not hurt.  I got off the highway and there was a gas station next to my hotel.  Got some gas and the time was spot on and the address was fine.  I had a winner.  I also noticed there was a Sheetz 2 miles down the road, so that was my next stop to be sure I knew where it was.  That done, I checked into my hotel.

Once settled I spread all my stuff out and went through it.  I read the start and finish procedures as well as the photo submission procedures.  I chose to take advantage of the one combination bonus so I had to add two more stops and then find something to drop to make up the time.  I finalized my route and decided to cut up my spare rally book so I could have a separate page for each bonus and I put them in order.  That would save valuable time searching for each bonus in the rally book so I could review it before claiming the bonus.  And then at midnight it was time for bed.

As is normal for me with all rallies, I entered the time warp and the instant my eyes were closed my alarm was going off.  Up I was, finished packing and took my stuff out to my bike.  On the way back I grabbed my breakfast bag and a cup of coffee. 20 minutes later I was at the gas pump waiting for my phone to show 7:10 am so I could get my start receipt. 

And of course at that point my brain went blank and I had to fumble around and dig out the instructions to understand what I needed to do to submit it.  At 7:21 I finally got it sent in.  8 minutes to send a text, sheesh!

My next stop was 2 miles down the road at the Sheetz.  I got there and rather than simply add a few drops of fuel I chose to run inside and grab something to drink, and use the bathroom one more time.  Finally, 8 minutes after I had sent in my start receipt I had my first of two Sheetz receipts.  I’m off to a blazing start.

That sent in I was on the road to visit Jim Young’s grave for the last time during a rally.  Jim was a rider who participated in the first two MD 2020 rallies and his grave was a staple of the rally.  I’d been there several times and knew roughly where it was.  I also was 50/50 on missing the turn to visit that section of the cemetery.  I entered the cemetery and came to the fork and chose left rather than going straight … and 30 seconds later I realized I should have gone straight.  Around the loop I went and the next time I chose wisely.  I stopped 30 feet short of the section he was in, moved forward and parked.  I took my photo and was on my way, now 30 minutes behind schedule

Finally on the road I started heading towards my next stop, the ERB Mennonite church.  I needed another Sheetz store so I could claim the 99 point Sheetz bonus and while there were many in the area I found they were 5 minutes off my route and I could not spare the time. I found one that was just past my next bonus so a quick change to my route and I was in business.  I got to the Sheetz and got another receipt, again costing me almost 10 minutes and making me a little later.

A mile down the road I was at the church and claimed the next bonus at the ERB Mennonite church

At that point I had stabilized the bleeding of time and was remaining at 30-40 minutes behind schedule.  My next bonus was a sing for Intercourse PA.  As I was making my way there I kept checking my list of “on the fly” boni and I saw a Sonic restaurant.  A quick turn into the lot and after realizing it was not safe to park in the middle of the driveway I parked and took my photo.  Unfortunately I did not read what I needed to include in the photo to claim the bonus

I continued down the road to my next stop in Intercourse.  The sign was right where it should have been and I stopped for the photo

Most rallies raise money for some charity and this rally was no exception. We needed  to make a donation to the Fisher House which could be done before the rally.  However, it could not be the first bonus claimed.  I had it slotted to be sent in after the Intercourse bonus so I laid out my receipt, took the photo, and submitted it as well

My next stop was a historical marker in Bel Air MD for the Tudor House which was the boyhood home of John Wilkes Booth.  I had a good ride and even spotted a large piece of tread from a truck tire for the Gator bonus, however I was in the left lane and could not get over quick enough to stop so I passed it by.  I entered Maryland on US 1 and was making good time until I came across road construction at an intersection that was not flagged by my GPS.  At first I did not think it would take too long because one lane was closed so the two lanes had to alternate.  There were 20 or so cars in front of me so I figured it would be our time soon.  When I saw the oncoming lane of traffic stop I noticed the traffic from the right side of the intersection was moving, and then the left side, and finally the cars in front of me started moving.  I restarted my engine 20 minutes after I had stopped.  The rest of the ride to the bonus went without issue and I took and sent in my photo

Next up was the Rhino bonus.  This was a colorful rhino at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore MD.  I made good time getting there but once off the highway I was in stop and go city traffic.  It wasn’t too bad and I finally got close.  My GPS showed the bonus to be on the left and I knew it was near a parking area.  As I got close I was more concerned with the traffic so I made a left when my GPS told me to and voila, I was there … in the entrance to a parking garage.  I knew that was wrong so I turned around and got out of there and went to find a place to park and read my rally book.  I stopped in a parking lot and saw it was near the valet booth on the opposite side of the road from the garage.  Armed with that information I went back around the block and pulled into the lot and took my photo.  Due to the amount of traffic I chose to leave and find a place down the road to park and submit my bonus

My next bonus was Winchester VA which was a 2 hour ride.  First I had to navigate city traffic and it was slow.  Finally I got out of Baltimore and started clicking off miles.  The location given was just a general location for planning purposes, so as I rode I searched for a gas station with a Winchester address that was not in the center of town and next to the highway.  I found one and when I substituted it I gained about 10 minutes.    I got to the city limits and pulled into the gas station.  The bonus requirement was to get at least one gallon of gas.  It was tempting to top off but if for some reason the receipt did not say Winchester I was out of luck.  I chose to top off my auxiliary fuel tank but wait for the receipt before topping of the main tank.  Got my fuel and the address was Winchester, so I topped off the other tank and then submitted my bonus.

That done I was off to my next bonus in Kings Crossing VA which was about an hour south.  This was the first of 5 that were part of the Duck combo.  They were called a Duck combo because we were to bring a rubber duckie with us and include it in the photo.  I got to the town and found a place to park that was about 50 feet from the sign and took my photo and submitted it

That done I was once again pointed north for my next bonus, the Greatest Gift Ever (called that by the rally master).  This was a sign in the shape of a historical marker that many of the MD 2020 riders had pitched in to purchase for our rally master and his wife.  I wanted to see this because the photos looked fantastic.  It was located at The Estate, which was a vacation home for our rally master in the mountains of West Virginia.  As I was headed that way I realized I was now 1 hour and 15 minutes late and I was beyond my cushion.  I could not shorten my rest bonus because it was way too many points.  I spent 15 minutes contemplating what to do and realized that dropping that bonus was the smartest thing I could do to get back on schedule.  I hit the skip button and my next bonus was now an old ESSO station in Kingwood WV.  Along the way I needed a break so I pulled into a hole in the wall gas station/pizza place and got myself a soda.  While I was there I spotted a York Peppermint Patty which was another “on the fly” bonus so I grabbed that, paid, and submitted it.

I took a short break and got back on the road and made it to the ESSO station.  As suspected, I had visited this station in my first VOID rally only this time it was daylight.  Cool place

That done I was off for Simpson airfield in Philippi WV.  This airport was cool as it crossed a road and we had to take a photo of the yield sign.  I got there without issue and ended up parking in an area that was actually where the runway crossed.  At this point I was 20 minutes behind schedule which was in my comfort zone

Back on the road I was headed for Pickens WV.  I had heard many discuss this location but I had never been there.  It’s claim to fame was the fact that there was one paved road into town and all others were gravel.  The rally book said the paved road was from Helvetia.  Like a fool I did not do a lot of research on this due to time.  I did see however that my route did go through Helvetia so I had some comfort. 

One of our “free” boni was to text the rally master with your location and next bonus between 6 and 9pm.  At 7pm I found a place to pull over and send my text.  That done I continued on my way.  I stopped for gas at a small gas station and got some food.  I passed through Helvetia and was making good time, actually gaining time.  I made a turn to follow the magenta line and quickly the road turned to gravel.  I had about 5 miles of this and the best speed I could make on the gravel was 15mph.  Some areas were dirt and I could to 25.  While it seemed like forever I only lost 10 minutes. 

One there I had the fun of taking a photo and lighting up a building but not washing out my white flag due to too much light.  I found a positon where the flag was readable and got my photo.  Not only being worth a sizeable amount of points, this was also part of the duck combo.  See the duck in the photo?  Me neither!

My next bonus was the Dola Miners memorial.  It seemed like it took forever to get there because I had 6 miles of gravel roads to get out of Pickens, and then I hit another 10 miles of unpaved roads as I worked my way out to a main road.  From there the miles were clicking away and if everything went smoothly I would still be within my cushion.  I came up on the turn for Dola and noticed one GPS, my Garmin 665 had me exiting and my other GPS, my Garmin 590 which had traffic, had me exiting at the next exit about 5 miles down the road.  I chose to stay on the highway because in most places other than West Virginia if you stay on a highway for an extra 5 miles you can make up some time.  I got off at the exit and made my way to the memorial.  I made a few turns and passed a sign that said “Dead End”.  Obviously the sign was wrong, and then I passed through an open gate and decided I was good to go.  The road turned to gravel and I crept closer to the memorial.  I came to a Y and going left looked like a driveway so I went right, and 100 feet later I was in someone’s front yard with my GPS saying the road continued and the bonus was less than a mile away.

I turned around and headed out  I saw a few roads that circled around and tried one but quickly realized it was taking me back to where I was so I worked my way out to a paved road and hit the detour button.  It came up with a route and I followed it.  The paved road I was on was getting smaller and smaller, and then turned to gravel, and then I passed a Dead End sign that was obviously wrong and kept going.  The road suddenly got narrower  I kept going and about half a mile down the road I saw some huge mud and water filled ruts in tracks and as I passed them my rear wheel slipped into one.  After a few minutes I was able to free my bike and then my light lit up the road in front of me and the road went down a steep rut filled hill that a 4X4 would have trouble with.  Not being a complete dummy I decided to turn around and fortunately the left side of the road was sloped but smooth and solid so I pulled partially up and rolled back to get the bike pointed out.  As I was moving forward the front wheel slid into a rut and then the rear wheel slid into another, leaving the frame on the road with the wheels sitting in mud and water filled ruts.  I got off the bike with it still upright and saw two 6 ft. 2X4’s.  I was in the process of breaking them up and stuffing them under my tires when I saw headlights coming my way.  A jeep pulled up and a couple of good ole boys (actually they were 20 somethings but Good Ole Boys sounds better).  The asked if I needed help.  I instantly thought I heard banjos and could have sworn I saw Ned Beatty running through the woods.  (You young people who have no idea what I am talking about look up the movie Deliverance).  I said yes and they both hopped out and after a few minutes had lifted my front wheel out of the rut and I was able to pull away. My thanks to the Good Ole Boys who came to my rescue at 11:30 pm in nowhere WV.

I took stock of my situation and I was 90 minutes behind schedule without backtracking to the DOLA bonus.  Giving up on DOLA meant I was not getting the DUCK combo worth 500 points.  However the rest bonus was 15 points a minute so points wise I was better off skipping the combo.  I made it to my next bonus which was in St Mary’s  WV.  It took a few minutes to find an open gas station at 30 minutes past midnight but I found one and got my gallon of gas

And with that I was done for the night.  My hotel for my rest bonus was 20 minutes away in Marietta OH.  I had trouble finding a gas station, the first was closed and let me pump ½ a gallon but said see clerk for receipt.  Finally I found another gas station that was open and I got my receipt

I checked into my hotel and took a quick shower.  I pulled out my laptop to see what I could salvage.  On my list was Nelsonville PA which had “13 miles of good dirt road from end to end”.  This was part of the Duck combo and was worth 598 points which was a lot for this rally.  The Duck combo was out because 1) I had forgotten my duck in the Pickens bonus and 2) I had skipped the DOLA bonus.  I dropped the stops in the center of PA and added a few in NY.  Taking into account the longer rest bonus on the revised route this was my best option.  With that I grabbed a few hours of sleep.

Of course a nanosecond after I laid down my alarm was going off.  One snooze later I was up, dressed, and packed. Packed the bike and grabbed my breakfast bag from the lobby, swallowed it, and headed for the gas station

End receipt in hand I submitted it, but I was still hungry so I went inside to get some food.  Then I took a look at my bike and had to laugh at the mud

With that I was off but my lack of focus cost me 20 minutes.  I made the call to skip my next bonus, the bucket from the Big Muskie drag line. That gave me back the 20 minutes I had lost at a cost of 231 points.  My next planned stop was the Flintstone house in Painesville OH.  Along the way I spotted one of the “on the fly” boni, GATOR, so I pulled over for my photo

I continued to the Flintstone house and had a little difficulty finding it but once I saw it I knew I was in the right place

Next was a historical marker for the Ashtabula train disaster.  Other than having to get off the bike because I did not want to take a photo into the sun this went smoothly

Next was Erie, the third of the four base stops.  Again the location given was a general location and was actually not in Erie.  I found a station inside Erie but my GPS had not recalculated in time for me to get onto I-79 so I exited and worked my way through traffic to the next entrance to I-79.  Due to the highway the roads were a bit convoluted trying to get to the station but I found it and got my receipt

At this point I was only a few minutes behind schedule.  My next stop was the Highland Park Diner in Rochester NY.  The only issue I was having is the winds had really picked up and I was getting blown all over the road.  Needless to say taking my photo at the diner was difficult.  Fortunately I timed a photo just between gusts and with the aid of my bike as a wind block I got my photo

With that I had one more bonus left, the Eaton Post office in Eaton NY.  This was cool because it looked like a lighthouse.  I was tempted to skip it and be done 30 minutes later, but I just could not do it.  I headed on my way and after two hours of riding I was there.  The riding was great and I was glad I did not skip it. The only issue was again the wind, but I took my photo and I was off to Binghamton NY

I had an uneventful 30 minute ride to Binghamton and along the way I found a station in the city limits and also found a hotel.  I made a quick stop to book my room and kept going.  I got to the station and got my final receipt at 6:25 pm, 45 minutes to submit my final paperwork

With that done I needed a bathroom rather badly and the station where I was did not have one for the public so I made a stop at one next to the highway.  Pit stop made I finished the submission for the Base bonus which was recording the for base stops (gas stations) on the log and emailing the photo

I considered sending in my information to finish the rally then however with the wind and the desire to read everything I chose to head to the hotel.  I did see several riders at the station and said a quick hello, and then was on the bike for the 10 minute ride to the hotel.  I had checked in already so I could go straight to my room.  Of course I was in the slowest elevator ever and it had a nice bang to it.  Despite the sign in the elevator there was nothing subtle about it and it actually hurt my back.

Once in the room I spread everything out and reviewed the finish procedures.  I filled out my log, took a photo of my flag, and submitted them.

I then read the information about the finishing text which was the last submission and I was required to send a text with a photo of my odometer, my flag number, and the word done.  And of course I did not have a photo of my odometer so I ran down to the bike and took one at 7:05 pm.  My finish time was  7:14 pm, if I went passed that time I was disqualified. 

My finish text was sent in at 7:09 pm, 5 minutes to spare.  Total miles ridden was 1,322 miles.

The results were announced the following night.  I ended up being in 14th place out of 42 riders, much better than I thought.  I’ll take that!

My route