A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I came across the events page on the IBA website and started reading about rallies. I thought, that sounds like fun. And thus my quest to participate in one began. Unfortunately, all of the east coast rallies for the past 2-3 years have conflicted with other events I participate in. Then came the Void 7 and 2012. At first I had a conflict with an Autism ride I participate in each year. Then my riding buddy who I do an annual bike trip with had to move our annual trip up a week so it began on Saturday Oct 6. Our ride for this year was to start by heading down Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. I asked myself: where in the back woods of Virginia is Lynchburg anyway? A quick look at the map and my mind started thinking maybe, just maybe, I could start my annual bike trip off with a rally and have my buddy meet me in Lynchburg since that is about where we would likely stop anyway. A quick email and it was confirmed, I was going to participate in my first rally. All I had to do was register and get the paperwork in. I had a full 3 days before the deadline.

Of course, things cannot all go that smoothly. A week prior to the rally I decided to violate one of my cardinal rules: Don’t attempt to fix something that isn’t broke one week prior to leaving on a 3,000 mile trip. I had my GPS wired through my battery tender connector, and I decided to rewire my perfectly functioning GPS to free up my battery tender connector in case I needed to charge my cell phone while on the ride. I successfully rewired the GPS and decided to test everything. Flipped the ignition on and everything worked great, for a total of 10 seconds, when my auxiliary lights went out and the GPS went dark. Played around with the wiring and decided to stop before I broke something else. A few days later I figured I would take one more look at it, got out the trusty volt meter and wiring diagrams, checked relays, and poked and prodded. At last I decided to check the ground before giving up and when I pulled on the ground wire it was slack. Aha! I pulled the ground wire out when I tucked all the wires away. 5 minutes later I was back in business. And I had 3 days left.

For those not familiar with a rally, it essentially is a motorcycle scavenger hunt where you are given a flag with your rider number on it and rally book consisting of rules for the rally and a list of “bonus” locations and their corresponding point values and what you need to do to get the points.  The object is to build a route where you can get the most points and get to the finish line within a specified period of time.  Most of the bonus locations for this rally required you to take a picture of your flag with the object representing the bonus.  However several required you to do something different.  One of mine was to count the number of unique last names on a particular plaque.  The plaque had over 70 names on it and quite a few had the same last name, but a few were really close but not quite the same. At 8pm after riding 600+miles it was difficult counting them in the dark with a flashlight.  Another required you to add up the combined weights of some railroad equipment.  Again, easy to do under normal conditions, but when tired it can be challenging. The rally book for this rally had over 100 different locations with point values of 7 to 49 points. The locations ranged from New York City, to Cleveland OH, to Tennessee, and Georgia. There was a cap of 1600 miles and I had 29 hours to get full points, and was disqualified if I arrived after 31 hours.

This rally has multiple starting locations.  One was in Allentown PA, not far from me.  The ending location was Lynchburg VA.  At 8:50am I got a fuel receipt and had to call in my starting time and location. After that it was a matter of riding my route which had me stopping at 16 different locationsin PA, OH, WV, VA, and MD. Due to my running out of time I cut out the last two stops.  I rode approx 1350 miles with 3 hours of down time between 8:50 am on Friday and 1:45 pm on Saturday.

This being my first rally, I had two goals. First was not to get a DNF (Did not finish).  Provided I finished the rally, my 2nd goal was not to be last.  To my surprise, I placed 12th out of 29 riders with a total of 525 points.  I was happy.  Now I just need to look at my route and see how I could have done better since the winner had over 700 points.

Here are some of the pictures I took.

My flag

Fist stop, Jim Thorpe

Bob Feller in Cleveland.  Hit rain here.  Also, I had no idea who he was since I am not a big baseball fan.  I was told he is the only pitcher to pitch a perfect game in a World Series.

Mars train station near Pittsburgh

1937 gas station somewhere in WV. Got here around 9pm and was starting to get a little tired. While I was there the owner came out and wanted to know why everyone was stopping.  I gave him a brief explanation and was on my way.

Midas Man in a field behind a barn somewhere in VA (or MD)

My favorite … NOT!
This is a monument for the birthplace of JohnMarshall who was the fourth chief justice of the US. This was at the end of a 1/2 mile trail in the woods.  Of course, I got there at 6 am and it was dark. What fun it was walking in the woods in the dark with a flashlight. Had I skipped this I could have made my last two stops.

As I was riding towards what would be my last stop I started thinking about my finish time and whether the points from the remaining stops would make up for getting in late. I decided to continue to the next bonus, and then evaluate whether to skip the last stops. I ended up on Route 43 and saw a sign that the road was not recommended for RVs and campers and they should not follow their GPS (or something to that effect). I continued along and watched a 15 passenger van pulling a trailer full of canoes pull out in front of me. Great, here I am doing 30 mph and falling further behind schedule. Finally got passed him and continued on. As I neared the bonus I saw several other riders outbound on the gravel road. Crossed a little bridge as I entered the lot and WHAM! I had driven right into a large pothole. I distinctly heard something crack as I hit it. Stopped, got off the bike, made a quick check for damage and saw none. I realized that I was a bit sore, but no significant pain so the crack was not my spine. Shrugged it off, took my picture, looked at the time and the rally book, and made the decision to cut my losses and skip the last two stops and head back to the barn.

On the way back I rode some great roads including Route 43 mentioned above and then 501. What a great road 501 was, winding up and then down the mountain. Saw a few other rallyers along the way and pulled into the hotel promptly at 13:45.

Tossed my stuff on the ground in the lobby of the hotel, updated my rally book and verified I had numbers in all the places I needed them, made sure I had my name and number on each page, copied my photos onto my laptop, sealed the envelope up, and turned it in. Time was 13:59! I made it.

Took a shower figuring I needed every advantage at the scoring table I could get. Got my ride scored and ended up with 525 points.

This was my first Rally and I had a blast. I learned a lot from this rally. I need to be more efficient in my stops. Most took way too long. Also, read the requirements for each bonus stop fully. Had I known ahead of time that one required a mile round trip walk in the woods I would have skipped it. And last, spend more time planning the route. I went through 10 variations before settling on the route I chose and was honestly shocked when I saw how many more bonus locations those ahead of me were able to get. Next time I will spend more time simply looking at all the bonus locations plotted and try to recognize better patterns for building a route.

I had three goals for the rally: 1) Not get a DNF, 2) Not be last, and 3) Have fun! I succeeded in all three and fully plan to be back!

PS – As I was unpacking I was pulling my stuff out of my tour pack and found out what the crack was I heard at the furnace. It was the front two bolts being pulled through the bottom of the tour pack