The Void 9 was my third running of this rally and I was greatly anticipating it this year. When registration opened I registered right away for the PA start and then began the wait for the first installment of the rules. What could they come up with this year?
September rolls around and I get the first installment. Yahtzee? Really? I cannot lie, I hated the concept. What happened to simply building a route and riding? Then the week prior to the start we get the locations and I plot them out. After studying the rules and locations it dawns on me, this is nothing more than one big combo bonus. I come up with a variety of routes and plans, ranging from heading west out to Ohio to south to Jacksonville NC. I finally settle on the southern route as it has the most points of the routes I came up with. Total mileage is 1249 miles. What was unique with this rally is the locations came in chunks, and it was difficult to add more locations if ahead of schedule, and consequently dropping one location could have disastrous consequences for your score. The rally book came a few days later and surprisingly the only major change is an extra wild card so I did not need to redo my route like last year.
Here is my route
Thursday rolls around and my plan is to leave work early, finish packing, and head out with a quick stop in Reading to drop some stuff off for a friend. Of course all plans fall apart and I don’t leave work until almost 6pm, and then my train is late! Get home, pack, and sit down for my route declare. As I am reading the instructions and typing the email my 4 yr old granddaughter is hanging on my arm chattering away. I type the subject, Rider 32 Route Declare, and then start with the route info: 10, 2-HER, 1-SHO … After I hit send I hug the grand kids and the wife, and hit the road. Make it to Reading just in time to drop off stuff to my friend, and then head down to Lancaster. I find a gas station near my hotel and get some gas to ensure the receipt is good, then on to the hotel. Go inside and ask for my room and he tells me that they are expecting me. That’s good I think. Then he says mumble mumble mumble moved to Red Roof. Huh? I hear moved to Red Roof. Ask why and I finally understand plumbing issues, moved to Red Roof. Fortunately the Red Roof is closer to the gas station I picked and it was the nicest Red Roof Inn I have seen. However it did have a funky layout. I check in, find a place to park the bike that is nowhere near my room, and then proceed to make 4 lefts and 5 rights, go up 3 flights of stairs and down 2, and finally get into my room on the second floor. Log into the wifi and the connection is terrible. I see my response to my route declare and am told to check my rider number, re-read the instructions, and resubmit. Huh? I know my rider number is correct, so I take a photo of it and send saying my number is 32, thinking maybe someone else submitted with my rider number. The response: Yes, that is a 32, now re-read your email and find the number 32 in it. I am looking right at the subject seeing 32 wondering what he is talking about, and then notice my error. I typed 10 (the example) for my rider number in the email body rather than 32. Oh I am of to such a great start! I send the revised email and get the congratulations dummy email (my words, not the RM!) then log into work to wrap up a few details. I go to plug in my phone and realize that I don’t have my charging cord. Nothing I can do at the moment so I finally get to sleep around midnight.
I wake at 7 am, log into work to wrap a few things up, grab some breakfast, and head out around 8am to see if I can find a charging cord for the phone. No luck as nothing is open, but I have just enough power to get the text out for the start. I bump into two other riders at the Wawa and we patiently wait until 8:50. At 8:50 I top off my fuel tanks, get my receipt, send my text, and am off to my first stop in Hershey PA where I have to take photos of the characters on top of the Chocolate World sign.
I get into Hershey and there is some event going on. I find my way to the Chocolate factory and there are a few cars in line and a sign for parking for $10 where my GPS is telling me where I need to go. I re-read the rally book and it says there are two signs in close proximity. I ride around the building and see a sign on the side of the building with Hershey Kiss characters on it. Aha, I say to myself. I found the sign I need (or so I thought). Grab the photo and am off.
Next I am heading to York PA for a picture of the shoe house. Yes, that’s right, someone built a house that is shaped like a shoe. I shook my head, took the picture, and head off.
Next up is the Giant Paint Can in Shippensburg PA. Along the way I get caught in traffic and lose about 30 minutes. I get off the highway and get on the service road, pull up next to the paint can and take the photo.
Then notice that I could have taken the photo from the highway. Shrug that off and get back on the road. So far after three stops I am still on schedule, but searching the rally book for the next bonus so I know what to look for is simply taking too much time. Nothing I can do about it now, but will certainly remember not to let this happen again.
My next stop is Staunton VA to take a photo of Woodrow Wilson’s Pierce-Arrow limousine plus pick up a few more close by. Along the way it starts raining, but not hard. Essentially a slow drizzle that I ended up being in for most of the day. I get to the museum, pull into the driveway, and take the photo. Unfortunately due to the glare I was getting a reflection off of the glass, but got enough so you could see I had the right location.
From there it is a short trip for a photo of a giant watering can and giant flower pot for the next two bonus locations
From there it was off to Washington and Lee University in Lexington VA. This was a repeat from the first Void rally I participated in and I knew right where it was.
Got the photo and promptly got stuck in local traffic trying to get out of town. Along the way to the next bonus in Blacksburg VA I lost another 45 minutes due to traffic on I-81 so I was about an hour and 15 minutes behind schedule.
Took the photo and bumped into a few other riders as I was pulling out. That is always a good sign. Next up was the Snowfield Fire Department in Hiwassee VA which was not too far away. Got there with no issues, got my photo, and got out.
The next bonus locations fell like clockwork. I headed to Pulaski VA for the Pulaski bike shop, Wytheville VA for a giant pencil, Winston Salem NC for a cool old Shell gas station, Thomasville NC for the largest Duncan Phyfe chair, High Point NC for a giant dresser. At this point I had lost another 15 minutes along the way and am running about 1 ½ hours behind schedule.
In Highpoint the weather broke and the sky cleared up so I could actually see the moon. Also I got to see a cool light show with lightning lighting up the sky. Next stop was Raleigh NC and the PNC arena. My GPS tried to take me in thru and access road off the highway which was locked. Ended up backtracking a bit until I found a sign for the arena and finally found it.
Got my photo and headed off to Garner NC for a photo of the sign for White Deer Park. Had some trouble finding it as it was dark and I simply missed the sign so I rode in circles for a few minutes.
Eventually found it and headed off to Clayton SC for a photo of a law enforcement officer silhouette emerging from the building wall. Got there and reread the bonus and thought “What the heck does that mean?” I wandered about the coordinates for a bit looking for something and just as I was about to call the Rally Master I saw a relatively new building that looked like a township building. Walked over to it and sure enough, saw a silhouette emerging from the building.
Took the photo and then saw a police car go by. He literally locked up the brakes and asked me what I was doing. I explained that I am doing a charity scavenger hunt and the look on his face when I told him I had left PA at 9am was priceless. He next asked why I was in Clayton SC and I told him it was one of the bonus locations and offered up the Rally Master’s phone number if he’d like to know more. By this time his demeanor had changed and he was simply curious and probably had nothing else to do at 12:30 at night. I told him if he wanted to know more to look up the rally on the website. He wished me good luck and we each headed off on our separate ways. My next stop was for my rest bonus in Benson NC. I got there around 1:15 and after doing some hunting found a gas station with the pumps on so I could get a time stamped receipt and checked into my hotel. By this time I was an hour and 45 minutes behind schedule. I had allotted 4 hours for my rest bonus but was only required to take 3, so I opted to shorten my rest so I could gains some time back. 4:30 am came quickly but I was up, checked out, and topped of my fuel tank for the ending receipt in 15 minutes.
My first stop of the days was Hampstead NC which is near the Marine Corps Base at Camp Lejeune. There were several bonus locations within a few miles of each other, but it was a 90 minute ride from the hotel. Found that easy enough and was on my way. For the first bonus I had to take a photo of a shark
Next stop was a few miles away and I had to take a photo of a giant crocodile. Giant was an understatement, and I had a hard time getting a photo because it was so huge and I could not light it up. Did my best and was on my way.
Next was Sneads Ferry NC where I had to take a photo of a sign that recognizes Alex Killin as a Gold Medal Winner. It took me a few minutes to find it
At about that time the sun started coming up so I made a quick detour to take a photo of the sunrise over the ocean.
Next stop was just a few miles down the road and I had to take a photo of a giant shark.
With the sun now coming up it was fairly easy to get a photo. Took it and was on my way to Jacksonville NC for a photo of a monument to the marines killed in the Beirut bombing.
Got that fairly easy and bumped into a two up couple also riding in the Void. We left at the same time and both headed in separate directions but met up in Edenton NC for a picture of the red sign with white letters titled EDENTON BELL BATTERY. I got there first and could not find the sign. As I was about to call the rally master the two up couple arrived and called. It seems the sign had been replaced with a more standard historical marker.
We each got our photo and were on our way to the next stop in Winton NC for a photo of a sign at Parker’s Ferry. The ferry was accessed down a gravel road which was a joy to ride on as the gravel was loose. I got there just as the ferry was pulling away with the two up couple on it.
Got my photo and my route had me going back the way I came so I turned around and headed to the next stop. The next few bonus locations came and went smoothly and I found myself going to Sunbury NC for a photo of a monument, Suffolk VA where I had to take a photo of a totem pole at the NC – VA state line, and then a photo of the sign for the Great Dismal Swamp Wildlife Refuge.
So far the sky was clear and the weather was nice and warm. After I got those locations the temperature dropped about 10 degrees and rain was threatening. My next and last stop was Fredericksburg VA where I had to take a photo of a sign at Marye’s Heights. Hit quite a bit of traffic in the area but got to the park and took my photo
From there it was just a few miles to the host hotel. I got in around 3:10. I had 45 minutes to complete my paperwork and turn it in. Since I had not added or dropped any bonus locations this was a fairly easy task. I took my time and turned everything in around 3:50 Pm which was about 5 minutes early.
An hour or so later I was called for scoring. Went in and sat down. The conversation started off with the usual statement that once we started I could not get up for any reason. I was fine with that and we started. He opened my envelope and loaded my pictures and laid out my paperwork. He took his time, reviewed the times on my photos and compared them to my log, and then started comparing them to the file photo. I could tell after a few minutes that something was wrong, and he showed me my photo of the sign at the Hershey Chocolate World and then the file photo. It was rather obvious that I took a photo of the wrong sign, and that the file photo was clearly the right one. Up to that point I had run more or less a perfect rally in that I hit each and every location I had planned.
After we verified the rest of the photos we started looking at my score. Since the format was Yahtzee, my denied bonus location cost me dearly and dropped me from 6th to 14th out of 26 finishers in the standings. Such is life!
As usual I had a blast. In hindsight the Yahtzee format wasn’t that bad and it really made you think sine you could not just ride off and pick up bonus locations and add them together for a score. I was happy that I had ridden the rally I had planned and this was the first time this had occurred. The second leg went exactly as planned and the majority of the time I lost on the first leg was due to traffic which I could not do anything about. Perhaps some form of traffic alerts would help me avoid such backups, but at several pints I could tell that US 11 which parallels I-81 was jammed with others trying to get around the backups. My lessons learned were to spend a little more time in planning so I could locate each bonus in the rally book instantly. For rallies where you get the rally book in advance I plan on extracting the locations I am planning on stopping at and building my own version of the rally book with the bonus locations in order, something one of the other riders had done and I liked it a lot. My other challenge is planning a better route, as the top three riders had quite a few more bonus locations than I had and with my route I could not have added any further locations.