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The Plan

For the 4th year in a row I was registered for the Void rally. For the past several years I have used the Void as the beginning of my annual bike trip. Due to the timing of my visit to the Trinity site it ended up being the end of my trip which had some pros and cons. On the pro side I was in a rhythm of riding from being on the road for 7 days and I got to pick my starting point. I chose Tennessee since I would avoid the traffic snarls of I-95 and I-81. On the con side, because the bonus locations came out after I left I was going to have to route on the road using my small netbook rather than my desktop PC. Plus my flag did not arrive at home before I left so I had to have my wife mail it to a friend so I could pick it up. Then there is the tiredness that comes from riding 3,700 miles in 7 days, 12-16 hours a day and sleeping in hotel rooms.   Would I do this again? Of course!!!! What’s life without a challenge or two?

The theme was movies. True to form, the rally masters out did themselves. When the rally info started trickling in it was utter confusion. There was talk about B Lists and other stuff that required reading and re-reading and re-re-reading. After reading about the B Lists several they were far simpler than they first seemed. Essentially there were several themes: Last Man Standing – LMS, Trains – Plains Automobiles – TPA, Two Tickets to Paradise – TTP, The Big Lebowski – TBL, and Home Improvement – HIP. These entailed the following:

LMS – take a photo of a Bass Pro Shops or Cabela’s listed in the bonus list and get a receipt within 30 minutes from the same city/town. One per state

TPA – take a photo of a train, plane, and automobile bonus. Once per day.

TTP – take a photo of an Office Max listed in the bonus list and get a receipt within 30 minutes from the same city/town. One per state

TBL – take a photo of a bowling alley listed in the bonus list. One per state

HIP – take a photo of a Home Depot or Lowes listed in the bonus list and get a receipt within 30 minutes from the same city/town. One per state, Home Depot on Friday and Lowes on Saturday

Then the bonus lists came out and there were a bazillion of them! My little 10 inch screen on my netbook was a sea of bonus locations and I could not see the map unless I zoomed way in, but then I could not get a good sense of where bonus clumps were located to start building the route. Clearly another method was required to build a route. As I was re-re-re-reading everything a strategy started to emerge. Most of the B-List bonus locations were limited to one per state. And there were several “themes” of B-List bonuses. Different themes were different point values, but all within a theme were the same value and since it was one per state I didn’t need to base my route around them. I hid all the B-List locations and focused on the remaining ones. And nothing …. I re-re-re-re-read the rally book and paid more attention to a very large 6,000 point bonus at Kill Devil Hills NC. I had originally discounted it because of the distance from home (even though I was not at home) and because there was a hurricane threatening the east coast for the days surrounding the rally. Then I heard on the news that the hurricane was not hitting the east coast. The bonus was simple. You get 6,000 points for getting a receipt from Lowes at 8am, and the bonus goes down 100 points per minute. So all I had to do was be at Lowes in Kill Devil Hills before 8am, hope there was no line, and hope that the cashier would be willing to hold the line up if I was early. Piece of cake! Of course my wife would be laughing hysterically because I am lucky to be home within a few hours of a ride, but this was different. My initial plan was to take my rest bonus close by to minimize any unforeseen traffic issues that could cause me to be late. BUT, I then saw a Planes-Trains-Automobile bonus combo where one earned from having visited a plane, train, and automobile themed bonus location. You could earn this both on Friday and Saturday but all had to be visited on the same day you were claiming them. A scan of my map realized there were only a few auto themed locations close to my slowly forming route. One was in western North Carolina and the other was near Washington DC. I really did not want to go near Washington because it was north of the finish location in Fredericksburg and if I had to cut my route short dropping 1,500 points would really really hurt. My only option was western North Carolina, however my route had me getting there around 8pm on Friday. I had to be there on Saturday. My solution, take my rest bonus at 8pm close to the bonus location, leave the hotel at 12:30 am, take my photo, and then head east to Kill Devil Hills picking up whatever bonus locations were along the way including the train bonus I needed. I didn’t like it due to the possibility of being late but there really were no other options that would get me the same points. From there I formed my route by adding in whatever locations were close to my route until I had something that got me into the finish about 2 hours prior to the end of the rally which was 31 hours from my start. That would allow me time to shower (I am told scorers like the fact that one showers) and look over my rally book to be sure I didn’t do something stupid (which I would do!)

The Start

The hotel I was in conveniently had a gas station across the street from it. I noted that fact as I was heading in and had fully planned to stop for gas to check the receipt and verify the time and date were accurate and it provided a valid city and state. Except, I had to use a bathroom so I skipped it and went straight to the hotel to check in. Then I realized I had a longer walk than expected to the restaurant, was planning on wearing shorts so riding was out, and I just had time to shower. Needless to say I did not check the receipt prior to dinner. And after dinner I simply forgot. That almost cost me the rally and is something I will never do again!

For those that don’t know, this rally has several starting locations and is really 4 rallies in one. Three 31 hour rallies starting in TN, GA, and PA, and one 8 hour rally starting in Fredericksburg VA. You start by getting a computer generated receipt with the name of the specified starting town and state, for me Murfreesboro TN this year, and a time that is no later than 10 minutes after the official start time for that location, in this case 8:00 am CST. I pulled into the gas station at 7:50 and waited for time. At 8:01 I filled up my tank, being very very very careful to press “Yes” for a receipt, took a look at it and saw it said Murfreesboro TN on it, and verified the time: 6:33 am. 6:33am!!!!! WTH!!! @#$%@#@ #%$@#%$ !@#%!!@%!!!!!! Ok, maybe the register inside is correct (why I thought that I have no idea) I went inside and grabbed a bottle of water, asked for a receipt to the annoyance of the clerk, and it said 6:37 am. More expletives were uttered that I am sure would make a Navy Chief proud, and then survival mode kicked in. Within sight were my hotel, a few fast food restaurants, and a bank. Bank? They have ATMs! ATMs print receipts with dates, times, and hopefully city and state. I rode over and there was a car at the ATM. The young woman went through 3 cards before she gave up and drove away. I inserted my card and punch in a bunch of numbers and got a receipt. City and state – ok, date – ok, time – 8:09!!!! I broke out into a verse of “oh what a relief it is”, did my happy dance to the amusement of anyone in the area, and then proceeded to text in my required start information and was rewarded with “K” acknowledging my text. Wow, I was sweating and the rally had just started.

Once I caught my breath I was off to my first stop which was the Austin Powers in Goldmember bonus, APG. I needed to take a photo of a pawn shop with the words “pawn” and “gold” visible. There was one just 5 minutes from my start position.

My next stop was the first part of my Trains Planes and Automobile (TPA) bonus for Friday, the Nashville Superspeedway. Took my photo and moved on.

Next was my first Last Man Standing (LMS) bonus, a Bass Pro Shops in Nashville TN. Since I needed a photo of the store and a receipt from the same town with a time stamp within 30 minutes of the time I took the photo it seemed obvious to me to take the photo and simply go inside and buy something. Unfortunately there was only one register open, and the cashier decided he wanted to have a nice long conversation with the guy in front of me. Once they were done I paid for my item and as I was walking out of the store I checked the time, good, checked the location, store XXX. Oh no, no town and state on the receipt! No worries, I simply punched up the closest gas station which was 1.2 miles away, spent 10 minutes getting there due to traffic, made a purchase, and checked the receipt. Nope, not Nashville! By now it was too late to get another receipt for the bonus to count so I wrote it off and moved on to my next stop, a historical marker titled “Dutchman’s Curve Train Wreck” southwest of Nashville. This was the second part of my TPA combo bonus for Friday.

Next was a Two Tickets to Paradise (TTP) where we needed to take a photo of an Office Max, this one was in Cookeville, TN. However due to time I had lost at the LMS bonus, the time needed for a receipt, and general traffic I decided to skip this one as it was only 275 points. Next was a “The Big Lebowski” (TBL) in Crossville, TN.

That went without issue so I took my photo and moved on to my next bonus which was a Home Improvement (HIP) bonus, a Home Depot in Lenoir City, TN.

This went without issue and I moved on to my last TPA bonus for the day, a building shaped like a plane in Knoxville, TN.

I realized there was another LMS location on my route, this one another Bass Pro Shops in Kodak TN. I swung in there, dodged hundreds of customers because they had an event going on, took my photo, and then stopped at the Harley dealer down the street for a quart of oil and my receipt.

Things were clicking along fairly well and I made my next stops without issue. They were a McDonalds and then an abandoned town which was a location for the movie The Hunger Games. One bonus was a “Fart” bonus where we had to take a picture of us passing gas. How does that tie into the movie theme? Think Blazing Saddles. For that I took a moment when I stopped for a short break at a rest stop.

From there I picked up another bowling alley (TBL bonus) in Hickory, NC

I had been running into traffic on I-40 and lost quite a bit of time. My next bonus locations were a Home Depot (HIP bonus) in Charlotte, NC and the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord NC. I was looking at the time and realized that I was running short on time so I decided to skip those and a LMS bonus. I was on NC-150 and traffic came to a standstill due to construction in Lake Norman NC. I finally got through that and made it to my last stop in Davidson NC where I needed to take a photo of the historical marker “X-Ray Experiments.”

As I was ready to pull out another rider pulled up. One bonus was the trading places bonus where we had to have a photo taken with another rider’s flag. I asked if he had that bonus and he said yes, but he graciously took the time to take my photo with his flag.

With that I was done for the night. I had a short ride up to Mooresville NC where I had booked a room for my rest bonus. I stopped to get gas and my start receipt for my rest bonus and grabbed a sandwich out of a gas station.   This was the earliest I had ever taken a rest bonus at approximately 8:30 pm.

With a blink of an eye my rest was over and I was out the door at 12:30 am. I got my end receipt for the rest bonus and then had a short ride to my next bonus location which was my first stop for the TPA bonus for Saturday, the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame. Here

I bumped into several riders who were headed to Kitty Hawk as I was. Everything went smoothly through the night and I stopped at an Office Max (TTP Bonus) in Winston Salem, NC, a baseball stadium in Durham NC, a Cabela’s (LMS bonus) in Garner, NC, and a red caboose in Plymouth NC which the second part of Saturday’s TPA bonus. Along the way I noticed that there were two Tour Honor stops along my route so I stopped for two quick photos as I had the time.

Office Max

Durham stadium

Cabela’s

Caboose

My next stop was my largest bonus and the key to my route, the TLP bonus in Kill Devil Hills NC. I pulled in at 7:55 am and saw about 20 other bikes. Having a long ride in I had plenty of time to think about what to purchase. As we had to turn in our purchase there was no sense in buying anything expensive, and of course it had to be small. Then it came to me, the perfect item. Rally Masters have been screwing with ralliers for years, so now it was my turn. I’d buy them a screw! Fortunately someone had called ahead and warned the store what they were in for and they were ready for us. Each register had a line of riders and everyone was simply waiting for 8am. At 8:00:01 every register started ringing up sales at once and in less than 30 seconds we were all on our way. Success!!! – Or so I thought …

From there it was a short ride to the Wright Brothers Memorial for the 3rd photo of Saturday’s TPA bonus.

I then rode north the length of the island to the very top to take a photo of a horse of a different color in Duck NC.

We also had a “We don’t need no stinking badges” bonus where we had to take a photo of ourselves without our flag or helmet and an “Improvisation” bonus where we had to take a photo of any object worthy of being a bonus and record the latitude and longitude. I bumped into another rider who took my photo and fond a BBQ joint where I took a picture of a pig on their sign.

From there I continued on toward the finish and picked up an Office Max (TTP) in Elizabeth City, NC, the South Side Train Depot in Petersburg VA, and the VCU Medical Center in Richmond VA. My last stop was a Bass Pro Shop (LMS bonus) in Ashland, VA. I picked that up and then headed in to the finish in Fredericksburg VA.

Office Max

Train Depot

Medical Center

Bass Pro Shop

I pulled in, was handed my finisher’s envelope in which I had to place all my stuff for scoring. I had plenty of time so I parked and headed into the hotel to get my room around 2pm. I probably should have keep riding and picked up a few more bonus locations however I was tired from riding 5,000 for the past week and having been on the road since midnight. I took a shower and sat down to review my paperwork. I got ½ through reviewing the criteria for each bonus and decided I was done. I scanned my score sheet and saw that I had transposed a bonus identifier. Rather than confirm it by reviewing the rally book I elected to change it from TLP to TPL. Proud that I had just saved some points I gathered my stuff and headed down for scoring.

I turned in my envelope and hung out with some friends as I waited to be scored. My number was called and I headed in for scoring. All was going well and I was proud of what I had done so far. And then there was that look that is dreaded. The look on the scorer that something was wrong. When I had changed the bonus ID a short time ago I had made a huge mistake as it had been correct the first time. And which one did I change? The one for the 6,000 point bonus in Kill Devil Hills of course! I was upset beyond believe and wanted to simply walk out, but I didn’t. I just sat there silently and finished the scoring process. My scorer obviously saw how upset said a few reassuring words but it didn’t help at the time. It was my fault and I was angry with myself. Another lesson learned the hard way and this was a big one. In the end it only cost me one position as I had finished 7th rather than 6th.

Overall I was happy with my routing. No plan survives implementation unscathed and I could not predict the traffic issues I ran into. One mistake I made that cost me was not noticing that the store location was indeed printed in the logo on the Bass Pro Shops receipt. Had I noticed that I would have saved about an hour due to the lost time from hunting for a gas station and from making a second stop in Kodak TN. As for the 6,000 point bonus I lost that was essentially relearning a lesson I already know but chose to ignore because I was tired – review the rally book and verify each bonus. Had I taken the time to do so I would not have lost that bonus. The jury is still out on where I will start next year, but I plan to be riding in the Void in 2016! After Yahtzee last year and the B List this year how much more complicated can they make this???

Here is my route for the rally

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