2019 – The Void 14 – Part 2

Cutting 3 hours off my rest bonus made up for the lost time and had me getting to the finish with 30 minutes to spare. This sounds like a lot, but unlike other rallys, in the Void, the clock doesn’t stop until you submit your paperwork for scoring. I’m still new enough at this that I don’t have a good feel for how much I’d need so 30 minutes was about as tight as I wanted to cut it. (rumor has it the wining rider pulled into the parking lot with 3 minutes left to get his paperwork submitted).

I left the rest stop after 3:01 and was feeling pretty good (a fair bit of Coffee at Denny’s certainly helped.) The morning was pretty uneventful with only a few deer sightings. I made it to Baltimore, staying on schedule, picking up 3 bonuses and 2 fast food bonus. Unfortunately it turned out the I-895 tunnel was closed for construction forcing me to take I95, which cost me 30 minutes.

The next bonus was out in Annapolis, which is this cool little town that’s clearly been around longer than cars have. It reminded me of the pirate towns you see in movies, but a little more reputable, it would probably be a cool place to wander around for a few hours. This being a rally I stopped for about 3 minutes. and dodged through a possibly closed road on the way out.

From there I followed the Washington beltway around to the north before heading to the Taste of New Orleans Smokehouse. The plan called for a Fast Food bonus next at a near by Chipotle. As I’m getting close I see lots of people milling about and children carrying instruments. I quickly realize that there is either a parade just ending, or about to start. I’ve never heard of a Columbus day parade, my birthday was the day before so maybe it was for that? Traffic was still moving if a bit heavy, and I pulled into a very full shopping plaza with the Chipotle in it. A Maryland State trooper generously offered to let me park on a concrete slab that wasn’t really a spot. I explained to him that I just needed the picture and I think he was confused but let me do what I needed to do and I was on my way.

The route to the next bonus took me into the outskirts of DC, another first for me, it turns out there are some really interesting twisty parkways in the area, I’d like to go back and explore some more at some point. After getting the Metro diner it was once again time to make a decision. If I stuck with the plan the GPS was showing me getting to the finish 3 minutes late, and not leaving time for scoring. If I headed straight for the barn I would get there 1.5 hours early, which was disappointing. Based on my luck with traffic so far I made the decision to make this my last stop and head for the finish. Dropping the 9,840 point bonus hurt a little.

I felt a little better when I hit more traffic on the way back to Fredricksburg losing another 30 minutes. I still arrived over an hour early and was one of the first bikes back. I’d really tried to plan an aggressive route this time, and was pretty bummed I couldn’t execute it. This did give me the chance to triple check my rider log, where I caught one minor error.

Scoring went smoothly despite a couple of technical issues (hazard of being early I guess). Other than the light house issue I didn’t lose any other points.

The banquet was a blast as expected, hosted by Rallymaster/Comedian Scott. The food was good and it was fun listening to everyone’s stories. I was fortunate to sit at the same table as some of the top riders and it was reassuring to hear that their routes were fairly similar to mine, with the critical difference that they either skipped NYC or managed to hit it and Long Island at night when traffic wasn’t an issue.

Last year, of the PA starters I finished 9th overall, this year I was 6th overall, however they separated the 2-up teams into a separate class leaving me third out of 22 riders. Given my mistakes I was very happy with that. It stung a little that if I hadn’t messed up the light house I would have had 2nd, but that’s the way these things go.

On the 8 hour ride home the next day I spent a lot of time thinking over some of the conversations I’d had at the banquet. A few of these centered on the deficiencies in BaseCamp, the routing software most of us use. It’s main downfall is that it doesn’t have any concept of points, it’s a general tool and not specific to rally riding. As a result of this not only do we jump through hoops with spreadsheets to get the bonus data into the appropriate format but we also group the bonuses into categories (low, medium, high, etc) based on someone arbitrary tiers. There was some discussion on how this may artificially bias a rider between two bonuses that are only a few points apart in reality. I started thinking that a color gradient/heat map might be a better solution. BaseCamp also has no ability to use historical traffic data (which would have been really useful this time) and makes comparing routes a pain. By the time I got home I’d roughly flushed out in my head what I thought a rally specific tool might look like. And I have been looking for an excuse to learn C# better…  we’ll see where this ends up.

2019 – Tipsy Goat Rally

Two years ago the 8 Hour Team Lyle New England rally was my first ever endurance rally. Last year I participated in it again as a warm up for my first longer rally, The Void. Unfortunately the event wasn’t held this year, and that got me looking for other options to fill the gap between the MD2020 and Void rally. Jonathan Hammy Tan runs a series of experimental rally’s each year and this year he was planning one for the weekend of September 21 and 22. This was shockingly free on my calendar and the timing was right to serve as a warm up for The Void while still providing me time to fix stuff if something went wrong.

The theme for this years rally was “Tipsy Goat” and riders were awarded one point for each Brewery, Winery, Distillery, etc that they visited. There were 2 versions of the rally, a local edition and an online edition. The local riders could start from anywhere but had to meet at a restaurant in PA at the appointed time. The online edition could start and end anywhere and could take place during any 8 hour block of time during that weekend. I chose to do the online edition because I was worried about being able to fit the extra transit time required in to my schedule.

I’d originally planned on an early start on the Sunday but due to a change in my wife’s plans I ended up doing the ride on Saturday. I almost had to scrub entirely due to some last minute work issues, but it thankfully worked out.

The plan was to get the food art bonus (5 points) first using that receipt as the start receipt as well. The route start location was dictated by the location of a friends house who has goats. I found a nearby Dunkins, bought a couple of donuts and made some “art”. The observant may notice a rookie mistakes with this picture. The time on my camera is wrong. I’d opted to use an old school camera rather than my phone so I wouldn’t have to keep unmounting the phone and switching apps due to the high frequency of bonuses I expected. I had actually remembered to check the time on it the night before, but must have not set it correctly. Due to the nature of this rally, this wasn’t an issue, but on bigger rallies it would cost me points.

After grabbing the food art bonus and start odometer, I headed off to the first stop, a near by brewery. For whatever reason they didn’t have their name on the building, so I took a picture of the sign at the drive way with the building in the background. The rules stated no roadside signs, but I’m hoping this is acceptable. This actually happened several more times, apparently breweries/wineries don’t like signs on their buildings? From there It was off to the all important goat bonus. This was worth 10 points, and required all of the rider, and mascot, to be visible (i.e. no selfies). I’d brought a small tripod with me, but was having some issues with the animals running away from me when I walked to the fence. Thankfully, the daughter of the family was home and offered to take the picture for me.

I took this opportunity to take off my sweatshirt as it was warming up faster than expected. From this point on I didn’t get off the bike until I hit the 30 Mile Brewing, after getting my end receipt, almost 8 hours later.

Overall things went pretty smooth. There were about 6 locations that were on my route that I either couldn’t find, they’d clearly gone out of business (and taken down the signs), or weren’t clearly marked. This was disappointing and I guess I should have spent more time scouting with google maps/street view. I did stick to the planned timeline (with a budgeted 2 minutes per stop) and the bike had no issues other than one instance of the fuel line vapor locking. I’ve been trying to fix that issue for almost a year now so it wasn’t a big surprise. I would have preferred it hadn’t happened on the I95 bridge over the Quinnipiac river in New Haven though.

When time was running out, I grabbed an end receipt and continued to the next brewery on this list, 30 Mile Brewing. This time rather than taking a picture I purchased 2 growlers and proceeded home to write up my log sheet and have a beer. I ended up with 42 locations for a total of 57 points, not as many as I’d wanted but over all a good shake down run and I had a blast, now I wan’t to go back to each of these and sample their product. That may take longer than 8 hours though.

 

 

Results: In the final tally I was awarded 55 points (I’m not sure where I lost 2 points, but I’d guess it’s the 2 that weren’t obviously distillery or breweries.). That was good enough for 2nd place. First was and impressive 20 pts ahead which makes me feel better about the 6 locations I couldn’t find as they wouldn’t have affected the out come.