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Saturday, October 17, 2020

A Once in a Lifetime Experience: CO-VOID 2020

 CO-VOID 2020

Jeff and I rode only one rally this year, and it was, appropriately, the one and only CO-VOID 2020 rally. A singular year indeed! 

COVID-19 required postponement of the 20th and last run of the Mason-Dixon 20-20 in May. Thus, MD 20-20 Rallymaster, Rick Miller, combined forces with the Rallymaster for the fall-scheduled Void, Scott LaShier, and together they produced CO-VOID 2020. It was a socially distanced rally, as demanded by the times. 

Sadly, the rally format eliminated the starting and ending gatherings. We missed the camaraderie. But in exchange we had complete flexibility on where to start and end. That also meant that there effectively would be no DNF due to running out of time. All a rider had to do was stop the bike and send in the final paperwork before the ending time in order to finish. That relieved a lot of tension. 

It was a wonderful rally with terrific bonuses and perfect weather. Most of our travels took us through the stunning fall colors of the Appalachian and Pocono Mountains. It was also probably the most uneventful rally Jeff and I have ever done. We planned a ride and rode the plan. There was no rain, no closed roads, no detours, no missing bonuses, no searching through dark woods for some elusive turn off, or any other huge problems. There was a bit of gravel on two occasions when we followed the GPS rather than Rick’s directions, but in both cases we turned back before we got into trouble and only lost a bit of time.

This photo was taken a week earlier in the same area of NE Pennsylvania as we traversed during the rally - but when I had a bit more time to take photos!

We dropped one aspirational bonus (Ball, 99 pts); it was a “daylight only” bonus and the chances of making it on time were less than slim from the outset. So, no surprise there. The second (URAN, 97 pts.) would have been our last on Day 1 and we dropped it simply to make up some lost margin and preserve what was left of our margin for the next day, when we had higher values to get. The margin was lost due to (1) the aforementioned wrong turns, (2) some heavier, slower traffic in and around Pittsburgh than expected; (3) the extra seconds or minute needed at each stop to follow the new procedures on photo submissions; and (4) the time required for the additional stops to pick up some of the location-less bonuses that were announced the morning before the rally. 

Pittsburgh - slow going in and going out!

We had good luck with those additional bonuses, which more than made up for the 97 points lost on URAN. We were able to find and complete: SHEETZ (99 pts), PATTY (28 pts), GATOR (30 pts) DRVT (45 pts), BARN (88 pts), MEM (75 pts),  and TEXT (50 pts), on Day 1. Three we planned out, the last was timed, and the others were found en route by chance and good luck. Day 2 we also added DEL (75 pts) and FLAG (38 pts). We did not get SELF since we had no name tags (which we hadn’t expected to need!) I would have loved to get ORVIS, just because I would have liked to go there in the daylight (unlike last year), but that would not have fit the plan. 

My favorite bonus - BARN. Jeff spotted it over his left shoulder as we passed!

I was also very attracted to the DUCK combo bonus, which was worth 500 points. But our original plan only included 2 of the five bonuses needed to add the DUCK bonus. Both Jeff and I had to work on the Thursday before our launch. So we had neither time for major re-routing nor the flexibility to change our planned starting point in Winchester VA (which had been picked due to the time constraint, even although Binghamton was a more attractive start). I played with minor route variations for a bit before we left – e.g., adding KING, PICK and MUSK – but to do that we’d have to give up about 700 points in NJ and likely another 600-plus on MD’s eastern shore, plus put the 1912 point RHINO bonus in Baltimore at the end of our route and therefore at risk. In addition, Jeff was leery about PICK from the outset. While he might have been willing to try it with more planning, it was not something to add on the fly. So, we stuck with our first plan. 

We started the day at a Sheetz in Winchester with a finely orchestrated start. I purchased a bottle of water to "start the clock" and radioed Jeff when I confirmed a valid receipt at 7:10:29. Jeff topped off the fuel tank and got the fuel receipt needed for the WIN bonus. I purchased a bag of nuts for the first layer of our Sheetz bonus. Then, we took off to score the POST bonus in White Post VA. I wish we had more time to linger. There was a perfectly preserved filling station as well as the historic post at this picturesque crossroads, but time was our master. We quickly followed up with the purchase of another bag of nuts at a Sheetz in Stephens City. (Yes, we completed our Sheetz bonus with a post and two bags of nuts. You can work out the puns on your own. It was unintentional.) My fourth purchase from Sheetz that morning (at the second Sheetz) was for a York Peppermint Patty. Thus, forty minutes into the ride we had 183 points and the first receipt for our base route. 

We rode the Base route of Winchester VA, St. Mary’s WV, Erie PA, and Binghamton NY in that order. Our only surprise of the day occurred as we neared SIMP, the airfield runway that crosses a road. As we rolled along the country lane, I noticed a man on our right near a mailbox, cheerfully waving at us. I thought he was a local resident collecting his mail, and only as we passed did I glimpse the motorcycle parked on the left shoulder. “That was John Frick!” Jeff said. While I know John is a fearsome rider, it still took a few minutes for it to sink in that he should have been riding in the rally and not by the side of the road. We pondered for a moment whether there was a roadside memorial or gator near where he was stopped, but then both realized he wasn’t wearing a helmet or full gear when we saw him, so he obviously wasn’t bonus hunting. Whaaat? Should we turn back and check on him? A call to Rick confirmed that John was fine. However, a deer strike about an hour earlier left him with an oil leak, and so he was waiting for a tow. Therefore, after SIMP, we continued on to DOLA.

Our SIMP bonus

Although the GPS was set for DOLA, it took us on a gravel road to no where until we realized that the road we had been on (before turning onto the gravel one) was the route where the bonus was. So, rather than continuing to explore the gravel to see if it was really a shortcut back to the main road or not, we turned around in the driveway of a family named Nelson. We made our way back to the paved road, which brought us straight to our destination. It was a good decision. At the place where our “short cut” should have come out, there was no road at all.

Dola Miners Memorial

Later we had a similar experience with EXT, the Mason-Dixon line marker stone. But in that case Rick’s directions were even more explicit, so as soon as the GPS led Jeff astray I began protesting, and we were able to correct in short order.

Jeff included the bonus W207 or NOT? on our planned list. I think he did so both for the points and memories. He had been one of those that photographed the correct marker the first time, unlike many others. Now, we would photograph the other marker at that location, since we were an even number. Unfortunately, the Pittsburgh traffic was unexpectedly dense and we lost quite a bit of time en route. But we got it, duck and all.

Baby duck photobombing the plaque. Not the real duck nor the real bonus photo.

The roadside memorial was much easier than expected. We were stopped at a light, and there in front of us, on the corner of an empty but semi-paved lot perfect for parking, I spotted a post covered in artificial flowers. Another 75 unplanned points in the log. 

As dusk was quickly falling, we pulled into the dark and deserted parking lot at Pithole to get the PIT bonus. As we dismounted, a car pulled in, passed us slowly, and parked. Two people got out but walked away from us, around the back of the building.  We quickly found our marker and got our photo. By time we returned to the bike, they had reappeared and were walking around the edge of the woods with flashlights. As we were finishing up, another car pulled in. Were we in time for a party or what? No, this guy was just lost and wanted me to give him directions. As to the first two people, they were now in the trees, searching for something. I though perhaps they were looking for the Pithole ghost town (which is a virtual geocache), but Jeff said if so, they were on the wrong side of the parking lot. So, perhaps they were hunting Pokemon or something else. All in all, no weirder than us! 

At our Erie fuel stop, Jeff noted a rider kitted out like us. I checked the Spotwalla and determined he was TBG – and not Leon, which was our primary reason for checking. He left while we were still at the pump. 

It was now dark. BALL was no longer available and Jeff dropped URAN. So, we collected nothing between Erie and the time we started our rest in Binghamton. But, the advantage of flying along I-86 at night was that we made up some time. We stopped the clock at 12:28 a.m. for our 6-hour rest at a hotel Jeff had reserved earlier in the week. 

On Day 2 we scored our BING receipt (and scarfed down some of the breakfast the hotel had provided while fueling) and proceeded straight to JIM. Again, the long highway stretch was dead time for scoring, but it shaved some minutes off the anticipated route time. 

It is peaceful to visit Ft. Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in the fall. Not quite as breathtaking as on Memorial Day, when all the flags are planted near the entrance, but lovely in its fall colors. 

We then crawled through slow Pennsylvania Dutch Country traffic to collect the Lancaster-area bonuses. Happily, we managed to miss all the horse manure and the cow pie at the sign for Intercourse and had no trouble with the others. From there we proceeded through some more stop-and-go traffic near Philly to get to the southern NJ bonuses. Since Jeff had previously gotten stuck in the sand on the road near CARR, he knew to enter and exit by way of the paved one, so we avoided that potential time suck.

Memorial for the crash site of Emilio Carranza, the "Mexican Lindberg"

From South Jersey we headed down I-95, for the DEL fuel stop bonus, TUD, and then Baltimore, for RHINO. Fortunately Jeff picked a way in and out of Baltimore that didn’t result in any major delays beyond that you’d expect for city streets and traffic lights. 

From there we still had two more bonuses planned, out on Maryland’s eastern shore. I viewed these as “gravy.” It would be great to get them, but if we didn’t, we still had a respectable ride. The GPS was showing us a mess on Rt. 50, so their future was dubious. But, the GPS was wrong again, this time in a good way! We had smooth sailing to the Suicide Bridge Restaurant and then to FERRY. We did our FLAG photo and finished our paper work on the roadside in the dark, but everything went in with nearly 10 minutes to spare. 

The route we planned was not daring. We didn’t attempt the Nelsonville Cemetery or Pickens, which were certainly the storied bonuses for the northern riders. As a two-up, those would have been even more miserable than for those who did them solo (although Erin and Jeff Arsenault managed them!). However, our route did require some long hours and miles. Although the published final results recorded our mileage at just over 1200 miles, there was an error there; it was 1406 miles. We netted a 9th place finish. Looking at the roster of other riders finishing in the top ten, we noted that in addition to being the only 2-up in that group, with the 125 combined years of “life experience” on our bike, each of us were also among the older competitors in that group. Best of all, we came home safely! 

From Winchester VA to Tolchester MD

Many thanks, again, to Rick and Jean for putting on a fabulous final MD 20-20 despite COVID, and to Scott for picking up the mantle. We’re already looking forward to next run of the (newly anointed) Premier Rally in the East. 

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Mason Dixon 20/20 Revisited

As we gear up for the last Mason Dixon 20/20, I thought I'd post some of the candid shots that I took during the last two. Not much commentary but lots of bikes and faces (and backs). Sorry that some are a bit blurred -- that happens when the camera is moving at 65 MPH!

Riders' Meeting

Dressed a little differently for the morning meeting.

Staged and ready to go! 

Indiantown Gap - in memory of Jim Young.


Jeff Wilson
(Sorry - I don't know the identity of the riders in this shot or a few others.)

Chris Rasmussen
Pretty sure that's Lisa Cover Rufo ...

and her posse behind her

2018 - The Wedding!

Truly, this must be the only rally to include a wedding. THAT was very special. Loved the crowns!

The check-in

Lots of Bikes! 

And the riders ...

And then the bride and groom arrived!

Picture taken, and everyone departed.

On the road, in pursuit of boni (2018 & 2019):

Behind Jim Owen (again!)

2018: The Arsenaults passed us too.

2019: From HQ to Indiantown Gap, in the early morning sun

2019: Entering PA to "pursue your happiness." I wish this were framed better!

2019: Steve Gallant 


2018: Jim Owen, Jeff and Erin Arsenault and us: At our first 2018 bonus. 

2018: Many hours later, post-wedding ... but I have no idea where we were!

A dose of Mayberry RFD, 2018:

2018: Exorcist stairs in DC. Me and Billy Connacher's bike. Exactly two times better! 

2019, Passing through Pittston PA, known for tomato throwing: Not a bonus. But it could have been! 

2019: The next logical stop after Indiantown Gap, so thought several of us. 

Everyone's been here! 
The morning after: