Based on a check of the Tennessee and Georgia Tandem Rally website registration listings, I must note that BOTH have seen INCREDIBLY fast sign-ups this year. In the case of GTR, 80% who have signed up are past event attendees with a similar percentage of TTR registrants also being prior year attendees. These folks have a leg-up on most other would-be TTR and GTR attendees in that they receive pre-notification Emails advising when registration will open and links to the registration form download sites as a courtesy by the organizers. Moreover, I suspect several new teams who signed-up for these events are acquaintances of other previous rally attendees who have, in turn, been alerted to the registration dates so that they too will be assured a space.
The unfortunate downside is that, these two exceptional events must impose upper limits on registrations due to seating capacity at their Saturday banquet facilities and many potential new-comers looking to have their first rally experience at one of these get shut out before they even realize registration had opened.
If you fall into that category, don't be disheartened. Instead, you may want to consider adopting a few strategies to ensure that you can get a taste of the rally experience sooner rather than later, as I truly believe getting involved in the rallies greatly enhances a couple's appreciation and enthusiasm for the tandeming lifestyle:
1. As mentioned in another thread, consider subscribing to the Tandem Club of America (TCA) so that you'll receive the Doubletalk newsletter that lists the dates, places, and contact information for all of the major upcoming rallies. Most of this information is also available on the Internet at TCA's Website as well as my own, thetandemlink.com; however, receiving that big paper newsletter in the mail serves as a great reminder that it's time to check and see what rallies have been added and when registration will open.
2. Put a 'rally registration reminder' on your calendars for November or December, as most of the following year's event organizers will begin to finalize locations, dates, hotel information, stand up their Websites, and pass that information to TCA and folks like me during December to update the event calendars.
3. Decide early which rallies you'd like to attend and send an Email to the organizers to find out when registration will open and if there will be any limits on the number of attendees. The REALLY BIG events (100's of attendees) like the Midwest (MTR), Eastern (ETR), and Northwest (NWTR) tandem rallies don't usually impose any limits; however, Southwest (SWTR), GTR, TTR, and even the Southern (STR) tandem rallies do.
A note on cost: Different rallies use different pricing plans. There are no-frills club events that have no or nominal fees and some, like TTR & GTR, with a basic rally event fee of around $160 per couple, (+/- 10%) that usually include lunch & dinner on Saturday, with all other meals on your own. Hotel costs (~$85 - 100 night with tax added) usually cover a continental breakfast. So, for one of these events where you spend only two nights you can see that your basic cost would be on the order of $330 - $360. There are other events -- like most ETRs, STR '02 at Callaway Gardens the upcoming STR '07 in Chattanooga -- that package the lodging, meals, and event costs into a single "fee" that appears to make it far more expensive than other rallies. There still others like MTR and NWTR that have used "ala carte" pricing to allow teams to pick and choose how many of the available event activities or offerings they are interested in, e.g., pass on T-shirts and the banquet. Also, if you see what seems to be a very pricey event check to see if you are also going to be receiving a pair of rally jerseys as a premium, polo shirts vs. T-shirts. Price can also be affected if the event is being hosted out of a high-end resort or conference center vs. a Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn Express. Frankly, the Resort and Conference Center events while more expensive, are really neat in that all of the rally activities and meals are usually held on-site and eliminate the use of your car for the entire weekend.
4. Get your vacation calendars updated so that you'll be able to arrive for the first day of the event -- often times a Friday -- and all the way through to the end which is sometimes a Monday when the events cover a holiday weekend, e.g., NWTR on Memorial Day or the 4th of July Weekend and MTR on Labor Day weekend. Youíll also want to clear away any needed travel days if the event is beyond a 1/2 days drive. You really donít want to have your first tandem rally experienced diminished by travel-lag, unexpected traffic, or the need to leave early causing you to miss out on any of the activities. I would note that a Sunday post-ride lunch with new friends is often the icing on the cake for these events as thatís when many of the follow-on rally plans are discussed.
5. Get the registration form and releases filled out and ready to mail along with your registration fees so that you can pop it in the mail one - two days before the date that registration opens. This will ensure it will be one of the first to arrive, guaranteeing your spot for the event.
6. As soon as hotel information is available, figure out if you're responsible for your own reservations and, if so, get your rooms reserved as early as possible. There are often times limited numbers of room blocks for an event at the host hotel -- which is where you really want to be -- and then secondary blocks of rooms available at nearby hotels to cover the balance of attendees.
Now, if you had your heart set on one of the events that has been filled there are a couple things you can do. The first is to establish if the event has a waiting list. Often times, events will have cancellations or may even have some "pad" in their limits that will afford folks who didn't make the initial cut to move from the waiting list onto the confirmed list. The second is to immediately set your sights on the next most attractive rally event that you can attend. In other words, if you missed the boat for TTR and GTR, consider the Mid-Atlanta Tandems Enthusiasts (MATES) event in North Carolina, SWTR in Lagrange, Texas, ETR in Delroy, Ohio, or the Southern Tandem Rally in Chattanooga, following the guidelines I've already provided.
Bottom Line: Get to a rally sooner rather than later as it really could open up an entirely new perspective on what the tandem lifestyle really has to offer. After all, there's a reason these events have filled up in just under a week or two and that so many of the folks who are attending have done so year-after-year-after-year.