Coursemarker Guidelines

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Rallye Preparation

During preparation (writing) of the rallye, as you drive the route, select exactly which poles will be used for CMs. It matters a lot whether the CM will be beyond an intersection or not, as the SUPP (or SI) may need to refer to the 1st OPP or the 2nd OPP.

Consider whether the pole will be lit by a street light (generally a good thing), whether it is obscured by trees or other landscaping (generally a bad thing), and from which directions the coursemarker will be visible. Coursemarkers should be visible when driving by (of course), but usually not visible from the other side (telegraphs its existence) or from the intersection at which a decision should be made. Normally, a rallyist should have to decide what to do before seeing the CM(s). Although sometimes, negative CMs are left more visible to sucker rallyists (a "big, juicy" CM).

Note that some types of poles are known to cause problems. It may be best to avoid using neighborhoods with these kinds of poles:

  • concrete poles, which make it difficult to attach coursemarkers reliably
  • light poles with the light straight up above the pole (rather than offset from the pole by a horizontal support), because at night the light will be so bright that the nearby coursemarker won't be easily read.

Record what kind of pole it is, so you know how you'll need to attach the coursemarker.

Making Coursemarkers

Font Choices

Feel free to play around and come up with thematic fonts on your CMs. It will add a nice touch. The important criteria are:

  • 1, I and J look different
  • 0, O and Q look different
  • VV should not need a space to differentiate from W (but sometimes does)
  • Wide stroke (legible at a distance)
  • Double-letters (especially WW, MM, OO, etc.) fit the page

Some people prefer, because they're easier to read:

  • Serifed (tends to go with 1, I, and J being well differentiated)

Successful fonts that have been used are:

  • Swiss 721 BT
  • Goudy Extra Bold
  • OCR-A Extended
  • Copperplate

Things that have worked OK but not great:

  • New Century Schoolbook (strokes are too light, VV runs into W space)
  • Helvetica (strokes again too light, no serifs make distinguishing some letters harder)
  • Helvetica Narrow Bold (VV and II look better with a space between the letters, I has no serifs and could be a 1; however WW fits the page even at 360pt)
  • Comic Sans (some characters came out funny, but I don't remember what)

Some fonts that give trouble:

  • Gill Sans (1, I indistinguishable in some larger sizes)
  • Arial (ditto)
  • Various weird titling fonts for various reasons

General Layout

Set the margins in your document small, and be prepared to fiddle with the paragraph/line spacing. The font size is "huge". A standard 8.5"x11" page is 612 points across and 792 points down. The exact font size to use varies substantially with the font, though. Something in the range of 300 points is a good starting place, and then you'll need to tweak.

Get as large as you can. Something most people don't realize is how large street signs really are.

Open Office Spreadsheet

Using free StarOffice/OpenOffice (from OpenOffice.org), Dean used a spreadsheet with two columns: one for the the letters and one for the numbers. Both were in 96-point (the largest available) bold and both used Vertical orientation Middle, and both used text direction 90 degrees (so V looked like >). The letters used Horizontal orientation right. The numbers used Horizontal orientation left. Ideally, the CMs are produced in marker visitation order.

Dean then set the Page Format (Sheet Tab) to Scale choice "reduce/enlarge printout" at the maximum size that fit on the page (about 300%). Enabling View->Page Break Preview allows easy confirmation that only one marker will print on each page.

Posting Coursemarkers

Before the rallye, the RM and an assistant normally drive the route erecting all the CMs. It is helpful to have a list of CMs in visitation order, which typically differs a bit from rallye (critique) order. The non-driver normally applies duct tape to the back of markers prior to arrival at the pole. Using the list of pole types, the non-driver can avoid taping CMs destined for wooden poles, as they are easily stapled.

Staples on Wooden Poles

On a wooden pole, staple the marker using a staple gun "marker parker". Though there is a small piece of metal strap that could hold the marker during stapling, you may want a small loop of duct tape to stick the marker first, and then staple it. Stapling requires a forceful blow with the staple gun, which can make it difficult to simultaneously accurately place the marker.

Duct Tape Loops on Metal Poles

Duct tape loops work well on most poles. Orient the loops so the open ends are at the top and bottom, to ease removal (with the weed puller tool). A narrow duct tape loop in the center of the marker fits over the weed puller. Orient the marker so the duct tape loops are away from the paint roller. Use the weed puller to stick the marker in the correct place. If necessary, adjust its angle a little. Then turn the marker parker around and roll the CM firmly against the pole. Work from the center out or from one side to the other, so the CM will lie flat against the pole. The dual-roller tool presses markers better. The gap between the rollers helps keep the tool centered on the pole, rather than slipping to the side of the pole, as the single-roller does.

Darin has wrapped an old towel around the end of an extension pole, and used it to wipe dust/dirt/rain off the utility pole before attempting to stick the marker. Another (untested) alternative might be to use a dry sponge mop.

Note that the quality of the duct tape will make a big difference. The adhesives in cheap duct tape don't hold coursemarkers as securely as the adhesives in good duct tape. The adhesives also deteriorate with age, so it probably isn't worth using that roll of duct tape that's been sitting in your garage for a decade or two. A new roll of good duct tape is cheap insurance against problems with coursemarkers coming down during the rallye.

Good Luck on Concrete Poles

On concrete poles, duct tape is not reliable. If you try using duct tape on concrete poles anyway, then cover the entire back of the coursemarker with loops of duct tape. Press the coursemarker against the pole with the roller only once; rerolling seems to work the duct tape loose, rather than sticking it more firmly. Then check the CM after mounting all CMs, and assure someone (with equipment to handle a failure) will recheck the CM at the start of the rallye.

More reliable techniques wrap something all the way around the concrete pole:

  • wrap clear packing tape around the coursemarker and the pole (both at the top of the CM and at the bottom)
  • apply a few loops of duct tape to the back of the coursemarker (as with metal poles), but wrap a long cable tie (aka "zip tie") around both the CM and the pole to keep the CM from peeling away from the pole
  • staple the coursemarker to a wooden paint stirrer (or similar inexpensive stick), then secure the stick to the pole with tape or a cable tie

Note that these techniques require a step stool or ladder, otherwise you will not be able to mount the coursemarkers out of reach of passers-by. Using a ladder is slower than using our normal coursemarker tools on extension poles.

In theory, the cable tie could be looped around the pole, then raised into place using a pole, then pulled tight (perhaps with a binder clip or vice grips on a pole?). Has this theory been tested? (Suggestions for improved coursemarker tools are welcome!)

Removing Coursemarkers

Most markers can be removed with the narrow weed puller tool. Angled away from the pole (to avoid scratching the pole or scraping its paint), you can usually get the weed puller through the center of the duct tape loops, and pry them away from the pole.

The weed puller, angled toward the pole, will probably remove staples and stapled markers.

The cultivator (claw) is the last resort for pulling down reluctant markers. Some think it works better for quickly removing taped-on markers, as you don't need to get underneath the tape loops at all -- grab the top and yank.

Obviously, TRC wants no markers or shreds of markers left behind as litter, nor loops of tape left stuck to poles. A disposable box is a good waste receptacle in the car for the paper shreds and duct tape mess. A garbage bag works well, also.

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