by Alain Hoffmann
How to make a Roadbook - Part 1, Basics
Roadbooks or Topos are great fun. You need all your senses to find the correct road on the first try, You need an good car and you are mostly on your own but can still be sure someone will come by and rescue you if the usual shit happens.
I know of none who doesn't like to drive them but making them is a can full of worms. You will inevitably run into some problems I mentioned and still other catastrophes will rise their ugly heads. I do this thing now since 15 years but I still make mistakes. The following should help you to avoid the most common faults.
The beginning - First Considerations
The following applies to those living in densely populated regions like Europe. For those of you lucky enough to be somewhere a 4x4 isn't regarded as a rolling offence you may jump over this.
To find the best road you have to make careful planning.
First: Do you try to be legal? If so you must observe all the interdictions, ask for permissions by landowners and regional authorities. This is a time- and nerve-consuming task. But I suggest you try it at least.
Second: How many vehicles will probably turn up? You must make a different choice of lanes if you only expect 5-10 cars with experienced drivers or if you do it for 100 cars of which half never before left tarmac.
Third: How difficult will the tracks be? It is really annoying having to wait for endless times for all the cars in front of you to clear an obstacle. So you must take into account the change in difficulty if the terrain is wet or dry. Always count of the worst to happen. An very good idea is to prepare an easy one and put the harder parts on another paper sheet. So you can decide even the day before which one will be driven.
Forth: Damage. Any serious trafficwill damage the trail. How much depends on the weather and ground conditions. The best advice I can give is to stay off wet trails if you intend to drive it with more than half a dozen of 4x4's. Don't think that nobody knows you in that region. At least in Europe you can bet that someone somewhere sees you. And if the car he sees is covered with mud you can also bet he will make the relation if it's later known that damage to a road's been done. Trust me, I learned it the hard way.
Fifth: Expect the unexpected. You must drive the road book the first time when you make it. You must drive it a second time after you draw the final version. You must drive it one more time the day before the event. And you must have one buddy driving it one or two hours before the first one starts. I learned the hard way that unexpected things happen. I once found (two hours before the start) that a long stretch of the track would be used by some hundred pilgrims on that day. On several occasions hunting parties appeared. Whole villages were suddenly closed for once-a-year markets. Once an complete road was closed the day before for road work, on another occasion an 3 feet wide and 10 feet deep ditch across the path appeared out of nowhere. For all those reasons you MUST drive the tracks so many times. And you must do this with wide open eyes. Look out for any signs of upcoming events like hand-painted signposts, white and red plastic strips on bushes and trees (widely used by wanderers and riders to mark trails) or preparations in villages (this is why driving it the day before is so important).
Above: This is definitely NOT a good trail to drive on a roadbook. The first cars driving it on that day had to winch for a good distance. Once 2 or 3 did this the ruts were graded down so the following ones had it a bit easier. Don't choose such a trail unless the landowner agrees.