The Jim Owen Mapping Method

This e-mail is from the LDrider list and is here with permission from the author; Jim Owen. Note is dated October 20, 2005 8:11 AM


A week or so ago I put this explanation of the techniques I use together for
Tom and Rosie Sperry. The explanation is rather wordy and complex compared
to the actual use of the system when rallying, once you get used to it that
is. The biggest thing is to practice, a lot, and develop what works for
you. One caveat. My system does not use paper maps. It has been a long
time since I used paper maps and when my laptop failed at the beginning of
Leg Three of this years IB Rally, when I needed it most, I didn't have it
in my mind to go to a back up system of paper maps and basically panicked.
Having a backup plan is critically important. :-}

So, here are the techniques I have developed for myself. There are
basically three stages. Stage One, getting the bonus locations loaded into
Streets and Trips as pushpins. Stage Two, loading the pushpins into the GPS
unit. Stage Three, choosing the route.

Stage One.

I use Streets and Trips because of all the other mapping software programs I
have used it is the quickest and easiest to use. I have tried Mapsource and
Street Atlas and both are slow and laborious. I want to move along at a
rapid pace and not be slowed down by the mapping software. I _DO_ have
Mapsource and Street Atlas running in the back ground because there are
times when I can find a point on those programs that I can't find on S&T.

My first goal once I get the route sheets is to get ALL the bonus points
labeled and loaded into S&T as pushpins. I use a multi-faceted labeling
system within S&T. Here's how it works. First I take a look at the route
sheets to see how the points are spread, deciding on values that will
separate the low, medium and high point values. I assign different COLORS
to the different values. Green for low value, Blue for medium value and Red
for high value bonuses. I also assign different SHAPES to time limited
bonuses. In the first leg of the IBR I assigned large triangles for the
daylight only bonuses and large squares for the 24 hour bonuses. All this
color and shape manipulation is for use in quickly seeing possible routing
combinations within S&T and does not propogate to the GPS. The naming label
does though and I have a very specific process for labeling. Most times the
nomenclature on the route sheets does not fit into a neat labeling system,
so I make my own. I go through the entire route sheet and mark next to each
bonus location a number, the point value, and if time limited a "D" or a "T"
to denote daylight only or otherwise time limited. So, for example, if the
first bonus was worth 30,102 points and was only available during daylight
hours, the label I would mark on the route sheet next to it would be "01
30102 D".

So, now, to recap, I have gone through the route sheets and marked all the
bonus locations with the label I want to use and have decided on my coloring
and shaping scheme. This only takes about 5 to 10 minutes depending on the
number of bonuses. Now, it is time to get these puppies loaded into S&T.

>From within S&T and for each bonus location I use the "find" function to
locate the nearest town, landmark, or what ever method presents itself to
quickly find the bonus given the instructions on the route sheet. Once I
find it I click on the pushpin tool in the lower left of the tool bar. I
will then move the mouse to as precise a location as I can get to, given the
instructions on the route sheet, for the location of the bonus. It pays to
take a couple of extra seconds to get it as close as possible in as zoomed
in a map screen as possible. Then I "place" the bonus by clicking the exact
location with the pushpin I carried over from the tool bar. If I cannot
locate the exact point of the bonus location I include a small "e" at the
end of the label so I know the location is estimated. Without moving the
pointer from the new pushpin, I right click the mouse. This brings up a
menu for the new pushpin and I click on "properties". This brings up a
screen where I can type in the label and then tab over to the pushpin
symbols and I move down to the appropriate symbol and click on that. I then
execute that and wind up with a pushpin that is labeled and symboled
according to my plan. I then click on the "x" to close the label box, hit
escape so I don't inadvertantly move the new pushpin and go find the next
bonus. The reason I close the label box is to reduce the clutter when all
the points are loaded so I can more clearly see potential routes. VERY
IMPORTANT.......after every bonus is loaded and before finding the next one
do a quick "Ctrl-S" to save the file. This prevents the loss of all
previously loaded bonuses if the program should lock up......Don't ask me
how I know this ..........OR...........what events occur when it happens at
the end of a long period of bonus loading!!!! :-( The last time you
save the file make a note of where you saved it to. You will need that info
during Stage Two :-) When your done loading all the bonuses your basically
almost ready to go. The most time consuming task is over.

Stage Two.

I use S&T because it is easy to use and I can use a utility to load the
pushpins to the GPS unit. The utility I use is called GPSU and is available
at the following link.

The freeware version can now handle 100 waypoints, which is generally fine
for our applications so you don't even need to buy it. Down load the latest
version. It is compatible with USB.

Now, don't get wrapped around the axle on this utility. It is very
complicated and does so much more than what we want to use it for. Once you
get the program loaded just use it to transfer your pushpins. To do so,
connect your GPS to your computer, turn it on and open GPSU. From within
GPSU, open the S&T file that you just saved with all the pushpins in it.
Follow the box prompts to create the waypoints. Once you have done that go
to "GPS" in the upper pull down menus and select Upload All. Follow the
directions and within about .05 seconds your waypoints are loaded into your
GPS, complete with labels!! :-) Very Slick!!

Now for the reason I do all this stuff :>)

Stage Three.

Select the Route. This is really a dynamic process. I can look at the big
picture in a graphic format at what I just created in S&T. I can see at a
glance where the big points are and bonuses with limitations. I start by
looking for clusters of large point bonuses and see if I can connect them
using the routing feature of S&T. I know the time limitations I have and
from that I know about how many miles I can travel in the given time. I use
this basic knowledge to try and build a route within the given parameters
that maximizes total points. I have a road book from Touratech and write
down the sequence in which I will visit the various waypoints. Obviously,
if this is leg one of the IBR, or another rally where I have the route
sheets the night before I can really give this some time and fine tune it.
If this is later legs, or the Utah 1088, and I am limited on time, or "on
the clock" I make this stage fairly short and work up a good idea of the
over all route and exactly where I am going first and then head out the
door. The really dynamic part of the process occurs during the ride where I
am re-evaluating the overall route and calculating different routing
combinations on the fly.

One final note. Always take a look at the actual location of the bonus and
compare it to the plotted location in your GPS. Is it reasonable? Did it
get plotted in the correct location?? Make sure before you head to each
bonus that is is plotted where it is supposed to be.

I think that pretty much sums it up. As time goes on and Mapsource is
continually improved there may come a time when it is more user friendly and
I may switch to that instead of S&T. Till then, GPSU to the rescue!!

Let me know if you have any other questions or if you need any clarification
on what I have written. Most of all, I hope to see you at the Utah 1088 in
June and/or
at the National Meet in Denver next August!!

Have Fun and Ride Safe!!

Jim Owen


Virtual Rally mapping tips:
The Real world method described above can be modified for our Virtual rally.
Including but not limited to:

As you know there is no reason to interface with you GPS device at all in this process.
You may use any mapping program you have or that can be found on the Internet. I also find that a paper road atlas can answer questions sometimes faster then some programs.

Additionally, when initially finding your Bonus locations you may choose to keep the location rough for the first round of identification. This will allow you to appraise your bonus point's values without investing too much time into the precise location. Your final route may have 10- 25 locations that will need exact identification. You will need time spent on searching exact locations and this time is best spent during your Bonus retrieval phase. Please don't get hung up on defining all 90 locations.