Tips For Setting Up A Hash

Anybody can set up a lame hash. But it takes a bit more planning to set up a good hash. So what are a few of the things that can screw up? Bad trail where most hashers can't follow the trail to the end and running out of beer early before the hash ceremonies are over.

Some things you should not do are the following:
  • cross the trail so as to form a loop. (I've seen one group pass another group and neither group can figure out what's going on)
  • run out of flour
  • put hash marks too far apart
  • avoid canal crossings and swampy (deep mud) areas unless there is some damn fine riding on the other side
  • cross busy roads without putting a "safe crossing". Don't put a "tit mark" next to a busy road. Put either a "safe crossing" or a "double arrow"

Choosing Your Route

Pick your ending spot first. Some places where we typical have hashes are in public parks (sometimes you need to reserve it), out in the woods someplace, a parking lot behind some stores or in your backyard. Next find a good parking area for all the cars that is not too far away from the end point. A quarter of a mile is about right. Your route will make a loop starting at the parking lot and end at the chosen spot where all will make merry with song and beer. A good length is about 10 to 20 miles. Lately, some hashers have been putting in Eagle/Turkey options when the trail is over 15 miles - but that means you need to preset one of the trails at the splitting point or get another rider to set that trail. It's more work if you decide to do it. Try to put as much off-road in your trail as possible. In Melbourne, you are somewhat limited to areas like Wickham park, the Bum's trails, Turkey Creek and the Fruit Tree Trail - hey there still fun to do even though a million hashes have run thru them. There is wilderness west of I-95, but it is swampy during the wet season. Making your own trails is hard work and only worth it for short connectors. Use Google satellite view to look for ways around obstacles like canals.

It's easier to pick an area that is near where you live so you can ride from your door and not have to transport your bike to figure out your route. Most times, there are "obstacles" that you need to get around that force your route to go through a choke point. For instance, if you start on beach side and cross one of the causeways, you'll have to use a causeway to get back over to beach side. There is a large network of canals that can block your route and force you to cross over where there is bridge. The airport blocks off a big chunk of real estate.

Setting The Trail

It takes about pound of flour to set a mile of trail - but that is a rough guess and depends on lots of different variables. You can use plain, white flour and it works great on asphalt but isn't so great if much of your hash is on dirt roads. You can add color by buying chalk powder for snapping lines that carpenters use to mark a straight line. Get it at a building supply store. Mix in a 5 gal bucket. Flour hash marks don't work well on grass unless you can find bare spots of dark soil like ant hills. Instead, use toilet paper to mark your trail. This, however, takes more time since you have to get off the bike or straddle it. Definitely use either toilet paper (cheaper and more environmentally friendly than plastic ribbon) or plastic ribbon to set trail thru a wooded area with no trail. You can get the ribbon at a building supply store. If you decide to preset part of your trail the day before in a wooded area using toilet paper and it rains during the night, then toilet paper will disappear into gobs of white shit. Presetting a portion of your trail gives you lots of extra time and it is a good idea for wooded areas that take a lot of time to set (it is damn hard to ride a bike, unroll toilet paper and tear off pieces while riding off trail). If you do preset trail, try to set it the morning before your hash since both chalk marks and toilet paper disappear in a rain. Rain during your hash sucks since there isn't a lot you can do to keep your trail marks from disappearing other than throwing lots of powder (colored flour helps loads in wet conditions as does plastic ribbon).
The worst thing that can happen while setting trail with the pack on your ass is to run out of flour. Sometimes near the end of a long hash, the hash marks get smaller and smaller and farther and farther apart. It's not a bad idea to stash an extra bag or two of flour along your route.
There are a some hashers that like to race. They will love you if the last 3 or 4 miles are plainly marked for all turns with no tit marks or other things that can slow things down - mark the safe crossing well.

Strategies To Buy Time

Presetting a portion of the trail, particularly an off-road part that is sandy will give you loads of extra time. If you preset on a busy road, flour and chalk marks disappear fast, particularly if they get run over. Chalk marks I left for a safe crossing had all but disappeared the next day at a place where they were run over a lot. Use the thick chalk markers to set tit marks, double arrows, YBF's, etc. Buy it in the children sections of stores like Target. A lot of hashers have a YBF at the beginning. Don't forget to put a tit mark so they known where to pick up the trail again. One problem with a YBF is that a smart hasher will know not to take the most obvious trail at a tit mark. However, you can fool them by putting lots of tit marks at intersections and not even having a false trail. Or instead of a YBF, you can set one or two hash marks going the wrong way. Remember it takes three marks before it is a "true trail". A word of caution here: don't make the trail too complicated. A shitty hash is one where everyone is milling around for 20 minutes. They came to ride so keep the action going by making the false trail relatively short and the true trail easy to pick back up. One problem with a YBF is that not all hashers will necessarily take the false trail. A way around this is the "count back". With the CB, you don't need a tit mark so nobody will be looking for where the true trail goes off from the false trail. Make it clear at the hash talk whether the CB counts as zero or one (One hasher set up a CB with a count of zero - makes you think, huh?). For instance, a CB 5 means count the last 5 hash marks (CB doesn't count in this example) to find where the true trail goes off.
Another technique for delaying the hounds is to put at a big hash mark at a fork in the trail. Don't put your next hash mark for a few twists and turns in the trail so they are committed to going one way or another. It really slows everything down when they come back from the side of the fork which had no hash marks. Most people tend to follow the majority assuming they know something they don't. I miss half the hash marks that are thrown so I assume someone else saw something I didn't.
Nobody likes being caught by the hounds. You have to drink an extra down-down (like that's a real punishment). Don't worry about whether you get caught and instead concentrate on laying good trail. What's much worst is not to have many people finish the trail because you made it too hard by not throwing enough powder down.

Advanced Strategies

Some hashers are amazingly good at "ranging." In ranging, a hasher looks for short cuts by figuring out the likely route of the hash. Hash routes make a clockwise or counterclockwise loop from the starting point back to the finish. Let's say the hash route is heading west and crosses Wickham Rd. Eventually the route will have to cross back over Wickham to get back to where the cars are parked and the ending point. If it is going in clockwise direction, a good "ranger" will head north on Wickham to find the spot where the trail crosses back over and short-circuit a good portion of the trail. There are two ways the trail setter can screw up the ranger: (1) Put your safe crossing chalk mark and hash marks well back from the road. The ranger will be riding fast down Wickham and looking for the crossing point and may miss where the route crosses over. (2) Make a reversal in the direction of the route so it crosses over Wickham Rd. south instead of north of the original crossing point.
Or you can just ignore the rangers and not worry about whether they are first in.

Hash Symbols

  • flour marks, plain or with colored line chalk added
  • toilet paper or plastic ribbon to mark a path through a wooded area
  • tit mark, a circle with a dot in the middle. Means the trail can go off in any direction from the tit mark
  • CB #, a count back with a number. Keep the number to 10 or less. Make it clear whether the CB counts as no. 1 or not (most hashers don't count it)
  • YBF, "you've been fucked". Means go back to the last tit mark
  • safe crossing, an arrow pointing across the road with an "S" thru it
  • double arrow, the trail goes in either of two directions. Use to keep them from crossing a busy intersection
  • true trail arrow, an arrow with 3 lines drawn thru it. Use to point the way in a wooded area or along a long grassy area running beside a canal, etc

Carrying the Flour

Figure this out before the big day. On hash day, you'll be busy buying ice, etc or presetting a portion of your trail. There are lots of ways to carry the flour. The easiest way is to get a friend's setup. Here's one way: get a canvass carrying bag for groceries and tie the straps to the handle bars. You may have to tie it on one side if it interferes with your brake cables. In that case, you can put another bag on the other side to even things out. To keep the bag open so you can reach in and grab flour, put in a plastic container. Stick a 5-lb bag of flour in it and take it over some bumpy trail and see if it hold up. Make the necessary adjustments - using safety pins, wire or whatever.
If you have an rider setting trail with you (it's much easier than going alone), it's easy to carry 10 lbs apiece for a total of 20 lbs. Stash some flour about 4 miles from the end if you have doubts as to whether you have enough flour. Better to have a lot of extra than run out.

Beer and Food

Beer. If you are having a keg, that is usually plenty. Indian River kegs are a big hit. Otherwise, get hash beer: a mix of Natural Ice and a light beer like Old Milwaukee or Bush Lite. Plan on each person drinking about 4 beers. Also have plenty of bottled water on hand - one per person on a 70 degree day and maybe 2 per person on a hot day. If lots of people show up, you can always buy more. Soda is always good so maybe a case of that.

Food. At the minimum have about 10 bags of chips and 3 trays of cookies and a large bunch of bananas. Cheapest prices are at Aldi's in either Melbourne or Palm Bay.

If you want to put on a really good hash, have pizza or hotdogs or some other finger food like bean dip with taco shells. You can get the extra long hot dogs at Aldi's for $4 for 16 dogs. Some things that don't go over that well are the messy stuff like baked beans and potato salad. Making stuff like brownies is always good. Salt and sugar go well with the beer.

Other Details

Buy your bags of ice of ice on the day of the hash. Three 20-lb bags of ice will cool down 5 cases of beer and a case of water if the day is a cool one. It's good to have one person collect the money so you can sort of keep track of who paid. Do a head count and ask for people to please pay if you are short. Sometimes people do the ride and don't have time for the beer at the end (hard to imagine). Either you or someone else can do the chalk talk to explain the rules to any beginners. If you have something to add to the chalk talk, jump in. Let them know for example, the color of your flour and ribbons or whether you are using toilet paper or whatever.