Decades ago, after the layout crew drove the stakes to alignment and grade, they took a piece of blue lumber crayon and marked the top of the stake. This gave the stake a distinction when the earth, or base finally reached grade. Without it, the wood stake was damned near impossible to discern among the similar colored material.
While this helped to locate the stake, the motor grader operator still needed a helper. That helper "ran the blue tops" with the operator to keep them exposed and tell the operator how much high, or low, they were with the grade.
I had the "opportunity" to run blue tops; even for long periods of time. Others avoided it, but I relished it over other labor work. No heavy lifting was required and it gave me the opportunity to work with the survey crew when they were setting new, or replacing stakes. Learning how to set grade was a step up from grunt work and I intended to move beyond just being a laborer.
So how was it? There was a lot of running; especially when you had a good operator. As he motored along adjusting his machine, I would quickly uncover the stakes as he passed, or tap them back into the hole, if he managed to pull one loose. After that, I had to run to get in front, gauge the amount of fill, or cut, and signal the operator.
As we worked, the compactors worked along behind. The constant weight was steadily compacting the material, which would eventually reach the required density.
A good operator would pass over the stake almost on grade, which would only require a quick swipe with my boot to uncover the stake and hurry to the next.
A bad operator could cover the stake with enough material to make it hard to find. Uncovering the stake took longer, which meant a sprint to the next stake to keep up.
With an asphalt road, the base grade would eventually be so close, the stakes weren't really relevant. At that point, the operator's skills came into play. They would set the blade, hardly touch the controls and the "ride" was established. While the stakes were important, the final profile of the road was more important. The operator would remove the final imperfections of grade stakes and the final compacted material was sprayed with an asphalt prime. After that, either a seal coat or asphalt was placed.
I'm guessing I was in the best shape of my life at that time. Considering I was getting paid to be running in the outdoors, the trade of physical fitness for money was a pretty good deal. Other than the pay, I'm thinking there are people - stuffed into a cubicle - that wish they had the same opportunity.