How will we get, store, and lookup information on what campgrounds, groceries, and motels are along our route? - Grampies on the Go - CycleBlaze

March 10, 2011

How will we get, store, and lookup information on what campgrounds, groceries, and motels are along our route?

A happy go lucky approach to travel in general can seem very attractive. How neat to wander into some town and happen on a great place to eat or stay. On a bike, how nice to just happen to find a beautiful bike path down by the water! On the other hand, when in places where anything to eat or anywhere to stay or any road safeish to cycle can be rare, leaving it to chance can be a recipe for anything from discomfort to outright danger. If you are young and quite tough you can take more chances. Frankly, we are old and soft (and always were!)

Our first line of attack has been Google Maps, from the comfort of our computer room and with high speed internet. Google Maps has the best interface, database, and general intuitive smarts of anything we have looked at. (Admittedly, we only glanced at Mapquest and Yahoo Maps, Delorme, Microsoft Streets and Trips,, and the data and software found in typical Tom Tom and Garmin GPS units, smartphones with internal maps (Nokia), etc. It didn't seem worth it, since Google just had it all. In particular, Google knows about quite a lot of dedicated bike routes, and the Streetview and Satellite view features can allow you often to get right on the scene and determine how visible that turnoff really is, or whether a listed RV Park seems to have any room for tents, or anyway is actually an RV dealer.

On the other hand, Google Maps is missing major gobs of campgrounds and grocery stores, and non commercial stuff like provincial and state parks. So our next line was to do general web searches for the town names that we knew we would be passing through. This often turned up town campsites or useful businesses. Next, we searched up and emailed the tourism departments of provinces and states we would visit. They eagerly and quickly sent piles of maps and info. This is how we first learned of the Route Verte in Quebec and the end to end bike trails of PEI. Finally, we looked at stuff from the Rails to Trails and Adventure Cycling people, and similar bike specific organizations. Strangely, none seemed to be all that great for our purposes. We also dropped in on the Adventure Cycling office in Missoula Montana, but by that time those of their maps that at least partially overlapped our route seemed too costly. That was because many maps would be needed to cover the bits of our route that they could, and mostly because we already 'knew it all' from other sources.

Our final gambit, for parts of the route within the 1000K radius where we normally roam in our VW van anyway, was to drive some of the proposed routes. For example, how could we get around the deadly I-5 and get out of the Seattle region to head east? How about this Highway 9 that heads south parallel to I-5? So we drove down 9 and got a first hand look at the shoulder and the traffic on it. Similarly, we drove highway 2, from Everett to Leavenworth Washington. Narrow shoulder, 70 k straight up Stevens Pass, little in the way of groceries or camping or water. Ok, that was good to know. We decided to tackle it anyway!

This is not to say that like some escorted tour company we pre scouted routes on purpose. Merely, as we seemingly incessantly moved back and forth Among family in Montana, Manitoba, and BC we kept our eyes open for route variations and detoured at times to have a look at them.

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