Searching Out GPS (and other last minute freak outs) - Grampies on the Go - CycleBlaze

April 12, 2011

Searching Out GPS (and other last minute freak outs)

Supposedly we already "wrote the book" on the subject of how to plan a route and find our way while out on the road. That is, there are two entries prior to this one that supposedly cover this topic. So now at the last minute Dodie, who distrusts technology, and GPS in particular, says maybe we need one. Perhaps it could find a grocery store or campground we did not write down, or maybe it will guide us to a campground we know about but can't find. And maybe if we get lost it will put us back on our route.

Hmmm, so that put us back in research mode. Here are the results: The latest and greatest bicycle GPS is the Garmin Edge 800. It has a touch screen, is totally waterproof (except maybe for around the USB port), and with Garmin "City Navigator" can give turn by turn guidance, like an automotive GPS. Plus, there are downloadable maps available from Garmin, produced by the Rails to Trails Conservancy. Cost - $430 on Amazon, $450 at REI, $475 at MEC, plus the maps - $80 from Garmin, $50 or so on Amazon (available on DVD, microSD, or Download).

But, is the darn thing of any use? Two phonecalls to Garmin and one to Rails to Trails reveal:

- This "bicycle GPS" does not know about bike trails. That is, (unlike Google Maps) it can not route you using streets and trails and it can not give turn by turn guidance on or around trails.

- With the Rails to Trails maps, one can see the trails (on a road map)and of course the GPS shows where you are. From there you are on your own as to which way to pedal to get on the trail. and then if you stray from the correct path, the GPS will faithfully show that you are not where you should be, but it will not warn you that you went wrong and it has no opinion about where to go next, except for the general direction.

It seems like there are automotive GPSs that guide you along streets, and there are hiking GPSs that show maps (especially topo maps), tracks, and where you are, but no specific "guidance". Because bikes go on roads and trails, Garmin's bicycle GPS has two modes - like a car or like a hiker, but the twain do not seem to meet.

So what did we do? We ordered the thing, from REI. If it turns out to be useless, they will get it back. If it turns out to save (or find) our bacon, hurray. Stay tuned for probably lots more installments on this vexing topic.

Speaking of vexing, we have been watching the highway web cams for Stevens Pass and for Snoqualmie Pass. Stevens is full of snow, but Snoqualmie seems fairly clear. So going down by way of Snoqualmie now seems to be our first choice. Being forced down "South" has had a valuable side benefit. We have discovered the Snoqualmie Trail bike path (no thanks to Garmin!) and the Iron Horse State Park trail. Together these will take us from around Monroe, Washington to Vantage, Washington. That will be 250 km on quiet, remote bike trails. From Vantage we could continue on trails toward Spokane, and the Centennial Trail, but we instead will veer North and get back to our former route, at Coulee City.

Like this:

Meanwhile Dodie today packed and repacked our stuff. The panniers will be worn out right here in our living room! It's really time for us to get going! Also today we said goodbye to all the neat literature sent to us by the tourism departments of the various provinces. We would have loved to take the various paper maps and guides with us, but as you can see from the photo they weigh in at "Overflow" on our 30 pound scale.

Thirty pounds of info - we'd need a third trailer for it!
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