Babbling About Maps: and Babbling About Babbling - Grampies Ride Again! - CycleBlaze

June 8, 2015

Babbling About Maps: and Babbling About Babbling

I guess there are some topics that come up with every trip, and it would be natural to write about them each time. One of these is "Business Cards", because we make them each time. Ok, fine. But this time I wrote a page about business cards and prattled on about how we had first seen this on the Northern Tier, in 2011. I remembered that, but what I forgot was that I had put exactly the same sentiments into "Grampies Go To Florida", last year. (That blog is currently offline because the truck accident is before the courts, but that's beside the point!)

So here we are just finishing off our typical super time consuming mapping exercise, and it's time to say something about this major part of our cycle touring experience. Now at least I remember that we had a really good page on this in "Grampies on the Go - Again". The basic fact is that rather than carry a pile of Bikeline map books (thick and heavy and mostly German text) plus a pile of Michelin regional maps (big and hard to fold and takes a lot of them to get anywhere on a straight line route), plus a pile of map-like brochures picked up a local tourist informations, we scan and reprint what we need, using a template that sizes all maps to fit our map case. Even with this way, for this trip we got about 200 map pages for Dodie - who finds the way from up front, and then there are 40-50 more general pages for me, who always wants to know (generally) where in heck we are.

To the extent that the routes we choose are signposted, it can be easy to make each of the hundreds of turns that all routes go through. But if there are no route markings on the ground, the maps would have to be far too zoomed in to be able to read all the needed street names and landmarks on them. That's one of the places where we try to use GPS to stay on track. The problem with GPS is first of all to get a file (in our case, .GPX) for the way you are trying to go. The second problem, of course, is trying to see the darn thing in the bright sun, plus feeding it batteries if (as in our case) the GPS is actually a smart phone with a large bright colour display.

When, once again, the route being followed is from Bikeline, it not only is usually a signposted one, but also Bikeline supplies the GPX in most cases. But beyond the Bikeline world there are still a lot of good resources.

This time around we discovered, as well as some other super helpful sites, mentioned below. gets mentioned first because it offers .gpx downloads for seemingly every national, regional, and local "official" route in Europe (and other places too, including Vancouver Island). One evening I sat with for literally several hours before I figured out how to get it to actually take me to the screens I needed. It's a "little" quirky, but in the end, great!

Another good source of "official" route downloads is This is very good for England, but also for the rest of Europe. We especially also liked that it will plot a cycle route between two points, and then allow the route to be downloaded as GPX.

Others in this season's hall of fame are, (Schweizmobil), and

Ah, brings us out of finding a route and into finding a place to stay! Campingmap is pretty good, but it wants you to name a city, and then it shows on a map all the camping around, within about 30 km - that is, a short jaunt in the car!

One that we rather like for camping is Archie's. Archie has over 30,000 campsites listed for Europe, all available for download within a GPX file. In principle, if you can throw up your route on screen (through a GPX) and throw up Archie, then you will see the campsites on route. The glitch is that even just going one country at a time, Archie pretty much blows up our tablet. The smartphone is newer and faster, but the smallish screen is trouble. So, Dodie asks, can we put this info up on the big PC screen at home, so she can mark tidbits on her paper maps? Nope. Archie blows up Google Maps, Archie confuses the Crazyguy on a Bike GPX uploader, and Archie is too much for

But hey, Archie has an Android app that works quite well. If you would be actually cycling, it would show the nearby camping. From home, like with, the Archie app will take you to a named part of the world (town) and show you camping in the area. Scroll the map and the camping display updates. And, you can choose to use opencyclemap, google maps, etc. Only glitch, you need to be connected to (fast) internet. Works well at home, of course.

The 30,000 campsites of Archies look pretty dense across Europe in this view. Of course they are more spread out when you are actually looking for one in a given town! I thought this view was rather artistic, though,
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So all these thoughts and files and sites and printouts are swirling around in our heads, and we ask ourselves, how do other, presumably more sane people do it? That's where we spot something like the photo below of Maun Alston casually perusing her gloriously clear and comprehensive Bikeline book while lounging at a cafe in Weikersheim, and we wish we had the strength and space to carry all that stuff with us.

Maun Alston peruses a Bikeline map at a cafe in Weikersheim. See the Alston's blog, now ongoing, here: Amsterdam to the South Tyrol and Back 2015
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By the way, we briefly discussed a trip and blog that could be called "Grampies Go Wandering", in which we would give up on caring where we were and where we were going. No way, not going to happen! Everybody (even Dora the Explorer) knows the Map is King:

Dora prepares for a trip. She is one of our role models!
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The Map as used by Dora tends to be fairly simple, but it does show important points of interest (POI).
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