Finding Your Way

I have a confession to make: I don’t really know how to use a GPS properly. Yet one of the first things I do when I get a new bike is to find a place to mount it. I think I have 4 mounts in my garage right now! When I say I don’t know how to use it, what I mean is don’t use it to it’s full potential, or maybe even the way it is really designed to be used. I use it when I decide to “get lost.”

You see, I’m really a map guy. I love maps. I can sit down at a table with a cup of coffee or a beer and just start looking over a map…any map, any State, any Country. It’s kind of like the electronic book vs paper debate; one that I admit I gave in to long ago (single handedly, according to one of my daughters, killing the book store business). However, being a romantic, I am still clinging to maps. I love the feel and visual stimulation of looking at a real paper map.


And that is how I plan my day rides and my trips. I don’t get on a computer and start plotting waypoints. I don’t transfer it to my GPS so I have it at the touch of my fingers (sounds kind of great now that I think about it!). Mainly because I don’t plan trips that precisely. I never plot out every road, every stop, how many miles to do, where to eat, what to see. I just go. Which explains what I mean when I say I use a GPS to help me get lost. It becomes my bread crumb trail to get me back to civilization when I have no idea where I am. It allows me to turn down a random road that I’m not familiar with and just ride. Once I get to a point that I feel I need some guidance to get back to something known, I just plug a destination into the GPS and hit “Go.” Next thing I know, I have my bearings again and I was able to explore some new territory.

Normally when I take a ride I start thinking of a general direction or destination. From that point, I start looking over my maps and visualize a route of sorts. I will write down a few roads on a piece of paper, stick it in the map window of my tank bag and off I go. I may follow the roads I’ve written, or I may not even end up going the same direction. For my upcoming trip to Asheville, a place I don’t really even need a map for, I have 13 different ones that I am taking! All of them are geared toward riders and offer great reviews of the many wicked twisted roads that make that part of the country so enjoyable.

One of the great things about riding is the sense of freedom that it grants. I don’t want to mess that up with a lot of plans…plus I hate hearing that voice that says, “recalculating” every time I decide to ignore the GPS’ wise counsel!




8 thoughts on “Finding Your Way

  1. I, too, am a big fan of paper maps, Shep. Maybe I’m also romantic about them (I think I am), but enough of my rides here in the West are in areas still without cell service that I must use paper maps. Though maybe GPS functions differently–honestly I’ve never been curious enough to find out.

    I research my possible routes beforehand, but I leave it open enough to change things on the fly. Since many of my rides into western Utah and eastern Nevada involve snooping around ghost towns and old mines, I also usually review Google’s satellite view: There one can spot the turned soil of tailings piles and the evidence of past habitation much easier than from the surface amidst hills and mountains and juniper forests.

  2. Hopefully before too long. Typically I can’t take more than 1 week off at a time so I don’t venture that far, but pretty soon that should change. I’ve also thought about doing a “fly and rent.”

  3. Hey Jamie,

    Did you by chance change your mobile number? I’ve been trying my last known for you from November and it doesn’t seem to go through..
    If so, send me a text to my mobile from your new number.


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