CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS AND OLD-FASHIONED MAPS: Maps for motorcycle adventurers have come a long way since I was a kid back in the days of that famous Italian, Christopher Columbus. There certainly wasn’t any GPS for motorbikes back then. Heck, there wasn’t even widespread consent that the earth was round. (At least the maps were flat).
In fact, if there had been GPS back then, Columbus wouldn’t have bothered to discover America, since he was looking for a way to get to Asia in search of more profitable opportunities transporting spice and herbs, in the service of Spain.
Instead, he would have competed in The Dakar race, or something of the sort, to get his adventure kicks.
In spite of all the advances in map technology since those younger days, I still prefer to use good old-fashioned paper maps to GPS, just like old Chris the sailor.
GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEMS FOR MOTORCYCLES
Don’t get me wrong. I believe the development of GPS is a great advancement for riders, and non-riders alike. Furthermore, there have been times when I have been riding far off the beaten path, for example on a desolate gravel road in the outback of Idaho, and a GPS system would have helped me to locate civilization much more efficiently.
However, most of my riding, even when it’s far from urban areas, takes place on well-mapped terrain. Hence, I prefer the elegant simplicity of pulling out a map and checking out what’s further on down the road – just like Mr. Columbus (except my maps are more accurate).
I LIKE PAPER MAPS FOR RIDING
At times I’ve wondered if some folks don’t recognize the richness of information that many road maps avail to the touring motorcycle rider.
Good road maps aren’t just a visual depiction of paved and unpaved highways and byways, they are a communication media that may feature mountains, valleys, forests, lakes, rivers as well as villages, cities, counties, states, countries, national parks, state parks, local parks, monuments, etc. And that’s all in addition to the varying roads that maps proffer, like a breakfast menu of choices for a day’s adventure.
My map collection covers much of North America, not only in broad maps that cover huge swaths of geography, but mostly in state, regional and local maps, which offer the less-traveled roads that are going to be of interest to myself and many riders.
Additionally, while at home, I’ll make generous use of various internet map services, too, although the larger, printed maps, with their complex folding patterns, are still my main choice for any ride.
When I’m heading off on multi-day journeys, I go to my map collection and pull out the ones most pertinent to the general direction I’m headed.
On the other hand, even if I’m going to the neighborhood store, I still have maps stored with the bike, just in case I get diverted by a motorbike muse to pursue an impromptu adventure much further afield than the need to pick up bread and eggs.
SECRETS OF A MAP’S LEGEND
My main advice to anyone unfamiliar with the use of maps would be to become acquainted with any map’s legend, which lists and defines the various symbols appearing on the map itself. Giving that legend a few moments of your attention can really open up the meaning of the map beyond the primary road you might be interested in.
On the other hand, what may take more of a commitment it trying to fold the darn things back up when you’re ready to hit the road again.
Back in my earlier days when Christopher inadvertently discovered America, we used to roll maps up in a scroll. That made for easy opening and closing, but it would not make for efficient motorbike storage. (In that regard, modern folding maps are an advancement). Unfortunately, when rolled open, those earlier maps also befuddled some people into thinking the world was flat.
Modern maps with their confusing unfolding and re-folding operation are a better reflection of the true nature of our world: it’s not as simple as it might be.
Wishing you safe riding, in whatever way you navigate your bike around. And in the tradition of Columbus, let’s make new personal discoveries, regardless of our maps, GPS, or lack thereof.