“That’s For People Who Can’t Read Maps!”

On the Texas Independence Trail

On the Texas Independence Trail

Map of Day 2 Ride Route

On our “National Park Motorcycle Ride” in July we stopped for gas in Gardiner, Montana.  When I started my bike the GPS announced “Turn right in fifty feet”. The woman filling up her car on the other side of the pump I was at exclaimed… “What was that!” The guy filling his truck behind her exclaimed…  “That’s for people who can’t read maps!”

To be honest I was a little annoyed… and I wanted to say something back. Fortunately, I couldn’t think of a good come back. It was probably a good thing I had left well enough alone. Thinking back I know there was a time I might have said the same thing. I didn’t have a GPS and I couldn’t figure out why I needed one. I probably would have never bought one for myself… What changed that you ask? My lovely wife bought me one for Christmas! When I got it I smiled and said thank you… thinking I would probably never use it… Besides it was just some fancy electronic gadget that I would have to learn to use. Yeah, it had only a few buttons… buttons that did many things and to know what those things are require reading the user’s manual…  I know some people consider me a bit of a geek but I, like most men, don’t like reading user’s manuals… and besides reading a map was much easier… right.

How did I end up learning to use it? To make a long story short, shortly after I got my GPS, I was put in a situation where I had to use it… In a city I did not know and I needed to get to many places. The GPS got me to those places without a hitch. Now the GPS is an invaluable tool of my travels.

Now back to the guy who said… “That’s for people who can’t read maps!” This is how I might have responded to him and other people like my former self.

Can you get this from a map?

  1. Find motels near you.
  2. Location of the nearest gas station.
  3. Restaurants nearby.
  4. Hospitals
  5. Shopping
  6. Parks, museums etc.

Can a map give you real-time information as you drive? Like…

  1. How far it is to your next turn.
  2. How far it is to your destination.
  3. Whether you will be exiting right or left from a freeway
  4. Does it give lane assignments for proper exiting?
  5. If you miss a turn can a map get you back on course (without stopping)?

Actually, to use a GPS effectively you need to know how to read a map. You must be able to read a map to plan routes… to add via points and add roads of your choosing and not just go from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’. A GPS is just a tool just as maps are tools. A GPS is just a better tool…

The other advantage of using a GPS is you don’t have to read it as you are driving or riding. Reading a map while riding is hard… Unless you know the route by heart you will need to refer to the map. Reading those little road names are not easy and distracting…

Now I’ve got that off my chest… What can you add to this?

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I hope I see you down the road somewhere… Ride safe…

10 responses to ““That’s For People Who Can’t Read Maps!”

  1. I think my winter upgrade is due to be a GPS, I too love maps yet the GPS is so powerfull

    • Once you have one and use it you will only use a map to plot routes. It make life so much easier when riding new places… Ride safe…

  2. I’m getting a new GPS for Christmas this year. I like maps too but you’re right, when the gas light comes on, it sure is comforting to know you’re well within range of the next open station. I also like the info it provides for miles ridden, average speed, etc. You should have asked that guy how far it was to the nearest emergency room so he could go have his head pulled out. 🙂

    • “You should have asked that guy how far it was to the nearest emergency room so he could go have his head pulled out.” Good one Mike. I wish had have thought of that at the time… Thank for stopping by and commenting.

      Ride safe…

  3. A GPS is just your virtual map-reading navigator with encyclopaedic knowledge of what is nearby. Paper Maps are great for mentally exploring where you might go, and to hang on the wall showing where you have been. On my wall I have a large map of Oz. I colour in the roads with highlighter as I ride them. That is a project that should take me to the end of my days…

    • Alan, that is a great perspective of maps vs GPS. I need to get a map for my wall to color (colour) my ride bucket list and “Been there done that” list. Hopefully one day it will be a world map or at least an Australian….

  4. With the UK being such a small country traffic is often an issue, even on a motorcycle (there is no law against filtering or ‘lane splitting’ here as long as you’re being sensible). The beauty of a GPS device is being able to divert from a route at the press of a button and continue riding, often finding some pretty cool roads that create great motorcycle riding you never knew were there.

    I too was a late convert, preferring traditional maps for navigation rather than tech but a GPS is more convenient and safer to use on a motorcycle when you’re lost than a map (or a pillion with a map for that matter)! I don’t use my GPS in 3D mode because I don’t find it helps navigation as it’s usually slightly behind where you actually are (especially in towns and cities) so I prefer using 2D plan view. This is more like reading a map an allows you to see further up the road (if you already know how to read a map).

    I still use a map for route planning and try to always have a small road map for back up stashed in my luggage but GPS can only get better and more accurate and still requires a certain degree of skill to use properly. I mean how many times have you read about people driving into a middle of a field or into a lake because they were just ‘following’ their GPS device. The fools!

    • Thank Dazzle, for the great comment. You nailed it.

      To make a long story short… You can’t use a GPS effectively unless you can read a map!

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Again, this is a really good one.

      Come ride here in the U.S. I would love to ride in the UK.

      Ride safe…

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