In short, I’ve never met a GPS I didn’t like. (With the possible exception of a homicidal rental Volvo S80 dashboard unit, which, along with being directionally challenged in general, frequently insisted to “turn right”, “Turn right NOW!” when we were driving through Tuscan landscape with cliffs on the right side of the car, but that’s another story…)
And since I live on the East Coast, finding scenic and rural motorcycle routes is not so easy, and especially for shorter routes from my hometown in Atlantic Highlands, it pays to do some research and planning, since I like avoiding populated areas, low flying jets on final approach, and NJ scenic features like Heating Oil Storage Towers, Refineries and the odd Co-Generation Power Plant.
This means I seldom use a GPS unit to plan a route, since it auto-calculates the quickest route. Instead I plan a route on the computer, checking out the google maps or google earth satellite images in detail to see how I can plan riding through farmland, avoid crowded areas and highways.
Since I’m an (ex) photographer, I have also started to geotag the images I take along the route, and I have come across some utilities that help me post and share both the trips and photographs afterwards.
I thought I’d share some of my favorite tools to help me do this:
In google maps I can modify a route easily to suite me by dragging it onto the roads I’d like to travel… However, the problem has been that once I have a suitable route, there is no good way to get a google map route converted and downloaded to my (Garmin Zumo) GPS. Well, now there is a fantastic tool that does just that: MaptoGPX.
Here an excerpt from their site, as well as another useful link to the GPS Visualizer site:
The Google Maps API is great, but it doesn’t have an easy way to export data in GPX format. This bookmarklet is my attempt at a hack to get information out of Google Maps and into GPX, suitable for loading on a GPS.
This bookmarklet can create a GPX file based on driving directions, an address search or a local search. The GPX file will contain a route, a single waypoint, or up to ten waypoints, respectively. The code for extracting waypoints from local search originally came from this page.
I’ve recorded a short screencast to illustrate:
If you’re looking for a utility to display GPX files in Google Maps, or in a variety of other formats, I recommend GPS Visualizer.
BikeRouteToaster.com is a course creation application primarily aimed at Garmin Edge/Forerunner owners although other users without a GPS may also find it useful for planning rides. It is meant for bicycle rides, but can just as easily be used to plan Motorcycle routes. Courses are created using Google maps and then downloaded from the server. Go to the Course Creator and start creating courses. For more information on specific features please see the Help page.
Everytrail.com is this really cool site allows you to upload GPS routes and pictures taken along those routes. If the images are “Geotagged”, then Everytrail can put together a nice slide show to display images along the route, and the “significant others” can follow along… I find it’s a really ice way to share a motorcycling adventure, or a hike for that matter. Click here for an example of my Port Jervis trip as displayed on Everytrail.
If you take pictures with your iPhone, then your photos are already “geotagged” and contain the location information to easily be displayed on maps. But if you own an older or high end DSLR camera, then the images you take do not have location information embedded. HoudahGeo is a utility that automatically”geotags” your images, based on the images time stamp being matched with a track file uploaded from your GPS. I use a Garmin Zumo GPS when riding, and when I return home simply copy the track file from the Zumo to HoudahGeo, drag my pictures to the HoudahGeo app and the images are then automatically tracked. (I’m on a Mac, for those on PCs, check out RoboGeo)
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