Tag Archives: GPS

“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…

Texas Independence Trail Motorcycle Ride Day 2 May 2013


Map of Day 2 Ride Route

Map of Day 2 Ride Route

I was staying with my son Tony and his family. They were sleeping in so I loaded the bike and slipped away. I stopped at Denny’s for a leisurely breakfast. There was no hurry because it is only 50 miles to the San Jacinto Monument. I hate driving in Houston traffic on four wheels so I really hate Houston traffic on two… Even though I rode through Houston it was a nice ride. The weather was 67 degrees with just a few clouds and very light Sunday morning traffic…

Early Sunday Morning I-610

Early Sunday Morning I-610

I have a love/hate relationship with my GPS… I had more GPS problems today. When I tried to enter my first stop, “The San Jacinto Monument”, the GPS couldn’t find it! I tried to enter the address 3523 Independence Parkway but still no result. I looked at the GPS map and found the street to be labeled Battleground Road instead of Independence Parkway. Using 3523 Battleground Road worked. What a hassle… So if you are heading that way and using your GPS please take note… Once I found the road… the signs use both names… The map people didn’t get the memo…

You can see the monument for miles before you actually get there. It is an impressive sight.

San Jacinto Monument

San Jacinto Monument

There is no charge for the monument unless you want to see the view from atop the monument. You take the elevator up to the Monument’s Observation floor, 489 feet above the Battleground. Once at the top you will have a beautiful view of the city, Houston Ship Channel, harbor and surrounding area. The San Jacinto Museum of History is housed in the base of the San Jacinto Monument and has priceless artifacts, dioramas, 250,000 documents and 40,000 books chronicling more than 400 years of early Texas history.

Walking the Battleground there are granite markers designating locations of the Texian camps, the Mexican camps, the advance by Texian forces and other information about the battle.

San Jacinto Monument

San Jacinto Monument

If you are not a Texan you may be asking yourself… “What’s the big deal?” Well… the Texans had lost the battles of the Alamo and Goliad. The men at those locations fought a fierce fight and died horrific deaths for what they believed. Santa Anna thought he had it all wrapped up except for finishing off Sam Houston and his men… few in numbers and corner at San Jacinto. Two of the plaques on the on the monument sums it up best.

With the battle cry, “Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!” The Texans charged. The enemy, taken by surprise rallied for a few minutes then fled in disorder. The Texans ask no quarter and gave none. The slaughter was appalling, victory complete and Texas free! On the following day General Antonio Lopez De Santa Anna self-styled “Napoleon of the West” received from a generous foe the mercy he had denied Travis at the Alamo and Fannin at Goliad.

Measure by its results, San Jacinto was one of the decisive battles of the world. The freedom of Texas from Mexico won here lead to the annexation and the Mexican War, resulting in the acquisition by the United States of the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Utah and parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas and Oklahoma almost one third of the present area of the American Nation, nearly a million square miles of territory changed sovereignty.

The fight lasted just 18 minutes. About 630 Mexican soldiers were killed and 730 captured, while only 9 Texans died. Santa Anna fled the battle disguised as an enlisted man. Santa Anna was captured the following day and held as a prisoner of war. Three weeks later, he signed the peace treaty that paved the way for the Republic of Texas to become an independent country.

Text on base of the San Jacinto Monument

Text on base of the San Jacinto Monument

Text on the base of the San Jacinto Monument

Text on the base of the San Jacinto Monument

So this is a big deal for us Texans and we are proud of our history and culture. All the historic sites of the “Texas Independence Trail” help remind us of where we have come and help us to be mindful of our responsibility to our past and future generations.

For more on the battle click here ( http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qes04 ).

San Jacinto Monument Reflecting Pool with Battleship Texas

San Jacinto Monument Reflecting Pool with Battleship Texas

While at the San Jacinto Battleground and Monument you may want to spend some time at the Battleship Texas, located just across Battlefield Road. You can see the battleship when looking down the reflective pool from the monument. The admission fee is $12 for everyone 13 years old and older. The tour is self guided and there is a lot of history to be seen about the battleship and World War II.

Beach at Galveston

Beach at Galveston

The rest of the ride was very enjoyable. By now it was overcast and it was in the low 80’s. From San Jacinto I rode to La Porte and rode down Hwy 146 to Galveston. Hwy 146 parallels Galveston Bay with many nice views of the bay all along the way. When I got to Galveston I rode Seawall Blvd. to the northeast end of the island before turning around and heading southwest to Surfside. There was lots of swimmers on the beach today and traffic on Seawall Blvd. was rather heavy.

Rolling down San Louis Pass Road

Rolling down San Louis Pass Road

San Louis Pass Road

San Louis Pass Road

I rode to Surfside via Seawall Blvd., San Louis Pass Rd., and Bluewater Hwy. There is a toll ($2) bridge where San Louis Pass Rd. ends and where Bluewater Hwy starts.

Because I forgot the GPS was set to avoid toll roads, it kept trying to route me around this bridge. I forgot about the toll bridge and was a bit annoyed with the GPS… again… When I got to the bridge I realized what my problem was.

Rolling down the Bluewater Highway

Rolling down the Bluewater Highway

This leg of my ride was a nice leisurely ride with cool sea breezes, over cast skies and great beach views along the way. At Freeport I picked up Hwy 36 and rode to West Columbia my final destination for the day.

First Capital of Texas at West Columbia

First Capital of Texas at West Columbia

West Columbia is my hometown and was the “First Capitol of Texas”. Around 1833 Leman Kelsey built a story and a half structure.  In 1836 West Columbia then known as Columbia became the first capital of the Republic of Texas and this building was one of two that housed the new government of the Republic of Texas.  The Congress convened here and Sam Houston took the office as President and Stephen F. Austin as Secretary of State.  In 1837, the government moved to the new city of Houston. The 1900 storm destroyed the original capital. A Replica was built at this site in 1976-77. The replica depicts how the interior and exterior looked during 1836.

Replica of the First Capital Of Texas Building

Replica of the First Capital Of Texas Building

Replica of the First Capital of Texas Building

Replica of the First Capital of Texas Building

Much of my family still lives in the area. When I say much I mean much… I have over 40 first cousins and many aunts, uncles and second and third cousins! I will be staying with my brother Gary and his wife Ginny tonight.

It was a fun and busy day riding and exploring just a small part of Texas’ history…

You can read the other post about this ride here…


Planning Motorcycle Trips


To me, planning motorcycle trips is a necessity for a good motorcycle trip. You can never over plan but you can under plan…

In 1977 I took my first long motorcycle trip of 1800 miles. The only thing I planned was the start date, return date and destination. In spite of the lack of planning it was a good trip. Fast forward to June 2002 and I’m a lot older and I would like to think a lot wiser (I may get an argument from Janet on that point). This was my first long ride in 25 years and it was Janet first long ride ever. To top it all off it was to a place (Big Bend National Park) that is not forgiving if you have not planned. Because this was Janet first long ride, I wanted her to enjoy the ride and continue riding with me. I planned every detail of the trip. Because everything is “few and far between” in West Texas I knew where every gas station, lodging and places to eat were. I did make some mistakes. Nothing that ruined the trip but we learned from the mistakes. We have learned a lot and continue to learn more as we travel by motorcycle. This post is about my method of planning our trips.

Destination or Destinations

Every trip begins with a destination or destinations. We pick destinations in various ways. Some of the ways are…

  • Destinations come from places I have always wanted to ride or after traveling somewhere and realizing the trip would be a great motorcycle trip.
  • Friends are always telling us about some of the places they have traveled and have suggested rides. It’s always good to get first hand information, recommendations and you can always ask questions and get suggestions.
  • Some destinations come from reading blogs like this one. Some of my favorite blogs are Coyote , Moto Hobos, Observations of a Perpetual Motorcyclist, Crossings and alison’s wanderland to name just a few. The nice thing about following blogs is you can always get more information from the bloggers. Bloggers are always happy to share their knowledge. Just ask…
  • Some destinations come from motorcycle publications or travel publications. My favorite publications for destinations are Ride Texas, Roadrunner and Rider magazines.

Route Planning

Once we have chosen the destination, we start planning our route. Not a simple task. When riding with the wives I try to keep the mileage per day from 200 to 350 miles. The wives have things they like doing, so I plan accordingly. If just us guys are riding I try to keep it under 500 miles per day and plan the route accordingly.

The routes are not always direct. We try to see what interesting things are along the way and plan stops if they aren’t too far off the beaten path. The stops can also limit the mileage per day depending on what the stops are. You can’t see something like Big Bend in an hour…

Another consideration is lodging. We might be able to travel further on a particular day but our lodging options maybe “slim to none“ in some of the more remote areas. I am a member of most of the motel chains reward programs so I check their websites to see what is available at the planned days end. Depending on the time of year, its popularity and the remoteness I may make reservations. In places like Big Bend National Park don’t expect to ride there in the spring when the cactus are blooming and expect to get a room. It ain’t happening, reservations need to be made a year in advance in Big Bend!!! Do the research before you go… Reservations are always a good idea if traveling to popular areas at popular times of the year. Unless you like sleeping on picnic tables… You should make reservations.

The availability of gas (petrol) is a consideration in route planning too. Depending on the range of your bike and the remoteness of the area it might be a good idea to know where gas stations are before you go and plan gas stops accordingly. If you don’t have many options in an area you might want to call ahead to know business hours. Sometimes they maybe closed or out of business.

I have several road atlases that are a good source for finding scenic routes. I usually google the routes to read about what touristy things are on the route as well as what others have written about the route. We don’t want to miss anything. It might be a while before we can get back to the area.

Once all the information is collected, I start planning the routes for each day. I use google maps the most. It allows me to plot a route with via points, determine mileage and if there is a question about road quality you can check the satellite view or use the street view to get a really up close look. This has been very handy over the years. I have changed routes when I realized the road in question was a gravel or dirt road. We have traveled a few of those roads and prefer not too. You can also check for motels, restaurants, gas stations or other services you may need.

Road construction could be a big issue so I check our routes before we leave. Each state in the U.S. have websites to check road construction areas.

As I map the route I enter mileage, stop information and other need information into a spread sheet. When I make changes the total mileage is recalculated. I print out the spread sheet so I can refer to it on the trip and I use it for entering destination and via point into the GPS each day. Below is the information for one of our riding days.

Itenary example, spread sheet, trip, plan, ride, motorcycle

Before I used a GPS I would printout each day as above and placed it in a map holder on my gas tank as a “quick reference” while riding. It was a great low tech method. The mileage between via points helped to know when my next turn would be and onto which road. Then came the GPS and now I don’t travel without a GPS or maybe I should say I would prefer not to travel without one..

Weather Information

The weather on the trip is good to know but the weather history is useful too. I always check weather.com for the average high, low and record temperatures and the average perception of each area we are traveling. This also helps me determine the best time of the year to travel “weather wise” and it helps to know what to pack and not to pack.

This summer we are planning ride to 4 national parks, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier and Banff. We will be leaving Texas in 90/100 degree heat but in the parks it will be 20 or 30 degree colder in the northern higher elevations and much colder at night. Needless to say we need to pack accordingly.

I hope this is of some use to novice and seasoned riders. One thing I’ve learned while traveling by motorcycle is you can never know too much but you can know too little. Be prepared…

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

Day 4 – Harrison, AR Motorcycle Ride: Peel Ferry & Eureka Springs Combined Rides and GPS confusion.

Route for today

Getting ready to go. Larry T., Janet, Ivan, Larry C.

Today was another good riding day. The temperature was in the low 40’s and it warmed up to the mid 80’s before rides end. We were up at 6:00 and on the road by 8:00.

On our way to Peel Ferry

There are 7 different rides out of Harrison, AR. Today I combined the Peel Ferry & Eureka Springs routes for what should have been a 228 mile ride. We didn’t ride the route as I had laid it out due to some confusion on my part and being miss directed by the GPS. I learned some new things about my bike’s GPS on this trip… Most of them were not good. In the past we have always traveled from point A to point B with a few via points in between to control our route. For the next three days we will be traveling from point A (Harrison) and back to point A (Harrison) with various via points in between. Not only does the GPS not like going from point A to point A, it got confused several times on the via points and tried to send us down a gravel road, wanted us to make U-turns instead of continuing on or just routed us different. I now know I need to add more via points. Any pointers from Goldwing riders using the older GPS would be greatly appreciated. Enough venting…

Other than the above mentioned problems the ride was a good one. We saw some scenic country and rode some nice twisty roads.

Riding Peel Ferry to Missouri

We headed north out of Harrison on Hwy 7 to Hwy 14 and rode east a very short distance to Hwy 268 north to Hwy 125 where it dead ends at the Peel Ferry. Then we rode the ferry across Bull Shoals Lake into Missouri. The ferry ride was free and a fun break in the ride. We continued on Hwy 125 to Rueter, MO where we turned on to Hwy 160 and followed it to Hwy 76. We took Hwy 76 west to Branson. The route from Harrison to Branson was very scenic with lots of twist and turns.

Crossing river into Branson

We visited Branson the first time last summer a year ago. We sort of knew our way around but then we did get sort of lost. The traffic on Hwy 76 is terrible through the entertainment area so you want to avoid that. Last year we ate at Mel’s Hard Luck Diner several times. We thought it would be fun to eat there again. All the waiter staff sing in between taking and serving your order. The food is as good as the entertainment.

Janet and Shirley relaxing before climbing back on the bikes…

After lunch we looked at some of the shops and took our time getting back on the road.

Our route to Eureka Springs was again very scenic over great motorcycle roads. We left Branson headed south on Hwy 65. We then turned west onto hwy 86 then picked up hwy 21 to Hwy 62. When we stopped for gas we decided to skip stopping in Eureka Spring. After a detour caused by me and the GPS we continued on… heading south on hwy 23. Again the GPS was taking us in an unexpected way and was causing a lot of concern and confusion. So we decided to just head back to Harrison via hwy 412 skipping the most southern part of our route for the day.

In conclusion, we did have great riding weather and rode some very beautiful scenic roads. We had a good time in spite of the mis-directions by me and the GPS. I will definitely need to resolve the GPS issues.

Checkout the other days of our ride below…

Ride introduction…
Day 1 – Georgetown, TX to Bowie, TX via scenic FM 4. (250 miles)
Day 2 – Bowie, TX to Wewoka, OK to Holden, OK  (193 miles)
Day 3 – Holden, OK to Harrison, AR  (263 miles)
Day 5 – Ride 2 out of Harrison, AR  (120 miles)
Day 6 – Ride 3 out of Harrison, AR  (207 Miles)
Day 7 – Harrison, AR to Jessieville, AR (149 miles)
Day 8, 9 & 10 – Jessieville, AR to Scroggins, TX to home



Interactive motorcycle tour map.

My favorite motorcycle tour magazine is Road Runner because it is a great resource for riding information.

I am always looking for information on rides. Places to ride,things to and places to stay. Road Runner’s Interactive Motorcycle Tour Map has it all in one place. Also you can download GPS files and tank bag maps.

This is a great resource. Check it out.

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