Thursday, June 30, 2016

My Google Maps - guide and review

The last couple years have involved traveling with a new relationship and planning ahead has become critical for everyone's piece of mind.

Long story short... a too that has helped emensely is a google product, separate from Google Maps, as such.

Just Google My Google Maps and the links will appear.  You need a Google Account (silly not to have one when it can completely replace microsoft in your life..)

The first page will ask you about starting a new map or returning to a previous one.  Nice that Google never looses anything you have done in the past.

Here's an example of a 5,000 mile trip we executed last year.  BMW MOA Finished <<< (above)

The finished product may look complex, but it's created in layers so you only have to look at the details which are important to you at the moment.

Each layer can have 10 highlights. Somehow some layers (like the pic on the right) allow more pins to be added. A layer of route planning directions can have 10 destinations. Multiple successive routs are usually necessary. All of this links to your android phone, so if you turn on Google Maps on your phone or tablet it will bring up your recent maps and show your current position (while connected to internet.)

We started planning our Winter 2016 Out West trip by loading a map with a bunch of "things to do."  See above.

Then we added "Locations of people we know."  (blue pins)  I am cerrtain there are others, but these were our prime candidates for sharing time.  The various icons represent categories of location like photo op or stay over.

Each of these layers can be switched off without being deleted.  A handy feature when things start lookig busy.

The we started plotting our route using the "directions" tool.
 Once you have a course planned you willl know relative distances to each destination and turn by turn instructions.  Having this display on a tablet on your dashboard is really handy!

We did this trip in our truck so there were a few things we didn't need to worry about... The BMW MOA trip to Montana was our second BIG trip with the 30' Toy Hauler in tow.  Using My Google Maps we charted every majot truck stop in the entire trip so we knew where we could refuel without trying to squeeze into a Quick Mart.  That was a live saver!

Adding in Memphis sights, BMW and Harley Dealers, Major cities and OK Rt 66, this was the planner when we left the house.  We free-handed much of the southwest to pick up Silver City, Gila Cliff Dwellings The Opera House (Pinos Altos, NM) and Bear Creek Lodge, not to mention ghost towns and honkey tonks around the south west.  We did divert from the shown route to pickup the IMS show in Dallas, friends and a couple day trips in San Antonio and any detour that looked better than the road ahead.

Positive features of My Google Maps:

  • Easy to edit and recalcualte
  • interfaces, updated constantly and stored online.  Interfaces with all of your PC and android devices.
  • printable
  • Easy to share
  • provides turn-by-turn detail
  • Has distance measuring tool so you can estimate where to do stop-overs... like we can do 500 miles per day in the truck but prefer only about 250 when towing the toy-hauler/camper.
Weak points:
  • would be nice to be able to "save a copy" and create alternative plans
I expect that in the future this service will interface and access even more Google services. but when you need services while using this tool you can just type in "motel 6" or "State Park" and it plots them right in...   Handy at the end of the day.

Travel safe... and keep your trackers on!


Monday, June 27, 2016

Another tracker app.

Go figure... for years I was the ultimate Spot Tracker fan...   but then I was traveling extensively in some pretty desolate areas...   TX and CA have plenty of mountain and canyon areas with no cell phone service...   including the wide open spaces west of Langtry TX where I had a fuel shortage.

Baring the event of no cell service, there are a couple apps that provide good tracking at NO CHARGE!  (other than a little data usage...)

The simplest is  and it's RoadID app <<<.

This little tool lets you load up to 5 contacts (email or phone) to receive messages when you begin or end a journey.   Pre-loadable messages advise what type of excursion you are on, and a timer can be used to signal the end of your estimated travel time.  Once you are ready to begin a trip you press START e-crumb and everyone is notified that you have begun.  They receive a "tiny URL" that links them to your track with updates every 60 seconds.

Here's a link to a simple run out to a private pond where we fished this weekend. LINK <<<
This can be particularly useful if you are out in you boat in the fog and need to find your way back... or so that you next-of-kin can come collect the remains... The tracks seem to be stored indefinitely.

Among other things, my family uses it to track each other running errands just to figure out if things are progressing or what may be delaying the return.

In much more detail the BackGountryNavigator app <<< has download-able maps, works without cell towers on your android phone (ande maybe on others) and includes GPS, altitude and speed indicators and summaries enroute.  I have the PRO version, at a cost of of out $12.00. This app can be set to display on a vvariety of bap backgrounds, from topo maps to  mapquest.  The photo to the right was from a dual sport ride north and east of Terligua, TX back in February.  See the Lt Dan article later in this blog.

See one of my articles 1/1/16 about using the BackCountryNavigator app at THIS LINK <<<

The details are complicated enough that you should check their tutorial before finding your self trying to us the app out in midst of nowhereville.   You can also use it to load GPX tracks into the phone and follow them.  We did this in Harrison AR for a dual-sport ride of about 70 miles.  Worked well, although we apparently followed the map backwards.

I don't think the tracking system works while you are traveling.  So far I have only been able to look at the tracks when completed and stored.  They can be transferred to Google docs or gmail or

Speaking of everytrail... if you are looking for abandoned roads (like the one we used 50+ years ago to access the south end of Little Grassy Lake) there's great detail and topo info.  The online version is free.  I haven't tried the mobile version which has a fee attached.

AllTrails is a little more fun and is free.  I have used the online version and the mobile app.

Again, whether on two-wheels, on foot or out in your boat... tracking devices take the worry out of being far.

Also tinkered with but not discussed here are

  • Rever
  • Real-Time GPS (worked to follow LA - Barstow - Vegas riders.