Several weeks back, I stationed myself next to my laptop and started the task of creating waypoints from the Trans-America Trail (TAT) rollcharts into Garmin’s BaseCamp software.
With only a couple of weeks under my belt, I’m really impressed with BaseCamp and the tools available with the application. Better yet, Garmin doesn’t charge a dime for someone to visit their website and download a copy. More about this later.
When I started, I anticipated a month’s worth of data entry to organize the waypoints along the same lines Sam Correro has assembled the cross-country route. After the first couple of states, I figured out a quick way to make the data entry task a little more efficient by using a 10-key connected to the laptop. I must have inherited some muscle memory genes from my father, who had mastered the 10-key decades ago as an accountant and numbers wizard, as the initial waypoint data entry activity didn’t take a month to complete. Rather, it took me about seven evenings of keypunching, assisted by one of several adult beverages we have collected from our local growler filling station, The Growler Guys, on west 7th Street in Eugene. Growler fill stations are a whole other topic, which we may have to explore in a later post or another blog altogether.
Once I had all waypoints put into BaseCamp, it was quite a sense of accomplishment as I reviewed hundreds of waypoints that compose the TAT. Take a look at the screenshot below. Each of those blue flags represents one waypoint and collectively, all those waypoints will be our path across the US next August!
While the waypoints are great references on the GPS, they will also become somewhat of a distraction for us while riding if they aren’t stitched together in manageable routes. My next task was connecting the dots. Unfortunately BaseCamp isn’t the perfect tool for autogenerating the route for such a dualsport ride, as its algorithms do a good job of organizing the points based on logic for more traditional travel approaches (i.e. shortest distance or fastest route on mainstream, paved road surfaces). Consequently, this forced me to use a more manual construction approach to get the waypoints connected correctly.
Not unlike before, changes in technique naturally result in increased efficiency. Initially, I was picking each waypoint and building the route and this worked very well once I had adjusted the avoidances to better match our style of riding; for example, avoiding interstates and major highways. The image below shows a segment of the TAT in Tennessee – the flags are the waypoints and the blue line is the route connecting the waypoints.
As I was tinkering with the Garmin BaseCamp software, I discovered a really helpful feature that is incredibly cool too. From within BaseCamp, the user can immediately superimpose/drape the waypoints and routes on imagery in Google Earth! This is seamless and BaseCamp pushes the dataset up to Google Earth and organizes everything in short order. Now, take a look below at all the TAT waypoints shown in conjunction with Google Earth imagery… Impressive to say the least!
While this is spectacular in its own right, it was the perfect troubleshooting tool too. A couple of times, I found anomalies in the waypoints and how they worked with the road network on my GPS’s mapset. After pushing the data up to Google Earth and when I was checking the route against the imagery, the anomaly was obvious (i.e. abandoned road) and the perceived anomaly was actually quite deliberate.
As of tonight, all of the waypoints are done and the TN route has been input and checked against the Google Earth imagery. This means I have MS, AR, OK, NM, CO, UT, NV, CA, and OR left! My current goal is to have these hammered by the end of the year. As a side note, this exercise has me thinking about planning some shake-out routes and rides to further experiment with data preparation, dissemination, and field editing.
It’s below freezing outside and there’s seven inches of snow on the ground, so it makes trip planning a good way to pass the time until more favorable riding conditions return. Meanwhile, as things on our checklists get accomplished, we get closer to when we will get to enjoy the less traveled roads as we cross our wonderful nation! We can’t wait…