We set off feeling very organised, even the navigation, after all a GPS and a phone with Google Maps with a plan to get a map of Europe on the other side. Not that our first few days were going to be hard map wise, or at least that is what I thought.
Then we arrived in Antwerp around midday on our first day and it started to rain. All ready exhausted, I made the, perhaps not so wise decision, to exit the ring road towards Brussels, just to keep going and thinking I could turn on my phone to navigate (only to find that data wasn’t connected for Europe), or check the GPS (but the battery was flat from using it to check our route along the way and to find a campsite earlier as Sofia was struggling to stay awake) and a map of Europe that would be waiting for me at the next services (my expectation being that all highway services in Europe have a road map of Europe) only to find that they only had a Belgium map available.
That would have to do – and so the navigation by traditional map began. It wasn’t so bad, even if irritating having to stop and check which ment Sofia having to get off the bike every time (keeping her awake) the detail being too big to have just one page showing on the tank bag, until I took a wrong turn and couldn’t stop for about 30mins to check the map!
Thankfully once correct we were not too far from where we were aiming for and around 8pm we finally rolled into a campsite.
The next day didn’t feel like a big navigation issue (we had a solid map now!), the plan was to potter around the area until about midday, getting lots of map practise as well, and then start planning our route to Cologne where we were staying with a good friend we had not seen in many years. Luckily we stopped where a friendly local made the plan for me right up to her front door, wrote it all down, and helped me to memorise it (there was still no data on the phone – maybe just Belgium?). It was at this point I discover that Garmin, in their desperation for money, have designed the USB cable to NOT charge the device directly from a power socket! it will however charge through the laptop (phew!) We arrived in good time in Cologne with the GPS winning the day for those final street directions, and still no data on my phone now we were in Germany.
The following day I phoned up my UK provider and it turns out that despite the 10 minute conversation about travelling in Europe for 2 months and increasing my data allowance, the customer service didn’t think that turning on data roaming was necessary! Now turned, all was well, we had google maps, bluetooth into the helmet, a GPS fully charged. I plugged in my destination via various stops that had been recommended and we set off in high spirits!
The thing I love about technology navigation is that all you have to do is plug in the destination, set preferences to avoid highways, and boom! you find yourself on some amazing roads, no stopping and checking, no getting lost, nothing. ‘Turn left in 200metres, TURN LEFT!’ is all that is needed, and if you take a wrong turn, no problem, it recalculates… no stopping and re mapping the route.
To be honest, I have no idea how people cope on motorbikes with maps. Yes, I think one should always be handy (though I still hadn’t learnt that lesson yet), but to have all that effort removed is such a joy. Lots of people have said they see more with a map, but what exactly? I’m just as likely to take a wrong turn using technology (yes really!) but at least I don’t have to stop and re plan. And stopping for me is a mission with Sofia in the back – it has to be a place where it is safe to stop and for her to dismount the bike if she needs to.
So there we were having a wonderful ride through the German country side when the battery on phone started running low, I plugged in the charge adapter only to find it had finally given up the ghost and didn’t work at all, about the same time the phone froze so even my desperate stop at a gas station to plug it in to fast charge enough to get us out of the back roads was pointless. And they had no maps. I used the GPS as much as possible but again battery ran dry.
Finally I found a map, limited to the area we were in, and decided to take the fast road to our destination (we needed to start chewing up some mileage now!) picking up a new charge socket for the phone and a European map at a services. Finally! all bases were covered just in time to find another awesome road before arriving at the camp site.
The following day was the best ride thus far, with blue toothed instructions to a destination, no highways, I was finally relaxing and enjoying the journey which took us up the east/west divide of Germany. When navigation works well, it is fantastic!
I think in conclusion to the debate on what to have, all forms are good to have at the ready. But for people who prefer to use a map on a motorbike, perhaps their destination is the journey itself? For me, I like to have a destination and then enjoy the unexpected journey getting there, which the tech navigation takes care of. We don’t always stay exactly where planned, those decisions happen on the road, ultimately though, direction is important to me, and not having to worry about any of the ‘getting there’ is, for me a load off my mind so I can enjoy the journey so much more.
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