Maps & Satnavs

Since the availability of GPS, there’s been a debate amongst motorcyclists about the merits of electronic as against paper maps. We’ve come down on the side of paper for most purposes when touring. We buy a decent scale local area map, and refold it to fit in the plastic window on top of the tankbag. So it’s always there to give inspiration about possible scenic detours, or to suggest where the next fuel stop might be found.

We carry a Satnav too, in the form of software loaded onto a mobile phone, plus a little GPS receiver linked in with bluetooth. That’s occasionally helpful to find the exact location of a hotel, or to get back onto the main road in the event of becoming hopelessly lost on the little scenic routes.

To be fair, our tour this year was pretty simple in terms of route planning, so we didn’t expect to get lost very often. It only happened twice. The first was down to my lack of map-reading skill. I’d headed into a little place called Fairport, on the southern shores of Lake Erie. It’s reputedly very picturesque, and has a Finnish heritage. The map showed a fork in the road, and sure enough, a fork in the road presented itself. Alas, there was more than one fork, and we missed the harbour and headed instead into a dead end of industrial gravel workings. Not as scenic as I’d hoped.

The second was as we sought our hotel in Portage IN. I followed the directions as printed on their website, but couldn’t spot it. No probs; on with the trusty satnav, and sure enough it led us exactly to a hotel downtown. Except it wasn’t the right hotel name. A burly woman behind a bulletproof screen, flanked by two bouncers, kindly pointed us in the right direction. Turns out that there are two addresses both 1234 Main Street (or whatever). You just have to know whether it’s the western or eastern one. When we reached our actual hotel, we told the story of the confusion. “Oh, that’s not a good part of town”, exclaimed the receptionist. She wasn’t wrong. Apart from the hotel itself, all local business seem to be boarded up except for an astonishing number of “Gentlemen’s Clubs”, which obviously thrived in the locality. They had names like “Too Much Temptations” (sic), “Honey’s” (also sic), and my particular favourite, “Polekatz”.

So I guess it’s Map 1, Satnav 1.

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