Living Off the Slab Blog
Why You Need to Learn to Navigate

Over the 10-year time span, since I started this YouTube Channel, one of the most common questions I receive is how to navigate. Specifically, how to create custom routes or GPX files which can be uploaded to your GPS device and used while traveling.

To those of us who have been working with GPS units for some time, the process seems rather simple and straightforward, but to the new or would be traveler the process can seem daunting. I have talked with many riders who have put off taking that dream trip, because they do not know where to start the planning process.

While learning the skills necessary to create custom routes can take a bit of time, it is a process that is well worth pursuing and one that can literally change your "riding life" for the better.

Like most old guys and gals my age, I started planning road trips with paper maps. In fact, I still use them to some extent, but now given the modern technology that is available at our fingertips, I have switched primarily to digital versions both online and within my GPS device.

Don’t get me wrong, maps such as those created by Butler come in very handy for finding great roads but given that most of my trips cover great distances, it is impractical to carry the volume of maps necessary to find all of the great backroads that cover this great country, let alone North America.

For example, I have a set of Delorme Atlas and Gazetteer maps that cover the New England area. They are very detail and beautiful maps. But they are also, very large and very heavy, making it all but impossible to carry while touring. Practically speaking, the best I am going to be able to do while on the road is to carry something that displays the major highways and secondary roads.

Fortunately for us, we do not have to carry all those maps. Rather, we can invest in a GPS device and learn how to create our routes before we leave, right from the comfort of our homes. We can take our time, investigating all the areas we will be traveling through, and selecting the best roads.

For me one of the benefits of online maps is that they are constantly updated and thus going to provide the most up to date road information. In addition, they are always available from any computer, phone, or tablet. All you need is your login credentials. This makes it extremely easy to change a route as the need arises.

Another benefit is that the online maps are incredibly detailed and can be overlayed with satellite imagery as well as the locations of hotels, restaurants, and fuel stops. The amount of information available goes way beyond what a normal paper map can provide.

Learning to use these tools, can save you time and help to ensure that you get off the main roads and find those unexpected gems.

I know for me, learning to use these tools has made all the difference in my travels. Sure, sometimes they get me on an unexpected dirt road but that is part of the adventure and more often that not I am grinning from ear to ear as I am flying down a twisty backroad with no cars in sight.

Life is much more interesting when you are living off the slab and learning to use these navigational tools will get there.

And, yes, that pun was intended…

Getting more riders, "off the slab" is why I built the "Creating Epic Road Trips," course. I want more riders to get out there and live their dreams and I think the best way to do that is to teach them how to create their own custom routes; using the same tools that I did to plan both my Alaska and my 60-day trips.

Those tools are the MRA Routeplanner and of course Garmin GPS devices.

In our next video I will get into more detail about the various route planning software packages I have tried and why I have chosen the MRA Routeplanner. Until then, if you want to know more about the Creating Epic Road Trips course, please head to the Courses page.

Ride Safe!
--Craig Ripley

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