We celebrated my wife’s birthday last night with dinner at the Pisgah Inn a few miles south of Asheville, NC., up on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I know better than to reveal the details of which birthday this was, but I will disclose the meal was excellent, as good as the views from 5000 feet.
As we were leaving, I ducked into the gift shop and spied a series of maps I didn’t have. I use every possible resource when planning my routes, so I shelled out $10 each plus tax for 3 maps which covered the Blue Ridge Parkway and the areas surrounding it. These are nice maps, but I wondered, were they better than mine? Had I been outclassed by the competition? I think not.
These probably wont end up in my saddlebags. The fact that that’s where I’d choose to keep them is the first problem. They are just plain too big to toss in a pocket, too bulky. On looking at them I feel compelled to lay them out on a table. That’s hardly useful on the road. It’s hell if there’s a breeze. You could fit two or three of my maps in your pocket. A map in the saddlebag is a pain in the ass. You’ve got to stop, get off the bike, open the saddle bag, fish around to find it, unfold it, figure out which side of the map you’re supposed to be studying, find where you are, refold it, put it back in the saddlebag, yadda, yadda. I’ll take a manageable pocket map, thank you.
They are pretty maps to look at with all the topographic relief and subtle shading of greens and blues and browns. The major roads and highways are fairly easy to identify, though these are the roads I avoid. There’s little enjoyment in cruising down the Interstate or traversing the great four lane highways. Those little back roads that hold all the hidden secrets and great riding are just thin black lines lost in the shading and relief that adds to the artistic composition of the overall product. Like any great work of art, the devil is in the details and you really need to make the effort to pull it out. That’s not very useful on the road.
Still, if you spend the time studying it, you can pull out the back roads. But which ones are the good ones? Which ones should I link together to get from A to B? There are lots of squiggly lines on the map if you search for them. On my maps, the great rides stand out. Take this one, which leads to that one, and then follow this next one to get to where you’re going enjoying the best of them along the way. My maps tell you it’s 6.5 miles to the next road, it will take 19 minutes or so to do the ride, then 14.3 miles and 26 minutes on the next leg. You’ll know when you’ll be arriving at the restaurant I recommended on the map or pulling into the town where you plan to spend the night or arriving at the park or scenic overlook that’s worth your time to stop and see.
The most important info though, is something I strive to include on all my maps. Where are those out of the way gas stations? Let’s face it, some of you are looking at the big “E” after just a hundred miles or so. You could plan your rides hopping from town to town, any town of size has a gas station. Me, I prefer to just keep on rolling, avoiding the traffic lights, congestion, and speed traps that come with towns. You’d be a lot more adventurous if you didn’t have to worry about the dwindling petrol in your tank and have a lot more fun. I make sure to identify those backwoods oasis’s that keep you motoring along as well as those which flank the Blue Ridge Parkway and free you from that long fuel hose that tethers you to the main roads.
I bought some nice maps, a little better than the free versions you can pick up along the Blue Ridge Parkway or download from the Internet. These however, will go into the reference file with many, many others. I’ll pull them out to confirm locations of various points of interest and such. As a fellow cartographer, I can appreciate the effort. Yet when I head out, it will be my maps which I slip into a pocket, not a saddlebag, and whip out at a stop sign or overlook to go tearing off down some great ride through the mountains. I see things differently from a saddle with two wheels beneath me. I’m looking both for something more and something less. Just give me what I need, save the fluff for the cagers. I’ll be using America Rides Maps.