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On Maps

My wife and I have quite a collection of maps; hiking maps, road maps, boating maps, 3-D wall maps, city, county, state, country and world maps.  Also, dozens of guide books filled with maps.  I love spending time looking over a map searching for a cool hike or bike tour to do.  I find that I use maps more before a hike or a tour than I do while hiking or touring.

Adventure Cycling sells touring specific maps of the major routes, but you may want to consider taking a look at a map from an unusual source before heading out.  If you are riding through a national forest or park, take a look at the topo of the area.  National Geographic sells great topos of all the parks and most wilderness areas of interest.  Not only do they show the roads and elevations, but hiking trails, camp sites, water features and such.

We do an annual tour on the Outer Banks of North Carolina every spring.  My wife found a wonderful boating map that shows ferry routes and light houses along the coast.  We’ve used this map to plan some pretty spectacular short tours and I can spend hours staring at the thing daydreaming of our next ride.

Of course, gas station road maps serve the purpose, but if you want an updated road map of a specific route, AAA will custom make one free for members called a Trip Tix.  Some major cities have bike maps.  A few years back we toured New York City.  You can pick up a free NYC bicycling map at most bike shops and visitor centers. 

It’s good to have a compass, especially when hiking.  Not so much to tell what direction you’re traveling, but to orient your map “right with the world”.  That is, to turn your map so that north is turned north.  If you come to an unmarked crossroad or trail, it’s easy to become turned around (I speak from experience).  Just a simple button compass will do.  You really don’t need an expensive compass unless you’re doing some serious off-trail bushwacking or traveling in some third world unmarked dirt road part of the planet, like Alabama. 

Thanks for reading, Jack

There’s a name for a coin collector: a numismatist.

There’s a name for a stamp collector: a philatelist.

There’s a name for a butterfly collector: a lepidopterist.

But there’s not one for map collecting, so we get to make one up. Mapohorder, Mapster, Mapomaniac, Mapophile, Mapophiliac…Any suggestions?

Categories: Gear
  1. arlen
    November 20, 2010 at 8:01 am

    another source for maps….u.s.army
    back in the 60`s i would go over to the army base in s.f. ca. the persidio…
    at that time the army had these map rooms….
    and you could go and get maps of any place on the planet for free….
    i am addicted to maps….

  2. The Velo Hobo
    November 20, 2010 at 9:43 am

    My how things have changed…now we can ‘google earth’ and look at our own rooftop. Its a bit scary.

  3. dexey
    November 20, 2010 at 11:34 am


  4. November 20, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    Please, please don’t tell my wife that I don’t REALLY need that Garmin Oregon 400T I bought OR the Silva SuperDuper Deluxe compass with mirror, magnifying glass (for starting fires of course)and the cute little needle that helps figure the grade of the climb. Also, promise you won’t tell her that I’m not in need of that Garmin 800 for my road bike. You know, it’s close to Christmas and she just might be considering that… 🙂

    – Zeke

  5. The Velo Hobo
    November 21, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Dexy: Cartopractor? I like it.

    Zeke: Oh the needle thing that tells the grade? I may need to borrow that, a friend and I did Yellow Creek, the steepest paved road in North Carolina this morning (actually pushed a good deal of it). I have no idea the percent, but I got off and pushed when my front tire lifted off the ground. Got back on and rode a little, cramped up with exaustion, pushed some more. Then again, if I knew the grade, I may have just flung my bike off the side of the mountain and given up.

  6. November 22, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    I just read your write-up. Yellow Creek sounds like it might be steeper than Brass Town Bald! I guess this could be a “character building” ride… 🙂 I’ll gladly loan you the compass with the needle thing! 🙂 I’ll bet it is hiding in my camper somewhere.

    – Zeke

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