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Topics - mike.

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GPS & Digital Data Discussion / Touring with the Garmin Oregon 450
« on: July 25, 2011, 01:19:36 pm »
I recently completed a TransAm/Western Express tour (NC to CA) and would like to share how I used a Garmin Oregon 450.  Using a GPS for bicycle touring is a fairly confusing subject due to the variety of GPS units available.  Each model has its own limitations in terms of the number of waypoints it can hold, which is an important feature for a cross-country trip where many waypoints are needed.  Posts in this forum have recommended to load only a subset of the ACA waypoints at a time.  This means that during a long trip one would eventually need to access a computer in order to load a different subset of waypoints (or carry a laptop).  Since I was on a speedy lightweight tour ("hotel camping") I did not want to take the time to find a computer (nor carry one) and load new waypoints.  Therefore, I loaded the entire route before leaving by re-creating it in MapSource

Some background: I purchased the Oregon 450 without maps preloaded and purchased CityNavigator separately.  I then bought a miniSD card (likely unnecessary).  Of course, I bought the ACA maps!  Instead of carrying the maps they were scanned and loaded onto my iPad.  I carried (4) AA NiMH batteries and a charger that took only (2) batteries at a time. 

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Next, I will loosely describe how I loaded an entire cross country route onto the Garmin Oregon 450.  I cannot say if my approach will work with any other model.  I did not use the ACA waypoints provided online.  I am unsure if what I have written is common knowledge.  At the very least, maybe someone will benefit from having it "spelled out." 

Before leaving I spent a lot of time with the paper ACA maps and MapSource.  The latter is the mapping software (it comes with City Navigator) used to create routes that can be loaded onto the GPS.  A route is a collection of routepoints, and the roads followed between routepoints is determined automatically depending on the chosen mapping algorithm (fastest route by car, minimal miles, etc).  I turned off this feature, preferring to use straight lines to connect routepoints.  In the Oregon this option is denoted "off road" although in MapSource it's labeled differently.  (Note: when riding and approaching a routepoint the GPS emits an audible ringing bell.) 

All my routes were created using the route creation tool in MapSource.  My strategy was to place one routepoint at an intersection and another routepoint in the direction to travel about a tenth of a mile down the road.  So, every turn indicated by the ACA papermaps required two routepoints, although I added more on long stretches of road so that I would be sure I'm on the right path.  This mapping strategy obviates concerns about the GPS mapping algorithm and what roads it decides on.  The "off road" setting may not appeal to you, and in this case you'll just need to create more routepoints so that the GPS doesn't decide on the wrong roads. 

Now, here's the confusing part: the routepoints comprising a route don't seem to count towards the "maximum waypoints" limitation within the Oregon, which is about 2000 (I may be mistaken).  This is why I've referred to them as routepoints instead of waypoints.  However, a route can be too big for the Oregon to handle.  How big?  I have no idea!  For me, the GPS would simply turn off if the route was too big.  To rectify, I split the route into multiple segments.  For example, I had to split Section 11 of the TransAm into 3 parts with filenames section11_pt1, section11_pt2, section11_pt3.

For the TransAm/Western Express, I created 9 routes in MapSource corresponding to the 9 maps needed (TA sections 11, 10, 9, 8, 7; WE sections 4, 3, 2, 1).  Most of these had to be split into two or three subparts, so there are 20+ routes to choose from in my GPS.  The routes I stored on the miniSD card.  The detailed maps upon which routes are drawn are provided by the City Navigator software.  These I loaded into the internal memory of the Oregon and only chose the states through which I'd be passing.  The routes don't take up much filespace and could probably be loaded into internal memory also.  Once all routes have been created and loaded, I recommend loading each route successively to ensure the GPS doesn't crash/turn off.

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I hope this post is useful to some of you that wish to take a GPS unit along when touring.  The Oregon really shined on the eastern portion of the trip through the Appalachians with all its turns, and I never got lost.  Furthermore, it doubled as a cycling computer.  Although the GPS cannot completely replace the paper ACA maps (which were scanned and loaded onto the iPad I took), I must say it was nice not having to fiddle with maps during the ride! 

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