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Messages - mgarnett

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Gear Talk / Communications during ride
« on: April 16, 2006, 06:54:25 pm »
My husband and I have small Motorola "Talkabout" walkie-talkies that we used on our cross-country tour last year -- they were TERRIFIC.  I can't imagine doing a tour with a partner without them.  Although we generally rode near each other, they allowed us to easily signal a need for meal stops, flat tires or other equipment problems (especially important since my husband carried most of the repair equipment on his bike), or just to say "don't worry if you don't see me right behind, I'm stopping briefly for a stretch/water/snack/bathroom/remove my jacket/put on my jacket break."

I don't know the exact model, but they are made by Motorola and cost us about 40-50 dollars two years ago.  They have proven extremely reliable and seemed to have good reception so long as we weren't more than about a mile apart.

Good luck!

Gear Talk / Posting journal entires and technology
« on: October 04, 2005, 09:17:11 pm »
You should check out  It is the site that we used for our cross-country trip journal this spring.  It is so easy to create a really great journal, and it is free (although Neil Gunton, the site owner, accepts donations).  Even if you don't end up using this site, you will get a lot of inspiration.  

We carried a very very lightweight laptop on our trip and found it invaluable for the journal and all kinds of other tasks.  We primarily stayed in motels and so had some internet access on many nights (our home service offers an allotment of dial-up access hours each month, with access numbers all over the country).  Other touring cyclists that we've met use public libraries for internet access.

This is a step-by-step guide to using the new Streets and Trips 2005 program with the Adventure Cycling GPS data.  It may be included as an addendum to the GPS User Guide one day, but for now, here it is in one long post.  I'd be happy to answer any questions this may provoke.  (And by the way, I don't work for ACA or MS [shudder].  I'm just a member planning a trip.  Since I had to work this out for myself, I thought I'd share it in case anyone else was heading down the same road.)

This procedure uses Microsoft Streets & Trips 2005 with the Adventure Cycling Association waypoint data.  While there may seem to be many steps, it really isn’t too complicated.  Once you get it going, this makes it a breeze to plan your route right on an interactive map, customizing your ride with any points of interest or stopovers you desire, while also retaining all the original ACA points of interest.

Streets & Trips 2005 in Windows 98SE (Should work for XP, too)
This information pertains to the 2005 edition of Microsoft’s Streets & Trips (S&T) mapping software.  Older versions may fail at some stage of this process, but I haven’t tested them.  The other software used in this method are the freely available EasyGPS ( for working with the ACA waypoint data and transferring them to/from the GPS unit, g7towin ( for converting the data into a format S&T can read, and st2gpx ( for converting Streets & Trips files back into EasyGPS format.

Building Routes
This is a suggested procedure for selecting the waypoints and building a route for a day’s ride.  You may wish to use it as a starting point for developing your own methods.

1.  Create a file of all the waypoints along the part you’ll ride:  It’s easiest to make this file cover about one map section.  In EasyGPS, open the waypoint files (File > Open) of the map sections you need, for example, NT04v001.gpx.  If your ride spans map sections, however, some copy-and pasting is necessary.  Open a new file (File > New).  Referring to your paper maps and the Comments in the waypoint descriptions, copy waypoints from the master files—their names appear on tabs at the bottom of the window—to the new file.  Delete the routes that exist in the file already; we’ll make our own, and these will just get in the way later.  Save the new file (File > Save > Save as type: GPS Exchange File) with a useful name, like “waypoints for section 1.gpx”.  Continue to copy from the master files and paste into your new file until your area is covered.

2.  Convert the new waypoints file to a “comma-separated values” (.csv) file:  Run g7towin and open the new waypoint file you made in Step 1 (File > Open).  View the waypoints (Waypoints > View).  Save the list as a comma-separated values file (File > Save As).  Give it an appropriate name and save it as type “Comma Separated Values File (*.csv)”.  You may move onto Step 3 now, but one more tweak will make the importing easier later.  Open the new .csv file in a text editor.  (Right-click on the file, select Open With, and select Notepad or Wordpad from the list.  You may uncheck the box next to “Always use this program to open this file” if you wish.)  Delete the first lines that tell g7towin what kind of file it is, so that the new first line begins “Type”,”Name”,“Lat”, etc.  Save the file and exit the text editor.

3.  Import the waypoints into S&T:  Run S&T and click on Import Data Wizard (in the Data menu or from the button near the top of the screen).  Select files of type “Text Files” and select your new .csv file of waypoints.  The Import Data Wizard will begin.  On the first screen, select Comma as the separator character, then click Next.  If you performed the tweak of the file at the end of Step 2, S&T will see that the first line contains the column headings.  It knows how to read the name, latitude, and longitude of each waypoint.  I recommend changing the Name column to Name 2 and marking the Comment column as Name in the Data Type dropdown.  This way, the description of the waypoint will show when you click Show Name later.  Click Finish, and enjoy the neat graphics as the waypoint data are converted into S&T pushpins.  Move on to Step 3.

If you did not tweak the .csv file at the end of Step 2, you will have to tell S&T how to read the data.  Find the column that contains the Latitude and select Latitude from the Data Type dropdown.  Indicate the column for Longitude in the same manner.  For the name, I like to set the Comment (e.g. “Circle Dr/Main Av”) as Name and the Name (e.g. H07070) as Name 2.  Click Finish, and enjoy the neat graphics as the waypoint data are converted into S&T pushpins.

3.  Save a map template:  This step is optional, but to do it now will save the time of converting the same set of waypoints each time you want to use them to make a route.  Adjust the map view to your liking.  (E.g. font size or map style)  You may also want to change the look of the pushpins.  In the Legend and Overview pane, double-click the new pushpin set.  Here you may choose a different look for the waypoints.  (They are now pushpins in S&T.  I will refer to them as waypoints or pushpins interchangeably when dealing with them in S&T.)  You can also indicate which fields you want displayed when you double-click on one on the map.  When the map looks the way you like, save it as a template.  (File > Save As, choose Map Template as the type, then name it and save it with your other data for the current map section.)  You now have a map to use as a base for the routes of this section.

4.  Make a route:  If you saved a template in Step 3, open it up.  Otherwise, use the map with the imported data from Step 2.  Make a driving route in S&T by marking the points along the desired route.  Start by right-clicking the pushpin for the day’s start, probably a hotel or campsite, and choosing Route > Add as Start.  You have begun, and it’s only Step 4!  Select the next waypoint on your journey and add it as a Stop, making sure it gets numbered with the next number.  (Sometimes S&T will attempt to help you design a route by changing the order of the waypoints you enter, based on proximity to the previous one.  If it puts one out of order, you can correct it in the Route Planner panel by selecting the stop and clicking the Move Up or Move Down button.)  Continue to select waypoints along your route, which you’ll most likely choose by following the ACA map narrative.  All turns, significant road bends, and other points of interest will be already be on the map waiting for you to include them as part of the route if you want.  You can also view selected Points of Interest included with S&T by choosing View > Show or Hide Places.  You can add these to your route in the same way as you add the pushpins.

When the day’s route is complete, you can let S&T complete its route-making by telling it to Get Directions (Route > Get Directions), but this is not necessary.  (A word on distance is in order here.  When S&T makes a route by connecting many waypoints, it will begin to overestimate the distance traveled.  If the route contains a section that S&T thinks is impassable by car, it may take a long way around.  If a waypoint is recognized as being on the wrong side of a divided highway or just off the road, there will be a diversion in the route.  And so on.  All of these discrepancies add up to driving distances that may be far off the actual biking distance.  Know that now.  If you want to get a better estimate of riding distance, use the info from the ACA maps and supplement it with any intentional diversions you plan.  You can also use the convenient Measure Distance Tool in S&T.  If you want, you can even try opening another instance of S&T and attempting to force it to replicate the chosen route.  You should use the Avoid Area feature and try to use as few points as possible at all the right intersections to make it describe the right route.  The distance it shows then may be fairly accurate.)  The route described by S&T will not be saved or wind up in your GPS.  What will make it to the unit is the data for every Stop along the route (as waypoints), the order of the waypoints (as route legs), and the pushpins (as waypoints).  So any point you add to your route as a Stop, be it a pushpin, part of the ACA route, an address, or simply a bend in the road will become a waypoint in your GPS later.  Here’s how.

5.  Save your route as a S&T map file:  File > Save As.  Choose type Streets & Trips (not Map Template), name it uniquely, and save it with the data for the current map section.  The new file will end with the extension .est.

6.  Convert the map to .gpx format for use with EasyGPS:  This is where the beauty of st2gpx shines through.  This simple utility will read the information contained in the saved .est file and convert it to a .gpx file, which can be opened by EasyGPS.  Users should familiarize themselves with the usage of this program before continuing.  The instructions and FAQ should get you up and running.  Although the latest version (05, as of this document) will claim to have some difficulty in the conversion process and will also produce a null file, it works just fine.  (You can delete the null file that will be left over after a conversion.)  Once you have created the new .gpx file from your .est file, place them both with the other files for the current map section.  Rename the files as you wish.  I like to call the .est and .gpx files by the same names, using the riding day number and the endpoints.  (E.g. “17 Bogalusa to Easleyville.est” and “17 Bogalusa to Easleyville.gpx”)  Open the new .gpx file in EasyGPS.  It will contain the day’s route and all the waypoints for the section, as well as any new waypoints created for this route in S&T.  For the sake of convenience later, I like to delete all the points in the top pane now.  (The saved route will contain the waypoint data for all of its stops, and we’ll add the complete set of ACA waypoints back in later, so it’s safe to delete the listed waypoints now.)  (Right-click on one of the waypoints, press Control and A to select them all, then press the Delete key.)  Also, I like to edit the route info to make it easier to sort them later.  To do so, right-click on the route name in the bottom pane, and choose Edit Route.  I name the route with the riding day number, and then describe the start and end towns in the Description box.  Save the file with the changes.  (It’s time for another note on distance.  The distance given by EasyGPS will not be an accurate riding distance, either.  It will be the distance between the waypoints as they would be connected by straight lines, so necessarily shorter than the riding distance.)

7.  Continue to create routes for each day by repeating Steps 4 through 6.

8.  Send the data to your GPS:  You have a few options here.  You can upload each route individually using EasyGPS, and then separately upload the waypoints-only file you created way back in Step 1.  If you’d like to create a single .gpx file that contains every route in the section along with all the waypoints, just upload all the appropriate routes and the waypoints as just described above, then open a new EasyGPS file and receive the routes and waypoints back into the new file.  Save it, wrap it in foil, label it, and put it in the freezer until you’re ready to ride.

Thanks to James Sherring for helping with st2gpx and Ron Henderson for helping with g7towin.  Their tiny utilities make all of this possible.

ACA member Seth Copans wrote this document in September 2004.  He is solely responsible for its content.

Routes / Southern Tier in Winter?
« on: October 05, 2006, 09:40:11 pm »
We rode the Southern Tier, with some modifications, in 2005, starting in Florida in mid-February.  The weather was fine, but you will need long pants, long-sleeves, jackets, etc. -- there will be some cool and rainy days in the southeast for sure.

You may find our journal helpful --

good luck -- we had an amazing time!

Routes / Southern Tier W to E in mid-January?
« on: August 08, 2006, 07:08:22 pm »
My husband and I did a slightly-modified Southern Tier from East to West, starting in mid-February last year.  We met people who had quite a bit of snow and cold nights in New Mexico in February and March.  Starting in the east we had no real weather issues.  We arrived at the Pacific in late April.  We kept a pretty detailed journal of our trip -- you may find it helpful for planning and to get a sense of the ride.

Good luck!

Routes / Which route is better???
« on: November 15, 2005, 06:53:01 pm »
Also, we took ten weeks to do the trip, riding approximately 6 out of 7 days.  But we were relatively slow (averaging about 50 miles a day).  Six weeks is not impossible, but a lot depends on your level of training beforehand, your tolerance/willingness to ride in bad weather or high winds, etc.  Even if you are very fit, don't underestimate how your body will react at the beginning to being on the bike all day, every day.  In other words, give yourself enough time to complete the trip even if everything doesn't go exactly as well as you planned.  

Routes / Which route is better???
« on: November 15, 2005, 06:49:19 pm »
Your tolerance for heat may vary, but I think you will find Arizona in particular very hot, as well as encountering punishing humidity in the east in July/August.  We did the Southern Tier (east to west) from late February to late April this year, and still had temps over 90 (with blazing sun) in the Phoenix area.  Carrying enough water in those circumstances can be challenging, even if you don't mind the heat.  But depending on the weather you are used to or comfortable with, it is doable.  Feel free to check out our trip journal at  The site in general is a terrific resource for getting a sense of what different routes are like -- there are hundreds of journals of bike trips, searchable by specific routes, states, type of bike, etc.  Good luck -- a trip like this is a truly amazing experience.

Routes / Emory Pass - Southern Tier
« on: September 02, 2005, 04:28:41 pm »
My husband and I did the Southern Tier east-to-west this spring, and ending up skipping both the Davis Mtns. climb (planned) and Emory Pass (forced by terrible wind conditions to alter our route).  We did, however, see both climbs by car and thought that the Davis Mtns. climb looked much worse than Emory Pass (which seemed more long than brutal).  To avoid the Davis Mtns., we stayed on 90 through Alpine and on to Marfa.  We did the ride from Marfa to Van Horn on 90 in one afternoon -- nearly 80 miles (long for us).  It is nice and flat and not a difficult ride.  The only services are a dilapidated grocery in Valentine (but don't count on it still being open).

Our shortcut around Emory Pass took us on 1-10 from Las Cruces to Lordsburg over two days.  There are few services on 1-10 on these days -- one "trading post" on the first day until you get to Deming, and then a couple of "trading posts" that have Dairy Queens between Deming and Lordsburg.  Then we took US-70 from Lordsburg to Safford, AZ, rejoining the official route just outside Safford.  The bonus is that US-70 is an amazing ride -- almost no cars, great shoulder, beautiful scenery, and a town (Duncan) with a couple of restaurants and a small grocery about halfway.

Check out our journal at if you want more info, or email us.  Good luck!

« on: September 02, 2005, 04:33:00 pm »
We rode the Southern Tier (mostly) from Florida to L.A. this spring.  You can check out our journal, which may be of some use to you (we had also never done anything like that before) --

good luck!

Routes / Bike Europe
« on: August 15, 2006, 09:10:39 pm »
AKTandem -- did you complete this trip?  My husband and I are considering doing the Passau to Vienna to Budapest (or maybe Prague) route next summer and would love to get your feedback on the trip, and also your thoughts on the Bike Friday tandem.  Thanks!

Routes / southern tier
« on: September 02, 2005, 04:38:50 pm »
We did the Southern Tier (mostly) from Florida to L.A. this spring.  You may find our journal helpful ( as well as the journals of other Southern Tier riders on the crazyguyonabike site.  We had a ball -- good luck!

Routes / I-10 from Blythe to Joshua Tree?
« on: April 04, 2005, 11:18:13 pm »
We are currently on the Southern Tier, riding east to west, but we want to finish in the LA area instead of San Diego.  We have worked out an alternate route from Brawley up the west side of the Salton Sea to Indio, but are wondering about staying on I-10 to Joshua Tree Nat'l Park instead.  On the map it looks shorter but with a big climb.  Does anyone have any information about this route, or have ridden (or driven) it before?  Any help is appreciated.

Routes / Navigating from Santa Clarita to Santa Monica, CA
« on: December 06, 2004, 03:53:39 pm »
We're planning a Southern Tier tour for the winter/spring going east to west.  After a diversion to the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Las Vegas, we'll head back south and proceed west past Barstow to Santa Clarita.  We have a route planned for our last day from Santa Clarita to the Santa Monica Pier.  However, the route is based on one from a 1988 book entitled, "Bicycling Across America," and although the route checks out on the maps, we don't know the neighborhoods or traffic patterns.  Can someone with a familiarity of greater Los Angeles please contact me and approve the route or provide some suggestions?
We appreciate any help you can offer.


Routes / San Antonio off the Southern Tier?
« on: December 29, 2005, 04:57:29 pm »
Sorry -- we went last spring (2005) -- it was terrific, though -- you will have a great time.  Good luck!

Routes / San Antonio off the Southern Tier?
« on: September 09, 2004, 05:15:40 pm »
Hi -- I'm hoping someone can offer some advice on the best way to detour into San Antonio off the Southern Tier.  We'll be travelling east to west next spring, and will need to drop down to San Antonio after doing the Austin spur, to visit my grandmother.  Then we'll rejoin the Southern Tier, maybe as far west as Del Rio, depending on the route, so as not to do too much doubling-back.  Is anyone familiar with the biking around there?  Does it make sense to just take US 281 south from Blanco, and then leave San Antonio by following US 90 all the way to Del Rio?  Any suggestions would be appreciated -- thanks!

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