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Thread: Solo Navigation

  1. #1

    Default Solo Navigation

    When I did my last road trip (a piddling 1000 miles involving Ireland and UK), I relied pretty much solely on my satnav. I had some (ie very few) ideas for detours I wanted to take and in those cases, I followed route signs and turned off the satnav, turning it back on once I reached my destination so it could bring me back to my original route.

    However, it's difficult to get lost in Ireland and UK, and I've driven there many times. The US is a completely different kettle of fish, and most of the guru posts on here declare the delights of the a paper map over the satnav (only using the satnav for town and city navigation mostly).

    That's all fine and dandy for those people who have somebody accompanying them, they can shout out directions and go in a huff when you miss an exit, but how are us poor solo travellers meant to cope with a paper map? My sense of direction is so poor, I often get lost in my own bathroom, and I doubt it's safe to be consulting a map while tearing along the interstates. But the alternative of memorising the map ahead of time doesn't appeal to me either ("right, I've got to get off here at exit-47, or is exit-74 and take the 4th right after 2 lefts, or is it 2 rights on the fourth left, or is it...?")

    Any tips and tricks for making sure you get to your destination in one piece, but having had a peaceful and stress free journey involving a road and route you've never seen before?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Rental Car has a compass?

    Just about all rental cars these days come equipped with a rudimentary electronic compass - and for most purposes until you get your bearings so you can "feel" which direction is which -- that's about all you need. Besides, hopefully, you're stopping every 2-3 hours to stretch and move around -- outside of the car and you can look at the paper map then.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Without my 'Organic' GPS I would......

    It's making the paper map and the GPS work together for the best results. If you want to get from A to B and rely on the GPS alone, it will have you "tearing along Interstates" for the main part of the journey. The idea of the paper map is to see what routes and places of interest are there for the days drive ahead and then break your journey down into an A to B to C to D as many times as you need during the day and feed the GPS info to help you get to those 'bits in between'. As Mark mentioned, each time you stop, check out the paper map and work out the next leg of the journey and then use the GPS to assist. Some journeys are more simple than others, in which case you can just put in a 'Waypoint' or two in the system. The GPS is a quick learner and if you take a wrong turn, or you deliberately choose a different road, it will quickly recalculate your route, it's a case of showing the thing who is boss. Me and Tom [Tom] don't always see eye to eye, but we get there in the end, my way !

    Sometimes getting lost can turn up big surprises ! [I was thinking pleasant, not a 'Wrong turn' movie moment LOL.

  4. #4


    Yeah, I'm really hoping I don't end up being told I've got a "real purty mouth" at some point on this trip :D.

    So best advice is use the paper map to work a 2-3 hour route (town to town) and then use waypoints or a routemap on the satnav (if necessary) to plot that route - if it's a straight road, there would be no need for the satnav part until I hit my stopover town. That makes for a nice relaxed pace, I think, and gives me the necessary 'excuse' to stop the car and get out and stretch and check my bearings.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Getting lost - USA style!

    As a solo traveller, I too have come across this problem. What I now do, study the maps well. I love maps, and am always going over them anyway. But for a trip, it is hard to get my nose out of that map. Yup, gps is (sometimes) handy in urban centres.

    The beauty with the US road system, is that almost everything is numbered. (Only just being widely applied here.) So I sit down and write down a list of the numbers of the roads on which I plan to go for the day, and where I need to turn, much like a trip-tic from the automobile clubs. And I do an alternative, just in case. I then keep that list handy, maybe stick it on the dash somewhere, so that I can refer to it constantly.

    But, I still miss turn offs, and get lost.

    Getting lost is often the most interesting part of a trip. I have stumbled upon places which blew me away, met the most delightful people, some with whom I am still in contact, and have memories and photos galore from adventures when 'lost'.

    In fact, I am now so good at getting lost, am thinking of taking up lecturing in it, and teaching others. LOL

    Lifey loves 'alternative' routes

  6. #6


    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician View Post
    Getting lost is often the most interesting part of a trip. I have stumbled upon places which blew me away, met the most delightful people, some with whom I am still in contact, and have memories and photos galore from adventures when 'lost'.

    That is one of the things I am most excited for.

  7. #7

    Default Best of both worlds

    Yes, having a nav system for close-in work, even as simple as determining the layout of frontage roads, etc, at major Interstate highway exchanges, is terrific, while the paper maps are unsurpassed for "big picture" day's drive planning.

    I keep a note pad on the dashboard of the truck. As I check the map at a fuel or rest stop, or particularly at the beginning of a day's driving, I jot down random notes concerning what milepost along I-80 a favorite truck stop restaurant is, what milepost the next couple or three rest areas are, where my next fuel stop will need to be, and any number of other reminders, all written in large block letters so needn't change glasses to read my own notes.

    Enjoy planning and taking your US RoadTrip!


  8. #8


    That's the sort of level of detail I'd love to have, Foy, but I can't imagine having it on my first road without getting too anal about it. The fact that I started planning my next trip 15 months before it happens shows you exactly how anal I am, so I'm figthing every urge daily to load up Google maps streetview and just do the whole journey with mouse clicks :D

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia


    Sputnik, don't let it worry you. On my first trip I got in a car without ever having driven on the wrong side of the road, with a paper map, and road atlas..... and headed for the horizon. Had planned that day to get from LA to Bishop (the final destination was Boise ID), but soon became aware of the fact I would not get anywhere near Bishop. Pulled into the next town, Ridgecrest, booked into a motel, and cried!!!

    After a good night's sleep, the rest of the trip went like a breeze. Now, almost 100000 miles later, I take it all in my stride. Never book anything, and plan one day at a time.

    You will get there too!

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