Garmin Dakota 20

As  you may know, we have a bike trip planned. We’ve decided on the tandem bicycle as the vehicle of choice this time and we’ve bought a trailer to pull behind it to carry our gear. We plan to use a number of bicycle trails for this trip, most of which are old railroad beds. These trails don’t show up on ordinary maps. We have been able to use Google Maps “beta” cycling directions to plan the trip, but what to do when we are actually out there?

We thought that a GPS would be a good idea. We could enter our trip and just follow the pink line. We had done this when we traveled by bike in Holland in 2007, so surely it could be done just as easily, and likely more efficiently in 2012. We went shopping online for a suitable GPS unit and bought a Garmin Dakota 20 along with a special mounting bracket for the bike. This unit is often used for geocaching.

The unit was backordered for about two weeks waiting for the mounting bracket to come, but it was still an exciting day when it arrived. We rushed around finding batteries to make it go and got ourselves to the maps section of the menu. Imagine our dismay when we found the “world map” loaded in the unit placed us in the middle of nowhere. We do live in the middle of no where, but the road that runs in front of our nowhere place was not on the unit. Some further research revealed that we could order more detailed maps from Garmin ($89-$159).  There were also couple of choices of “free” maps available to download.

Maps are big. The first one we found was over 800 MB. Our internet connection is not fast. After 10 hours of downloading we had a map and figured out how to load it on to the mini SD card that did not come with the unit. Quite a few more hours were required to figure out how to transfer the map that we had made on Google maps on to the GPS unit. Finally, we had our pink line.

We had stumbled across another map that promised to be much more detailed. There is something about thinking that you could do better that drives us to distraction. This download was 3.6GB so it had to be better. We started the download. It went overnight and then I spent five hours working on various projects at Coffee Culture just to get a better internet connection. Once we had the whole thing, we could not get it to work at all. We watched the video directions on Youtube over and over and could not get the thing to work.  We found a different version, downloaded it for a long time, struggled to get a clean copy on a disk and finally installed it to our computer. So far, other than topographic lines, I don’t see that it is that much better.

Getting the GPS to work has been a journey in itself. We’ve spent way more time than anticipated on the project. I sure hope the pink line is worth it. J has started printing off the Google maps because she’s not sure that she trusts the machine. She might be right.

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