The U.S. has over 4M miles of public highways. But, which is the best road? Where are the roads less-traveled? Whether you’re looking for a ride on a twisty or a relaxed cruise on a scenic back country byway you’ll likely want a map.
Have you ever traveled Oregon 238? It’s described as a ‘backway’ between Grants Pass and Medford and an exceptional alternative to traveling I-5.
Later this week is the Hells Canyon Rally in Baker City, Oregon. I wonder how many riders will venture off I-84 onto the “Journey Through Time Scenic Byway” at Biggs? It’s an endless set of curvy roads with incredible scenery and plenty of space to get lost…mentally!
This isn’t a post about planning out a trip to the Nth detail. Getting on the motorcycle with the wind in your face and traveling to no place in particular has a lot of merit. But you’ll likely need a map and I’m interested in the science of paper vs. screens.
Yeah, I know many of you out there pinch, swipe and prod an electronic device to determine a route. I’m a bit “old skool” and think paper maps have a unique advantage that the more popular e-technologies miss. In most cases, paper has more topography than an onscreen electronic reader.
An open paper map presents the motorcyclist with two clearly defined domains—the left and right pages—and a total of four corners with which to orient oneself. The rider can focus on a section of a paper map without losing sight of the whole region: one can see where the route begins and ends and where one section is in relation to those borders.
A paper map is like leaving a footprint after another person on the trail—there’s a rhythm to it and a visible record of how far I’ve traveled. It makes it easier (for me) to form a coherent mental map of the geography. In contrast, most screens, and smartphones interfere with intuitive navigation of a location and inhibit people from mapping the journey in their minds.
Beyond the obvious disadvantage of needing internet to access internet-based maps, a digital map might have you scrolling through a seamless number of pages, tap up or swipe over to a page at a time and it is difficult to see any one area in the context of the overall route—the screen only displays a single virtual page: it is there and then it is gone. I think the implicit feel of where you are on a physical map turns out to be more important than we realized.
But, maybe you’re the type of rider who rolls past the trees, rocks and moss in flashes with no trace of what came before and no way to see what lies ahead. That’s fine.
If you’re the type of person who takes a more deliberate approach to your riding adventures then you’ll be interested to know that Oregon recently updated the official state map. The last time it was updated was Summer of 2013. The new map has shaded relief for terrain and new colors designating BLM owned land. It also contains updated inserts of major cities as well as updates to state highways. You can down load or order a map HERE.
Photo courtesy of ODOT’s Geographic Information Services.