- Google Maps, including the Street View feature
- Microsoft Streets & Trips software
- A paper map
Have I ever told you I am a map girl? I just like maps. Always have and suspect I always will.
I don't care for trip planning using the GPS. Yes, it can be handy for way-finding (as a guide during travel to make sure you don't miss important turns), it just doesn't meet my planning needs. I've actually never used a standalone GPS. It is Hubby's. I will admit to using GPS capabilities on my Smart phone in a pinch, though.
Once we settled on Italy as a destination, the first thing I did was map out the passes and towns we might want to see. I used Google Maps for that. Our Streets & Trips software only covers the US.
Guess what? I was wrong. Gasp!
They have a product called Auto Route Europe (ARE). Click on that image to the left and you'll be taken to their Website where you can download a 60-day free trial.
Anyone ever use that? Thoughts? I like Streets & Trips just fine. So I am positive I'll download the ARE trial. I'll be sure to let you know what I think.
I actually have a cool paper map, which I was given during our Edelweiss tour a couple of years ago.
Since it is a map of the Alps, it already covers most of the ground we'll be covering. Milan is at its lower left corner, though, so I'd essentially be traveling blind for anything west or south of Milan. I'll have to decide if I want to get a Kompass auto map of Switzerland. If you looked at my Google map, you may have noticed about half of the markers are in Switzerland.
Anyway, I've been playing around with Google Maps a bit to come up with a rough itinerary. We only have five days to cover lots of stuff. My goal is to achieve that happy balance between just enough riding each day and plenty of time to see some sights.
I'm thinking our first two days may be in Switzerland. So that left the paper map out. Which means I've been relying heavily on Google Maps.
I have to save, I LOVE Street View. Love, love, love, love. It is the best planning tool. Think a road might be gravel? Check Street View. Even if it isn't a mapped road, chances are good it intersects with a mapped road. You can place the little Street View guy at the intersection and have a look at the road to get an idea as to condition. In the US anyway. I haven't gone to those extremes yet with this trip.
I have been having fun with Street View though. Every now and then, you come across some funny images.
The image above is a screen capture of Google Street View in Italy. It gives you a good example of how narrow the roads can be. And that's a relatively wide one! Really.
European cars are much smaller than US cars. That minivan-looking thing is probably about the size of a 1970s Toyota pick-up. And that car is probably just a tad bigger than a Smart Car.
Something else I love about Street View is that you have the ability to virtually travel down a road. Once in Street View, click your mouse on the road ahead (make sure you see a circle to advance and not a rectangle to zoom).
When I found this road, I decided to see how long it took the motorcyclists to pass the Google car. I painstakingly advanced screen by screen until I finally gave up. They never did pass. Which means they either were into following the map car. Or they were Americans who hadn't yet discovered the joys of passing in Europe!
Here's an image that made me chuckle.
It really did pop up randomly after I dropped the little orange guy onto the map. Look closely at that driveway mirror and you'll see the map car.
Since the Swiss are so concerned with privacy, there are few, if any, actual street views to be seen. Rather, you just see photographs of an area, when available.
Some are good. Some, not so much.
Check out that possessed cat!
It's been interesting.
Did you know there are people who intentionally try to make it into Google Street View shots? I think they are referred to as photo-bombers.
Here's one top ten list of photo-bombs. It's difficult to tell for sure which ones are staged and which were captured by pure chance.
Here's a funny one that I thought was well-staged.
And this link takes you to a site, Street with a View, that highlights a special project in Pittsburgh. Click on SCENE BREAKDOWN after you follow the link.
If I come across any other goods ones during my quest for the perfect motorcycle route through Switzerland and Northern Italy, I'll be sure to share them here.