“Everybody’s lost, but me!”

I think I need a GPS…  I was leading some friends on a ride today.  I had been keen to go for an “exploratory ride” by myself, to familiarise myself with the roads around the Glasshouse Mountains.  There are a lot of forestry roads, some sealed, and a lot dirt.  I didn’t promise anyone an exciting ride, as I knew a lot of the terrain was flat and bordered pine plantations.  Those two combinations tend to add up to straight, dull roads… 

I had spent some time scouring Google Maps and Google Earth, attempting to work out how to stay on the bitumen and how to find some windy bits.  But my plans still quickly unravelled.  My ancient book of maps (circa 1992) has always proved to be hopeless and inaccurate once you get down to these sorts of roads.  For the sake of anyone outside of Australia reading this, allow me to paint you a picture:

We are not talking “out back” here…  The roads I was on today are less than an hour’s drive from Brisbane (population approx 1.5 million people)  As I mentioned, these roads traverse through pine plantations as well as other farms (namely pineapple)  But, they don’t get much traffic.  Side roads don’t tend to be terribly well signed and I don’t recall passing a car going in the opposite direction for the period of about 20 minutes as we rode along Twin View Road and others.  – So, if you know where you’re going, you will be fine!

As an exercise for the reader, follow along my intended route on Google Earth or, directly in the Web browser if you’d prefer:

  • Head roughly NNW along Old Gympie Roadout of Caboolture.
  • Turn left onto Twin View Road. – I’d already got lost before getting this far!  The main road deviates to the right and becomes Smith(s) Rd.  This takes you back into Elimbah, but, from my map study, I knew I could rejoin Twin View Rd there… Until I’d arrived in Elimbah, I’d no idea I’d left Old Gympie Road!
  • Stay on Twin View Rd as it deviates from Scurr Rd.  – I missed this one too, and gave up at this point.  Following “the main road” takes you along Scurr and then Newlands Road back to Wamuran.  At least I then knew where I was, so stuck to tried and tested roads…
  • If I’d still been on-track…  Turn right onto Raaen Rd.
  • This road merges with the Glasshouse-Woodford Rd.
  • Take that road back to Old Gympie Road, turn left and head for Beerwah. 

The more I look at that with Google Earth, the more convinced I am that we would of traversed lots of dirt roads.  If you use Google Earth, with the “roads” option on, you see a fair degree of approximation between reality and the way the roads look in real life:  Going back to my first missed turn you will see that the “roads” indicated a straight path.  The maps on whereis.com(Search for “Smith Road | Elimbah | Qld”) has a much better indicator that you will need to turn left, to stay on Old Gympie Rd.  Search again in Street Directory and you get even more detail!  I guess “local knowledge” counts for something.

My point is, not all mapping tools are created equal.  As far as I am concerned, a GPS unit is only as good as the maps you get in it.  All the fancy features in the world aren’t going to do you any good, if it can’t pinpoint you and know when you will need to veer down the side road to stay on course.  (Of course, you would expect any GPS to tell you to do a U turn after you failed to correctly navigate the last intersection but that’s still only secondary to getting it right in the first place)