Friday, January 16, 2009

Finally…GPS Road Maps

The Baja Navigator works with any Garmin GPS product that uses MapSource™ Software.

If you fish, chances are you wouldn’t dream of heading out fishing without a Global Positioning System (GPS)… of one kind or another. Last spring, Yvonne gave me a Garmin unit for the Roadtrek van. My initial reaction was something along the lines of, “This is just another superfluous toy; I don’t need directions.”

Within a few weeks, however, I was as addicted to the GPS on my dash as I am of the marine version. Whether I’m traveling across town or cross-country, I don’t leave home without it! I have become accustomed to relying on the silky female voice of this device gently prodding me to turn this way or that, becoming seemingly more strident nearing the turn and finally mumbling “recalculate” in disgust when I miss the turn completely.

As I crossed the border into Tijuana on my next road trip, I glanced at the GPS on the dash and only a red line representing Mex 1 appeared -nothing else - no streets, service stations, or hotels…bummer!

After that trip, I searched the web for Baja maps which could be used with my Garmin. I found that GPS and laptop interface users have both Raster and Vector maps to choose from.

Raster maps are similar to paper maps and are converted into large image files. In addition to taking up lots of space, the files cannot be ‘searched’ or ‘zoomed’ beyond the resolution of the original map.

Vector maps save the map information as data (rather than images) which can be interpreted and searched by a computer or the GPS unit. Garmin offers a program called MapSource© which will open the Vector maps once they are uploaded onto your computer.

Larry Buck, owner of LB Maps, was my first contact. He began traveling to Baja with his family in the early 90’s.

It is important to note, LB Maps and Larry Buck are not just simply reselling maps, they are ‘hands on’. Using government data, satellite imaging for verification and real time updates gathered from his and other users’ frequent Baja trips, he is able to provide updates on a regular basis. The Baja Navigator works with any Garmin GPS product that uses MapSource© Software.

LB Maps’ Baja Navigator, with free updates for a year, was just what I was looking for!

Larry also offers Bicimapas maps. While these are more expensive, they include both the mainland of Mexico as well as Baja. In addition, they offer more detail, topo-contour lines and they work on both Garmin and Magellan GPS units.

Now comes the “I didn’t know I could do that” part: MapSource© software allows you to edit maps to include your own waypoints, routes and other points of interest. Then, these updates can be downloaded directly to your GPS device. On return trips, you will already have a jumpstart on your trip and you will possess some local knowledge that can be ever-expanding.

Whether your interest lies in off-roading, bicycling, hiking, fishing, RVing or just wandering around Baja, you will find, as I did, that GPS maps and devices are a welcome and an invaluable traveling tool.