by Steve Tiedman

I’m a new-ish motorcyclist. Well, let me correct that- I’ve been a motorcyclist in my heart and mind for over 20 years. I’ve been a motorcyclist in the real sense for two years. Since the spring of 2005 when I passed the MSF course and received my endorsement, I’ve happily logged about 11,000 miles between a 1980 Honda CB750 Custom and a 2004 Moto Guzzi California EV.

I don’t try to keep up with the Joneses too much in life. If I buy the latest and greatest something it’s because I want it, not because others want me to have it. And I like to separate myself from the crowd a lot of the time as well, which partly explains the Guzzi.

Other than luggage and a throttle lock, I really have not done anything to change the stock appearance or function of my motorcycle- I like it the way the factory gave it to me. But, every once in a while, I get the itch to buy some gizmo, some toy. Last summer, I upgraded my riding gear to an Aerostich Darien suit. And for Christmas I asked Santa for the new Shoei Multitec flip-up helmet. Thanks, Santa; can’t wait ‘til spring!

But there has been another toy I’ve been considering lately. That being a GPS for the motorcycle. Like most motorcyclists, I love getting out into new areas to discover what might be out there over the next hill. With the exception of 5 years, I’ve lived my entire life in the Twin Cities area. I’ve taken the superslabs to the various out-state Minnesota towns, such as Duluth and Rochester, but until bringing a motorcycle into my life, I’ve never really explored our great state (although I’ve always meant to…).

I love maps! I’ll grab a free road map at every chance, even when I don’t need another to go with the three I already have. I think the DeLorme Gazetteer atlases are the best thing since sliced bread- all other atlases pale in comparison. I often find myself photocopying a page or two from my Minnesota or Wisconsin Gazetteer to slip in the gas tank map pouch, highlighting roads I want to follow, or rather discover, that day.

At a family gathering over Christmas, I got to talking with my brother-in-law, Bill. In my mind, Bill is an adventurer among adventurers. He will do multi-day, winter camping trips into the Boundary Waters. Same with canoe trips in the summer. About a dozen years ago, at the end of a winter camping and hiking expedition in Yellowstone, a major storm was chasing him from the area, only to catch him and have a high wind gust roll his VW camper van off the road. After finding help to get the VW righted, and luckily with not enough damage to him or the van to stop him, he continued for another couple weeks before getting home. He’s sailed the US/Mexican coast of the Pacific from Puget Sound to Baja, California. His greatest adventure was getting dropped off with a friend in the Alaskan wilds by a bush pilot, with instructions to be at the meeting point in 10 days or they’d be on their own. I recall that one sounding like a 10-day death march. In spite ofall those travels and stories, he’s one of the most humble people I know.

I asked Bill if he uses a GPS on these trips of his. I told him that I think I’d like a GPS to utilize the real-time, moving maps, so I’d know where I was at that moment, and where I needed to be heading in the next. I said it would be easier to use, to see, and follow, instead of the paper map in the tank pouch. He told me he doesn’t use GPS; never has. Just a map, if he even references it at all, and he keeps a compass in his pack, just in case. He asked me what would be the point of the GPS? Isn’t half the fun of such an adventure, whether it’s camping or motorcycling, about getting lost in areas you are not familiar with? You’re never really lost. With a map and a compass to back you up just in case, just go where the roads and trails want to take you.

His words reminded me of the main reason I’ve spent 20 years waiting to become a motorcyclist- to explore. To explore and discover those areas that I’ve never visited. In its most basic form, using a map to explore is contradictory, oxymoronic. Using the GPS to explore just might be criminal…

I think the maps are going to stay in the tail box most of the time from now on.

M.M.M.

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