Happy Trails

by bj max

I’ve been riding with a Garmin GPS-V for the past four years. It was a Christmas gift from my wife and I loved the thing. However, learning to use it was a frustrating experience and it drove me to the brink of madness. But, once mastered, the GPS-V proved to be a faithful and loyal traveling companion and it never steered me wrong. At times I thought it had, but in the end it was always me feeding in the wrong information. A GPS, like all of today’s gee whiz gadgetry, is only as good as its operator.

But, as good as it was, the GPS-V did have issues. The big one was me. You see, I ain’t gettin’ any younger and the GPS-V had a teeny tiny little black and white screen with teeny tiny lettering and it was gettin’ harder and harder for me see where I was, much less where I was going. And I couldn’t hear the audible turn alert either. With 60 year old ears, ear plugs, motorcycle helmet and wind noise between me and the “beep” I seldom heard it and consequently blew by countless turns and waypoints. The ribbing I took from my so called friends got really bad too. So bad in fact, that an area in Middle Tennessee was sarcastically named the Bermuda Grass Triangle as an insult to my navigational skills with the GPS.

So I sold it. Yep, posted it on the Internet and with the promise of a few lessons to get the buyer up and running, it didn’t last an hour. I began shopping for a new one immediately.

Buying a new GPS required more research than I had imagined. There are so many units on the market today that finding one that fit my particular needs, i.e. motorcycle touring, was a bit confusing. And to add to all this confusion was a virtual cornucopia of mounting systems, accessories and options and the price of some of these units was positively breathtaking. It was going to take some careful research to insure that I got the best unit for my money. I was trying to balance function with assets and it proved to be a tedious process. But it sure was fun wading through all the electronic wizardry available in search of the right stuff.

Since the GPS-V was a Garmin product, naturally my first choice was Garmin. I checked out several other brands, but gravitated back to the Garmin, mainly because of personal experience with their product and their excellent technical support. They have always been prompt and helpful and never failed to settle any issues or questions I presented.

The first model I considered was one of Garmin’s top of the line Automotive/Motorcycle units, the StreetPilot 2820. This unit had it all. Voice prompts, top down view as well as a new 3-D view, Bluetooth wireless technology, traffic delay alerts, XM Satellite Radio, MP-3 player, speech to text and on and on it went. The 2820 also came with its own built in hard drive, a feature that Buck, one of my riding partners, warned me to stay away from. Buck works for the government and has several years experience with GPS systems so I heeded his warning. But the price alone, $1184.00 was enough by itself to send me in another direction.

On the low end of the Garmin lineup was the Quest, a compact little GPS with a color screen and voice prompts. But this screen, like the GPS-V I had just sold, was too small for the likes of me…Price was in the six hundred dollar range. Better than the 2820, but still high. I like the compact design of the Quest, but stayed away because of the tiny screen.

The unit I finally settled on, the StreetPilot 2610, has become the GPS of choice among motorcyclists. It’s easy to see why with its many features and simplicity of use. And its touch screen technology makes entering and retrieving information a snap. But, again, the price was really, really high. Suggested retail; $1166.65…Man! But it did have most of the buttons and whistles. Voice prompts, area avoid feature, large easy to read color screen and, of course, it was waterproof. But my budget could not handle the cost. In fact, I was off by over five hundred bucks. But my heart was set on the 2610 and I decided that, if necessary, I would buy a used unit if I could find a good one. So I hit the Internet and began searching for something that I could afford.

I entered GPS into a search engine and GPSDiscount.com popped up. At $609.00, their price for a brand new StreetPilot 2610 was definitely a step in the right direction; proof positive that it pays to shop around. Just a few clicks on the old keyboard and I had already saved over five hundred dollars. This was the best price I had seen and I was ready to jump all over it. But, before I did, I noticed another listing for a Garmin factory overhaul right below it and all for a measly, comparatively speaking, $490.00. And that included a one year factory warranty, plus shipping via FedEx. I could hardly contain my glee.

But wait a minute. Not so fast here, Bud. How can these folks sell this stuff so cheap, I wondered. I smelled a rat. Or at least I thought I did. I smelled something. But after a little research and a few inquiries, I learned that GPS Discount.com was indeed a respected Garmin dealer and completely trustworthy. Hey, you can never be too careful on the Internet. To make a long story short, I whipped out my debit card and ordered the factory overhauled job. I later learned that the refurbished units were usually store returns that were sent back to Garmin, checked out, then sold as factory overhauls.

The FedEx truck pulled up in front of my home five days later and dropped off my new Garmin upgrade. Even though my inquiries were all positive, I was still a little bit leery as I slit open the box. But my worries were all for naught. The 2610 was packaged just like a brand new unit with nary a scratch to mar its good looks. It was complete with beanbag mount, all manuals, City Navigator software, plus all the unlock codes necessary to make it all work. I was a very happy man.

Of course, the hardware to mount and connect the 2610 to the motorcycle and have the voice prompts fed through my headset cost extra and drove the total price to $641.95 but hey, I saved enough by shopping around to pay for that stuff four times over. I realize this is still a high price when you can buy a Rand-McNally at Wal-Mart for $4.95, but the carefree convenience of navigating through a strange city with complete confidence…at night…in a rainstorm makes the GPS 2610 worth the cost. It’s a road essential and I wouldn’t leave home without it.

Happy Trails to you.

M.M.M.

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