Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Route planning

Ask me what I'm doing this weekend, and I'll tell you visiting family. Ask me what I did last weekend, and I'll tell you the same. Ask me what I'm doing next get the point. I love visiting family, but this way of life wreaks havoc on my motorcycling time. I know, why not use the bikes to go on these trips? No reason.

And so this weekend we're giving it a go - visiting my father-in-law on the SV650S and Ninja 250. The idea seemed simple and appealing at first, but then when I thought about the Interstates we usually use to get there, I decided we needed to find a back-roads way of getting there. This trip usually takes us about 3.5 hours using 66, 495, 95, 476, 76, and Pennsylvania's SR-422. How can I possibly come up with a route anywhere near that simple if I stay off the highways? Oh, I forgot to mention one little thing...

...friends of ours recently shared their Mad Map with us - theirs was a map outlining large weekend loops to drive in the Smoky Mountain area. Mad Maps seems to focus on twisty and/or scenic roads for their weekend loops. When our Economic Stimulus $$$ rolled in, we bought 3 Mad Maps, and one of them covers New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We tested this map out a few weekends ago when we aimed the Civic for Northern New Jersey - instead of our usual early morning sprint up 95, we swung West and came in on 78. Before the PA/NJ border, we branched off to drive a 30+ mile portion of one of Mad Maps's Pennsylvania loops (which ended up putting us on 80, and we entered the Garden State that way).

We were not disappointed.

This was 30 miles of windy roads with constant elevation changes and banked turns. Speed limits would drop to 25 as you pass through a 4-block ghost town, and before you knew it, you were back up to speed carving asphalt you may never have found otherwise.

So, what I haven't mentioned, is that we aim to fit a portion of a Mad Maps loop into each trip. Now keeping the whole trip off the freeway and getting a taste of Mad Maps in the same trip to Perkiomenville, PA has proven quite challenging. I admit, route-planning is a very new activity for me. But with Google Maps and a AAA membership, I should have the tools I need to come up with a decent line.

While the jury is out on the decency of my line, the fact remains that it's a 210-mile route with over 70 turns - all of which GMaps estimates will take us 6.5 hours. It's quite a price to pay if this is the cost of using motorcycles to visit family. We'll see how we feel about it when we reflect upon the trip on Steve's wooden rockers...


Well, it basically took us about 8 hours. We did everything from ferrying across the Potomac to sliding through gravel roads with our sport bikes. The scenery was great, some of the roads were totally cool, but this is no way to get from point A to point B. Needless to say, we took a much simpler route home.


No regrets, though!

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