A Google Maps Workflow:

Create, Edit, Save, Share and Export a Route (or Track)

Garmin's Mapsource software is expensive and not particularly user-friendly, and the most recent versions seem to have got worse rather than better. Although there is no real choice other than to use Mapsource maps in your Garmin GPS, when it comes to route planning on the PC there are plenty of options and some of the best ones are free.

Here I'll describe a workflow using Google Maps, which is steadily getting better and better.
We're going to use GMaps to Create, Edit, Save, Share and Export as GPX, a good cycling route.

All you'll need is a web browser such as IE, a text editor such as Notepad, and some upload software which would probably be your copy of Mapsource or Trip & Waypoint Manager that came with the GPS, but there are one or two other free options as well.
In other words everything you need is already there on your PC.
Although I mention IE, Google Maps actually runs a bit better in another browser called Firefox - and a whole lot better still in yet another 'alternative' browser called Chrome. And although I mention Notepad, a more advanced notepad-replacement text editor would be more suitable - a decent free one is called Editpad. http://www.editpadpro.com/editpadlite.html

Some initial once-only preparation before we embark on a first route - see sidebar -
* Organise your Favourites or Bookmarks by adding a new folder lets call it Routes.
* Go to Google Maps http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?hl=en and bookmark it in your new folder. You may want to 'Set default location' while doing this, though its not essential.
* Go to GMapToGPX http://www.elsewhere.org/journal/gmaptogpx/ and follow the instructions there to add the yellow-highlighted link to your new Favourites or Bookmarks folder. (This may generate a security warning - but its nothing to worry about.)
* Go to TinyURL http://tinyurl.com/ and similarly add the link halfway down the page to your new Favourites folder.

OK, that's all the prep - now let's map and save our first route, in Google Maps, and export it to GPS.

My screenshots show as an example, leg 2 of LEL - that is, Gamlingay to Thurlby.

Open your browser and go to Google Maps. Zoom the map to a wide view of southern England, then double-click just slightly west of Cambridge, to centre the map there.
Now zoom in a fair bit and you should see the village of Gamlingay, between Cambridge and Bedford. Right-click on Gamlingay, and choose Directions From Here. A marker A appears on the map, this is the Start point of your route. Zoom right in and move it, by dragging, to the place where Honey Hill becomes Stocks Lane, towards the S end of the village - this is where the Control is.

Now in the form to the left, in the blank space marked B just type Thurlby and click Get Directions. You'll be offered a choice of three Thurlbys, choose Thurlby, Bourne. The map now updates to show you a route between the two places, highlighted in blue. (NB you could also have just scrolled the map and right-clicked on Thurlby and chosen 'Directions To Here' - just two ways to skin the cat.)

Oh no! - it's going straight up the A1(M)!



Time to click on Show Options - its near the 'Get Directions' button. Tick Avoid Highways and select km instead of miles. Click Get Directions again. The route alters a bit, around Peterborough - but it still seems to be going up the motorway, so what is going on here? Well if you zoom right in and look at the motorway section more closely, you'll find its actually now using the B1043, the Old North Road, which runs right alongside the main road for about 12km. It's even more obvious if you switch to the Satellite view.

Well, thats now a perfectly good 'cyclable' route but its still quite main-roady in parts and goes right through Peterborough - as cyclists we would want to find a better way.
And of course, the LEL Organisers have long used an alternative route between these two Controls, and if you have an old LEL Route Sheet you'll see that it passes through Catworth, Old Weston, Great Gidding and then lanes to Elton, all around midway between the Controls.
Choose a middling zoom and pull the map around until you can see both the near-Motorway section and the villages of Catworth, Great Gidding and Elton, which are off to the west of the main road. Now for some real magic.

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Francis Cooke