Off The Grid

Garmin Base Camp
Screen shot from Garmin Base Camp – Oregon Coast

I’ve spent the past week or so working on the computer(s) in the office. I recently sold my MSI i7 core Windows laptop and used the proceeds to help fund a newer Dell XPS 17 i9 core Windows laptop. The new laptop is pretty darn good. Fast as lightening, outstanding graphics and monitor, plenty of memory and disc storage. I’m in computer geek heaven at the moment.

As a result of acquiring new hardware, I’ve had to reload all the software I use on the desktop PC to the new laptop. A slow and tedious task, complicated by the fact that the new laptop only uses USB-C Thunderbolt connectors for hooking up external devices. This requires me to acquire numerous new interface cables and adapters. Something I’ve repeated countless times over the years as the march of technology rolls over my life. At least I’m now current with my mobile setup, and quite frankly, keeping up with new technology is something I’ve been losing enthusiasm for as I’ve grown older. I’ve discovered that my desktop PC is a very nice and powerful system by 2015 standards. The Dell i9 laptop makes it look like a hunk of obsolete junk in comparison. But, my software still works and with a little effort and research I can keep pace with the changes.

One of the chores has been to get my Garmin GPS units updated with current maps and cleaned out of duplicate waypoints. I’ve heard it said by the techno-geeks that one thing that is destined to being obsolete in the future is the portable GPS. I don’t think so though. I have a GPS built in to my car and it’s fine if I need to drive around town and look for addresses, but once I get off the grid, it leaves much to be desired. Using the map apps on the iPhone are not much better than the simplified GPS in the car either. The Garmin portables have spoiled me and they work everywhere I go.

My favorite software at the moment has been Garmin Basecamp. Basecamp is a offline mapping program that allows you to create waypoints, routes, and do trip planning. Once I’ve defined everything on the computer, I can download that data directly to the GPS unit. A good example is a road trip I did several years ago along the Pacific coast. I marked the location of every lighthouse on the Pacific Coast and downloaded it to the GPS. When finished one lighthouse, I’d move on to the next and the GPS would guide me to it without a hassle. When I returned from trip, I can download my tracks from the GPS and it shows me everywhere I’ve been and will actually simulate the route by playing back the actual driving tracks in real or accelerated time. If I found something new, I could mark the location and store that on the computer with my other waypoints. It gets really geeky too.

I can’t do all of this with the GPS in my car, nor with the iPhone without a major level of hassle and lost functionality. Not to mention the fact that once I’m off the cellular grid, which happens frequently in my travels, getting an iPhone to do much of anything without a cellular signal is pointless.

No, the portable GPS isn’t destined to being obsolete. I think destiny has been defined to provide you with alternate and half hearted implementations for our modern life style. I’ve yet to see a car navigation system that was impressive and easily updated. The smart phone is great if you never leave town and like advertising thrown in your face all the time.

If you’re a road-tripper and really want to navigate your way into the great unknown, the portable GPS is the only way to go in my opinion. You can still use your smart phone to play your music while you drive there. Maybe they’ll have WiFi at the hotel you find off the grid.