August 30, 2012
I recently had the job of researching the western "half" of Adventure Cycling's new Bicycle Route 66 route (New Mexico, Arizona, and California) with Tammy Schurr, one of Adventure Cycling's long time tour leaders.
As a newbie to the Routes & Mapping department I felt very fortunate to have this opportunity -- the open road would be my office for a couple of weeks; I would get to revisit some places I had biked through in my cross-country ride 3 years ago; I would get to see some fun new places; and I would learn firsthand about how Adventure Cycling creates a new route.
So what do we do when we research a new route? First of all, after we have a general idea of a new route, e.g. Historic Route 66, we gather information from local cyclists and clubs in each area to get suggestions on specific roads to use. Then we take these suggestions, along with a handful of bike maps and other detailed maps, and hit the road.
Although we squeezed in a couple spins of the pedals checking out bike paths near Historic Route 66, we usually drive the route(s) instead of biking them because of time constraints. However, I decided driving might be a good idea anyway when going through the southwest desert in July.
We checked out the suggested routes, considering things such as: road surface and shoulder conditions; signage at turns; traffic; drivers' line of sight; historical/cultural/scenic points of interest nearby; if there are bike trails, do they cross many roads and are they signed well; services (types, how far apart they are); and hill length and grades. All of these things play into our final decision on a route, though often some of these items have to be sacrificed for others.
If we have concerns about the suggested route, we consult local bike maps and other detailed maps to look up alternate routes.
In addition to examining general suitability, we also gather information on services that are found along and near to the preferred route(s), including bike shops, campgrounds, hotels, hostels, grocery stores, convenience stores, restaurants, libraries, and post offices.
Previously we collected all of this information via a paper-based system. Now, as part of our efforts to convert map data to Geographic Information Systems (GIS), we also collect digital route and point location data using a GPS (Global Positioning System). We are also trying out a new software program to directly gather data digitally so that it can be easily used both in GIS and database systems -- and reduce the paper notes we later have to type up. Right now we're in the learning curve for this new system, but down the road it should save us considerable time.
pWhile I really enjoyed researching the next Adventure Cycling bicyle route, the 12-16 hour work days and the southwest heat intermixed with fierce flooding and thunderstorms make me glad to be back home.
Now we're back from the open road working on processing the mounds of data we collected to create the best possible version of Bicycle Route 66 for you.
Photos 1, 2, and 5 by Melissa Thompson. Photos 3, 4, and 6 by Tammy Schurr.
GEOPOINTS BULLETIN is written by Jennifer 'Jenn' Milyko, an Adventure Cycling cartographer, and appears weekly, highlighting curious facts, figures, and persons from the Adventure Cycling Route Network with tips and hints for personal route creation thrown in for good measure. She also wants to remind you that map corrections and comments are always welcome via the online Map Correction Form.