This is a long ride report, focused on travelling while using ridewithgps.com and a Garmin Edge 500 computer to both select and navigate unfamiliar routes.
Last summer, my dog and I took what I called our "California Dreaming" tour. I grew up in San Diego, and had siblings both there and in San Jose, so we drove from Phoenix to Santa Barbara, then up to San Jose, then back down the coast to San Diego, and back home to Phoenix. I wasn't as cycling addicted last year, so I didn't take my bike. This year, however, for "California Dreaming II", I took both my dog and my bike. For some strange reason, my wife found the idea of me, my dog, and my bike all being gone for 6 days very appealing. My sister recently moved from San Jose to San Salvador (as in El Salvador), and so the trip included only Santa Barbara and San Diego. I have no relatives in Santa Barbara, I just love the place, and it's a great place to take a dog, and a great place for cycling.
In my preparation for the trip, I searched ridewithgps.com for routes I might want to ride. I came up with two candidates:
1. A 75 mile loop around Lake Casitas, and
2. A 40 mile route called by its creator simply "Ridge"
The links will take you to the route profiles. Here is what I did to be able to ride these routes, in unfamiliar territory, without getting hopelessly lost.
A. I reentered the Lake Casitas route in ridewithgps.com, so that it originated where I was staying, and to get rid of extraneous metrics that had been uploaded by the person who created the route. I should have done this for The Ridge as well, but ran out of time.
B. I downloaded .TCX (Garmin Training Center) files from ridewithgps.com to my desktop.
C. I copied the .TCX files into the "Courses" folder of my Garmin Edge 500
D. I packed up and drove to Santa Barbara, watching the outside temperature drop 45 degrees over the course of the drive.
After taking my dog for a romp on the Santa Barbara beach Wednesday (8/24) morning, I got my bike ready and began the Lake Casitas ride. I navigated to the Courses function of my Garmin, selected the Lake Casitas course, and told it to "Do Course". This made the course specific screens available, and here is a sample of them:
Essentially, even though the Edge 500 does not have mapping, it does have the ability to both keep you on course, and give you an idea of what lies ahead. It gives you a warning when you deviate from the course, and it provides a squiggly line of the road ahead, which is of extreme value when going downhill at speed on an unfamiliar road. It wasn't perfect, but it was close. I was twice told I was off course, because the computer route wanted me to go on non-existent roads. Once I converged with its intended path, it told me I was back on course. That "crying wolf" later caused me to ignore a warning I shouldn't have.
The Lake Casitas ride was fantastic. It had everything from riding with an Osprey off my right shoulder while paralleling the shore on Interstate 101, to seaside towns, to tree covered forest paths, to winding mountain roads. Oh, and a lake:
I had one of those conversations that highlight the huge gap in understanding between cyclists and those poor souls who don't ride, when I was stopped at some construction where they were doing lane control. As I waited for my turn to go through, I chatted with the construction flagman:
Him: "Where did you come from?"
Me: "I came around the lake.
Him: "From where? Ojai?"
Me: "No, I came down from Santa Barbara, rode around the lake, and now I'm headed back."
Him: "When did you leave?"
Me: "I think it was about 7:00."
Him: "7:00? What? You mean last night?"
Me: "Err... no."
The guy thought I was insane.
As I said, a totally gorgeous ride of about 75 miles with 3K+ of climbing. It would have been really really difficult (and slow) to navigate this route without the GPS "Course function". There were a lot of turns that weren't obvious, as well as entrances to bike paths you would have had to know were there. The GPS took me right to them.
I'll do a separate post for the report of the Ridge ride the next day.