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  1. #1
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    How essential are ACA maps?

    Hello all, I will be touring all over the Pacific Northwest this summer and am wondering if the ACA maps are worth it. So far, I am thinking about going out of Oregon via the Columbia, visit Hells Canyon, wind my way through Montana and find myself in Alberta. Hang out there for awhile then go back towards BC and follow the coast route down. This is just tentative. I really have no set route, but I do have a good guide book on the coast portion. My point is that I am not planning on doing a particular ACA route, just using sections. So how helpful are they? Which is better, ACA map, or state map and talking to locals?

    Any help is appreciated.

    Thanks
    Jonathan

  2. #2
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    If you're just wandering around, then the maps are probably useless. ACA maps are designed for people who are following their specific route. Once you get off route, they won't help.

  3. #3
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Nelson View Post
    If you're just wandering around, then the maps are probably useless. ACA maps are designed for people who are following their specific route. Once you get off route, they won't help.
    The maps do have a little information off route, but for the most part you are correct. AAA and Delorme are more useful if you are planning your own route.
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  4. #4
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    I'll second the AAA map recommendation. I have not toured out of my area for a while but did tens of thousands of miles using AAA maps and sometimes more local ones if spending a lot of time in one area (like NY finger lakes). I just focused on more minor roads, esp those paralleling major ones, as the freeways and state routes tended to bleed off a lot of traffic.

  5. #5
    ah.... sure. kayakdiver's Avatar
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    Love the maps but like mentioned already.... pretty worthless if your not following them. They are route maps so they don't work well for much else. That being said. They are great if you do stay on them. Loved having the campground information and basic service information for each town along the way.

    Most all chamber of commerce locations will have tourist information and free maps. Saves you money buying them at a mini mart or if your not a AAA member. Just a thought.
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    The ACA maps have two main benefits:

    1) You know which towns, which roads, which turns to take. Thus, you can't get lost (if you can read a map), you don't have to research your own route, and you know you'll be joined by other cyclists.

    2) You have a (relatively) up-to-date list of services -- camping, motels, restaurants, bike shops, etc. Thus, you don't have to research all this either.

    Notice, in each of those reasons, it's implied that you can get all this by doing your own research....

    Just a hint, for those who are struggling with the cost of the ACA maps: spend a couple weeks reading the ACA-route journals on CGOAB, take lots of notes, and you'll end up with almost everything you need to know about the route.

    Worked for me (and I still carry ACA maps, too )

    That said, the best tours I've done were by blazing my own routes. The research is half the fun.

    -- Mark

  7. #7
    Lentement mais sûrement Erick L's Avatar
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  8. #8
    Senior Member gregstandt's Avatar
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    It's been mentioned but when planning a route I search the town name on CGOAB journals. I used the ACA maps for a coast trip last year and they have some nice features.
    Relax, it's a bike ride.

  9. #9
    Senior Member wheel's Avatar
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    Depends on the tour you want.
    I wanted nature and took a nice 40 mile pace.
    This was my camp ground.


    ACA maps pushed another man 20 miles farther into the night with a head wind so he could sleep here


    Now yes it was in a park but you get the drift.


    ACA maps tend to lay out every thing you need as in services.
    I like not knowing what lies ahead I found this place at a ranger station on the same day.
    Last edited by wheel; 04-23-09 at 02:47 AM.

  10. #10
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    ACA maps are just one place to get information; there are lots of others. I agree that if you want information on camping, etc., stopping at a ranger station is the best. They know all the spots, which one has water, the condition of the roads, etc. I also use other guidebooks, AAA maps, tourist information kiosks, etc. However, I don't like to carry extra weight, so if I use a book I usually photocopy the relevant pages and leave the book at home.

    One thing I've come to appreciate about ACA routes is that they take you off the main highway onto secondary roads a lot. These usually have less traffic. They're also often quite beautiful. They're roads the local bicyclists would take, but those of us just passing through would never know about if ACA hadn't found them for us.

    Another place to get information is from local bike shops.

    I've also gotten good information from locals: waitresses in restaurants, people at gas stations, etc. However, I also got some totally bogus information once from a guy who wanted to hobknob. Luckily I filtered it out and stuck to my original route. Otherwise I would have headed off on a 20 mile wild good chase.

  11. #11
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    I've toured with and without the ACA maps. I find them really good for getting through large urban areas, so if you plan to ride through any cities, I'd at least get those maps. The other thing they are great for is giving you campground locations, as others have mentioned.

    They can be a little annoying to use as they are not visually as easy to read as a typical road map (e.g., not always oriented square on the page), and you end up having to read the route description/directions, which means stopping. Sometimes also I think the maps try too hard to keep you off busy roads, so that every little town you come to there's some detour that avoids the main drag through town. For me it gets tedious having to concentrate on the map and directions all the time.

    I would always carry a good road map anyway, because sometimes there's a bridge out or construction detour and you have to find your own route. I've also usually had good luck just asking the locals where the campgrounds are. If you're touring thought National Forest/BLM land, then campgrounds are often marked on the road maps.

  12. #12
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by northboundtrain View Post
    They can be a little annoying to use as they are not visually as easy to read as a typical road map (e.g., not always oriented square on the page), and you end up having to read the route description/directions, which means stopping.
    I didn't find that to be the case once you get used to the concept of strip maps. I hardly ever look at the turn by turn directions on the TA generally finding just the map adequate.

    Quote Originally Posted by northboundtrain View Post
    Sometimes also I think the maps try too hard to keep you off busy roads, so that every little town you come to there's some detour that avoids the main drag through town. For me it gets tedious having to concentrate on the map and directions all the time.
    Yeah I tend to agree here. Sometimes they detoured us for no apparent reason. I sometimes looked at the map and just used the main drag any way.

    Quote Originally Posted by northboundtrain View Post
    I would always carry a good road map anyway, because sometimes there's a bridge out or construction detour and you have to find your own route. I've also usually had good luck just asking the locals where the campgrounds are. If you're touring thought National Forest/BLM land, then campgrounds are often marked on the road maps.
    Yep. I pick up maps as I enter states.

  13. #13
    40 yrs bike touring
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    I have only used ACA maps on one tour-the Divide Ride. They were an excellent tool and necessary to follow all of the changes of direction.

    They also annoyed me by reminding me daily how much I preferred NOT knowing what was around the next bend. The ACA maps removed the surprise element from touring.

    I have made getting lost while touring into an art form over the years without regret. The benefits of wandering around are considerable in my experience locally and in distant continents where locals helped the <loco norteamericano> find his way.

  14. #14
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by arctos View Post
    They also annoyed me by reminding me daily how much I preferred NOT knowing what was around the next bend. The ACA maps removed the surprise element from touring.

    I have made getting lost while touring into an art form over the years without regret. The benefits of wandering around are considerable in my experience locally and in distant continents where locals helped the <loco norteamericano> find his way.
    My sentiments exactly. I haven't used the ACA maps much at all, but I tended to prefer the areas when we were not on the established trail more. I think that has to do with the density of bike tourists - on the ACA routes, people are more accustomed to seeing fully loaded bikes so we didn't get the interaction with locals like we normally do. It is nice to occasionally pop onto the established trail, though, because the services are great in areas frequented by cycle tourists!

    I find I prefer to NOT know how many hills I have to climb that day. If I start climbing, I convince myself I'm almost tot he top - the blasted ACA maps let me know in no uncertain terms that I was not!
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  15. #15
    Hooked on Touring
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    I've toured tens of thousands of miles with nary a ACA map.
    However, I am a map addict and have been to Betty Ford's twice.

    If you do not like to deal with maps or doing your own research, then ACA maps are a good idea. If you prefer to create your own routes, then you need to have some basic tools. In contrast to some who have posted - AAA maps are not one of those tools. They were only so-so a few years ago, then they went to a digital platform (read cheaper) that is filled with erros and has less detail. For example, the mileage in Yellowstone Park is different on the Wyoming and Montana maps and still different in the inset map.

    What to do? There are some good regional maps of Washington produced by the former Square One Company that are available from AAA outlets in Washington. If you are a member, call the a Washington office and order them - they are:

    San Juan Islands
    Olympic Peninsula
    Northwest Washington
    Mount Rainier
    Okanogan
    Columbia River

    Or you can buy them here -
    http://squareonemaps.com/sq1mapstore.html

    Fortunately, the digital age allows you to look at USGS topographic maps from anywhere in the U.S. and Canada.

    Here is the site where you can print off sections of any USGS map -
    http://store.usgs.gov/b2c_usgs/usgs/...&uiarea=2)/.do

    For Canada -
    http://maps.nrcan.gc.ca/topo_metadata/index_e.php

    For the route you propose, I would encourage you to consider doing it on a mountain bike or hybrid since BC has so many incredible forest roads and the Kettle Valley Trail.

    Enjoy! - J

  16. #16
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    I like the maps because I think they try and choose routes that are as safe and as scenic as possible. If an organization is going to spend hours researching this, I like to take advantage of their efforts. Plus I like running into and meeting a lot of bicycle tourists. However I agree the maps take some surprise and discovery out of the tour.
    Here's an idea: ACA has gps data for their routes. How about leaving the maps at home, but instead load the points on your gps so you always know which way to turn, yet you don't know what's ahead.

  17. #17
    sniffin' glue zoltani's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
    I've toured tens of thousands of miles with nary a ACA map.
    However, I am a map addict and have been to Betty Ford's twice.

    If you do not like to deal with maps or doing your own research, then ACA maps are a good idea. If you prefer to create your own routes, then you need to have some basic tools. In contrast to some who have posted - AAA maps are not one of those tools. They were only so-so a few years ago, then they went to a digital platform (read cheaper) that is filled with erros and has less detail. For example, the mileage in Yellowstone Park is different on the Wyoming and Montana maps and still different in the inset map.

    What to do? There are some good regional maps of Washington produced by the former Square One Company that are available from AAA outlets in Washington. If you are a member, call the a Washington office and order them - they are:

    San Juan Islands
    Olympic Peninsula
    Northwest Washington
    Mount Rainier
    Okanogan
    Columbia River

    Or you can buy them here -
    http://squareonemaps.com/sq1mapstore.html

    Fortunately, the digital age allows you to look at USGS topographic maps from anywhere in the U.S. and Canada.

    Here is the site where you can print off sections of any USGS map -
    http://store.usgs.gov/b2c_usgs/usgs/...&uiarea=2)/.do

    For Canada -
    http://maps.nrcan.gc.ca/topo_metadata/index_e.php

    For the route you propose, I would encourage you to consider doing it on a mountain bike or hybrid since BC has so many incredible forest roads and the Kettle Valley Trail.

    Enjoy! - J
    Hahaha, I'm a map addict too. However, currently I am in the process of trying to move abroad, and plan a tour of the US. Since I didn't want to put too much time into the planning process I went with ACA maps. I think this is their purpose. They are for those that don't want to plan as much, but still have everything laid out for them. If you just want to set out on your way and let the wind take you where it takes you then I would suggest something else. Not sure about other parts of the US, but krebs maps of california are good bike touring maps that show preferred roads for biking, stores, campground, and points of interest, but cover way more area than the ACA maps. Here's the link http://www.krebscycleproducts.com/

  18. #18
    40 yrs bike touring
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    Another vote for Krebs maps.

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