Archive for the ‘Road Signs’ Category


Posted: January 22, 2015 in Road Signs
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Maps, maps and more maps.

Maps, maps and more maps.

We had, carried, shopped for and bought maps, maps and more maps. If you’re under 30 you might not know about maps, they’re a little like slide film, they are, and were, something that defined our lives. We planned our lives and our adventures using them. We gleaned the information in guide books (in the days before internet) while hanging out at bookstores and guesthouses but didn’t carry them as they were heavy and put everyone on the same path.  But maps we cherished, saved, wrote on and replaced. In Europe we helped support the stock holders of Michelin maps as we not only bought their country maps, but also the detailed local maps that sometimes only lasted us a day but would help us find the most amazing and quietest of roads – white roads as we called them.

In countries that Michelin did not map we would spend hours and days searching for the perfect  map.  In Thailand and China we often bicycled with 3 maps designed by different companies and in different languages, an English language map for us and at least one written in the countries language just and another one just in case. In case of what you might be wondering?  Usually just in case we happened upon a local who had map reading skills (still looking) and could help put us on the right path, track or road.

We did learn that in the absence of a reliable map and/or road signs the next best thing to do was to make cards in the countries language/script/characters of the town we were heading to. Every night we cycled in a country that did not use western script we would get out the maps and plan the next day. And then over a beer or two Curt would painstakingly copy the name of the town we were heading toward using characters or script onto a piece of paper that I would cover in transparent packing tape so it wouldn’t get destroyed if it rained, got ripped or handled by coal covered hands. We also carried flash cards for hotel check in that asked if we could see the room, if there was hot water, if the bike could go in the room, and how much.
I’m sure we missed some amazing sights by not having guidebooks but I’m equally sure we saw things not many outsiders have seen. We also went places we probably shouldn’t have because a map can only show a person so much.

One year we chose a route that on the map showed that followed a river through a sparsely populated region.  We had learned that following rivers generally made for a nice bike route with reasonable grades so we chose this option.  It turned out to be China’s most polluted coal mining region; the river had disappeared and what might have once been a beautiful valley had been terra-formed by acid rain. Another season we road with friends through what we called the Plains of Nelles as we were using a Nelles Map that showed the topography as a section of plains with little or no hills but which turned out to be a never ending series of half day climbs followed by descents followed by another three hour climb. Often we would turn on roads that looked like major highways on the map but ended up being gravel roads through a forest.

Thanks to maps we have been lost, found, had to carry our bike over rope bridges and landslides, ridden expressways, goat paths, crossed borders but we always managed to arrive somewhere.