Working on the Plan

I might use Google Maps a little differently than most when planning a road trip. Sure, I use it to create a map of the trip with the locations marked and the route routed. But see, I love maps. I just like to look at maps for hours. They could be maps of anything really, physical maps, political maps, historical maps, you name it. So, in the old days, I would get out the Randy McNally and pour over it, looking for anything that appeared interesting. I would find all the little red squares that showed attractions and such, but I would also look for interesting geographical areas, places that might be off the beaten track. That’s how I found Seligman, Arizona, the birth place of Route 66. I had just located a long stretch of original Route 66 on the map and decided to check that out. And there we happened upon what was possibly the biggest tourist trap in the U.S. It was very cool.

Seligman, Arizona

Seligman, Arizona, the birthplace of Route 66 and also tourism... with mannequins

Then I got The Cartographic Satellite Atlas of the World back in the nineties that included satellite photos of each region of the United States. I studied this book extensively. I looked at the landforms and learned that Colorado is mostly desert. I already had an inkling about Colorado from when we went through there in 97 and drove around for hours looking for trees, but the book confirmed it.

And then online mapping was born. Now I can spend even more hours looking at not only maps, but satellite photos of everywhere. Zoomed in and everything.

So, for this trip, I was zoomed and slowly scrolling (cuz that’s how I scroll) through the Everglades.

Google Map Satellite Photo of Everglades

Google Map satellite photo showing the road to the campground where no one can hear you scream

And I see this road, labeled as Florida State Road 823, Main Park Road, and Ingraham Highway, that comes out of Homestead and winds down into the swamp. And there is just nothing else around. It’s a road that goes through pure swamp for about forty miles and ends of at a campground out in the middle of nowhere. Sure I could use Google Street View (of which I can never remember the name and just call Google Drive By) and see what it’s like through there, but I want to be surprised.

I know what you’re probably thinking now, who wants to drive forty miles through the swamp and end up in a place where no one can hear you scream, but you can also use the zoom and scroll method to find big stretches of white sand beach or find out if your camping plans are going to put you in a desert instead of in the woods.

Then when you find that beautiful white sand beach, you might wonder, is this even a public beach? You can try Googling the area and try to find out if that cool looking piece of land is accessible, but the quick way is to use It’s great for finding other things, too. So, that’s for next time…..

A New Year, A New Trip Plan

Florida Alligators

Some alligators I found in Florida in 1991

Here it is, the beginning of a new road trip plan! The beginning is the most exciting part, before it devolves into fighting and broken dreams. It starts with a place, any sort of general place. Maybe there’s a place that sounds intriguing like the Outer Banks or maybe it’s a direction like Out West. This year, the word is Florida. Benjamin has never been to Florida, and Terry and I haven’t been there since 1991 on our first road trip. That time, it was all about the alligators. At least for me. I had never seen an alligator and wanted to pet them and love them.

Darla Kay and Baby Alligator

Here I am in 1991 holding a 2 year old alligator in Florida.

I’ve seen many alligators now, and I still love them. Benjamin and I would like to plan some alligators into this trip. But one of the first things that came up, months ago, was the T-Rex Cafe near Orlando. That was Benjamin’s. I want to see what I didn’t see before when we were in Florida, the Keys. I want to go to Key West. I want to see those cats with the toes. All the stuff goes into the plan.

This year, I’m trying something new for the planning: Evernote. We’ll see how it goes. In the past I’ve tried making web pages for the plans with info on the places and links to the sites. I’ve tried blogging it, and I’ve tried the online planners. I’ve used Pinterest. I’ve even tried using an Excel spreadsheet.

Now this part of the planning is just for me to see. It’s the ugly guts of the planning that probably shouldn’t go public. So, the blog didn’t work. The web pages were clunky. The online planners aren’t flexible enough for me.  I really don’t plan my trips like other people do. The spreadsheets got too technical, and Pinterest has been such a disappointment to me. It can’t pin half the pages I try to put on there. Evernote has the web clipper so I can clip the page and then add my own info to the note. I can tag them and sort them.

I’ll still use Google Maps of course. I’ll mark all the places we want to go using My Places. Google Maps is great. You can really see your route when you get done putting in all the places you want to go. And then you can route it and have your mileage and times. And I can also use this as my trip plan to show the world.

In the old days, I used the Rand McNally Road Atlas, and I still use it some. Mostly I have Benjamin looking it over now. It’s still fun, though, to crawl through the state maps, looking for the little red boxes that indicate attractions. And it’s still a good way to find them even with the Internet and all. You definitely want to take a good paper atlas with you on the trip. They’re very handy when the phone service drops out in the middle of nowhere.

I use Google Maps in a different way when I’m planning a trip, too. I’ll talk about that in my next post and also how I use in the planning.