Garmin 2610 GPS

At this point, December 2005, we have upgraded the navigation system to a dedicated unit by Garmin. It was about $599 at Amazon and may be superceded by Garmin 2720 for a few dollars more.

It may be discountinued by the time you read this, but the website will steer you to the latest and greatest values in GPS's.

I really like this unit since it takes a Compact Flash Card, and with a 2 GB card you can load the entire US onto the unit. No more worries about the hard drive crashing while going over bumpy roads.

It also speaks to you, warning you of impending turns just like the Delorme Street Atlas program did.

It will probably require an external antennae for optimum operation if mounted on the dash, so I got a simple one with a 15' cord from an E-Bay vendor for about $29. It works great.

Laptop based Mapping Program with GPS

With a GPS based computerized navigation system LOLO is fearless about directing me and the Lazy Daze to many a small out of the way destination be it back roads state park, or unsigned campground. We can plan routes and alternatives at any point in time and see what the impact in time and mileage would be. It is an amazing thing to know with pinpoint accuracy just exactly where you are anywhere in North America, and know where all points of interest including gas stations, supermarkets, state parks, public campgrounds, and any address you would like is.

This system is far less expensive than many of the integrated navigation systems - and you get a fully functioning Laptop and Standalone GPS for hiking or boating as well. It is no longer requires black magic to make it work, and should be one of the first upgrades for anyone who travels "off the beaten path"

Microsoft Streets and Trips

After trying a few programs, Microsoft Streets and Trips 2005 is the mapping software that we have finally standardized on. It's usually discounted, and is an incredible value at Amazon for about $25 shipped. Be advised though, that ALL mapping programs are strictly following their internal algorithms for route planning, which is usually to minimize the time spent traveling. We view all PC calculated routes as merely suggestions, and try to supplement them with local knowledge, and a large dose of common sense. Failure to do so in our early days has resulted in travel on some unpaved back roads that should never be repeated.

Microsoft Streets and Trips includes Canada, a complete Woodall's campground directory, and a very intuitive user interface that will also plan your route around highway construction and if you have an internet connection to update its database of current construction. You can enter your speed preferences for different types of roads, gas tank capacity, mpg, gas cost per gallon, requested rest break times, and it will compute your customized cost estimates, and scheduled gas and pee breaks.

We originally used the Delorme Street Atlas program which would talk to the driver directly, warning him of impending turns in a semi-robotic voice - and also provide a near continuous ETA, or estimated time of arrival to the next destination. However, it does not cover Canada, doesn't have a complete Woodall's campground directory built in, and has a somewhat counter intuitive interface, especially in the later versions.

If mountains and elevation gains are of significant importance, the Delorme Topo USA program will let you plan routes and also show you the elevation profile of your entire route. It also will help plan hikes and bike rides, but it requires a little more PC horsepower to run, and costs about $$85. Still very cool if you need the functionality, but the interface remains somewhat confusing.

Panasonic Laptop PC

Our laptop is an old 90 MHz Panasonic with 32 Megs of Ram and an updated 21 GB hard drive so you can load all the maps onto the drive, and forget about swapping CD's on the bouncing roads.

Garmin GPS 45

For GPS positioning information, I'm using what at this point is probably an antique Garmin GPS 45. It is mounted in my overhead console, so I can access it to silence the beeping of "lost satellites", when we go; in a tunnel, or gas up. A data connection to the serial port of the laptop, power to a 12v cigarette lighter socket, and cable to an external GPS antenna mounted under the "emergency vent opening" of the over cab bed completes the set-up. An external antennae connection is important if you want to have access to the unit while driving.