Saturday, March 19, 2011

Navigational prudence.

This post has to do with something that some folks have thought about and some probably haven't. It's about where we set the "home" location on our GPS units.

One of the things I like about the GPS is that I can wander all I want to without any worry about getting home. Not that I would actually get lost, mind you. My internal navigational system is quite functional. The GPS, however, will direct me via the most direct route. By the time I've wandered to my heart's content I'm usually running late and need that advantage!

This past week I've been navigating all over the area south of Seattle following the big truck around. I wrote a while back about the smaller RV that was touring our area. This week the 53 foot custom trailer was available to us. We worked with some distributors to set up product show and training days. Thus I found myself relying on the GPS to get Elvira and I where we needed to go.

This trailer has a huge slide-out on one side which nearly doubles its width.

I'll get back to the GPS thing in a minute but I wanted to share a couple of photos from the week. It was "all hands on board" for our team. Brian and I, being blessed ( or cursed! ) with the gift of dazzling verbal skills led tours through the mobile showroom again this year. Inside the building were a product fair and various educational classes. Anyone from maintenance folks to architects could come away with something of value.

This is an amazing trailer. The viewpoint above is looking to the rear from the front. As you can see, it's dark outside. Our days started before sunup on site. This was after anywhere from a 30 to 60 minute run from my hotel in Kent. It was too dark to read directions stashed in the window of the tank bag. Voice commands coming through the earpiece of my Scala Rider com system worked well.

The previous snapshot shows the side with all our electronic wizardry. This side is the architectural portion. On the right are the displays of designer levers and such. On the left are 8 full sized and operational doors of various configurations. There's another area in front right behind the tractor that has another 4 full size doors.

Taking people through the mobile showroom sounds like easy duty. It's a lot of work, however. Brian would take the group down one side and I would take over at the nose of the trailer, bringing the group down the side with the doors. As soon as I took over another group started at the back. We averaged 11 tours a day, pretty much non-stop except for a break at lunchtime. A full tour took 40 minutes from entry to exit. We did this for four days plus set up and tear down.

It was also great fun, though. By the end of the stretch my voice sounded deep and raspy. Kind of like James Earl Jones as the voice of Darth Vader. "Luke, I am your father!"

Back to the GPS. As you see, I had plenty of reason for having the GPS on Elvira.

One morning I allowed way too much time for travel. My internal alarm goes off at 4 AM and this particular morning I was restless to get going. So I saddled up Elvira. Tacoma traffic can be good or bad, even in the wee hours of the morning. Traffic is surprisingly heavy early in the morning but we sailed on down Valley Freeway 167, merged onto WA18, and hit Interstate 5 southbound.

I've named my Garmin Zumo 550 Emily. I know I frustrated her a little bit. She told me to take a particular freeway exit. I, however, knew there was a coffee shop two exits down. My plan was to pass time there since I was so early. It would be Emily's job to re-direct me from there. I know she's just a machine that runs circuits but I'm positive I heard of bit of exasperation and annoyance as she said, "recalculating!". I'm even pretty sure she said "idiot" under her breath. As punishment for her snippy attitude I left her out in the rain.

Anyway, I usually sit where I can see the bike. In this case the layout precluded that. It wasn't in my plan to stand in the parking lot so I put my helmet on a table and my jacket over the back of a chair. I then sat and pondered the world while enjoying my coffee.

Emerging from the coffee shop into the still dark parking lot I observed ( most regular people would say they "saw" something, but us cop types have to say "observe" ) a fellow messing with the GPS unit on the bike.

You can see the temptation as the unit just sits out there on the handlebar. The mount has this retention lever that slips down and is secured with a set screw that has a sort of security head. So the guy couldn't just do a grab and run thing. Which is why he was still standing there when I emerged from the coffee shop.

I quickly caused the fellow to have a change of plans. The plan changed to rabbiting down the street as fast as he could go. In this case it was no harm, no foul. I don't leave the GPS on the bike if I'm going to be inside somewhere for a long time. This was one of those instances where I figured it would be okay as the coffee stop would only be about twenty minutes or so. I don't know if this guy prowled the local lots or was simply taking advantage of what he saw as opportunity.

This brings up the point of the post. Since most of you insist on there being a point rather than just reading as I ramble, I've put one in here.

GPS units have the ability to mark waypoints for regular reference. One such point is where the "home" location is. Most people sit in their driveway and push the button. The good news is that the GPS will then lead us right to our driveways. However, if someone were to steal the GPS unit, it would also tell them where it was and how to get there.

Considering that the thief knows we weren't at home when they stole the unit, that could be a bad thing.

My own GPS has been led to believe that my home is a chain coffee shop about four miles from where I actually live. See, I'm pretty sure I'm smart enough to figure out how to get home from there. It's kind of like Mapquest. Why don't they start at about step 5 as I know how to get out of my own neighborhood?

The thief will surely be disappointed but at least they can console themselves with a double mocha latte or something!

Just something to think about, for what it's worth.

Miles and smiles,



Anonymous said...

Regarding "Emily's" annoyance at having to re-route you, I thought the sarcastic tone I detected in my GPS's female voice was just my imagination until my wife mentioned it. We ended up switching to a male voice - apparently "he" is less judgemental! :-)


RichardM said...

That Is a pretty cool trailer to take around to your customers. Do you have access to it year around or is it only in the area periodically?

I've thought about that very thing about "Home" and the GPS and set mine for a nearby intersection. Around home, there is very little use for the unit as the town is pretty small and there are only three roads leaving town. One heading north to thebArctic Ocean, one south to Anchorage and one headed east to Canada.

I've never noticed a "tone" to the GPS voice nor does it have a name...


Charlie6 said...

Irondad, damn good point to make about the GPS "Home" feature! Thanks.

Presently debating a GPS for an upcoming trip to Montana in July...have now added a "require code to turn it on" feature to the one I pick. If not available, will definitely not "home it" in my driveway.


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

bazalkryn said...

So why do you ride your motorcycle in the rain?

irondad said...


Thanks for offering the comment. On top of being female, Emily's voice is British. I can see her looking down her circuit board at me.

I'll probably be in trouble for writing this but here goes.

Maybe it's what we as married men have come to culturally expect from women accompanying us on a trip. We hear disapproval where there really isn't any because we've become conditioned to it.

Judging by your comment, even women seem to have been conditioned!

Take care,


irondad said...


The truck is making the rounds of North America, which includes parts of Canada.

It started in California. We had it last week. Monday it will be in Boise, Idaho and Thursday it will be in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Which is why we crammed as much activity as we could during the short time we had it available.

You may not need the GPS at home but the way you travel?

Take care,


irondad said...


Glad you found the point useful. Requiring a code is a good idea. As long as you remember the code, of course!

Take care,


irondad said...


Where I live if you don't ride in the rain your riding season will be very short. I've seen ads for bikes that say they were never ridden in the rain. Pretty sure bet that they are low mileage bikes!

Take care,


david said...

I thought real bikers could find their way anywhere in the world just by sniffing the air ?
peace ;-)

irondad said...


I can still do that. It's just a lot harder in town because I'm riding slowly.

It works much better out on the open road. You have to be able to ride fast enough to turbocharge your nostrils!

Take care,


Allen Madding said...

Very good tip there concerning setting home on a GPS. One of the things I instantly appreciated when I began using the GPS on my DROID phone, it doesn't do the recalculating thing when I miss an intersection. It just instantly gives me the next route without the attitude :)


Mike said...

Good point about the home location on the GPS - thank you.

Recently I heard about how smartphones put the GPS location on photos they take and when those are uploaded to the Web the locations are revealed. Maintaining personal privacy is more complicated these days. :)

irondad said...


Thanks for the tip. I've had a droid for a bit but haven't used the navigational part. Have to check it out.

Take care,


irondad said...


Law enforcement has become aware of the geo-tagging thing, too. Officers are being warned about the photos they post on network sites and such for that very reason. Cops don't want bad guys easily finding out where they live, you know.

Like you say, it's all becoming very complicated.

Take care,


Nikos said...

Please to hear that you still choose to submit to British domination but Charles would have been posher.

My home location is set to the end of the street and its not actually my street. Confuses me, confuses burglers.

Best wishes from N,
19 Queens Avenue,
Blogsford, Nuttyshire, UK.

Will be on vacation 22nd March for 10 weeks and the cat is harmless.

bluekat said...

I haven't made the leap to GPS yet, but my coworker has one and he has mentioned the recalculating "tone" as well. GPS with an attitude!

Good idea on the home point though, but I don't think you programed it that way. You're probably at said coffee shop so often Emily just thinks of it as home!

...makes up false address...yes indeed, very dodgy! ;)

Jack Riepe said...

Dear IronDad:

The home address on my GPS is the East Goshen police department. As soon as I read the line "I left it out in the rain," I knew you were using a Gatmin Zumo. I do covet these.

I am using a Garmin 660 that is about 4 or 5 years old. I bought if for Leslie the year it came out, for about a grand. Within 18 onths, she acquited a new car that had a unit built into the dash. So I was regifted the Garmin back.

It went right onto the bike. It was then I discovered, through a number of aggravating calls to Garmin, that the BlueTooth chip in this unit would not connect with my helmet. This had me crazy. Also, this unit was discontinued within 2 years of its introduction. That had me nuts too.

But the voice of the female route interpreter, at max volume, is fully audible over the noise of the engine up to 70 mph. But if I have a better year in 2011, I intend to get a Garmin Zumo like yours.

With regards to a note you left on my blog, I'm amazed you know what a "MILF" is. But you used the expression so well in a sentence, I thought, "There's a deeper, darker side to this rider."

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

BeemerGirl said...

Great point. But I would like to point out that you will also need to delete your "tracks".

If the unit in use allows tracks to be shown, they will lead a thief right back to your home, no matter what you have programmed for "home". Of course, they had to have gotten away with the unit and actually know how to use it.

Krysta in MKE said...

Elvira & Emily, huh?
Katie's gonna start getting jealous.

And those of us who know you from long readership know that there's nothing false about you setting "home" at a coffee shop.

irondad said...


P.S. Would you please water the plants before you leave? :)


Did you suddenly turn English? I though they were the only ones that used terms like "dodgy" but you've used it on at least two blogs!

By the way, giving false information to thieves is ok, just not to the police.

Take care,


irondad said...


I know your "home" address is the police department. I'm sure that with a little more effort you will be soon released from community service.

Yes, I have a Garmin Zumo 550.

As to the Dark Side, you are right. Nobody knows the Dark Side like a Jedi Knight. I'm married to a Lady and they like outlaws. You may be surprised. It's possible I could corrupt even you!

Take care,


irondad said...


You are exactly right about the "tracks". My understanding is that you need to download software and hook the unit to a computer to obtain them. I figure it's too much work for a thief. Who knows, though?

Take care,


irondad said...


Excellent point. Thanks! I did get employee of the month and I don't even work there. Odd.

Take care,


Krysta in MKE said...

"giving false information to thieves is ok, just not to the police"

But what if what the police are doing is illegal & you don't want to help them commit crimes against you, or you know that by lying they'll stop ransacking your house? (I know, not really riding-related.)

Bucky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bucky said...

Good advice on the "home" setting. Never set that position at your real home.

Further, setting a security code on startup helps reduce the value of a stolen GPS because it cannot be used without the code.

The tracks that many GPS units keep can, indeed be traced to all of the places you have been. The file is viewable in Google Earth, so almost anyone with some computer sense can look at it if you don't delete it. You can move the file to your PC if you wish to preserve the track.

I just received a GPS for Christmas (as written up in my blog), but can't afford the motorcycle-specific Zumo -- like some people we know.

This website offers many tips, tricks and pointers on Garmin Nuvi GPS use:

My GPS has Bluetooth capability and an earphone jack, but I have yet to find a set of helmet speakers that are loud enough to hear while wearing earplugs...and that are within my budget. I have tried combination earplugs/earphones, but they are not very good at noise exclusion, and they are a pain to reinsert every time you doff and don your helmet.

Any ideas?

Brown said...

Charlie6, Glad you found the point useful. Requiring a code is a good idea. As long as you remember the code, of course! Take care, Dan