Tell Me Where to Go

28 Oct

With online maps and GPS in our phones, it’s gotten a lot easier to record where we plan to go and where we’ve gone walking, running, or cycling. As a side effect of recording, we can also share our routes with others. Information on others’ routes can be surprisingly valuable, when you go to a new place, start a new activity, or just need some variety. I’ve found the MapMyWalk/Run/Ride family of sites to be very helpful for that. If you enter an address or city, it pulls up nearby routes that other people have mapped.

I’ve had several great experiences using the sites for discovery this year.

Early this summer, I gave a keynote talk at a conference in Girona, Spain, and then had a few days off before another conference in nearby Barcelona (talk not related to health informatics, but if you want to hear me singing Twinkle, Twinkle with words related to filter bubbles, check it out.) I had Googled biking in Girona and found that there was a promising rail-to-trail trip that I could make in two days, so I brought along my Bike Friday folding bicycle, nicely packed in a suitcase. On my first day off, I biked the Olot –> Girona portion: it turned out to be nice, especially lunch in the main square in Sant Feliu de Pallerois. But the trail was often in poor condition, which was tough riding with the small wheels on my folding bike, and other parts were not very scenic, paralleling busy roads. As an alternative to continuing on the “greenway” for a second day, I got very helpful advice from a bike rental and tours shop, suggesting some back roads near town that were low traffic and more scenic than the rail trail.

But I also went online to MapMyRide.com, and found that some people had mapped out other road routes around Girona. I like the challenge of long hills, and the vistas they bring, when I ride, and I found that there were several training routes that serious bikers had put in. Most were too long or difficult for me, but I found one that I was able to use part of,  in combination with part of the route suggested at the bike store. It ended up being an amazing ride, with lunch outside at a lovely roadside restaurant with amazing views, and I never would have put together that route without the help of other people who had mapped and shared their routes. Check out my route information if you’re ever in Girona, and try clicking on the 3D button to see an auto-generated flyover using Google Earth.

Later in the summer, we were temporarily living outside Ann Arbor, between the towns of Chelsea and Pinckney. The site was helpful again in planning good bike routes, though some of the routes did tell me to go to Hell (that’s the town of Hell, of course, home of the Damn Site Inn).

When visiting my parents’ country house in central Pennsylvania in August, where I have taken bike rides for many years, the site helped me explore options that I hadn’t thought to try, or hadn’t dared to try.

And now that we’ve moved back to a newly renovated house in Ann Arbor, and I’ve taken up running again, I just checked for runs near here and have found a bunch that might add a little variety for me.

So, thanks to all you anonymous people out there who have helped me this summer by sharing your riding and running routes with me! (Except for the ones who told me to go to Hell.)

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