How do you walk from the west coast to New Hampshire? One step at a time.
How do you plan a walk from the west coast to New Hampshire? One segment at a time. It may seem cliché, but in planning the route for this Walk For Liberty, that’s really what we’re having to do — tweak every little segment along the way. But more on that later.
The first visitors to this site have probably noticed that our map now reflects a different route than what was up originally. We had planned to start from the southwest (either San Diego or Los Angeles) on our journey up to New Hampshire. One of the main reasons was because that’s the shortest path to go from coast to coast.
But we ultimately decided against that for several reasons. When I attended the New Hampshire Liberty Forum in January, several people noted our route and dissuaded me from that path due to the heat and the desert. But there were other reasons too. My wife Brooke’s brother and sister live in Washington. We’re planning on buying an RV to use as a support vehicle, so if we start from near there, we’ll have a place to stay while we buy it and get it ready. There’s also the additional factor that the northwest is likely more scenic. At this point then, we’re planning on starting on the Oregon coast, west of Portland.
Stops Along the Way
There are several places along the way we’re planning on passing through.
- Yellowstone — This will add just over 100 miles to our trip, but it’s certainly a noteworthy location. It’s not a huge deal to me (although maybe I’ll think otherwise once I’m there) but my walking companions really want to go through it. Personally, I really want to go through Montana, so we’ve compromised on doing that as well. With going through Montana as well as Yellowstone it will add another 25 miles.
- Mt. Rushmore — I don’t particularly care for what this represents, but it would be interesting to see nonetheless.
- Indiana — My brother John and I grew up in central Indiana, so we’d like to go through there. I’m sure at least our hometown paper will give us good press.
- Washington, DC — This also adds a bit to our trip, but it’s a major market and we could get good coverage there.
- New York City — I met someone at the Liberty Forum who said he could get us media coverage there. Between that and the fact that it’s the largest market in the country, passing through it seems like a no-brainer. In addition, Brooke and I have each lived there at points in our past, and it would be fun to walk through Manhattan.
- Boston — Brooke and I first lived together there, so we definitely want to walk through it. We could also walk on the Freedom Trail on our way through the city.
- New Hampshire — of course this is the destination of our trip. I have a dream though, of having dozens of people join us for the last leg of the walk in New Hampshire.
If we will be passing near where you live, drop me a line. A man from Omaha has already contacted me, noting that we might be passing near there, and offered to help us with media contacts.
Using Mapping Software to Find the Best Route
There seem to be 4 main online mapping programs: MapQuest, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google. Each has some good things about it, although some are clearly better than others.
My ideal mapping software (for walking, at least) would have the ability to 1) find the shortest route, 2) avoid highways, 3) easily add stops along the route, and 4) have a draggable map.
- MapQuest — The granddaddy of them all. The good thing is it does have a choice for “shortest route”. It also claims to have the ability to avoid highways. However, when you choose that option for a long journey, it says it won’t avoid highways for routes over 250 miles, and that it was “necessary” to use highways to compete the route. Funny, Google Maps has no problem allowing you to avoid highways for routes of any length… With Mapquest’s “Add a Stop” feature, it does have the ability to add stops, albeit clunkily. When using that feature, however, you lose the ability to be able to drag the map! One interesting thing about the Add a Stop feature — although you are not allowed to avoid highways, you are given the option to avoid any particular leg of the journey. So with patience, you could essentially avoid highways by choosing not to use each interstate or other large highway you want to avoid. A problem comes about if you happen to make a mistake and accidentally click to avoid a route you didn’t want to. You can then restore the avoided routes, but you have to restore all of them and just the one you made a mistake on. Nevertheless, this is potentially a feature worth looking into as a way of getting the shortest route without highways.
- Microsoft (maps.live.com) — This seems to be tied with Yahoo for being the worst. It has the ability to do shortest route, but that’s about it. It will not allow you to avoid highways or to add stops along the route.
- Yahoo — With Yahoo, you can add stops on the journey by dragging the route itself (something it added in response to Google — isn’t competition great!?). Its implementation of it isn’t as nice as Google’s, however. It doesn’t have the ability to do shortest route or to avoid highways.
- Google — This one is my favorite to work with. It does have an “avoid highways” feature. It also has a nifty way to tweak your route by dragging anywhere in the middle of it, which will then interactively show you what the new route will look like, as well as what the updated distance will be. Google also has a cool zooming feature. If you use a mouse with a scroll wheel, you can use the wheel to intelligently zoom in or out. Google will zoom in or out on the specific area where your mouse pointer is located. This is an amazingly handy feature. It prevents you from having to use the on-screen zoom button as well as continually dragging the map to center it on where you’re zooming in to. I used a notebook the other day without a scroll wheel mouse, and was annoyed that I had to both zoom and drag the map. It’s interesting how technology can spoil you. The only thing that Google is lacking is the ability to have it calculate the shortest route directly.
Although all of them (except Microsoft) allow you to type in a new destination, they all just add it to the end of your route. If you wanted to type the address of a new stop for the middle of your route, you must first add it as the new destination, and then move it up to the place in your route where it should go. This is definitely an area in which they need improvement.
As I mentioned, Google is my favorite to work with. However, it’s almost too fun. The enjoyment of being able to drag the route to add additional stops blinded me to other ways that might be better to use. With the dragging feature, I was running into a frustrating bug which seemed to come about when I had too many dragged stops. When I tried to add another one, it wouldn’t commit the change. It was only when I started writing this post that I discovered there might be a better way.
(as a side note: that’s one interesting thing about blogging (at least for me) — because I’m writing for an audience, and not just for me, it causes me to want to get all the facts straight. When it’s just me I apparently sometimes miss some of the possibilities.)
Anyway, I found there was a better way than just dragging the route to create all the stops on my route. The better way, I found, was to click the “Add destination” link and type in all my planned stops. Once I have all my expected stops, only then start dragging the route to tweak it and try to make it shorter.
Another thing I (re)discovered in the course of writing this post was MapQuest’s “avoid this path” feature (as I spoke of earlier). Although it might be tedious, it’s something to look into as a possibility of building the shortest route, given all the points we want to hit.
An additional possibility I’ve discovered today after doing a Google search is Ask.com’s maps. They claim to have a “Walking directions” feature, but I couldn’t get it to work. I’m only speculating, but the reason might be that my route is too long for it to handle.
Another option is a GPS system. We had been planning to get one to use along the way anyway. I was thinking today that it might be good to get it earlier rather than later, and start playing with it to see what kinds of features it has to find the shortest route.
I’ve realized while preparing this post, that the task of finding the best route is a lot more enormous than I thought it was. If we want the shortest possible route given our stops along the way, we might end up having to hand-customize it. I don’t see how people walking across the country before the days of the internet did it; they must not have come close to an optimal route. I suppose this task doesn’t have to be done now though; we could always tailor it along the way.
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