For obvious reasons I want to avoid being a target on high speed highways. I can zoom in with the satellite view and find alternate local roads where they exist, but when zoomed in that close it's very time consuming to cover a route of more than a hundred miles.
So far I've tried two programs. I tested both of them locally where I know the roads. Mapquest is totally unacceptable. With Avoid Highways checked it ignored perfectly good local roads and put me on long stretches of US 166, a major highway heavily traveled by big trucks and other traffic doing the 65mph speed limit and more. Google Maps Bicycle setting was somewhat better, using some local roads but also ignoring others and putting me on US 166, albeit less than Mapquest.
That brings me to the question. Is there a program that will really keep me off high speed roads without my having to pore over satellite views a few miles at a time?
Before all the GPS black magic, you could find a massive compendium of maps in truck stops that would show secondary roads down to cow trails. I doubt if they're still published, but a late version could still be useful if you double check with Google earth to make sure unpaved routes are still open.
I hope there are good answers for your question Steve, I'm very interested too.
How old are the satellite images? There use to be some back roads around here where I could go to the mall and only have to cross a major thoroughfare at a traffic light. Then the city cut a canal (drainage ditch) due to flooding concerns and most of those streets do not go all the way through now but they still show up on the satellite maps as going through!
Like most of us, I like to use the old roads too. I'm not very computer savy, so I just use my tried and true logic. Most of the time it works, but many times it hasn't, only to wind up at a dead end, and having to turn back. On such roads, it would be nice if the county would put dead end along side of the road to prevent this from happening.
I don't think there is an easy way. Maybe by using a combination of online apps and individual state atlas' and local maps, you may find a route off the busy highways.
If you are a member of AAA you might ask for paper maps. You can open up a map and see the entire route on one page. The roads are color coded for type of road. Then try to plan ahead where you are going to go and if it is a club tour you are planning, drive it in a modern car and detail the distance you go on each road, where and which direction of turn at the intersections. If you are good at it, your instructions can be easily be followed even by those who have no speedometers. The reason for driving the route first, of course, is to be sure the roads are still open for use.
Contacting bicycle clubs might provide some useful insights.
Steve: I use the Delorme atlases. They are very detailed and show all of the back roads. You can use them to find a possible route then check out the questionable stretches with the satellite view. At about $20 per state they may be a little pricey for Mr. Thrifty, but they were very helpful for my trip from Nebraska to California a few years ago. They are available at book stores or online.
Texas has a lot of Web Sites for just this very thing. I Googled Kansas just now, and found a bunch. When I was working and traveling, I stayed on the back roads as much as possible, loved every mile of it, and you can see stuff you wouldn't believe.
I just drive
Back in the Old Days you just followed your gut instinct
I found the Delorme atlas for Kansas unsatisfactory. Yes, it shows all the back roads. But it doesn't identify them. When I'm on a road and see a sign that says Road F, I look in the atlas and see several roads that could be Road F, but there's no way to tell which one it is.
Google Maps has a similar defect. The designation they show for a particular road is often completely different from what's on the local road signs.
G.R. - I wonder about the satellite images too. Occasionally I'll look at my neighborhood to see if I can identify any changes, l did so last night, it seems these local images were posted about last June, judging from the high water. Elsewhere ? No idea.
The best source is a good state road map; next best print source is an atlas such as the ones truckers use. A third option is to use Mapquest, but don't ask it for directions. Instead, just look up the location where you're heading to. Once it show on the screen, keep moving outward with the zoom, and then click and drag in any or all of the four compass directions. It will show all the roads and you can choose your own route.
I should add that there are good and bad maps online. The KDOT maps of Kansas Counties are wonderful. They remind me of the the old Automobile Club of Southern California maps. I've never seen any better. (Sometime in the seventies ACSC lowered their standards to conform with the AAA format.) Some other states also have good maps online. But some states fall far short of that. I was surprised, not in a good way, when I saw the online maps for Colorado. I expected much better from a high tourism state.
Oversize trucking requires detailed maps, used to be available at truck stops. maybe still are. Dave in Bellingham, WA
I have used AAA Map n Go software with good success. You load it on your computer and no need to connect to internet - just read it like a map. Quite inexpensive too - when I bought it only cost $30 (10 plus years ago.
Maybe this will help you.
Whatever you do, do not trust your GPS!! I have another car friend who lives even more remotely than me, 5 miles of lousy dirt roads to his place (I don't know how he gets in and out!) and my GPS says, "Make a Left Turn now--and shows a road where there is only a pasture, and a fence. Here in town it shows a street going through, but there's a house there and a ravine that you'd never get across without a bridge. Maybe the city planned one at one time, but it ain't there yet (and I've lived here 38 years now!).
When I was still driving my '50 Studebaker as a daily driver in the 80's & 90's, we used a 1951 rand McNally atlas as our road map when we went on vacation. Sometimes we would run into a lake that wasn't on the map or suburbs around the bigger towns that would be a surprise to us.
Like Mike, I prefer old maps and route books. They're best used in conjunction with something like Google Maps to confirm that the route still exists. Lots of secondary roads are frozen in time whenever they were bypassed by the interstate--usually the '50s or '60s. Some '20s routes still exist largely unchanged and were themselves bypassed in the '40s or '50s.
Gravelmap highlights a route that is partly back roads and partly 65 mph two-lane highway. Nothing's perfect. What I've been doing is a combination of KDOT maps and the method RV describes. I was hoping for something faster to plot long trips, but so far I haven't seen anything better.
A few samples of the same local area:
Mapquest is best at showing the local designations actually used. It says nothing about road surfaces or much else.
KDOT is great for roads and details, but you'd better have the whole map because the road designations are in the margins.
Google's white-on-pastel is the worst.
Google satellite is a little better, but also falls short on identifying roads.
Here is what you need.
If you use your phone for navigating, Waze is a pretty good app. You can customize your route to avoid heavy traffic, freeways, tolls and dirt roads. Traffic info is updated in real time. It uses Google maps for its road info.
I use Google maps with "avoid highways" option, as you have tried Steve. But, I then modify the route, taking me off the busy roads. It really doesn't take me too long, even for longer drives. I also do "street view" to check for pavement versus dirt, (I prefer dirt, but others do not), and to see if it looks like a scenic road.
Pick up hitchikers.
They always know the out-of-the-way scenic trails where nobody ever drives, and nobody will find your remains until next hunting season........
Or get an atlas for the state you are going to be crossing that has a separate map for each county. Those show highways, secondary roads, seasonal roads, truck trails, fire roads, abandoned RR grades and two-tracks.
I suggest trying to buy a hard copy book with maps of all the counties in the state. I have one for Indiana and you can use it to get there. One problem is it does not tell you how good, or bad, the road is.
This is what you want, a Delorme atlas of your state. We use the Maine one to set up our annual Mainely T Tours and strongly suggest everyone on tour have one in case they are lost.
Dean Yoder said it best, "I just follow those little black roads on the paper maps".
Mark, you missed my note about Delorme. See 11:52 AM above.
I struggle with the same problem.
I have a gazateer of the state. I copy the pages of the map of the area I want to travel, then high light my route with a marker. A little easier than holding the whole book. It works but I am always lookin for a better way. My eye site is not as good as it once was and I sometimes have a hard time keeping track of where I am on the map.
My wife tries to help by reading the map but that often ends up in an argument.
The. There are the U.S. Geological Survey maps . . .
Then there are the U.S. Geological Survey maps . . .
I've bought Topographical maps of northern Michigan for years, it wouldn't be easy for a cross country trip though. USGS topo maps, I think one covers about 7 1/2 miles wide maybe 15 miles N and S. The ones I have show right down to trails. Just an idea...JD
My wife uses 2 maps. A Delorme of the state you are traveling in, and JMAPCO. She continually finds nice dirt roads using these two resources, keeping us off busy roads.
Steve, just for fun I opened a site I use for route planning called Map My Fitness. It's designed for runners and cyclists (at 81, I'm no longer either). I clicked on Create a Route and put in Parkerfield, KS. The first thing I saw looked like what you posted from Google. But when I zoomed in, it showed every dirt road by name. If you track a route that looks interesting to you, it will give you mileage to 0.01 miles. Of course, who knows how or whether the road will be named at the intersection at which you finally encounter it.
I just spent several hours with this program creating a Sunday route for this year's Hershey Hangover out of Denver, PA. After I have the Monday and Tuesday routes, I'll go out in my modern car and correct the instructions so they look like what a driver will see. Then I'll give my "corrected" instructions to a different pair of eyes so s/he can find the silly mistakes I didn't catch.
Like Steve, I've been disappointed with the Delorme Atlas for Idaho. Navigating by road names is a problem in this valley, roads I've known by name all my life now carry a baseline/range designation if they're posted at all (e.g. "5600 north").
I recall Gil referring to that "map your fitness" site before - now I'm going to make a point of looking into it. Thanks, Gil !
Here is one of the Atlas' I was referring to.
They do not have an Atlas for Kansas, but they do have individual maps of all the States west of the Missouri.
Here is a digital Kansas Map.
I wish there was a lightly travelled bridge or ferry across the Mississippi river near me. There are some neat roads over in Illinois that I would like to drive on, but the traffic on all of the bridges is way too heavy for my comfort level.
Stop by your Local Harley Dealer, they carry travel books that are very compact and easy to read with maps and photos of the countryside. These are spiral bound travel books that are very detailed. The one I have is for Washington State.
It shows road grade tightness of corners, road surface, scenery, everything you would ever want to know for touring. Also included are gas stops and the distance between, bars and restaurants.
I have planned several tours with this book and it makes the job quite easy. Mine was actually written by "The Boz" a retired NFL player turned movie star and Harley guy.
I never thought I'd see the day when getting a hold of ordinary street maps would be so darned difficult. -I try to look at the problem philosophically and consider it part of the challenge of operating an low-powered brass car. -I buy street maps at Barnes & Noble when they're available (and most often, they're not). -Mapquest and the other aids are also marginally helpful and most often, I find myself driving the plotted course in my modern car to ascertain whether the hills are within Model T high-gear capability. -Most maps available to motorists don't carry topographical information.
Take a look at https://viewer.nationalmap.gov/basic/?basemap=b1&category=histtopo,ustopo&title=Map%20View#startUp
The USGS topo maps and historical topo maps are available for free download.
This is a detail from the 1937 historical topo for Detroit and the area around the Piquette Plant.
I grew up on the old ACSC maps. They were wonderful. I think this one is from around 1940. I sure wish we had maps like them today.
As Gabe Heatter used to say, there's good news tonight! I've been looking at state DOT websites and finding that many of them have county road maps downloadable in PDF. So far I've checked Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana. The first four have maps ranging from good to excellent. I didn't find any on the Indiana site. I don't know yet whether that's because they're not there, or if they're just hidden by poor website design.
This looks like a good solution to the navigation problem. I'll download each state's county maps. A road atlas will show me the counties ahead, and I'll open the map for each one as I come to it.
Here's part of Portage county, Wisconsin.
It shows all the roads so you can stay off the high speed highways, identifies them with the correct designations, and identifies the type of road surface. The actual map is much easier to read than this screen shot.
Walmart, Rand McNally road atlas, comes out each year and my co-pilot tells me where to go when we are going from Flagstaff, AZ to Rhinelander, WI and other parts of the country. I have a 1951 road atlas from a Pontiac dealer my father got when we traveled to California in '51 and it is still a valued atlas because the roads are still there. I love the back roads and don't get lost because my wife makes me ask "where are we" when needed. We don't need a "good" road as we will be in a Model T this summer in Northern Wisconsin.
Leave it to the Guys here to be looking for maps....
Here's the Walmart Rand McNally version of approximately the same area shown in the Portage County map I posted above.
Note the profound lack of detail. A map of a whole state simply can't show all the roads. I use the atlas when traveling on main highways in a modern vehicle. With a Model T on local roads I'll go with the county maps wherever they're available.