Saturday, June 16, 2018

Road Trip Planning

I've used a lot of different tools for RV trip planning including MS Streets and Trips which is no longer available and some on-line resources like Good Sam's trip planner, but I keep coming back to my default AAA paper maps for the big picture, Google Maps for calculating miles, and a trusty spreadsheet to keep track of daily details.

I started out using the same tools for geocache trip planning, but quickly realized it was unwieldy.

I was introduced to the Geocaching Swiss Army Knife application (Windows only) a couple years ago, and it has become a key tool for me. It has a relatively steep learning curve, but has huge benefits, including a large and growing macro library that add specific functionality as needed.

The Google_Map_V3.gsk macro is very helpful. It takes all of the caches in the current database and places them (temporarily) onto Google maps. (Click on any picture to get a larger version.)

Here's an example of a zoomed in section of the caches in my "Found" database. There's a cluster of caches around Boulder City and another cluster of earth caches around Valley of Fire State Park. The map is also displaying the outline of each of the Arizona DeLorme Gazetteer pages.

I'll often create a database of "maybe" caches in an area, view them on the map, and then pick out caches that have easy access for the RV for further consideration.

A couple other key GASK macros work with the Garmin Nuvi that we use when we're traveling.
The Nuvi_GPX_v2.Gsk macro puts all the caches in the selected database on the Nuvi as Points of Interest with appropriate icons to indicate the type of cache. In this picture, there are three traditional caches, one nearly hidden under the helicopter that represents our rig.

In the upper left, the Nuvi is indicating that Route Point 3 (I haven't found a way to change "Route Point" terminology) is on the left, 11 miles further. The waypoints are created using the CacheRoute3.gsk macro.

All of that helps with trip planning and navigating to the area, but it wasn't doing anything for my desire for a printed list of caches. If I'm out for the day, I carry a small notebook to note anything special about the various caches, but that doesn't provide enough structure when I'm doing a road trip that could involve dozens to hundreds of potential caches.

Enter Cachetur! I heard about Cachetur on a Facebook group associated with Project-GC (another very helpful online tool.) Cachetur is a free, user supported, online trip planning tool for geocaching that originates in Norway.

I've been using Cachetur for a bit over a month now, and have planned several trips with it. I'm impressed enough that I decided to donate some support for the project, but I'm by no means an expert! It clearly expects to be able to replace the functionality of the CacheRoute3.gsk macro but seems to have some of the same limitations - the underlying Google Maps routing function chokes if you try to sent too extensive a list and they sometime come up with 'interesting' routes so I still sequence my caches by hand before creating the route.

What I LOVE about Cachetur is the incredible trip plan printouts that are created. The listing can be printed out in a number of different formats. The 'detailed - left aligned - default' style includes all sorts of info including the find history, the size, how often the cache is found, what county it is in, and the distance (both as the crow flies and road distance) to the next cache in the list.

I used this style for my southern Arizona, New Mexico loop and appreciated everything but the number of pages it took!

For my California/Nevada/Utah trip, I used the Simple List with Icons & Coordinates style because it also included the county names and I was still trying to complete a handful of neighboring counties. This more compact version worked well for me and had enough room for notes (I was going to use a copy of the actual list from the trip but it apparently got tossed after I logged the caches) BUT I found I really missed not having the info about the distance to the next cache.

The Simple List with Attributes format didn't give the cache size or difficulty info, but does include the distance to the next cache.

The report summary seems to be the same for all of the various report styles. This is the one from my Arizona / New Mexico loop, printed after I finished the trip and logged the caches. The summary includes total driving distance, estimated driving time, and estimated time including stops for the various caches. These are estimates and vary from my reality, but in most cases they've been acceptably close. For example, on this trip I elected to ignore some of the 'extra' caches, made one stop for a fast food meal, and ended up taking about 90 minutes more than they estimated - much of which was due to the search for a multi in Pinal county that took much longer than they estimated.

So far, I haven't found a way to build a custom report style but I'm still looking. Meanwhile, Cachetur has become an important tool in the arsenal for geocache oriented road trips, and I'll keep learning about its capabilities.

2 comments:

  1. The first paragraph is Hubby TOTALLY! I like the AAA info just in case we actually have time to be tourists and not just geocaching. I will have to share the info about Cachetur as it sounds right up his alley! Thanks for the informative post. Happy travels!

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    1. I've been having lots of fun with Cachetur. Love the printouts as an easy way to keep notes for logging.

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