Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Bold Canadian Whizkid Bicyclists

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April 27, 2015

I went for a very short ride today that included US-178 between Pickens, SC and SC-11.  This is the stretch that has lots of sweepers in it.  When I got to the Holly Springs Baptist Church at SC-288, I spotted some of the Canadian bicyclists who practice on the hills of our state while it is still too cold and snowy to practice in Canada.  It was in the 70s here today, but was only 48 degrees in London Ontario where they may be from, for example.   They were unmistakable, wearing their maple leaf-emblazoned outfits.  

I saw some other Canadian bicyclists a few weeks ago on US-276 while on my way to the Blue Ridge Parkway.   

This group had parked in the church lot and they were preparing their bikes for the ride.  So far, so good. 


I also spotted three of them walking across 178 to a grassy place. 



OK.  I admit that I have had to use the facilities and camouflage of nature on occasion when nature calls me when out riding. 

But what I didn't expect to see today was that one of them stopped with his behind even with the edge of the road, and began to take a whiz.  Right there, with cars going by and me turning back toward Pickens.


The other two guys at least went 30 feet off the pavement to a line of bushes.  They didn't go behind the bushes, mind you, but at least they were a little further away from the road to handle their business.

I didn't know Canadian cyclists were so bold.  Maybe the boldest of the three doesn't have much to show for himself.

C'mon, Canada guys.  Have a little respect for us.  Enjoy our roads, but do your thing a little more discreetlyBesides, public urination will get you a citation in South Carolina. 

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Mapping Your Route: A Better Alternative to Google Maps that Works with Your GPS

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Back in 2011, I wrote about a method of mapping a route using Google Maps, then transferring that route into a file that could be loaded into my GPS.   

The advantage of using Google Maps is that you can drag the route anywhere you want -- away from the mundane roads and the quickest way that Google Maps (and most GPSs) initially take you.  Instead, you can pick the roads and routes you want -- often the ones that are curvy and more interesting.
Like this one:


Or this one:


Unfortunately, the method I found back then of converting the Google Maps route to one for the GPS, utilizing a browser bookmark called GMapToGPX, depended on the then-current Google Maps format.  Google has changed that format, so the conversion of the Google route to a GPS route file doesn't work any more.  It is, as they say, "broken."   

I might add that the new Google Maps format is less intuitive, does not serve the function of showing routes and portions of routes in a blog posting, and is slow.  (Lest you think that the "Return to classic Google Maps" selection you can find by clicking the question mark in the lower right hand corner of the screen makes GMapToGPX work again, it doesn't.)  The Google Maps changes are also the reason why some of my blog postings have maps that don't correspond well to the related text any more. 

And, Google Maps still doesn't export a route file directly to a GPS either. 

There had to be another solution.  I looked a little at the Garmin mapping application called Basecamp.  It is not easy to learn and is much less user friendly than the old Google Maps, so I gave it up after a short, frustrating trial. 


I remembered something, though.  I had compiled an extensive list of GPS Goodies that consisted of file conversions, mapping aids, points of interest, and many other things, so I looked there.  I found a great alternative that works almost exactly like Google Maps, and transfers a route into the appropriate .GPX file in your GPS. 

What is this miracle, you ask? 

It is -- Ta Da:

New Harley-Davidson® Ride Planner.
Powered By H.O.G. ®

Now before you turn up your nose because it is associated with Harley, wait to see what it can do. 

Their description of the planner:

Your ride, like your chrome, should never be dull.  If you’ve already used Ride Planner, you can access your saved rides anytime.  New features help you dial in the route to make your next ride your best ride.  Enter a starting point to begin.  Add your own favorite stops or let ride planner throw in some suggestions [like these].

  • Roads – Great riders know great roads. Here’s where we share them.
  • Dealers – Your home away from home. Pick up a t-shirt.
  • Hotels – Book a bed to put your boots under.
  • Events – This is where you go to find the party.
  • Points of Interest (P.O.I.) – Find local attractions, good restaurants, and your next tank of gas.
Read on, please:

They have a very nice help section too, that describes how the routing website works in simple, easy to understand verbiage.  That's ideal for me. 

It can show -- and print -- written maps and directions, and you can add notes to describe the route you worked out.  You can send your route to someone else via. e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter, and you can save that route if you create a H-D profile and log into the site.  You can also make the route private or public. You can even use your smartphone to generate and show the resulting map and route. 

Best of all, you can transfer the route to your GPS either manually or by a direct hookup to your computer.  Even my getting-to-be-ancient Garmin nüvi 765 is supported.  


Lets see how to do it. 

Disclaimer:

All information given here is thought to be correct, however, it is YOUR responsibility to make certain that it works correctly, works with your GPS, works with your computer, and so on and on. 
Routes generated in various ways may cause you to be routed in the wrong direction -- maybe off a cliff.  That, too, is YOUR responsibility. 
Do not fiddle with your GPS while riding. Always stop in a safe place before attempting to manipulate your GPS screen.
There are no warranties on anything here whatsoever, express or implied. 

Most of these instructions are written for the Garmin nüvi 765.  Your GPS may be different. If it is, consult your instruction manual. 

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What you will need:

  • A computer with Internet capabilities
  • A compatible GPS Product (one that accepts custom routes)
  • A USB cable for the GPS

Here is a simple route between two locations (destinations), Easley, SC and Pickens, SC. 


The route above is the one that H-D Ride Planner found, and it is the most direct route between the two cities.

Now, let's modify the route to use a road further east, SC-135, for the first part of the trip.  


Note that there is a little circle on the route where it follows the SC-135 portion.  That is where I dragged the route from the original that had been selected by Ride Planner. 

Next, we'll break for review of a few definitions:

  • Route - Shows how to get from one location to another.  (That is what we are creating in today's post.)
  • Track - A record of where you’ve been. 
  • Waypoint, Placemark, or Point of Interest (POI) - Terms for specific locations that have been marked on your GPS.  H-D also calls some of them "locations." 

Let's go on to the procedure for getting the route into the GPS: 

Plug your Garmin unit into the computer via USB.   Your computer will recognize it as a USB flash drive, and assign a drive letter to it. 

You can export the route two ways, depending on your GPS.

  • If yours is one that is supported by the website, then you press the GPS SYNC button near the upper right of the screen, and select Automatic Mode.  It then detects your GPS -- in my case, the Garmin nüvi 765 -- and prompts you to provide a name for the route.  Then it transfers the route into the X:\Garmin\GPX directory, where X is the drive that your computer assigned to the GPS when it was attached via. USB cable.  Garmin Communicator is required for this transfer. 
    Make the route name short and avoid spaces if possible. 
  • If your GPS is not supported by the website, then after you press the GPS SYNC button, select Manual Mode instead.  Press SAVE AS GPX FILE.  This then prompts you to provide a name for the route, and creates a GPX file that you can save to your computer, then copy to the same directory as above, X:\Garmin\GPX directory. 
    Make the route name short and avoid spaces if possible.  The file that Ride Planner creates will have an odd name such as hd_1429109793918.GPX, but it will again have the name you gave it here when you Import Route from File, as described below. 
    (You will probably find a file called  "current.GPX" and maybe "position.GPX" already in the same folder.  These are the files that show where you have been since that last time you cleared your tracks.  It does no harm to delete them or move them to your computer if you don't mind not being able to see those tracks on the GPS.  A new version of the files will be generated as soon as you begin moving with the GPS turned on.) 

Use your operating system's procedure to safely remove the Garmin [USB] drive.  Disconnect the GPS from the computer. 


To import the route(s), do the following for Garmin nüvi 765 units:
  1. Restart the GPS. 
  2. Go to "Tools, My Data, Import Route from File".  A list of routes will appear.  Amongst them will be the one you created, identified by whatever you named the file.  Select it, and press "Import".  The screen will show "Calculating route", and a percent complete, then "Data imported successfully".  Press "OK". 
  3. Press "Back" a couple of times until you are at the main screen.  Press "Where To?".  Scroll down and press "Custom Routes".  Your new route will show as one of the items in the list.  Press the one you want. 
    The screen will display the distance and travel time.  Press "Go!". 
  4. The GPS will ask you if you want to "Navigate to the start of the route?".  Press "Yes" if you want to do that, but be aware that it will direct you back to the starting point even if you are already beyond it along your route.  If you are already on the route, press "No" and it will start you out from wherever you are on the route.
The route we worked with here has only two locations (destinations), Easley and Pickens.  If the route you created in Ride Planner contains intermediate locations, there will be additional routes to import, with names that are the same as the one you picked, but with a numeral after it.  Say you called the route from Easley to Pickens "Pickens."  If you added another location, then another file would appear called Pickens 2.  You import both of them.  If there are four locations, then there will be three files, the last being Pickens 3, etc. 


To delete routes from your GPS: 
  1. Plug your Garmin unit into your computer via USB.   Your computer will recognize it as a USB flash drive, and assign a drive letter to it.  
  2. Go into the X:\Garmin\GPX directory and delete the files that you no longer need.  They may have odd filenames.  Look at the date(s) they were created to help you determine which ones you don't need any more.  If you are not sure which files to delete, don't delete them.  Some files may have other uses in the GPS' operation. 
  3. Then go to Tools, My Data, Delete Route(s), pick the routes you don't need any more, check them, and then delete them.  
  4. The import procedure will also have created Favorites for the locations your route contained.  If you don't want these any more, go to Tools, My Data, Delete Favorite(s), pick the ones you don't need, check them, and delete them. 

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Anomalies:

If you generated one route where you are intentionally coming back the same way or nearly the same way you came, there could be a problem.  That problem is that once you are using the GPS to guide you along the route, it may become confused about which way to tell you to go if you stop or backtrack to see something along the way that you missed.  The GPS may think that you have already completed the "going out" part of the route all the way to the furthest point, and send you back, skipping some of your two-way route. 

Rectify this by creating two separate routes, one to get there, and one to return.  

However, if you are already following a route that uses the same or nearby roads for both the out and the back routes, and you have the above problem, do this:
  1. Get yourself back onto the route you desire, 
  2. in the direction you want to go, 
  3. stop the current GPS route, 
  4. reselect the route you were on, and
  5. press "Go!"
Do not press "Yes" if the GPS asks if you want to "Navigate to the start of the route?". 

The GPS should now direct you along the route in the desired direction. 

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Well, now you should be able to create a route in H-D Route Planner and transfer it to your GPS.  Pretty slick, don't you think?  Better than the old days of using Google Maps, and trying to get your route into your GPS from there. 

Enjoy your new capabilities, but watch where you are going -- not at the little screen -- when you are riding that scooter of yours: Your GPS can't watch the road for you!

Maybe it is worth considering a Harley the next time you buy a bike -- to help them defray the costs of maintaining their very helpful website!


Other GPS Postings:




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Monday, April 13, 2015

Garmin 765 Loss of Power Fix

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Back in 2011, my wife bought me a GPS to help me find my way around the countryside.  I needed it.  I get lost easily, it seems.  I shopped around and found what I wanted, a Garmin nüvi 765T.  You can read all about it here, and in later postings called out below, under "Previous GPS Postings." 


The device has been fine, mostly, but the power connection has been troublesome.  I was frequently getting this message while en route. 


Fiddling with the power connection in the back sometimes made it recover, but finally, there was no amount of wiggling that would make the power come back on...and the internal battery only runs the unit for 10 or 15 minutes, so that is not an option.  This type of failure has happened twice now. 

Frustrating. 

Others have had this trouble too, and have written about it:
GeekDad66 even tried to fix the problem. 


I decided to do some first-hand investigation on how to remedy this nuisance. 

CAUTION
DO NOT attempt repairs if you are not familiar with safe mechanical or electrical work practices, or if you don't know how to properly solder electrical circuitry.  
I take no responsibility for anything in this posting used by others.  There is a possibility that something described here or misinterpreted from my description could cause the GPS or other electrical systems, including the vehicle in which it is used, to malfunction.   

It turns out that there is a component called the cradle (Garmin Model: 010-10823-07) that attaches to the back of the GPS and contains the 18-position receptacle that, among other things routes 12 volt power to the GPS itself.


It is that receptacle that usually fails.


Here is how I found out.  Lets look inside the cradle.

Remove the single Phillips-head screw.   


The two halves of the cradle still won't come apart because there are four latches inside around its periphery. 

I couldn't force the halves apart with my hands, so I used a small wood chisel applied adjacent to the pushbutton that unlatches the cradle from the main body of the GPS.  It only takes a light bump with the palm of your hand on the chisel to pop open the cradle.  Be very careful not to cut yourself. 


There are two springs inside that will pop out if you are not careful as you open the case.

There are four latches around the inside of the halves of the cradle.  One of them is circled.  One of the springs is visible, too. 



There are two more latches down here.


The inside story:


The 18-position connector:


The body of the receptacle breaks right off the board due to the stresses of the power cable, and not long afterward the tiny wires connecting it fracture too. Mine just fell out when I opened the cradle. 


In most cases, that would mean that the cradle is junk, but a new one costs at least $21, and I am on my third one, counting the original.  This is getting expensive, and I'm a tightwad.

I decided to press onward with a fix.  

The circuit board is marked with the polarity of the 12 volt supply, and there are large enough holes in the board centered in the Positive and Negative pads that can accept wires. 


 The polarity is even marked!


The plug on the power cable I use on the bike (Garmin Model 010-10747-03), and that mates with the 18-position receptacle, has only four active terminals, two for the positive and two for the negative feed from the 12-volt source.  I suppose they use two to make the connections more reliable.  They are what are called bifurcated connections. 



I decided to engineer a two-wire cable connection using 1/8" (3.5mm) miniature phone plugs and jacks (sockets).  The cradle circuit DOES NOT change the input voltage.  It is a simple pass through -- 12 volts in, 12 volts out.   

I went to Radio Shack and bought a mono (2 conductor) audio cable with male plugs on both ends.  Since the cable has two male ends, it is enough to fix two cradles -- just the number I have that need fixing.  This plug will provide the 12-volt source.

Radio Shack
Model: 42-2420
Catalog #: 420242
One cable, two usable plugs

I also bought two in-line jacks, and two more plugs.

Radio Shack
Model: 274-333
Catalog #: 2740333
Radio Shack
Model: 274-287
Catalog #: 2740287



The idea is to cut my Garmin power cable near the plug that mates with the 18-position receptacle, and attach a jack there. 

A plug that I will add to the GPS cradle will mate with it, eliminating the troublesome receptacle.

Since I have a functioning cradle with the receptacle intact, I will also attach a male plug to the end of the power cable I cut off, so it functions as it did originally.  Pictures later. 

First I cut off about five inches of the Radio Shack audio cable, stripped the center conductor, and separated the shield foil and wire, so I can attach it to the circuit board inside the cradle.


Then I prepare a hole just to the right of the receptacle slot for the new cable to exit the cradle. 


It will look like this when assembled. 


The wires in the new cable are attached to the positive and negative holes in the circuit board.  The center conductor is positive, the shield is negative. 


The shield wire, being soldered very close to the circuit board helps prevent the cable from pulling out of the cradle when we are all done.  The undersize hole that was added in the side of the cradle also helps this.  

The positive (+) side is connected to the tip of the phone plug.  The negative (-) to the sleeve.  The ones I used are all mono, two-conductor plugs and jacks, not stereo, three-conductor. 


A thorough description of phone connectors can be found here


I put the parts back inside the cradle, routing the new cable through the new hole.  I glued a small piece of felt over the old receptacle slot to keep the mud daubers and dust out. 

Don't forget the springs.  If you lost one or both of them, you can make new ones from shortened ball-point pen springs.  (I know this from first-hand experience.) 



This is how the cradle looks with the new cable sticking out. 



By the way, the power comes out of the cradle and enters the GPS unit using the following pins in the other connector of the cradle:


More bifurcated connections there. 

Now, to attach the female jack to the cord that I cut the plug off of. 

The opening for the cable in the jack housing is too big for this cable diameter, so I put some layers of heat-shrink tubing over the cable to make it fit snugly in the housing. 


Ready to solder.  Don't forget to put on the heat-shrink tubing and the jack housing onto the cable before soldering!  Correct polarity is red to center (tip), black to sleeve. 


 Soldered connections and heat shrink tubing visible. 


Buttoned up. 




Now, to make the end I cut off the power cable functional again.  It would be used with a cradle where the 18-position receptacle is still intact.




This plugs into the female jack we put on the power cable and converts it to mate with the 18-position receptacle, just like the original power cable worked. 

So here are all the pieces:


The red and the black male plugs mate with the black female jack so you can use the power cable either way -- with the newly-added cable on the cradle or with the plug for a cradle with a functional 18-position receptacle.

Whew.  Did you get all that?  

Rear view of the new cable coming out of the cradle, on bike. 


And a rider's-eye view:


The jack is wiretied to the handlebar clamp. 

This ought to last a lot longer than the troublesome receptacle that came in the cradle.


Notes:
  • If you leave the 18-position receptacle on the board in the cradle, and if it is still functional, DO NOT connect a power cable to the cradle through the 18-position receptacle.  That will make the tip of the added phone plug have a positive 12 volts on it.  If the tip touches something grounded in the vehicle, a fuse will blow, probably in the power cable.  If you need to connect power to the functional 18-position receptacle, then the added phone plug MUST be insulated.  A jack with no cable attached to it could achieve this.   
     
  • The traffic function of the 765T ("T" stands for traffic option), will not work except with the original power cable (Garmin GTM 20) plugged into the functioning 18-position receptacle in the cradle.  That cable has a skinny rectangular receiver in it (at right, below) that mates with other terminals in the cradle. 


    The power cable I use on the bike does not have the traffic receiver, only the power connections. 


Previous GPS Postings:

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Let me know if you find this fix to be useful in solving the power problem on your GPS. 
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