Filed under: Gadget Reviews, Preparation & Readiness, Safety on the Road, Technology & Camping, Traveling Tips, Uncategorized
Is a GPS Designed for RV’s Finally Available? (plus a “little” GPS history lesson)
I was only eleven years old on October 4, 1957, when the Russians launched Sputnik, the first satellite man had ever put into space.
I remember well the specter and awe that I, and my fellow six-grade classmates, felt as we watched the news reels of this new machine orbiting the earth and how the Russians had “beat us to it.”
Little did I know at the time just how much that crisp October day would change not only my life but also the lives of people all over the world.
Fifty-four years later the sky is cluttered with approximately 3,000 functioning man-made satellites operating in earth’s orbit. This is out of more than 24,500 total satellites that have been tracked since Sputnik was launched. (….this also means 21,500 must have fallen back to earth )
We – like in “you and I”, not just the military, use the majority of these satellites every day – often unknowingly. TV, radio, telephone communications, weather reporting, mapping, and finding out where we are going and where we have been are perhaps the most prominent types of personal usage.
The days of the ESSO road maps we could collect for free at our nearby service station, ordering “Trip Tick” routing maps from our auto club, or simply asking for directions at the corner drug store have all but faded from our everyday travel routines.
In their place, we now have these ubiquitous little devices incorporated into our “smart phones”, vehicle dashboards, watches and, of course, the ever-omnipresent portable boxes that attach by suction cups to our vehicle windshields.
For those that might not know (of which I doubt that there are many) GPS stands for Global Positioning System. GPS is a satellite-based navigation system used daily by millions (perhaps billions?) of people throughout the world.
The first GPS satellite was launched by our military in 1978. The system was completed in 1995. There are at least 30 satellites sitting about 12,000 miles above us – each weighing about as much as a Ford Focus. By the use of radio signals and atomic clocks, not to mention a lot of smoke and mirrors, a seemingly simple and readily available terrestrial GPS receiver can tell us where we are with an accuracy of only a few feet by “locking in” on signals from at least four of the available satellites.
But just knowing where we are (longitude and latitude) isn’t enough to tell us where we want to go. Our device has to have a map.
While there are currently numerous digital map providers, including our US government, NAVTEQ has taken the lead in providing mapping data for the majority of our portable navigation devices.
Our roads, constantly changed by construction, speed limit adjustments, bridge weight limit modifications, and what vendor is available at which Interstate exit, keep mapping companies that provide GPS data extremely busy providing updated software. Unfortunately, with the billions of different roads, names and intersections encountered in our country alone, mistakes with GPS routing do happen.
My affair with GPS devices started about a decade ago with the purchase of a Garmin e-Trex hand held device we frequently used when hiking and boating. It did not tell me how to get to a point, only how to get back. But, this feature alone was a lifesaving addition to navigation – especially when out in our boat.
It was around 2005 when I bought my first in-car GPS that actually showed me routing. About all I can say is that it worked – some of the time. I was often sent down non-existent roads and to my location in rather roundabout manners. But, hey, the voice was sweet and never aggravated or angry.
Knowing that this device was not satisfactory for RV navigation, I bought Microsoft Streets and Trips along with a GPS antenna dongle that plugged into my laptop computer’s USB port. Much to my pleasure, the dongle also worked with my Trailer Life Campground Directory CD. But, alas, a laptop was too large for day-to-day in car navigation and operation was difficult.
Over the next few years, I bought and retired a series of GPS units from Mio, Tom-Tom, Sony and Garmin. Each now resides on a shelf in my basement closet next to my collection of VHS and cassette tape recorder/players, analog TV sets and bag cell phones. Maybe one day they will make my great-grandchildren rich when sold as collectables.
A little over a year ago I purchased a “trucker software based” Garmin Nuvi for RV navigation. It has proved to be a superior improvement over the car based navigation devices, but somehow it still wants to send me up one-lane dirt roads, across bridges rated for less than my rig’s weight, and under tunnels and overpasses with a 12’ height limitation. With amazing accuracy, it does inform me of every truck weight station, truck stop, and red light camera along my route. Alas, not features for which I have a great deal of concern.
What I really wanted was a GPS that would allow me to enter my rig’s weight, length, height and exactly what type of roads I wanted to travel.
This week I finally received my long awaited Rand-McNally 7710. In case you did not get that, the 77 indicates a full 7” high-resolution display – when it is stuck to our windshield It is like watching the 50” plasma 1080i TV in our living room at home.
I have just begun to learn how this new RV specific GPS device works. So far, I can tell you it has some amazing features that every RV’er will want – especially those with bigger rigs.
Our next long RV trip is just a week away. I will be able to see how this thing really performs side-by-side with my existing Garmin Nuvi and I am going to write about it all right here. By all, I mean both the good, bad and ugly that may be found in this new, large display RV navigation unit.
Stay tuned – there is a lot more to come on the Rand McNally TripMaker RVND 7710 and how it works with a 33,000 pound, 62 foot long, 13’3” tall RV as it navigates through the southeastern United States.