by Chris Guld, GeeksOnTour.com
We have used many GPS devices. Google Maps on our smartphones is our go-to navigator, but it doesn’t know about RVs! If you have a big rig, it is especially important to use a device that is RV-aware. There should be a setting to enter your RV’s height, weight, and propane. We have used Rand McNally RV GPS, Garmin Trucker’s/RV GPS, and the Co-Pilot RV GPS app on our iPad. Every time we encounter an issue with driving an RV on this country’s highways, we like to check out the various devices to see what they tell us to do. We would often have two or three of them talking to us in different voices at each turn. We love it when they all agree. When they don’t, I tell Jim to follow the female voice on his right … mine!
The northeast has more low bridges and other RV-unfriendly roads than other parts of the country. For example, traveling north from New York City in the Hudson Valley, every one of our units routed us on the Sprain Brook and Taconic Parkways. As soon as we took the on-ramp, we saw a big sign saying Passenger Vehicles Only. Since we were driving a 37-foot-long, and 13-foot-high motorhome, we got off at the next exit.
This is where having a small, handheld GPS is very useful. I can hold my smartphone in my hand and easily manipulate the screen to see what we should do. We had to follow city streets in the Bronx, until we finally got back on a highway … 9A, only to see a heart-stopping sign:
Jim’s pounding heart didn’t stop his quick thinking and he moved into the left lane, where the clearance was much higher in the middle of the stone arch. I held my breath until we were on the other side.
Next came Massachusetts and when we called an RV park to inquire about a site for the night, we were told to take a specific route. She said to go past the designated exit to the next one, then get off and take a local road for a few miles back up to the park. After safely parking for the night, we investigated the reason for the detour and discovered an 11-foot clearance bridge (42.668005°, -72.547709°). None of our GPS devices knew about this – they all routed us on the road where we would have been caught by that low clearance.
Make sure to keep your GPS maps up to date; some of the issues above would be fixed with an update. I love our GPS devices and wouldn’t travel without one, but we have learned some important lessons over our years of RV travels with GPS devices.
- Consult a paper map periodically, just to see if what your GPS is telling you makes sense.
- Review your day’s route in the GPS before you turn the key and start driving, especially the beginning – from the campground to the highway.
- Learn how to see the entire day’s route in your GPS before following it. I’ve heard of people traveling 6 hours out of their way before they realized that the GPS was taking them to a different ‘Greenfield’ than their intended destination.
- Always call your destination and verify your directions, or read the directions from the RV Park’s website or directory listing. The local park owners or staff know better than the GPS devices! It’s that last mile that is the most problematic.
- Any time you find a routing issue that is not correctly identified in your GPS unit, communicate that problem to the manufacturer. Garmin gives you a web form to report a map error. Google Navigation has an option at the end of your route to specify ‘”Destination Not Here.” Google Maps also has a procedure to tell them you got bad directions. Rand McNally units have a button to “Tell Rand.” Co-Pilot gives these instructions for reporting an error. The more we all communicate with the manufacturers and map makers, the better the information will become.
What lessons have you learned in traveling with a GPS? Leave a comment below.