Sendero Group Travel Blog

Follow Sendero travelers on their adventures using accessible GPS.

Monday, August 31, 2015

 

Using Explore Mode to Plan Multiple Stops



I was on Orcas Island in the Washington San Juan Islands this past week and had a number of interesting GPS experiences. We got there via a Seaplane, also called a Float Plane from Seattle. There was no issue using a cell phone and BrailleNote GPS on this 50 minute flight. It was fascinating to know what we were flying over, to see the speed and the altitude. Sometimes, these planes stay 100 feet off the deck. I should post the Replay file I created. This is what others may know of as a bread crumb track.

On an island without a lot of points of interest, it sure was useful to be able to record points and to use points I previously recorded. There are some cool hikes for example and the key points on one of those hikes were marked.

It was extremely useful to have the exact location of our inn marked so we could go on walks and find our way back.

I was trying to figure out on a future trip how to visit Victoria British Columbia and Sequim Washington. I could see from using Explore mode that Victoria was only 27 miles South West and Sequim 37 miles South. Most ferries route you through Anacortes so unfortunately, it is not as simple as going straight to those places unless you are in a boat or seaplane. So close but yet so far. I am going to see if we can charter a sailboat to take us to these places.

I have mentioned before that there is an Island near Orcas called Blind Island. I would try to at least set foot there just for the heck of it. Apparently, there are no inhabitants there.

Orcas was just a reminder of a place where having the BrailleNote was more helpful than the cell phone since there was little to no coverage.

Next stop for Gena and me is Ireland, September 4-12. We have been learning about the trip virtually, starting in Westport and ending up in Achill, walking 40 miles. More about that  next week.

Mike

Friday, August 21, 2015

 

On the road again with multiple GPS



I have just spent 3 days in Louisville at the Blinded Veterans conference and am now in Nashville for a little musical exploration. I took the Megabus between the two cities, which was interesting. It was fun seeing all the little towns and POIs popping up on my BrailleNote GPS.

At the conference, I was heartened to be visited by 3 avid BrailleNote GPS users. So many folks have shifted from the more productive Braille notetaker platform to the iPhone for its convenience.

Of course, in the process of planning this trip, I used Sendero Maps to figure out the relative locations of the places I was staying, restaurants and meetings. I went to an Irish pub in Louisville and as Irish luck would have it, my Uber driver was Irish. Seems funny when I was expecting a Kentucky accent.

I tend to use the Seeing Eye GPS more for short routes and less when exploration or co-piloting is required. Each tool has its strengths.

I tell you, I could live in Nashville because of so much high quality music.

Mike

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

 

Travel Stories from Mike May



In looking back at the evolution of GPS since we began working on it in 1994, the technology has certainly evolved from a 12 pound backpack to a 6 ounce iPhone. What remains the same is the need for and the importance of accessible GPS as an alternative way of navigating and knowing what is around you.

I am going to post stories from the past once a month to illustrate the significance of accessible GPS in traveling independently, no matter which device you use. I have always said, “Any GPS device is better than no GPS device.”

Here is the first story from 2003 when I would have been using the first version of the BrailleNote Classic, probably with Sendero GPS version 3.5 or so.

Streets of Barcelona
June 19, 2003

I have been to Barcelona a half dozen times before and was looking forward to exploring the city with GPS maps on the BrailleNote for the first time. I wasn’t even sure the maps would work until I got outside the airport and sure enough, there we were on the map, at the Barcelona Airport. How about that?

As we rode from the Barcelona airport to the Gran Hotel Catalunya, my son was most impressed with the copious motorcycles. Once I went for my first walk, I “saw” what he was talking about. The motor scooters were lined up like bicycles on the sidewalks and nudged their way through the thick pedestrian traffic. I suppose with the high cost of petrol in Spain, motorcycles are an efficient way to get around.
A lot easier to find a parking place too.

We spent a good part of our first day, exploring the city via a double-decker tour bus, open on the top. I had street names and some points of interest in my BrailleNote database and the tour guide filled in the blanks with an audio description including history of famous places. Sure is a lot of antiquity in this city. My boy’s insisted on going to the zoo with the world’s only known albino gorilla. I wondered if he was visually impaired.

My favorite way to see a city is walking, eating and walking more. We quickly adjusted to the Spanish dining schedule finishing dessert at an outdoor café in the middle of Las Ramblas, at midnight, seriously past my kid’s bedtime back home. There was so much activity; it was hard to think it was late with the temperature still in the ‘80s, very conducive to evening strolling.

Besides the scooters on the sidewalks, Barcelona has some other big-city mobility challenges. Most of the streets in this section of town are not at 90 degrees to each other. It is easy to think you are heading in one direction only to learn after a while that you have significantly curved. Many of the streets are very wide with inconsistent types of islands and placement of cross walks. Pedestrians cross streets whenever they want and aren’t to be trusted as a means of knowing when the light is green (verde). In short, it is pretty chaotic on the streets of Barcelona and getting around independently as a blind person is not for the faint of heart.

  I met up with a local blind guy (Pep Llop, mayor of La Palma) who has a dog guide from York Town Heights. His method of street crossing is to increase his speed three-fold. He says, “Once you are committed, best to get to the other side quickly.”

I was intrigued to see how well the automatic route calculation would work with the latest Beta version of the GPS software. I left my family mid way down Las Ramblas and set our hotel as my destination by typing in its address, 142 Carrer De Balmes, Barcelona. The route consisted of 4 significant turns over the course of 30 waypoints. I had never walked, or driven for that matter, this route before. Off I went, following the BrailleNote directions like, “Waypoint 15, Provenca and Ramblas, left 129 meters.”

Because of the offset street crossings, I made a couple wrong turns but was quickly informed by the GPS that my target waypoint was “behind and to the left.” After a couple of these missed turns and absolutely no sighted assistance, I heard the comforting announcement on the BrailleNote GPS, “Arrived at destination.” I was 10 meters from the front door of the hotel. It is nice to be 49 years old and still feeling like a kid, “I did it myself”, not to mention saving a few Euros on a taxi ride and the frustration of bad directions from well-meaning sighted pedestrians.

A footnote: As I approached the hotel, I picked my way through some street construction. I saw a florescent green object in my path and tapped it with my cane. It wasn’t hard like a sign so I tapped it a bit harder as I still couldn’t figure out visually what it was. I was startled as a burst of Spanish profanity came from the workman bent over digging out a hole in the sidewalk. He didn’t take too kindly to me poking him in the behind with my cane. A little bit of vision can be dangerous sometimes.

Monday, August 03, 2015

 

fun using all my navigation tools



I just came back from a weekend north of Seattle. I saw a user POI called George B’s home. George, I was close by.

We really liked the seaport town of Edmonds. We had some friends bring us there from Lynnwood. I was in charge of navigating. The pressure of being responsible for the correct turns in time to alert the driver is always a little nerve racking, especially with people I don’t know well.

Also when poking around the area and checking out some of the nearby San Juan islands, I found one called, Blind Island. Someone told me years ago why it was called that. I think it had to do with a duck blind but not certain. I don’t think there is much there but would like to set foot on it at least.
 
I used my combination of tools on this trip: Sendero Maps to research from my hotel room; the BrailleNote GPS to help in navigating our friends; The Seeing Eye GPS to trigger nearby points of interest in Edmonds and Uber to get us to and fro. Did I mention my Seeing Eye dog?

Mike

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