Perhaps it’s a little bit crazy, but I’ve been drawing maps.
At the root of it is the same sort of thing that generally happens when I get involved with something: it turns techie. Not always in a bad way. This time I stuck my own foot in it, so to speak.
Mostly, I think she just meant that I should go over to the running maps website, the one that pulls Google Map data and allows you to plot a distance-measured route layer atop it and share it around. Which is fine. And for most people, it would have been good enough to just do that, save some routes and share the links around.
But then I got it into my head that I wanted a better way to organize it, and to be far less dependent on one single application platform that might suddenly stop working or put up a pay-wall or something.
Oh, and it wouldn’t it be fun to make a little document management project out of it? I do that sort of thing, you know… mostly just to keep my skills sharp.
And, oh look… now I’ve already plotted out a dozen or so of our regular routes and saved them as screenshots in a blog-like, mobile-template-ready format that we can use from our mobile phones while we’re running.
Drawing maps is not actually that tough, it turns out. I’ve got fairly proficient at using vector tools like Inkscape (that being my favourite, the Swiss-army-knife of open source vector programs.) Maps are really just lots of curvy lines and a bit of text mashed together to look nice. It’s putting the lines in the right place that’s the tricky part: Pulling a few bits of reference material from the existing screenshots and adjusting, supplementing, and amending it (from a runner’s perspective) for my own purposes, I managed to create a fairly elaborate master map of about a hundred square kilometres (which sounds like a lot, but really isn’t all that big) of the neighbourhood and trails surrounding where we run out of. It highlights major roads (those with run-able side-walks), the asphalt trail systems accessible from our start point, and some of the un-groomed trail systems we’ve been known to take in on our more adventurous runs. It also leaves out those minor roads that we don’t run on because they either (a) lead no where or (b) are not run-able.
…the crazy is beginning to pay off…
I’ve been using this master-map, growing it, adjusting it, and improving it from my own knowledge of the area where we run, then using that to highlight routes, tag them with navigable details, and then cataloguing them by distance and features in a little WordPress-based website I’ve been building. (No link for you yet, but soon…) There is still lots of work, but the crazy is beginning to pay off as the website I’ve been picking away at for about a month now is nearly ready for launch. Nearly.
(More on that… in Part 2)