Our GPS Units

Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) units have been around for many years, now, and many RVers "won't leave home without one." As the years have gone by, the GPS units have gotten smarter and smarter, and pack more and more features into smaller and smaller packages.

Many RVers have a GPS unit that connects to their laptop computer to provide navigation and directions as they travel down the road—with maps showing the general area in which they are traveling.

More recently, several companies have marketed small hand-held GPS units that have almost all of the features of the larger (and more expensive) units.

We were holdouts, and thought that we wouldn't really use a GPS unit while we were traveling, since we always are well stocked with maps and brochures of the areas where we are planning on traveling.

Our minds started to change, however, when we went out to dinner (late in the evening) with one of Linda's cousins and her husband. Their car had a built-in GPS unit, and Mike asked how the unit worked. After the unit was turned on and working, the first good use of a GPS (at night) became very clear. Even though we were out in the boonies of southern Arizona with no moonlight, it was easy to see the GPS screen and know exactly which street we were about to cross (whereas the street signs were completely unreadable in the dark).

Another RV friend commented that he liked his GPS unit because it showed him (before he got there) the twists and turns of an unfamiliar road, as well as showing him where the nearest gas stations were located.

Then, after seeing a small hand-held GPS unit that Linda's younger son and wife had purchased, we found that we had more and more of an urge to get one for ourselves. We decided to "share" a Tom-Tom One hand-held GPS unit with each other for a Valentine's Day present.

Our Tom-Tom GPS.

picture of Tom-Tom GPS unit

Since we have obtained our Tom-Tom GPS unit, we have found yet another use for it that we hadn't thought of before we bought it. We discovered that the Tom-Tom was programmed with most of the businesses in a particular area, especially restaurants and gas stations —as well as hospitals. Most of the time, we no longer have to search for that more and more rare commodity (a local telephone book).

We have used our GPS unit more and more to find a Subway restaurant as we travel down the road, and we find comfort in knowing that, if something happens to either one of us while we are on the road, our GPS unit is capable of directing us to the nearest hosptial.

We very much prefer the portable GPS unit, since we use it far more often in our toad as we are traveling around in unfamiliar cities and towns. It has its own power cord for a 12-volt lighter socket, and it also charges while it is plugged into our laptop via a USB port (although we have not used it that way, except to download the latest maps and data).

But alas, after several good years of guiding us around the USA on our travels of the backroads, age and senility seemed to be affecting our Tom-Tom GPS more and more ...

Our Garmin Nuvi 1350 GPS.

picture of Garmin Nuvi 1350T GPS unit

We were making an around-the United states trip of a lifetime in 2010, when we decided that our old GPS unit was just too tired and senile to continue to serve us reliably. It seemed to be constantly getting confused and routing our travels in weird ways that did not seem correct to us—and we were becoming frustrated with our Tom-Tom GPS.

We were traveling through Louisiana at the time and were visiting RV friends who we had first met in Quartzsite, Arizona, a few years before. We were lamenting the fact that our old GPS unit was giving us fits. As we were being shown around the Lake Charles area, we were impressed with the Garmin GPS unit that Mark Didelot was using to guide us around.

Being the very talented computer savy person that he is, Mark was soon showing us all of the different things that the Garmin Nuvi 1350 could do—as well as showing us the very nifty add-ins that he had downloaded from the Internet.

Needless to say, seeing a first-person demo of the Garmin convinced us that it was the "new" GPS unit that we needed to have.

We visited a local Sam's Club and found the Garmin Nuvi 1350T at a good price, so we dragged out our credit card and purchased it.

Our good friend went right to work and downloaded onto our new Garmin GPS unit the latest maps and the many extra goodies that he had found—and then gave us a tutorial on how to use many of the features. Yes, we were very much impressed!

One of the things that opened our eyes to the possibilities with a new GPS, was being told about a web site on the Internet where we could download all sorts of different "locations" onto our GPS— from different types of restaurants, to roadside attractions, rest stops, fuel stops, and a whole host of other interesting places to visit. We were shown how to select the different POIs (points of interest) for our GPS, and then how to download them from the POI Factory and get them functioning on our new Garmin GPS. Wow! What a bunch of fun stuff.

There are three aspects of the Garmin Nuvi that we especially appreciate, being RVers traveling in unfamiliar areas.

We are thoroughly enjoying the many features and the RV-friendly functions of our Garmin GPS.

We have no idea of how long our Garmin GPS might last before it, too, develops an inability to accurately guide us to our next destination. (Yes, sometimes it needs a kick in the pants by reattaching it to our computer and letting it get a dose of medicine from the Garmin web site—but, so far, those instances have been very few.)

GPS units are much like computers—they get smarter and smarter, smaller and smaller, and less expensive than previous ones. Our waiting to get our own GPS unit was both a plus and a minus. We realize, now, just how much we like having one, but we also realize that a small hand-held unit with all of the current built-in capabilities was not available even a few years ago. Just like deciding whether to wait for a newer, better computer or just splurge and get one now, getting a GPS unit is similar—at some point you need to just take the plunge (since waiting for something newer, faster, or smaller is going to be a way of life).

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