Is Your GPS Tracking You?

The Value of a Trip Log 

I was recently studying and getting acquainted with many of the awesome capabilities of the new Garmin GPS I received for Christmas. In my reading I discovered a previously unknown feature of the newer Garmin GPS units. I was alarmed to learn my new GPS was already keeping a “second by second” log of everywhere I travel. At first I didn’t like the idea and felt it was a bit too intrusive into my personal life. Next I wondered if my new GPS had logged a few of my embarrassing side trips such as getting lost trying to find one of the metro train stations to retrieve a relative for the holidays.

My GPS didn’t let me down. I soon discovered the GPS “Trip Log” and displayed it on Google Earth. There was my travel route detailing the exact circle we had taken when we got lost trying to find the station. More embarrassment awaited. I zoomed down on the route in Google Earth which clearly outlined, in great detail, the complicated and elongated route I took trying to find my way out of the train station parking lot! My wife now has indisputable proof to justify and merit her backseat driving recommendations!

Start Making Travel Journeys

The embarrassment gradually disappeared and rational thought soon returned. I started to get a little excited about this new GPS “snooping” capability. I intend to start creating photo collections called “Journeys.” My purpose is to log and document interesting discoveries we happen onto when traveling. Later we can share these locations with our children so they can discover and visit these same undocumented treasures. I want to enrich my family history journeys with information, narrative, photos, GPS coordinates, and maps.

I hope my journey collections will entice my children and grandchildren to take mini travel safaris to specific geographic locations of their ancestors. Such journeys will present tangible evidence and historical narrative in a geographic context. I’m including one of the many journeys of my grandfather to demonstrate how traveling to a location helps us experience and become a part of his history.

My grandpa T. E. Olsen homesteaded a “dry farm” in the arid and dusty hills east of Idaho Falls, Idaho. Grandpa was a grand fisherman and took every opportunity to “wet his fishin’ line” whenever a stream was near. In the summer grandpa would escape the heat with a short two mile hike to fish down in Willow Creek. Grandpa was convinced you could avoid heart disease by going to stream to soak your feet in its medicinal waters. I’m assuming grandpa was also holding a fishing pole as he soaked his feet to achieve the greatest medical benefit.

A few years ago my 80 year old cousin, my wife and oldest son retraced grandpa’s journey from the dry farm to Willow Creek. What a treat! You have to go there to experience the cooling temperature and take in the smell of willow trees outlining the pristine little stream. The creek still has crystal clear water and probably looks the same as it did 100 years ago when grandpa fished there. Someday I hope to travel back there again with my two sons and grandchildren to fish and recreate the magic of this secret ancestral place. Yes, I have recorded the GPS coordinates to make such a journey both easy and possible. (GPS of Willow Creek photo: 43 27.1890 N 111 48.0930 W).

Making a GPS Map

Back to reality. You will be able to create a map of your journeys to be included with photos and printed information in a journey collection. Here’s how to access the trip log your Garmin is already faithfully keeping and to display the journey(log) in Google Earth.

  1. Plug the USB cable into your Garmin and computer.
  2. Go to “My Computer.” You should see an icon for your Garmin GPS.
  3. Double click on the Garmin icon. You will see several folders.
  4. Open the GPS folder.
  5. Start Google Earth and zoom down.
  6. Drag the “Currrent.gpx” file onto Google Earth.
  7. A GPS Data Import box will appear. Click OK.
  8. A blue line will appear on Google Earth that represents where you have traveled.
  9. Zoom down to see more detail unless you have recently been lost in a parking lot.

Teenagers – Take care! Your dad’s Garmin is watching everywhere you go in his car!

My next blog will show you how to geotag photos using the coordinates automatically saved by your Garmin using a freeware program you can downland.


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