San Francisco-based MAD (Motor Adventure Destination) Maps, Inc.’s Adventure America: Best Road Trips Volume 1 is, as their press release puts it, “a consolidation of the company’s regional maps onto on national map”. We have another description for it as we sit on the cusp of a new riding season plotting and scheming this year’s rides and routes… tour-nography. Better than your run-of-the-mill pornography, this glossy creation fuels road riding dreams by gathering together nine of MAD Maps’ best one and two-week road trips from across the United States.These are long rides, not quite the epic proportion of a Long-Way Round, but certainly longer than your typical weekend out. The point here is that they’ve done the work of piecing together shorter rides into cohesive and interesting adventures that will fill an entire vacation.
The rides, with such diverse names as Wild West Ride, Great Lakes Excursion, New England Independence Run, Texas Round-up, Pacific Challenge, Ozark Odyssey, Four Corners Connection, Smokey Mountains and the Florida Escapes, are lain out across the national map along with Visitor Information Center numbers for major towns along the route, on one side. Each route can then be found in more detailed inset on the reverse of the map. Better yet all this information is printed on beer and coffee resistant paper, tested in the local coffee shop at the cost of a small mocha and quizzical looks from the staff and patrons.
Our previous adventures under the guidance of the MAD Map’s Northern California/Wine Country Scenic Tours edition proved a fabulous experience. These more detailed offerings proved consistently well researched and offered up a variety of routes for the avid motorcyclist. The actual cartography is accurate as are the directions, and finer details important to the motorcycle traveler, gas stops in particular, are a well-marked consideration, especially given the sometimes anemic 100 mile (~160 km) range of snapper Kevin’s bike when laden with excessive travel gear.
The reduction in size of these routes as transferred to the insets of the Adventure America: Best Road Trips Volume 1 means much of this detailed information is lost. Making up for this are the clear, well-written route overviews including detailed town-by-town and highlight-by-highlight descriptions which more than adequately flesh-out the details.
Ultimately it is a combination of their products, Best Road Trips and the more tightly focused regional editions, which will give the best results. The regional maps with their color-coded routes have proven exceptionally easy to follow and distinguish. It’s as if through some witchcraft your highlighter gained sentience and trip planning acumen of it’s own accord, thus taking the grunt work of planning out of your adventure preparations. The MAD Maps work well in conjunction with other motorcycle-centric planning guides, such as the Destination Highways series. They provide an excellent (and standard north orientation) route overview that can be difficult to cobble together from detailed area maps, usually the focus of such guides.
There is also an issue of representation as MAD Maps reveals an area bias in its offerings. The Cascades and Northwest, which feature some truly epic rides, occasionally skirting north of the border, are missing in this coverage and the rest of the Mad Maps range. Though, if living in that area, that is not always a bad thing, because seeing where the rest of America rides helps you overcome your own regional biases. Being north-western based it’s easy to focus only on routes featuring twisties transcribing coastlines and mountains, forgetting the joy of a linear desert rip across Death Valley’s flow in pre-sunrise twilight or the lofty euphoria offered by Colorado’s altitudes. Looking at routes carrying you throughout the Americas changes one’s expectations of what a good ride can be and exposes you to other ideas of what constitutes a great ride, quite literally expanding your horizons.
The minor niggles are not a deterrent to purchasing this well put together product that offers the gateway to plan your own dream riders for the new season. Adventure America: Best Road Trips Volume 1 makes an excellent jumping off point for your own research be it by phone, web, via complementary MAD Maps, or better yet on the road in person. The verdict then is “trick”, as Adventure America: Best Road Trips Volume 1 fuels our late night planning sessions and gives our wanderlust focus.