About how to cycle, tour, navigate, blog with a Blackberry

I thought I would write a little bit about how to blog and cycle and tour, so its for cyclists, and human beings may want to look away.

I’ve been cycling with enthusiasm for about 10 years now, but this is the first time that I have cycled successive days to get distance, and the how to blog and navigate worried me. I am using a Blackberry Bold 9900 for both, and it seems to work well, at least from what I can tell through this 2.5 inch screen.

Navigation is a big issue as I want to avoid trunk routes and I didn’t want 1kg of printed Google maps. Instead, I have used the app “Maps”, which I think comes pre installed in BB. Its actually great as it loads a simple map over a weak phone signal in a few seconds and it has done this on every square mile I have travelled. Goodbye Google. I carry a crude paper map of the country so I can see my approximate destination and progress. From this I choose a route from nowhere to nowhere which passes through nowhere, but in the right general direction. Set Maps to find the shortest route in options, and it will give you a route no one else in the country wants, and I mean drivers, you get me? This was particularly successful skirting East of York in a northerly direction: everyone else is going to and from York but you are dissecting their routes. Result: peace and quiet.

Its worth, for a moment considering the history of the landscape and how it was built, and it was built this is not raw nature, you just think it is, as that’s the way you’ve always seen it. However, it was around the Elizabethan era that England cut its trees down to build ships. What did they do with cleared landscape? They built cycling routes: twisty, turny lanes from village to village between farmland. As the population grew they built more villages and each village is 2 miles apart. They are this special distance because the men who tended the fields and the ladies who milked the cows and made the cheese would walk to their own fields each day, and about one mile is enough. So there we have it: England, and the plains of Scotland are covered in a network of cycling lanes between villages, every two miles and in the villages you find pubs! Cyclists like pubs, but sadly they are closing, or not bothering to open at 11:30am when you need tea with a little sugar.

There are some exceptions to the above and that is Fenland out to the East which was constructed by draining the 17th century wild life parks with immense straight ditches and turning them into vast, flat, highly productive arable land with few interesting cycle routes. Then there are the high grounds which are only useful for sheep farming and the myriad of villages was never built.

The blog is done on wordpress.com (no, I can’t do a live url link for you sitting in this bed and breakfast, in the middle of nowhere, typing on the minature keyboard that is Blackberry). Now somebody nice has provided an WordPress app for this phone into which I type the blog, add pictures, tags, catagories etc. I have tried to upload a sound file and video but its been difficult because I needed to pay for the upgrade to WordPress and a strong enough signal is only available in some of the small b&bs I’ve stayed.

Most importantly, is accommodation and how to. As I am cycling quite freely, in that I do not have a fixed destination, I text my son at about 2pm each day and say where I am and how many miles more I can manage and he phones ahead and books me somewhere. That has been great, thank you Henry (and Helen from Yorkshire!).

So I’m very impressed that Blackberry is saving me so much weight, giving me flexibility and opening up cycling routes you can choose only when you get here.

Today: sheep, hills, Northumberland and bonny Scotland.

Posted from WordPress for BlackBerry.

Addendum: Update

I finished the ride today and got home on the train and thought it worth an update on the technicalities as I found them:

1. I discovered that you can actually upload photos on even a weak signal, you just need to wait until 3am when no one else is using the mobile network. I got the distinct impression that the network will bump you if you fill their bandwidth with data upload when other users want to make voice calls. This seems very fair.

2. I now prefer doing blogs on my phone than on the website as there are fewer options. I find the web site on a pc a bit overwhelming. The phone is just straight words and pictures, bang. However, I found writing straight into the wordpress app a pain as it often loses your text (e.g. Network bumps you off). The “save local” button would save but I have no idea where too so these drafts were simply lost in space and time. I now write drafts into a separate text document before copy / pasting into WordPress app.
3. For reference, I am using a BB 9900
4. By the end of my cycle trip I had completely abaandoned paper maps. The app “Maps” on BB is superb once you are used to it. It doesn’t load a new map when there is no signal but GPS will still pin point your location on a map still held in RAM. In practice it worked everywhere in the UK just fine.

So Blackberry makes a great companion on bicycle touring. On my trip I used it for photos, mapping, GPS, email, booking trains and the blog you are reading now is written on a BB. Cool stuff really, and no I don’t work in that industry, I just like to cycle.

Categories: Cycling around renewables

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