GET THERE WITH GOOGLE
Before I could meet Ewan and photograph his Ariel, there was a significant hurdle to overcome. I hadn’t the foggiest idea of where Ewan’s bike-encrusted dungeon was located and I don’t have SatNav on my Bonneville. So I consulted Google maps and began the laborious task of sketching out directions to be placed on my tank-bag – much as with a VMCC orienteering challenge. My practised method is to construct an easy to follow list made up of directional arrows and key word locations that include towns, villages, roundabouts, road names or route numbers. This I create by studying my intended route on Google maps. But then I had a eureka moment and wondered if it would be possible to explore the route on Google Images Route Finder (GIRF for short). This handy aid is available as a pop-up window on any Google map page. If you’ve already discovered this magic window then go and have a nice warm brew. But if like me you are not familiar with GIRF, then what follows is worth a few minutes of your indulgence... I had my sketched map to hand, but as soon as I opened GIRF I hardly referred to the piece of paper at all. Many years ago, Google photographed and mapped the UK’s road network using a fleet of reconnaissance vehicles. Now you can cyber-travel from any street to any other street in the UK from the comfort of your own living room. En route you will see road names, signs and buildings, all displayed as a series of linked digital images that give the illusion you are travelling down real roads on your motorcycle.
The clever part is you can blow up road signs, stop anytime, anywhere, reverse or rotate 360 degrees in order to study and memorise your journey–and all at your own pace. What’s more, it’s intuitive and fun. As a visual aid in travelling unfamiliar roads to a desired destination, GIRF proved to be a remarkable and useful tool. Before I attempted the route for real I was able to make several practice journeys along the digital highway to Ewan’s Crypt; around 50 miles, which I memorised in approximately 20 minutes. I arrived unflustered, fresh and in good time – without once referring to my tank map. Hats off to Google!