In moving West this August, I have immersed myself in the local Mini club. It’s what we do as Mini owners – we get together, we talk cars, we turn wrenches, we share meals, we go for drives.
The Portland club has been around, in one form or another, for as long as the new generations of Minis has been. And with that, so have their organized run – planned events and drives, wherein someone marks out a route and leads others on a drive, usually because of the value of the route itself. Mini owners like curves, they like to go fast, they like to see pretty things, etc. And, for a club that’s been around since 2002, this means a hell of an archive of great places to drive. That’s rich knowledge and expertise, collected and curated over the years, amassed by club members and refined through experience.
Right now, it’s not all that usable. Each run might either be a Microsoft Word or Excel document, listing out each turn-by-turn instruction for the drive. Just imagine the kinds of instruction a rally car drives gets from their navigator – that’s what’s on these sheets. “Turn right onto Skyline Drive. Continue straight for 3.7 miles. At the 2nd stop sign, turn right onto Canyon Drive. Continue straight for…” That’s the driving my parents did when they we rally racing up and down the East Coast 50 years ago.
But that was 50 years ago, when a computer was an actual building, not something we wore on our watch, carried in our packets, or more importantly, put on our dash in order to help us navigate. I have been thinking that it’s time to bring this awesome collection out of the .doc and .xls and into the modern age.
I’m going to find a few other volunteers, and start manually converting the files over to KML or KMZ format, using Google Earth or Google Maps.
We’ll use Google Sheets to track the whole of them, to make sure we convert them all from .doc / .xls, into KLM/KMZ. Using Google Maps to make a KMZ file is pretty easy, so easy that I don’t think it would scare anyone. I am a huge fan of Google Earth, especially after Google made Google Earth Pro free some time ago. The trick will be in ensuring that we 1) build them all the same, and 2) use all the right features so that we’d making awesome files.
I also want to look at converting them to other commonly used formats, specifically into the GPX format. That video I linked to above, about using Google Maps, talks about using Garmin’s Basecamp app to convert the files into GPX, but this favorite website of mine (GPSVisualizer) will do it too, right here.
I want to pass the information to the club’s webmaster, so that as we complete converting a run first to KLM / KMZ, they can post it to the club’s website. They already have the mission of maintaining the club’s website, and I have no interest in taking on that role. I want to be able to pass along our finished work, and partner with them so that they can fulfill their of communicating with the club members, and making these resources available to the club through our private website.
Deep down, I hope that this also serves as a catalyst for the club to start collecting and pairing with these new files, multimedia files (photos, videos, etc) from each of the routes. I think that would be a great partnering of resources.
I’d love to see the club organize them, say, by region, and then do things like award patches or awards for the runs that people go on. Challenge them to go on runs, and “record” or log their drive using any of the many apps that records GPS info as you go, with members turning in those files as proof that they completed the drives (the files are time stamped by the GPS signal itself), and maybe with other silly requirements like photos at key milestones or overlooks, etc. Level 1 Explorer, Level 5 Twistie Driver, etc.