08-09 Day 31 (Belgium)

Another day of GPS issues


Travel FromKarlsruhe, Germany
Intermediate LocationRode by Spa Francorchamps F1 circuit
Ending LocationGuigoven, Belgium
Starting Odometer28,360
Ending Odometer28,613
Miles Driven Today253 Miles
Total Trip Mileage4070 Miles
Countries visited TodayBelgium
Countries visited on trip US, Canada, UK, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium

I’ve now traveled to 11 countries, in a 30 day period, covering just over 4000 miles. It has been both an amazing journey with too many new experiences to count, while simultaneously being a test of my strength, acceptance of weather, and technical acuity.

Even though I planned to an extraordinary level, I’m finding the the number of ways that all of the various technical systems can fail has been a surprise to me. I’ve been caught out by the GPS maps being corrupt, and by the helmet putting itself in a strange mode. Both things that I tested, to the greatest degree possible. Yet, here I sit, solving problems, and thinking about the next technical challenges, and where they’ll come from.

Some thoughts about life

Perhaps this will make more sense as you read the rest of the post, but each day, I wake up and contemplate my existence, life, and future. And each day, I come to the same conclusion. I’m too old to Rock and Roll, but too young to die.

Today’s ride

On Thursday, after contemplating how the previous day’s rides had gone, I thought that I might reconfigure today’s route, forcing the route over more established highways, rather than focusing on riding the perfect roads. This approach would allow me to get to Nancy’s place earlier, much earlier. I had hoped to arrive by 2PM or so.

So, I thought about the best way to do it, and over the course of an hour, I came up with a completely new way to name the waypoints, which should help me quite a bit. So, I spent an hour or so on Thursday night, laying out the route, and loading the GPS. The route would take me from the hotel to the Belgium border, and then a second route would take me from the border, to Nancy’s place.

And so, I was ready for the day, and for the ride.

The bikers from Switzerland

Well, there I was, loading the bike at 8:30, and I came upon a couple who was riding a pair of Triumph triples, heading out on their own adventure. It seems that Lennart and Mica are from Switzerland, and who were not afraid to test their skills on the race track. In fact, Mica told me about an incident on a local race track, which caused her to have an injury, but there she was, riding the bike, enjoying the day.

So, I asked Lennart if he’s take a selfie, and the three of us took pictures in front of the Trimphs and the Beemer.

I said good-bye, finished packing, and set out on my way.

The efficacy of the way-points

So, as it turns out that this new method of naming way-points worked really great, and it got me to the Belgium border without any issues at all. And so, with 10 miles to go before the Belgium border, I pressed a few buttons, and loaded the next route, which would take me the final 80 miles or so. And once again, that’s when all hell broke loose.

As I approached the Belgium border, once again, the map went blank, showing me only some of the highways, and never being able to properly locate me and the bike, onto the map. And so, there I was, riding along, without any idea which highways I’d need to take to get to Nancy’s. So, as it turns out, I was only about 3K from the border, and I turned off the highway, hoping to stop on the side of the road, call Nancy, and get things squared away. But, in this part of Germany, the road did not seem to have anywhere along the side of the road, where I could stop and get my bearings. So, I rode about 2 miles from the highway, and ended up on a very rural road, underneath and alongside a huge bridge. That’s when I called Nancy.

On the road again

It took a few minutes to get my bearings, but I eventually memorized the route numbers that I would need to follow, and the general distances and set out once again. Using a combination of the iPhone/Google-maps, and what I could derive from the GPS, I eventually made it to Nancy’s place, at about 3:00 PM.

Solving the GPS problem

After arriving at Nancy and Xavier’s place, I said my hellos, had plenty of hugs, and was welcomed with big, open arms. I parked the bike in the garage, and went inside to get squared away. But, I was really concerned that I did not understand precisely why the GPS was reacting as it was, so I really wanted to solve the problem.

I put on my thinking cap, a d considered what was wrong. After looking at all of the symptoms, I concluded that the maps, for some of the countries, were simply corrupted, and were the root cause of the problem. Now, I had to prove my theory.

The maps that I had downloaded were from a website in the Netherlands, which is pretty famous, and which is usually a great source for OpenStreetMaps. However, in this case, the site had crashed in April, and it took them more than a month to get it going again. And, as it turns out, the maps that I downloaded were in fact corrupted, and looking at their website today, it doesn’t seem that they are aware of the problems, even today.

I found another location to download the maps from, downloaded a new Belgium map, loaded it to the GPS, and voilla, the GPS showed my location, laid over a very detailed map. And so, the problem is solved.

So, what to do about it

Now that I know what the problem was, I need to make a decision about exactly when and where I’ll solve it. I’ve downloaded an entirely new set of maps, and am prepared to replace all of the maps on the computer, and also on the GPS.

What will tomorrow bring

Well, it turns out that Xavier is a huge Jethro Tull fan, and he and I were singing Tull songs last night. And so, as I think about today, I would say that “it was a new day yesterday, but it’s an old day now”.

Tomorrow will be a day of sightseeing with Nancy and Xavier. We’re planning on visiting the F1 track at Spa, and then some WW II memorials, followed by a trip to Luxembourg, where I’ll tick off another country, to make up for missing Liechtenstein, as I had to reroute directly to Switzerland and Italy, rather than crossing through Liechtenstein.

About the Author

Cliff Musante

Cliff Musante is a technologist, business leader, motorcycle enthusiast, father, grandfather, and more. In June, 2013 his passion for motorcycles was revitalized, and he set out to ride across Patagonia. Since then, he's logged thousands of miles, ridden across the US, and on July 10, 2019, he began a 120 day trip through Europe, and then on to Russia, China, and parts East. This 'Blog is the story of all of his adventures.


  1. Hey Cliff, J. Tull is playing in Verveirs, Belgium in 2 weeks. It looks like via Real Time Tracking you passed through or by there a few hours ago. I’m sure you’ll be moved on by then anyways.

    1. Hey Mike,
      Xavier is the true Tull Fan, but I mentioned that as we were growing up, you were the most learned Tull fan of us all. In any case, I bet him that you’d pick up all of the Tull references, and you’re right.

  2. Hey cliff, I know it’s not techno geek magic but maybe old paper maps as a backup????

    1. Scott, I just can’t do it. But, I do have a plan B. My new plan is to load at least two maps for each country, so if this ever happens, I can simply disable one map, enable the other, and move on. But, I’m not sure this will work, so I’ll test it while on the ferry…

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