Even before we started living the traveling RV lifestyle, some 5 years ago, I was concerned about navigation. I had images, sometimes turning to nightmares of driving the rig down a long narrow road only to find a dead end. Turning 48 feet around on a two lane (24 foot) road is a feat I have yet to accomplish. Sometime earlier I had acquired a Garmin 45 GPS which I was now somewhat proficient with. This is a nifty little electronic gadget that keeps track of where I am, by measuring the distance from the GPS to a group of satellites orbiting around the earth at some 10,000 miles away. They sell for as little as $150. Since we were equipped with laptops, it seemed logical to tie the GPS to a mapping program running in the laptop, while driving down the road. I would drive and Laura would watch the arrow on the computer generated by input from the GPS and always know where that bad "dead end" road was lurking, waiting for me to drive down. During the 6 months of retirement, waiting for Laura to be released from her job, I ordered just about every mapping program I could find. I would play with them for a week and then send them back. I got a pretty good idea on what was available. My evaluation process, which excluded price as a consideration, was sufficient to single out one particular product as superior to all others available at the time. Delorme Street Atlas seemed to have more streets, and was sufficiently simple to allow for use without training. Needless to say we have operated on that product and its subsequent upgrades ever since. So, as we were passing through Maine, on our way back from the Maritime Provinces of Canada. we had an opportunity to stop by the Delorme corporate office and store to pick up the latest upgrade to Street Atlas and do some browsing through all the new neat stuff they are producing. There really was quite a bit going on there. I particularly fell in love with the newest upgrade to the "topo" map system they have come out with, although I couldn't justify the cost considering the limited amount of time I spend tromping around in the woods. The other reason for being there was to see the marvelous global mapping construction called "Eartha". This is, I believe the largest scaled (1:1,000,000) rotating globe of the world in existence. It was constructed completely by Delorme employees and completed in 1998. The globe stands in the lobby, rising over a hundred feet. 792 panels, representing 8 degrees latitude by 10 degrees longitude make up the surface. The surface information taken from satellite imagery, shaded relief, colored bathymetry (ocean -depth data) is equivalent to around 140 gigabytes of information. It weighs approximately 5600 lbs. and covers over 5300 square feet. Eartha's movement mimics that of Earth as it leans and circles on its cantilever arm, It rotates on its axis at 23.5 degrees as does Earth. The speed of rotation can be varied. Normally set to rotate every 18 minutes, it can be increased to one revolution per minute at maximum speed. Political boundaries were not included making the map timeless in human terms. The conversations from the balcony where I watched it for the full 18 minutes seemed to center around picking out identifiable landmarks on the map and associating them with particular countries, cities or lakes. This is quite a showpiece, and well worth the trip out to the business, not to mention you get to play with all that nifty stuff on the in-house computers operating in the salesroom.
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