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Help: Trip Planner

  1. What do the attributes on trips represent?
  2. How do I search for routes through specific locations?
  3. How do the origin, destination, and waypoints work?
  4. What can I use as a trip name?
  5. How does the segment data work?
  6. How does the map work?
  7. How can I restrict my trips?
  8. We posted a new letterbox, but nobody else can find them. Where have I gone wrong?
  9. What do the subtypes on trips represent?

What do the attributes on trips represent?

There are rest areas along the route. They may not necessarily be a lot of them, but there are at least a few along the way! The term 'rest area' can be used liberally for walking and bicycling routes. Perhaps a trail with shelters, or a convenience store along a bicycling route.
A historic route, typically famous (or infamous!) for one reason or another.
An actual hiking trail that hikers, pilgrims and other adventurers follow.

How do I search for routes through specific locations?

You can run a trip search for routes that run through specific locations. Any number of routes is allowed—just separate each location with the word "to" if there is more than one location.

For instance, you can run a search for all routes that go in or near Seattle, WA. Or search for routes from Seattle to Los Angeles. Or extend the location search from Seattle to Forks, WA to Los Angeles, CA.

Keep in mind, the search will include routes that go near requested locations—typically within 30 miles.

How do the origin, destination, and waypoints work?

The origin and destination are self-explanatory, and both are required for creating a new route. You can use any location that the geocoders on AQ can find. You can use addresses, latitude and longitude coordinates, zip codes, and any other valid locations that would work with a regular letterbox search.

The waypoints are optional, but if you include them, it will insure the default route that AQ creates goes through each of these points, in order, between the origin and destination. Again, any valid locations used for letterbox search will also work with waypoints. A maximum of eight waypoints is allowed, and multiple waypoints must be separated with semicolons.

If AQ is unable to create a precise route from your origin to each waypoint to the destination, it will create straight lines between each point and you'll have to manipulate the route further if you want any precision at all.

What can I use as a trip name?

A trip name can use pretty much any letter, number or symbol. The Trip Planner page will shorten your name to 25 characters if necessary to make it fit. Using common abbreviations such as Hwy instead of Highway or Fwy instead of Fwy can help keep the name short—in fact, AQ will automatically abbreviate the words for highway and freeway to Hwy and Fwy respectively. Interstates names are automatically filled out in full—I-5 will automatically be renamed into Interstate 5. This does conflict with the usual rule that short is good, but for technical reasons regarding database indexes, the word Interstate works better than the letter I.

Additionally, it's recommended that you be specific which road you might be talking about. Nearly every state has a Highway 17, for instance, so to make your route clear, include the state (if it's a state road) or county (if it's a county road). A name such as CA Hwy 17 works much better than Highway 17.

Also, don't use the words TO, FROM or ALONG as the name of a trip. These are reserved words that have very specific meanings for Atlas Quest and your trip planner searches will not work as expected if you include one of these words in the name of the trip.

How does the segment data work?

At its core, the route is created from a series of points that mark the route. The map is pretty and all, but the raw data that AQ uses to generate those maps comes from this section. It's a series of latitude and longitude coordinates, one coordinate per line. There's no real limit to the number of coordinates allowed—some long, detailed routes have over 5,000 points.

But... there are a couple of less obvious tricks to the segment data. First, you'll usually see coordinates displayed, but technically, any valid location that the geocoders can figure out can be used. Which is often times useful when creating an entirely new route. You can list every city, town, and podunk along your route, one per line, save your route, and AQ will generate a rough path of your route which you can edit further as necessary. (As soon as you start editing the route with the map, however, the locations will be converted into coordinates.)

Another useful tool—sometimes, when editing the map directly, you might accidentally add new segments. It's easy to accidentally click on the map when you meant to add or edit a vertex, and clicking on the map will add a new segment to the end of the path. There's no way to delete a vertex from the map—none that anyone has been able to figure out, at least!—but since the new vertex is added to the end of the path, you can scroll down to the end, remove the last line, and save your changes.

When you edit the segment data directly, your changes will not be reflected on the map until you save your changes, and if you try to edit the map before saving your changes, your changes will be overwritten with the map data. In a nutshell, don't edit or use the map until you've saved any changes you make to the segment data. To save your changes, clicking any of the page buttons will do the trick. (Except the Cancel button, for obvious reasons!) You don't actually have to Save the route to save your changes. Most of the time, you'll likely want to click the Route button—it will save your changes and reload the map so you can see your changes and make any additional adjustments.

How does the map work?

To zoom in or out, use the controls on the left side of the map. You might be tempted to double-click the map to zoom in—a common navigation technique among maps—but a click on the map will add a new segment to your route and you would end up with an extra segment you didn't want and the map will not have zoomed in.

To add a new segment to the end of the route, click on the map where you want the new segment drawn out to.

To edit an existing vertex, click and drag a solid square that marks the end of the segment.

To add a vertex between two existing vertices, click the semi-transparent square between the two solid vertices and drag it to the new location. When you let go of the mouse button, the new vertex is automatically added.

So far as anyone has been able to tell, Google Maps provides no method of removing a vertex once it's been added. You can delete a vertex from the raw segment data below the map, but more often, it's just easier to move the unnecessary point to a point along the route. Better to have too many points than not enough! The excess points won't hurt anything, though.

The image below has two red arrows—they point to 'solid' points. Those are points that are part of your route and will have a corresponding location in the raw segment data. The purple arrow points to a semi-transparent point—those are always located halfway between solid points and are used for creating new points between two existing points.

Sample Map

How can I restrict my trips?

By default, any trips you create will be private—only you will be able to see them. If it's a route that you think others might be interested in using, however, you can make it public for other premium members to see. Trips are mostly a premium member perk and you cannot make a route available for everyone to see. Admins do have that power, however, and if it's a route that you feel should be public for all, you can lobby to extend the route for everyone.

As a general rule of thumb, the only routes that are made public for everyone are major roads that are intended for cross-country travel. In the United States, that includes the Interstate system. In Canada, it includes the Trans-Canada Highway system. Other routes, even long ones that do span much of the country, probably won't be added.

We posted a new letterbox, but nobody else can find them. Where have I gone wrong?

  • Be sure to give your letterboxes a location.
  • Make sure you haven't added restrictions that allow nobody (or very few) people to see it.

What do the subtypes on trips represent?

The route represents a driving route. (The vast majority of routes are driving routes!)
The route represents a walking route. Obviously, this applies to long-distance trails such as the Appalachian Trail, but it can also represent walking routes through cities and involve road walks.
The route represents a bicycling route.