Zumo Wrestling: Trial & Error for the Win

IMG_3179Garmin GPS units have been showing me the way since the company came to life in Olathe, south of Kansas City and my home in Parkville, a small town just across the Missouri River. I started with their aviation unit, the GPS 55, a handheld that introduced the joys of flying direct to my destination.

When Garmin expanded into the outdoor market, I was there. Its eTrex Legend has guided and tracked uncountable hiking and kayaking trips. It proved its worth in the Apostle Islands several years ago when it guided our party to the dock on Devil’s Island on a 4-mile fogbound crossing on Lake Superior. Open sky or water, there’s no better way to find your way than GPS.

When it comes to the open road, however, I wasn’t so quick to navigate by satellite. For six decades, maps have suited my needs. But my wife and four-wheeled navigator wanted a GPS, and like a stone in the constant current of her desire, I surrendered. And then my son got married in San Diego. We loaded the Garmin Nuvi with the addresses of all the places we needed to be, and it got our rental car to each of them without a worry or wrong turn. I was sold. So I got the Garmin Zumo 390LM for Ole Blue.

What appealed to me most about the motorcycle guidance was the ability to plan a route on my laptop with Garmin’s Base Camp software and then send it to the Zumo. For each route I could choose what roads it would avoid, Interstates, toll roads, gravel roads, and residential streets. Aces! Before Vagabondage 2014 I spend hours planning my way from Omro to Portland and, ultimately, Seattle. (My riding buddy, Ed, was planning our way back east.)

The Zumo wrestling match began when I tried to use those routes. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get this feature to work. The user manual said Zumo would default to the route when I selected each route’s ultimate destination. But it didn’t. As a result, I missed a good section of the Great River Road in Illinois and other paths seemingly made for two-wheeled travel.

From the start, the logic of Garmin’s user’s manuals has escaped me. It’s gotten better over the decades, but my Zumo wrestling matches continued to illuminate the disparity of what I and the manual’s authors see as a clear and concise description of how its many features work. In the past, trial and error has shown me what buttons to push to get what I was after. This time I didn’t figure it out until I’d returned home.

Looking for “work” that would further delay my return to the daily routine, to free up Zumo’s memory I decided to delete the destinations and routes I’d loaded on the device. My thought was that this would be a simple process: connect Zumo to my laptop, fire up Base Camp, and delete that information it no longer needed. Exploring all the options I found no joy. I’d have to do it on the unit, entry by entry.

With all my destinations deleted and not eager to dive into the several hundred e-mail awaiting my attention, I touched the Apps button. Many of them, such as the compass and service log, were self-explanatory. I thought the same about the Trips app, which I’d read about in the manual. When I opened it up, I found all of my routes, times six for the  number of times I’d downloaded them to Zumo in my attempts to make this feature work.

Putting Zumo in simulator mode, the Trips app navigated me through each of my carefully planned routes exactly as I had entered them. And then I deleted each of them. Once I’d calmed down a bit, and still not eager to dive into the e-mail pool, I turned next to the user manual. Despite reading every word about routes and trips, I never saw a direct connection between them. But that doesn’t matter now. I know the secret now, and I plan to exercise it soon. But I do still have one unanswered question: What’s behind the unit’s name? Google was of no help at all.


About smspangler

Freelance writer, editor, and photographer of myriad aviation topics and the exploration of America's small towns.
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