Most bicycle riders know this scenario: It's rainy or windy and you are lost out in the country. You paw through your handlebar pack for your map -- if you have one -- only to find a sodden mass of unintelligible paper, or something that blows away in the wind.
That's one of the situations targeted by a durable new publication, "Best Bike Routes in Maryland," which is making its appearance in bike shops, book stores and other outlets today.
Another goal, according to the publisher, is merely to offer new or experienced riders some suggestions for good places to ride.
Published by Barton Dame, Inc., the booklet includes 10 regional maps covering the entire state and offering suggested cycling routes, including off-road routes for the growing all-terrain riding crowd.
All are printed on a waterproof, tear-proof paper which should stand up to the way bike maps are actually used. You can also write on it with a greaseproof pencil for personalizing trip plans.
The full guide is priced at $30. The 10 regional maps are also available at $10 each.
The routes include roads that are particularly scenic, offer wide shoulders for safety and carry relatively low volumes of automobile traffic. Bike shops are noted on all the maps, along with motels and even some grocery stores for food and water fill-ups.
Publisher Blair Barton says the map project was launched to help fill the gap left by the state government's decision to no longer publish its own bicycle touring map.
"There's really nothing else like it out there," she says, adding that the initial press run includes 10,000 copies of the county-by-county guide book.
The book is small enough to fit in handlebar bags. It is bound with a plastic spiral and includes pockets for each of the folded five regional broadsheets, with a map on each side.
Route planning, with input from experienced riders in each area, was by Joe Surkiewicz, author of a new book, "America by Mountain Bike: The Central Appalachians."
Barton concedes that one feature of use to cyclists is missing: The maps do not significantly indicate the number or severity of hills on the recommended routes.
"The cost of doing that was prohibitively expensive," she says. But she adds that if a second edition proves warranted, "we'd like to add that information."
No statewide bike maps are apparently available with good topographic detail, although a couple such maps of the Baltimore region have been published in the past. They include a Baltimore-area map published some years ago through the Regional Planning Council and another done (in sections) for Baltimore County by the geography department of the University of Maryland Baltimore County.