Monday, August 10, 2009

ON TRAVEL ~ Life Without A GPS...

photo credited to J. Stephen Conn @ Flickr

When we were in Rhode Island for a long weekend a few months ago we got a good laugh at my brother's friend who had the hardest time finding the house rental. He drove up from NYC and when he hit the smaller backroads in RI his GPS (aka Goof Proof Steering) lost all signal. He must have called my brother about 5 or 6 times to get directions in the span of 20 minutes since he did not have a map or printed directions. The idea of driving to a place unknown without directions or a map is a foreign concept to me. My brother's friend's reliance on technology to get him where he needed to go showed that maps were something from the stone age to him. Whereas before I had been envious of the GPS world, I decided that living my life without a GPS wasn't a bad way to go. After all, we'd found our way to the house rental without incident using old fashioned written directions (printed from Map Quest, but still, we had a road map in the car too).

So when we headed out on our recent road trip vacation, we brought along our trusty National Geographic American Road Atlas and all sorts of printed directions from one stop to the next. It is no secret on this blog that I am geographically challenged, so using me as the navigator is always a high risk move. But usually, as long as I am not having to reverse written directions I do just fine relaying the information. So I just want you to know that I was not to blame for the miles and miles of scenic detours we took in the State of New York.

Our directions became completely ficticious when we left the highway and tried to find our campground. Thankfully someone had very kindly posted campground symbols along the way which we followed like the yellow brick road.

The next day we hit the road headed for the baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Our backroad directions stated that we were only a half hour away when the atlas showed following the major roadways would take 45 minutes or more. We knew we were in trouble when the mileage on our directions was off substantially. Then we blew right past the road we were to follow did not look like a road, whereas the one we were on actually remained paved. We had a nice scenic drive through the country and saw lots of dilapidated buildings scattered here and there. The regional brochures we had with us didn't have any of the side roads on them that our directions mentioned because, again, they weren't really roads.

Fearful that we would miss Jim Rice's acceptance speech that we had planned our entire vacation around, we turned back and decided to take the unmarked dirt path after all and see if it put us any closer to where we wanted to be. Lo and behold, it actually turned out to be the road we had wanted and, although the mileage was still screwy, the streets we anticipated from our directions actually materialized. We made it to the ceremony with time to spare and had a delightful day.

We returned to Cooperstown the next day and found our way there and back via a completely different set of roads. This was not intentional, despite the fact that Andy does like to take random roads just to find out where they end up. We were hungry and trying to get back to camp before dark so we could cook up some dinner over the fire. Unlabled streets were really starting to get on our nerves. It felt like the State of NY was messing with us just because we were Red Sox fans or something.

When we took off for the Finger Lakes on our way to Niagara Falls, we got lost again trying to find the prettiest waterfall along the way not named Niagara, pictures of which will be forthcoming in a later post. Directions didn't mesh with the options in front of us. Signs weren't clear as to where one might turn to see certain sites. It started to become a bit amusing when we drove down this long road to nowhere in search of a waterfall. We were becoming anxious travelers taking turns too soon rather than risking the excessive over shoot. When we found our way to the waterfall and had a nice picnic we were dismayed to see the road warrior above had cursed us with a flat.

Undeterred (and because we had no other choice) we unloaded the Jeep, took out the spare, and I took photos while Andy lost about 10 pounds in the sweltering heat getting that tire replaced. Fingers crossed we got back on the road hoping for clear sailing, marked roadways and strong tires. We had no problems finding our way around when we crossed into Canada. But that is probably because the traffic was so horrendous that you had hours to sit and read signs and maps before approaching your next turn.

All in all, we found our way. I am not sure how many of the 1,300 miles we traveled were intentional and how many were to blame on NY's idea to not waste money in this economy on road signs. But I'm pretty sure that even if we had a GPS, we wouldn't have been able to get a signal anyway.


Dana Telecom said...

Yah, we always prepare for without gps traveling.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I found Connecticut to be similarly hazardous in finding one's way to even the most simple destination. We actually bought a Garmin for our Poland trip. You see, there, if they are doing road construction (which of course, they always are, as the roads went to hell during its Communistic days) they leave you for dead. No helpful detour signs, nothing. In this particular case, it saved our skins more than once. We'd probably still be there if it weren't for that thing.

Penny said...

I had a GPS for like all of five minutes. I got it as a gift. I fell in love with it. On my second trip using it my car was broken into and they found my carefully concealed GPS under the passenger side seat.



kaye said...

it's always good to have a back-up plan, just in case technology fails! loved the story.

siteseer said...

Too funny... and I can totally relate. We have a GPS that we use a lot of the time and we ALWAYS have good maps... just in case. Your story of the missing road reminded me of my son in Germany. He had to go around the block like 4 times because everytime someone told him to turn he missed it because he thought it was a sidewalk. I love waterfalls.. our vacation this summer is going to be checking out waterfalls and lighthouses in the UP (also known as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan). Loved your story

Ashley Ladd said...

Be careful which maps you use. I used Map Quest to find my friend's house in Georgia. I'm in South Florida. Map Quest took me several hours out of my way and I wound up on the wrong side of the state! Never again Map Quest!

Anonymous said...

I refuse to get a GPS. To me the journey is part of the fun. And I don't need one more gadget that makes me use my brain less!