Posts Tagged ‘GPS’

The month of August saw me traveling and visiting grandchildren, wrestling with my new “smart” phone, and trying to figure out how to use GPS. Before I set out on my trip, I went to a Verizon store for help. I told the nice young man that the GPS insisted on sending me on the Interstate and I don’t do Interstates. “Why not?”  he said. “You get there faster.” What’s his hurry? He’s young. He has plenty of time. As for me, I’m in no hurry to get to the end of my journey, and I prefer to enjoy the drive. You miss a lot when you stick to the Interstate.

You won't find this on the Interstate.

You won’t find this on the Interstate. (Mabry Mill, Blue Ridge Parkway)

Google Maps on my computer gives me the option of avoiding highways. Apparently the young man didn’t know how to program my smart phone this way, so he put another app on the phone that (he said) would do back roads. It didn’t.

After plotting my course using road maps and Google Maps, I headed north.

Or this

Or this. (Near Ludowici, GA)

I planned to camp in Uwharrie National Forest in North Carolina. Since I got off to a late start that day, it was dark by the time I reached to Uwharrie. I thought this was a good time to put the GPS to the test, since I was far from any Interstate. I pulled over and typed in Uwharrie National Forest campground.

The lady’s voice on the GPS—whoa!–that’s too awkward. Let’s call her GyPSy. (We used to have a pony named Gypsy and she was cantankerous, too.) Anyway, Gypsy directed me down a series of back roads and deposited me in front of someone’s driveway. I didn’t think the residents of the house wanted me to camp in their yard, so I drove on, hoping the campground was nearby. I never found it. Gypsy kept telling me to make U turns, turn down such and such a road, and the like for the next hour until I figured out how to shut her up.

Consulting my map, I concluded I’d taken the wrong road to the national forest. It was raining and I didn’t want to backtrack, so I drove on. The next town had a Walmart. With the permission of a manager, I parked there for the night. The next day I stuck to the directions I’d written down before my trip and reached my granddaughter’s house with no trouble.

One thing I’ve discovered is that newer road maps are less detailed than older ones. That plus poorly labeled roads makes it hard to plot a course. Is there a conspiracy? Do “they” want us to stick to the Interstates? Are “they” trying to sell more GPS gadgets? Or is our growing dependence on GPS letting highway departments get away with sloppy work?

I spent two pleasant weeks in West Virginia. Toying with the phone during my stay, I figured out how to program Gypsy to avoid highways. Before leaving for Virginia, I drove over to Hampshire County in search of some ancestors who are buried in Slanesville. Although, I knew my way around, I thought I’d see if Gypsy could find a short cut. No–the poor dear was lost! Maybe I was too far from any Interstate. That thing on a computer that goes round and round when it’s searching for something went round and round and round until I reached Romney.

Slanesville, WV

Slanesville, WV

I consulted a map and spent the rest of the afternoon driving through picturesque West Virginia mountains. Almost Heaven. I hated to leave but was expected at my daughter’s home in Radford, Virginia that night. I stopped to eat in Covington. The day had been pleasant and sunny, but the night turned dark and rainy. Over supper, I consulted my road map for the most direct route to Radford, then I programmed Gypsy.

Computer savvy people refuse to believe that those devious machines have a mind of their own, but they do. I know what Gypsy was thinking: “So, she wants back roads? Well, I’ll give her back roads!”

And back roads I got. Roads with names like 617 and 725. Roads that weren’t on my map. Before long, I was helplessly lost and dependent on her caprice. Gypsy directed me to turn here and there, mostly in unpopulated areas, through two national forests. One road was so narrow that if I’d met an oncoming vehicle, we’d both have scraped paint off trying to squeeze by. Fortunately, I had plenty of gas and my compass told me I was gradually making my way south. I breathed with relief when I came to US 11, Lee Highway. Now I knew where I was and where I was going.

I have to give Gypsy credit—she got me there in one piece and in the time frame she’d predicted. But how’d she know about these forest roads when she was totally lost on a state road in West Virginia?

Is this Tow Mater?

Is this Tow Mater? (Near Hillsville, VA)

On my way home, she successfully navigated me through Salisbury, North Carolina, where I invariably get lost. I planned to spend the night at Santee State Park in South Carolina, so I gave her this destination. She found a short cut that wasn’t on my map, but when I got to the park, she argued with me that the campground was at a ranger’s residence. Don’t you hate a machine that thinks she’s smarter than you?  But I knew better. A sign clearly pointed to the campground.

The next morning, I expected Gypsy to find a shortcut home, but she routed me through Orangeburg, South Carolina. I didn’t mind. I never drive through that city without stopping at Edisto Memorial Gardens to smell the roses.

Edisto Memorial Gardens

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Did you feel the Earth shake the other day? I took a step into the 21st Century. I bought a smart phone.

It all started with road signs, or rather, the lack of them. I’m disdainful of those who rely on GPS. I can read a road map just fine. Besides, GPS isn’t accurate in out of the way places, like the woods where I live. Before going on a trip, I consult Google Maps, but I rely on paper and ink road maps, as Google’s directions can go awry.

The problem is, so many places don’t label their roads accurately, if at all. Once, traveling north on US 301/US 1 in Georgia, I came to where the highways diverge. Signs said, “US 301 Left Lane” and “US 1 Right Lane,” so I got in the left lane. Then as I approached the intersection, signs pointed left for US 1 and right for 301! I hastily switched to the right lane. Other motorists ahead and behind me likewise swapped lanes. It looked like synchronized driving. I expected the road department to correct this, but every year it’s the same, the wrong signs slowly rusting away.

Florida may be known for its weirdness, but at least our Department of Transportation can label roads.

A few years ago, I visited Chattanooga. We saw a sign for the Chattanooga Choo Choo but couldn’t find it. There was no other signage to guide us. I had plotted my course and, looking for my turn, we saw something that made us laugh–a building with half a car sticking out the second story. I drove on.

Chattanooga is in a bowl surrounded by mountains and a river. I drove around and around in a circle but couldn’t find my intended route. Finally—a sign for the highway I wanted. Then I spotted something else—a car sticking out the second story of a building! We should have turned left at that intersection, but there had been no road sign. The highway took us up by Look Out Mountain, but by then I was in no mood for sightseeing. I only wanted to get away from that town. Maybe I’ll go back someday with GPS as well as a map, but Chattanooga lost my business that day.

One modern convenience I’ve embraced is the cell phone. In the last century, we had a car phone at work for whoever was on-call. Coverage was poor in remote areas, but it came in handy in case of trouble. Eventually, I got my own car phone. After the rest of the world moved on to cell phones, I kept my bag phone until it was so obsolete there was no fix when it malfunctioned. So I graduated to a cell phone. The world advanced to “smart” phones, but I was content with my “dumb” phone.

I noticed young people using their smart phones for GPS, Facebook, and myriad apps, but I had my road maps and a computer at home. Who needs to be “connected” every waking minute? I try hard to be a Luddite.

Ned Ludd

Ned Ludd

Actually, this term is widely misused. In the early 19th century, Ned Ludd was a fictitious leader of textile workers who protested unemployment and low wages. In loosely organized bands, they attacked factories and destroyed machinery. The original Ned Ludd was a young man who supposedly smashed stocking frames after a confrontation with his boss in 1779. Today, Luddite refers to someone who lives in the past, is inept with technology, or fears or resists innovation.

In 1829, Thomas Carlyle said that technology was causing a “mighty change” in “modes of thought and feeling. Men are grown mechanical in head and in heart, as well as in hand.” We are still wary of technology making us grow “mechanical in head and heart.” Some modern Luddites destroy things, such as with computer viruses, but most of us are innocently suspicious of and resistant to change.



Don’t ask me why. I’m typing this on a machine that has spell check, synonyms, and other features that make writing easier. Remember typewriters? You literally had to bang the keys on the old manual ones. If you made a mistake, you covered it with a white substance and retyped. The result didn’t look as clean and professional as this page will be when (or if) I print it. I constantly change my mind about wording and placement of phrases. In the old days, I’d have to retype the whole page. Now I can highlight and delete, retype, or drag a section to where I want it. Instead of typing “Chattanooga” half a dozen times, I highlighted, copied, and pasted the word, as I just now did. Sometimes technology ain’t so bad.

After my fellow writers kept bringing their laptops to our critique sessions while I relied on written notes, I bought one for myself. (And I’d always prided myself on being above peer pressure.) Earlier this month I volunteered at Wekiva Youth Camp and took my laptop. Our cabin had no Wi-Fi, yet my friends could read their email on their smart phones. It was nice to take a vacation from email, but I faced a mountain of it when I got home. To top it off, one of the ladies pays less for her smart phone service than I did for my dumb phone! That’s when I considered getting one.

So I called Verizon. The nice young man said I could get an iPhone for 99 cents. Of course, the nice young lady at the store tried to sell me bells and whistles, but I resisted. No written directions were included. Probably no one reads them anyway. I wasted over an hour trying to figure out how to set the alarm clock, then found directions online. Unfortunately, they’re as hard to follow as written directions. Maybe I’m still a Luddite.

Now if only I can figure out GPS, perhaps I won’t get quite so lost where they don’t post proper road signs.



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