Love/hate my GPS

Last year, after ending up on the wrong side of the Mississippi, twice, we bought a GPS. Mostly I have been very happy with it. However it does have a few quirks. The first time I used it, I set it get me there by the shortest route. Bad mistake when pulling a trailer. It literally took me down some back alley’s and narrow places I should never have been with my trailer in tow in downtown Omaha. Not unlike this goat path situation, the GPS does not take certain things into account, like the height of the bridge or how wide or steep the road is.

Swiss-Man-Drives-up-Mountain-using-GPS

Our second misadventure was getting from Alonsa to Glenella Manitoba. For some silly reason the GPS took us to the nearby field instead. Maybe they get their information from Google which seems to have issues with Glenella as well. You can see in the picture below that the town is mysteriously shifted two sections over into a field even though the town itself, and the businesses therein, are clearly visible off to one side.

Glenella

Our really major balagan (balagan – a word for chaos or fiasco borrowed from modern Hebrew (where it is a loan word from Russian); “it was utter and complete balagan!”) occurred on our trip to the 9-11/Flight 93 memorial in Pennsylvania. We left Goat Island at Niagara Falls and I simply and naively punch in our destination and we left. (Anyway familiar with GPS use is no doubt laughing about now.) I had put in “mostly highways” because there are a lot of steep hills in Pennsylvania. I occasionally wondered why we had been heading west for so long, but Dick was sleeping and we were making good time so I just went with it. Turns out the “mostly freeway” setting means just that and so it was taking us 300km too far west before turning south because there were no freeways on the more direct route.

Lesson 1: Always double check the GPS map against a real map before departing.

When we realized it was taking us right through downtown Pittsburg we decided to try to reprogram the route to go directly  by the shortest route to the memorial instead. The result was we ended up taking a more tortuous route along the finest examples of many side streets, back tracks, and little narrow goat paths that Pennsylvania has to offer over some substantial hills and up and down some really steep grades…..in heavy fog.

Lesson 2: Short cuts lead to long delays.

By about 8:00pm we were hopelessly lost and then the GPS sent us quite literally in a big circle around a small town and we realized the GPS was as lost as we were. We shut the demon thing off, and pulled over into a truck repair depot somewhere north east of Pittsburgh to ask for directions. They felt so sorry for us we were allowed to boondock overnight there. We were facing some roads entirely unsafe for trailers even in daylight. They helped us plot a new route for morning that avoided the worst messes. The next morning when we restarted the GPS and lo and behold, it was no longer lost!

Lesson 3: If the GPS starts acting strange shut it off and restart it.

We then left for our destination which was a nice state campground near the memorial and set off. We then missed a turn due to a construction detour but the GPS cheerfully rerouted us so we went ahead anyway. I did wonder about those “unsuitable for trucks, buses and RVs” signs but that was the way GPS said so we went merrily along. And we ended up on a 13.5% grade goat path over a big ridge. I actually didn’t think we’d make it, but with the truck set in low four wheel drive and first gear moving at only 5 mph, we did it. Good thing that really steep stretch was only about 400 meters or we would have never made it. The guy in the big green tractor behind us shook his fist at us when he was finally able to pass.

Lesson 4: Don’t trust those reroutes without checking a map, especially in place with mountain ridges.

Back on track our GPS sent us along quite nicely but we had lost faith in it. So the GPS was telling us to go one way but we decided it must be wrong again so we went another way and…. we ended up on a toll freeway where the next exit was 56 miles out of our way.

Lesson 5: Sometimes the GPS is right.

Anyway, we did finally get there. When I programmed it for our trip into Washington DC I carefully set it up before we left. I checked against the map and added in intermediate stops to steer it along the route we actually wanted to go according to the map. Every time we stopped the truck for a break, I restarted the GPS and let it reset itself. And going into DC the GPS worked like magic, cheerfully directing me to the correct lane in advance of multi lane freeway splits and divides and taking us directly to our hosts. Partway through it even recommend a change in course to go around construction zone. We zipped by on a side road past a totally stalled parking lot on the freeway.

Lesson 6: In a big city freeway spaghetti tangle, your GPS is the best friend you can have.

One final lesson we had on our last trip in North Carolina. I grabbed my KOA campground book because we were returning to a KOA near some friends. I put in the address and off we went. Three hours of driving later we arrived at the KOA. Strange I didn’t recall the trip being so short before. We pulled into the KOA and it was totally new to me. Wrong KOA. Fortunately it was only 300 km from our expected stop and not far out of the way. I reset the GPS to take us to the right KOA via “least time” setting and we breezed past Durham, Raleigh and Winston-Salem without a hitch. We had lots of time and we got to our expected location just before supper.

Lesson 7: A GPS is only as good as the operator. If you put the wrong location in, you can’t blame the GPS for taking you to the wrong place.

I did an internet search of stupid GPS mistakes and I discovered our misadventures were minor ones. This makes me feel better.

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