You remember it – I know you do. Can’t bring to mind what year it came out, or what insurance firm it was advertising, but the commercial features a dripping-wet man with his car mostly submerged in the lake behind him as he was saying of his GPS device, “The directions were… disappointing.”
Well, Jerry had a Garmin on his wish list this Christmas past. Don’t trust ’em, myself; I’d rather have a map and plan a route with written directions and everything… but one has to move with the times, doesn’t one? From what I understand, these days some young folks wouldn’t know what a tri-fold road map is, let alone how to read it.
So Jerry got his Garmin. And I will admit, they do reduce prep time on road trips. There are even some really neat features, like the “up ahead” options – you can look for rest stops, restaurants and gas stations along your route and program them in (though not while you’re driving!).
They are only as reliable as the information they contain, however. And I hadn’t explored how to update it or when that should happen – after all, it was Jerry’s toy, right?
Well, we were in southern Indiana in late January, and I’d planned a quick run-through of a few places I’d found interesting… and we were going to rely on the Garmin to get us there and back to the hotel.
Seriously. Tip #1 – If you have any kind of a GPS Device, whether Garmin, Tom-Tom, Magellan, or any of the others, update it before taking it on a trip to unfamiliar territory. Really, seriously, truly. You might still not get there by the route you planned, but you’ll decrease your chances of ending up on a road to nowhere!
Which, of course, was exactly what happened to us.
We were on our way to the Longest Covered Bridge in the U.S. from the Virgil “Gus” Grissom Memorial Museum and the Garmin told us to take a left onto a road that looked to be one of those minimum maintenance farm roads. There was even a sign that read “Dead End.” I overshot the turn at first, not believing that the GPS would be taking us down there, but then it recalculated and wanted me to turn around.
So, Tip #2 – Take the awkward route anyway, because, well – why not?
In this particular case, I wanted to see where the road led. I’ve had some experience with “dead end” roads that were nothing of the kind, just very, very difficult to traverse. And I was driving Jerry’s 4-wheel drive pickup. So I hadn’t any fear of getting stuck.
We found a deep puddle, and a crumbled ice shelf from when the water in the river was higher… we found signs that suggested the river concealed an oil pipeline. But the road was perfectly traversible up until we got to the bridge. At that point, well.
I don’t know that I’d’ve tried the bridge even if it hadn’t been blocked off – narrow, one-lane bridges don’t bother me (several of those in the area where I grew up), but the crumbling wood supports sure would have! I walked down the bridge a ways and there were holes I could have stuck my foot through. Nice bridge, though. Very classic. Which led me to wonder why it was the bridge’s use had been discontinued. Wooden slats or no, bridges like these were built to last and can at times be more reliable than the more modern versions.
But we still needed to get to the Longest Covered Bridge and this route obviously wasn’t going to get us there. And time was starting to be a factor; we needed to be back in Louisville by 7:00 and it was darned near 5:30 at the time. According to the Garmin we were still on time, but it doesn’t account for stopping at a place, getting out for a stretch, taking pictures… you know, touristy stuff.
But there was still that river we had to get across. And the Garmin kept trying right valiantly.
And I kept saying, “You have got to be kidding me.” We eventually ended up on the main county road we had turned off of coming out of Grissom’s Memorial museum.
So yes, the Garmin did in fact delay us. We eventually got us to all the places we were going, though later than we had originally planned, yet we were on time for dinner with the group we were meeting in Louisville. And if I hadn’t been following its directions we would have missed out on some lovely old-fashioned one-lane bridges, beautiful scenery, laughter between Jerry and I, and a real feel for the winding back roads (which look like being wicked fun on a motorcycle!) and typical architecture of southern Indiana… and I would have been poorer in spirit for missing it, but never have known the difference.
Tip #3 – Focus on the journey, not so much on the destination. Plug an extra hour or two into your trip. And then take those roads less traveled and look around with your heart as well as your eyes. Magnificence so often is no further away than your own back yard.