Monday, January 4, 2010


Global Positioning System, Public Service Announcement

First let me say that I love the whole concept of a GPS. I have had GPS moments when I have dewy eyed told that little flat voiced electronic miracle that I loved it like family. It can take you down 6 lane highways and miraculously keep you in the correct lane for your exit. It can offer the proper turns in PLENTY of time. It can reduce huge cities to a walk in the park for an old lady use to two lane, no traffic highways.

Even when it wants you to turn left when all the visual signs indicate you should turn right, I still don't knock the talking map. Not having a navigator makes the GPS a lovely traveling companion for a woman traveling alone. I treat it like I would a man though. I don't trust it blindly.

I am not totally oblivious to the fact that it can be fallible. Those errant left hand turns where there are no roads is a bit disconcerting but I never fully rely on the GPS for the final word. I always map my route on state maps and often have a maybe not so current AAA trip tik. With those three items, I felt pretty confident heading the almost 1000 miles to my Florida destination.

My GPS was mentally added to my will as a beneficiary as it masterfully took me flawlessly through Memphis which was previously an Achilles heel for me. Memphis either hates me or really likes me and wants to keep me, as I usually tour the depths of its bowels before it spits me out exhausted on the other side.

On three previous attempts to get through that city about 5 years ago with only paper map assistance, I struggled mightily. Memphis knows I fear its maze and just grins when it spots my little red Toyota as we drop off route 40 into its midst. This year however, it appears the construction was finally complete, detours nonexistent and we sailed through. I love you GPS. Take that Memphis.

Then outside of Birmingham Alabama, there was a serious GPS hiccup. I was cruising down a lovely 4 lane divided highway when the lady in the box told me to make a right hand turn at the next exit. Well there was no evidence of an exit nor was there one coming up. According to my paper copies, route 78 would take me straight into Birmingham where I would pick up route 65, so I forged on, ignoring the box.

Normally it would just "recalculate route" and give me new directions along the path I persisted in taking. Not this time. It kept insisting I was going to drop off a cliff and disappear. The flat voice took on an almost panicked tone. I think it actually used the term "please."
So, when I got to an actual exit, I took it and let GPS take me where it wanted. I got a lovely tour of a very nice residential area with stop signs at every block. I was frustrated but the GPS was finally happy and quiet. I put up with the aimless wanderings for about half an hour.

Finally realizing "Gee", my nickname for it, was all wet, I tried to return to route 78 but found where I had gotten off, there was no East bound entrance. Fortunately, I am a woman and have no problem asking directions. I secretly harbor the thought that the man who went out for a pack of cigarettes never to return did not abandon his family. He is just lost out there and refuses to ask directions. Sorry guys, you know it is true. I did lose time but eventually got back on track and made it through Birmingham quite nicely with an unplugged GPS and paper maps.

What I later figured out in the comfort of a motel was that my maps in the GPS were probably outdated. I had bought Gee on sale about 3 years ago which meant that the maps were probably obsolete then. That section of route 78 where it went kaplooie was shown as "proposed section of highway" on one of my older paper maps. Since then the road had been completed. Obviously, the GPS thought I was completely off road and thumping through pastures and woods. It had no idea how to get me back on any road. God bless it for trying.

I can only say that if you are traveling and relying on a GPS that is several years old, please pay the extra bucks and get it updated. Without the update, it will still know where you are on this earth via coordinates, it just may not have a highway in its maps to put you on. So update and use paper maps as a back up. Also a navigator that doesn't nosh on dog biscuits and snooze a lot would be a help.

That is my first PSA (public service announcement) for 2010. Happy traveling folks.


  1. Denver waits for me... it is especially thrilled to see me towing a pop-up. Laughs, while I turn around, back up or park...

  2. I remember that mess in Birmingham. We hit it on a trip to SC about 7 years ago, long before Jezebel. Paper maps weren,t helpful either.

    Since I was Chief navigator, I unknowinly assumed future Jezebel's most nagging voice to Hubby: STOP AND ASK DIRECTIONS!

    As I remember we also had similar problems in Atlanta that trip.

    Fort Worth is my Memphis and Matilda (my first GPS) performed admirably which made GPSs my required equipment on any vehicle.

    Jezebel puts my home in a gulley some 5 blocks away. I find the mapping in so called rural areas much less accurate than big cities.

    Fortunately I remapped my home.

  3. I'm just glad you found your way back inform us of this possible problem in older GPS systems! Seems we have to update almost everything these days!

  4. This made me laugh and nod, thank you. A few years ago, when I was still married, we were in San Francisco, driving through, up the west coast to Vancouver. My husband did ask for directions as I was driving and told him to (!) and he asked for Haight Astbury (sp?) and it eventually dawned on the person he was asking where he meant. It's an intersection of two roads whereas silly old ex hippies from Europe tend to think it's a place... I don't have sat nav now as I've downsized and bought an older car, but it was like sitting in a car with my mother, who once told me to take a right turn and gesticulated and covered my eyes with her arm as she did so - what memories you've stirred up here!

  5. Our GPS is Samantha. Good point about outdated maps. I'll try to be mindful of that as ours ages. Glad your trip was safe.

  6. We don't have a GPS yet, but I'm sure there's one waiting for us in our future. I will definitely remember this post and get all the updates. They do seem like very cool devices for traveling.

  7. I've never used a GPS but you make me want one! Heck, I don't even travel but I want one. Will it lead me to my parked car when I can't find it at Walmart? I guess not since it would be inside the car I can't find! bummer

  8. My daughter says that you can buy a new GPS for almost the same money as the updates cost.

    I don't have one, but if I traveled a lot I would.

  9. turquoisemoon,
    Isn't it funny how each of us have a city that has our number.
    Sympathy about towing. I use to tow a stock trailer and when I went to auction, the whole bunch would come out to watch me back between the semis to the loading docks. It was a slow painful process.

    Glad Birmingham isn't just after me. Hope I never have to go to Ft. Worth.
    Gee can't find my house either. It wants me to go about 1/2 mile farther down my road. Think you are right about rural areas.

    Just take them with a grain of salt and they are great tools. Never trust them completely.

    You have to laugh and bring your sense of humor when using a GPS. They are a challenge but sometimes, they are amazing.

    Isn't it cool how we all name our GPS? They are 90% of the time dandy gadgets.

    They are amazing when working properly.Mine took me to Ohio with out a glitch and it was stress free travel. Just have to keep an eye on them.

    Have I got good news for you.

    This is a keychain gadget that will take you back to your car. Great for ball games or just large parking lots.

    The up dates aren't cheap which is why I didn't get one before I left. However the really cheap GPS that are advertised on sale are ones that are seconds away from obsolescence. I learned that a bargain GPS really isn't a bargain if you have to immediately update.
    Most of the time, they are wonderful. Just use with caution.

  10. Glad you got it all worked out. Are you still in Fl? Our one daughter has a GPS and loves it. We don't have one, but then we also don't travel and if it's someplace close and I'm not sure where or how, I print off a Quest Map and go over it till I know I can find my way. LOL Cold here, how about where you're at?

  11. Hi Patti, We love our Garmin ---and we do keep the maps updated. BUT, even with that, Miss Barbeak (ours) does take us on the wrong paths sometimes.

    I read that it's the counties or states who don't always update their road situations --so it's not always Garmin's fault... They take the info that they get.

    I know that there is a new road here in our county--and we use it ALOT. The info hasn't been updated with Garmin --so Miss Barbeak always takes us across the fields and valleys until we run back into the main road!!!! ha

    I loved your description of getting through Memphis.. SO SO TRUE!!!!! Thank God for our GPS's.... We couldn't travel without ours now.


  12. Thank God the GPS finally came around.. and so did you! ;-) That was a great piece of public announcement Patti.

    What I loved was this -- " I treat it like I would a man though. I don't trust it blindly. " - Haahahahahaha!!!! :-) :-)

  13. Patty,
    Yep I am back and it was 9 degrees this AM with snow. Good thing for me I like cold weather and love the snow for I understand it will stay cold for a while.
    S Try to stay warm.

    I just love how everyone has named their GPS. They have so many glorious moments that a few wrong turns is minor. They really take the stress out of traveling don't they?
    You are most likely right on the states and not giving the correct info.
    All I can say is, I can live with the ocassional glitch.

    Ha, ha,now that I think of it, that is probably good advice for most things in life and men should give us the same scrutiny. Total trust of breathing things or things made by breathing things is flawed reasoning.

  14. I laughed out loud while reading this post! Been there, done that. I love my GPS but I also have a printed copy of mapquest along with the atlas of maps. :) Once in San Antonio with my sister the GPS was called a very ugly name, which rhymes with witch, by my sister/not me, turned off and thrown into the back seat to sulk. And Memphis will definitely suck you in and use you like mouthwash - this way, that way, back and forth! blessings, marlene

  15. Great PSA!

    Memphis sucked me in and kept me there for a few years. You have to know how to get around the loop or you could end up in some scarey places! And, I am not talking about Graceland.

    Keep warm, it is freezing in my neck of the woods, burrrr.
    The Park Wife

  16. hahahahaha.... Madam, Madam ....

    I love your irresistible humour indeed!

    Two sons of my friends who are too smart alec use their Cell Phone to get an electronic GPS via internet.

    The only hiccup is when the area has no satellite access.

    Anyway, thanks for the visit ...and please take time to Read this link. This is Specially for YOU!

  17. Loved your PSA. I don't have a GPS but my kids all do. Which helps as they are a bit directionally challenged. When Marymine & I went to Chicago she took her GPS with her on the plane, the rental car had one as well. It got very interesting trying to listen & follow two sets of instructions at the same time. Plus we had never been on toll roads before LOL...

  18. I made a trip to the back woods of AR. a few years ago...I had a brand new GPS that my son put in my car that was the latest and greatest...I think this was in 04...I was headed to Green Forest AR from MO...I knew there was a cut off of old 86 somewhere but I had forgotten where...I turned on one of the little trail roads...It was not the right one and was not on my GPS at all...The GPS kept saying 'I do not have this road on my need to turn around at the 1st possible spot...Are you lost? I can not help you!" and on and last I reached a trail that led to the lake...if I had been wanting to dock my boat I would have been set, but instead I had to turn around...The GPS sounded relieved when I did turn around and head back to 86.. it said 'you are at least going in the right direction...'

    On that same trip I took a short cut around a town.The GPS did not want me to go that way and kept telling me to 'take the next left' trying to route me through town...When I did not turn it would then tell me take the 1st left... on every side street...I kept expecting it to say, 'Flip a bitch...flip a bitch...'but it did not...

  19. Stitchin,
    I adore the "mouthwash" description. How true. Think I can safely cross San Antonio off my to visit list also. Thanks.

    The Park Wife,
    Welcome to THS. Thanks for commenting and warning me about the "loop". Sure glad I missed it. I was routed down a Larmar Road (I think that was the name) through Memphis on the way home and it was lovely.

    Thank you so much for the Anniversary card which I have posted on my side bar.
    Am so glad you catch my humor and glad we found each other from opposite sides of the world.

    They really are wonderful when operating properly. They can't be beat for making travel stress free. They do have a willful child personality though, careful.

    4th Sister,
    At least yours knew it didn't have a road for you to be on. It is so funny how they can either get petulant, huffy or panicky. Mine chose panic. Electronic beings do have personalities. Am surprised Steven King hasn't gone there yet.

  20. nice post. thanks.

  21. Just so you know the guy who went out for cigarettes and never returned, is not lost – I met him one night on a fishing trip. He was nearly three sheets to the wind and told me the whole lonely tale. It was a funny tale but one I felt a little guilty for laughing at. Great PSA – I feel serviced.

  22. GQ, Ah there goes my theory. Sure he didn't get lost then decide to party?
    Glad you felt properly "serviced." Hope it was good for you.

  23. Anonymous,
    Thanks for stopping by. Hope it was helpful.