things i have learned: gps

03Aug09

This past weekend, I drove into Pennsylvania for a wedding, a family reunion, and a carnival.  It was a suspicious amount of fun for one weekend, but I know better than to question good things, no matter how suspicious they may be.

On the three-and-a-half hour drive down, I learned a couple of very important lessons for traveling in rural Pennsylvania.

First of all, make sure you know actual street names.  I typically follow the route numbers, but sometimes they aren’t posted.  Or there are none.

My second lesson was unnecessary before I got my iPhone in February and discovered that it has GPS through Google Maps.  Now that I have it, I use it often.  It’s my safety net.  My little blue dot on the purple trajectory is very reassuring to the girl who has grown completely accustomed to stopping to ask for directions.

This weekend, though, I learned that there are some places where your GPS cannot save you.

This is one of those places:
IMG_0332

This is also one of those places:
IMG_0334

You see, friends, there are miles and miles of American highway (and back roads) that run through the perilous areas known as dead zones.  When you’re using the free GPS that comes with your iPhone, the assurance that you’re on the right road is completely depleted.  My little blue dot became a big blue ball that encompassed all of northwestern Pennsylvania, and some of New York, and I began to get nervous, even though I’ve traveled this way before from the backseat.

These places exist, and I get a little freaked out when I don’t have confirmation that I am, in fact, exactly where I need to be to get where I’m going.  But then I remembered that life existed before GPS, and people got lost then, too.

For those people (and me), there is sanctuary.  There is GPS for dead zones, but you have to get out of your car for the map.

In northwest Pennsylvania, this is your GPS:
IMG_0333

This type of GPS gives you  directions in a unique manner:

“Drive up past the big bridge, and the speed limit’s gonna drop down to thirty-five.  Then you gotta be careful, because this road’s hard to see, but it’ll be right before Bob’s Trading Post.  If you miss it, you can just turn right around at Bob’s.”

I really enjoy the confidence that the GPS on my iPhone gives me, but I have to say that I don’t mind Pennsylvania GPS too much.

My final lesson: make sure you go to the bathroom before you get too far from the expressway, unless you’re undaunted by underbrush.

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