Wednesday, April 04, 2012

GPS; Why they are not for me

Contrary to popular belief, I am not sure that GPS units are all that they are cracked up to be. In fact, map remains my favorite travel necessity. My daughter and I were able to navigate from East Tennessee to Alaska and back, without the use of a GPS. A map, watching for traffic signs and paying attention to our route was all that we needed to get there and back.

Throughout the entire Alaska trip only fumbled on directions twice. The first time was the only time that we followed a GPS unit. The second time was when we were looking for the airport in Anchorage. I think that is a pretty good record, especially when you consider that 99.99% of our trip was done via a map instead of technology.

Ironically, our first navigation problem came when we needed help. When the car broke down, AAA quickly dispatched a wrecker. The driver was very nice but he wasn't sure where he was going. Enter the GPS. He plugged in the address and we were off! The problem was that the GPS routed us around the world to get there. We saw the shop that we needed and could have followed the street signs. The GPS got us there but it definitely used a roundabout route.

In Anchorage, we became confused when the road that we were on changed names. The person
who carefully wrote out the directions didn't add this piece of information. We thought that we missed a turn downtown. Following the road signs helped us do the route in reverse. It didn't help so my daughter went into a McDonald's to ask for help and received splendid directions.

Then, there was the time when a friend's GPS got us totally lost. I'll spare you the details on that. Let's just say that the experience wasn't pretty.

The internet is filled with stories of people who have missed detour signs or had other mishaps by blindly following a GPS. Maps aren't infallible but they do force you to pay closer attention to what you are doing. For me, I think that's a better plan than following a piece of equipment that may (or may not) get me where I need to be.