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Friday, May 6, 2016

Yes, getting there really can be half the battle

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Never, among the many vehicles I've ever owned (numbering now 18 over the years), have I previously had a car, truck or van with a Global Positioning System (GPS).

Maps are good. Rand McNally has been my co-pilot. Never really felt I needed a navigation system just to get from here to there.

Except maybe for that time I spent the afternoon circling Heritage Lake, thinking I'd finally found my way out to State Road 75 over by Coatesville -- only to end up turning onto U.S. 36 at Groveland.

Yeah, that's one place where you can't hardly get there from here.

Admittedly, I have always been intrigued by GPS systems in other people's vehicles. Always wondered what might happen if you plugged in Hell (Mich.) into a GPS as your destination? Would you have to go through Purgatory, Colo., or Paradise, Calif., to get there? Heaven? No, this is Iowa ...

Be that as it may, the GPS system in the wife's new car came into play over the weekend when she decided to whisk me away on a mystery trip for my birthday.

Since I was driving, letting her plug the destination into the GPS seemed much more rational than me driving blindfolded and Ruth whispering sweet turn-by-turn navigation in my ear.

So I settled in behind the wheel, letting Debbie Dashboard drone on, dishing out driving commands as we made our way north out of Greencastle toward Chicago.

And honestly, that was fine once I embraced her methodical instructions. "Left onto I-94 ... left onto I-94 .... left onto I-94." And "stay to the left .... stay to the left ... stay to the left ..."

I know. I know. I know.

Rapidly approaching the split north of Chicago where I-94 goes north and I-90 veers west, a decision is needed pronto.

Not yet knowing where I was going didn't help matters as the GPS picks door No. 2, sending us spinning off toward O'Hare Airport. And that might have been fine, except that I-94 would have taken us straight north toward Milwaukee and the mystery destination of Grand Geneva Resort at Lake Geneva.

Instead, we navigate our way over Route 53, Highway 12 and to Wis. 50, bumping along at about 35 mph at times through places like the outskirts of Arlington Heights, Lake Zurich, Wauconda and Fox Lake.

This satellite navigation, I am told, is good in all weather, anywhere on Earth at any time as long as there is line of sight to the requisite satellite.

But in our case, that satellite must have been Sputnik. Or maybe Telstar. Because suddenly Debbie Dashboard is letting us down, forgetting we're in the age of interstates and reverting instead to routes of the pre-Eisenhower era of travel.

Our misguided GPS is taking us in circles.

Finally making our way into Lake Geneva, the resort is supposed to be on Highway 50, only the GPS is sending us in the complete opposite direction. We're heading straight to the lakefront, where the directions turn us back left and head us back from whence we came.

Deciding to pull the plug on the GPS at this point, we figure we can take it from here without her. Perhaps by looking for giant bunny ears to guide us since the resort was Hugh Hefner's original Playboy Club.

Give me a map. Give me a compass. Give me the North Star. Just don't give me a GPS.

Through it all though, I can't help but think the miracle of technology that is the GPS system would have been so handy for the pioneers to avoid wrong turns in Apache territory or find the bypass around covered wagon traffic congestion in St. Louis.

But if Lewis and Clark had only access to our goofy GPS device, I'm betting they'd have discovered Guadalajara or Acapulco instead of the Pacific Coast and the road to Starbucks.

I can hear the directions now ...

"Don't listen to Sacagawea. In one mile, stay left ... In one mile, stay left ..."