Road trip news, rants, and ruminations by the Editors of RoadsideAmerica.com
July 31, 2009
It wasn’t long ago that a Roadside road trip meant dozens of paper maps and pages of printed-out, turn-by-turn directions. The job of map-reader on any given day was as vital as it was thankless. The absence of a crucial state or city map — or just the blobby quality of some of them — made navigation-by-instinct a necessity, as well as the inevitable stop at the lonely mini-mart to ask directions of some befuddled local teen.
Now, we just input the addresses of whatever Roadside attractions we want into the car’s GPS navigator, and let it do the work. We don’t talk to anyone. Our once nimble map-folding hands have devolved, shrunken to weak and useless nubbins, capable only of tapping on a GPS device.
Ah, if only it were so.
Many roadside attractions have street locations that are not exactly the same as their street addresses. This doesn’t matter when you’re trying to find something tall on a prairie, like the World’s Largest Pop Bottle in Oklahoma, but many attractions are not so easy to spot. If you’re attempting to track down the Birthplace of Angie Dickinson or the First White Man Dies in America marker, difference of a quarter-mile or a block or two can prove impossible to overcome.
And there are a fair share of Roadside wonders that are off of the maps used by normal humans. A car navigator can only get you close; the rest of the way is up to you.
Still, there is a giddy and scary thrill — at least to control freaks like us — when you turn on your GPS and just trust it to take you where you want to go. Our assessment thus far: the robot navigators only work if you prepare them ahead of time. Double-check the destinations, and call ahead to verify location (get a local landmark) and hours. Otherwise you may end up as frustrated as you would be if you used a blobby map, or trusted some flawed human directions.