Saturday, June 26, 2010

Trip Home

I finally figured out how to update our GPS gizmo. I got son Zach to do it.

And just in time. I was making a quick trip up to the old stomping ground of Downriver Detroit. This used to be a fairly simple trip: north from Kokomo, to US 24, a really good, two-lane state high way that ran diagonally from Peru, IN to Toledo. The route zipped through the only large city in its path, Fort Wayne, by cutting through the downtown where there were few traffic lights; those were timed. On to Toledo where you would intersect with I-75, head north for 30 miles through undeveloped land until Trenton loomed ahead. You could run, um, slightly ahead of the speed limit and make it in less than 4 hours.

Used to be, your only impediments were slow moving farm equipment and Ohio’s occasional need to bolster the state coffers: favorite technique was to stop out-of-state licensed cars that were speeding a bit, and, on the spot, give you a really big ticket with the option to pay it right now or appear in court next week.

No one, they reasoned, wanted to mess up a vacation with a return trip. They were right, check the stats.

Like everything else, my easy route has changed in the last 30 years. There’s been lots of growth and, apparently, the need to bypass and calm traffic and stop it more often. For example, in Fort Wayne, State 24 still leads to downtown but now there’s a light at every intersection and theses lights are NOT synced so you get to see the sights and window shop, not what you want to do when you need to get someplace else. Once, when I tried to go around, I got on a loop that took me 30 miles out of the way because I missed the turn off, not well-marked, and saw lots more of eastern Allen County than I wanted. After a while, all corn fields look alike.

Then, there are now a few other cities along 24 that have grown…imagine that…so they have their own lights plus by-passing plus, of course, cone zones.

Then, on to Toledo. If you insist on staying on 24, you get swallowed up somewhere near a Jeep factory…they are VERY proud of their Jeep factory… and then have to turn around and try to find another route. Where IS that Interstate?

So to make it to Trenton without losing my mind, I did a double: I Googled and printed a map plus I plugged in the GPS. They did not concur on the best routes so I still had to make decisions but both would get me to my final location without getting lost. Both offered assurances of how long the trip would take. All good.

Our GPS is inhabited by a brusque woman, Ms. Garmen Nuvi, who orders you to “turn left” or “continue on” with regularity. Notice, I did not include niceties. This is because Ms. Nuvi does not say ‘Please’ or ‘Thank you.’ No, she just orders you to do as she says.

I have noticed over the years that the most regularly polite interactions take place between myself and electronic media. Microsoft is all about “Please wait,” and “Please close this.” The self-checkout at the grocery thanks me for shopping at this store and invites me to return again. Airport automatic walkways gently warn you that “The automatic walkway is coming to an end. Please watch your step.” Our ATM begs my patience while it handles my request and then thanks me for punching its buttons.

But not Ms. Nuvi. She orders. She demands. And should you deviate, you can almost envision her clutching her virtual forehead with her virtual fingertips as she announces, with annoyance, the she is “Recalculating.”

I turned her off in mid-Ohio (Power to the People!) and let Google guide my path for the rest of the trip.

The last part, north from Toledo, is a straight shot, although these are not the outposts they once were. In Monroe, MI, there’s a huge automotive plant by the side of the road. “Mazda, made here!” And there are lots of places to pull off (this would drive Ms. Nuvi nutzo) to get a bite to eat or to fill up the tank.

As I neared Trenton, I drifted back to the many times I drove this route with my Dad. This was so familiar except for all the new plants and the Rush Limbaugh on the radio. I would have found some other music for Dad.

The occasion of my trip was part somber/part joyous reunion with many old friends. After two nights in a less-than-stellar motel, it was time to return to Indiana.

My second Google map was to route me from Trenton to Winona Lake, as I was headed to the cottage. Google would take me back to Toledo and on to the lake. On a whim, I decided to give Ms. Nuvi a chance.

And here’s the thing with following the GPS. Once you commit, it’s not so easy to change your mind. Ms. Nuvi, who knows nothing of shortcuts, decided to route me to the Toll Road which runs across northern Indiana. I did not realize it until it was too late to change my mind. By then, I was safely on a major road but surrounded now by those curious country lanes and pathways that lead to adventures in navigation. Ok, Nuvi, I’m yours, I guess.

Her choice was neither the shortest route, nor the fastest route but it was HER route and I was HER captive. We traveled along, she instructing me about where I would turn (You WILL turn here, chickie) and how long I would follow HER direction. As we left the Toll Road and began to venture south, several times I wanted to engage her in discussion: HERE? We’re going HERE?
But Ms. Nuvi does not discuss. I had no choice but submission, for a while.

Once, I pulled off for some coffee, had to drive more than 100 feet, and she sighed, shook her head and announced that I had forced her to recalculate. If she is a retribution devotee, what might she be cooking up now? (Traveling solo is nice but sometimes you get a little nutzo yourself)

Finally, we came within striking distance of the end location and I knew for sure where I was. Time for a little payback baby!

I turned on a shortcut.
I turned to another.
And another. Aha! (Nutzo now in full bloom)
Then, in final triumph, I UNPLUGGED her.

The hub greeted me.
“How was the trip?”

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