The GPS Travel Nightmare
In these days of GPS on everyone’s phones, a Rand McNally Road Atlas may seem like an antiquated tool. But for those who consider me a dinosaur for favoring a printed map, consider what happened on our recent trip to Long Island.
Unfortunately, I forgot to pack our atlas. After checking into our hotel in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (about two-thirds of the way), we used Google and GPS to locate the nearest Walmart.
While the clerk we asked wasn’t sure if they carried atlases, she said if they did they would be in the book section and told us where to find it.
Alas, no atlases. That didn’t surprise me, since I typically have to order mine online. Which meant that on day two of our journey, we would be at the sole mercy of GPS.
When we headed out the next morning, I was surprised the system directed us to a U.S. highway instead of the interstate. All the way to New Jersey we traveled through small towns. I relaxed and enjoyed the lack of traffic, despite the irritation of numerous 35 MPH zones.
When we finally stopped for lunch just before noon, my wife said we had about 115 miles to go.
“We should make it by 2 or 2:30,” I replied.
Then reality intruded. The nightmare began just west of New York, when we accidentally turned one exit too early. GPS recalculated by sending us through downtown Newark, downtown Jersey City, and then downtown Manhattan via the Holland Tunnel.
At first, I wasn’t dismayed. I had driven in Manhattan previously and knew a short trip east would connect us with the Long Island Expressway. From there, we could take a parkway or two and be at our destination.
Instead, GPS told us to drive six miles—south. Down a street with stoplights every block or two. Then east through very clogged streets, made worse in school zones by cars double-parked as folks snapped graduation pictures or picked up students.
We never did take the sane option of a parkway, too nervous to depart from our instructions without our handy Rand McNally guide. It was after 5 p.m. when we arrived.
It didn’t get any better on the return trip. We snaked our way across Long Island after putting in the Verrazzano Bridge as our destination. GPS sent us down numerous traffic-light-filled streets as I saw time slipping away.
Finally, when we reached the Belt Parkway and saw “Verrazzano Bridge” on the sign, I said, “The heck with GPS. I’m getting on the Belt Parkway.”
Adjusting, my wife entered the address of a relative’s house in Virginia, our ultimate destination. Trouble was, when we exited the bridge, GPS didn’t offer any instructions for which of three options to follow.
Guessing, I took the wrong route, but it gave me an opportunity to reconnect with the one leading to the New Jersey Turnpike. I knew if we made it there, we would get to the Pennsylvania Turnpike and I-81.
Just one glitch. Several miles down the NJ Turnpike, GPS told us to exit. We drove a couple miles into a small town, where it had us turn several different ways.
Finally, I pulled into a gas station, where I encountered a helpful truck driver. He told me to go back to the NJ Turnpike and head south until we reached the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
While we made it to Virginia, we were two hours later than expected. That will be the last time we leave home without an atlas by our side.