Posts Tagged ‘MapQuest’

I was travelling to New York with my mom to see my sister.  I had been to her house once before, but I had printed MapQuest directions that took me through a roller coaster of back roads that made no sense.

This time, I was going to use my Garmin GPS.

I hardly use it.  I am a man.  I KNOW where I am going.  I also don’t travel much.  I can find my office, the surgical center, and McDonald’s without the help of 21st century technology.


Now my mom has made this trip multiple times–even having driven it herself for years before ministrokes and poor reflexes led to her losing her license.

As we passed Tyrone, she points.

“Isn’t that where you should have turned off to go to Philipsburg?”

First of all, even if it was, pointing to it after we have passed the exit isn’t helpful.  And secondly, it was not the exit we wanted.  She was off by one.  Close but no cigar.

Now because I don’t use my GPS very often, I actually had to spend a fair amount of time to find it.  The charge was dead so I recharged it.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the car charger that plugs into the lighter so I would have to depend on a fully charged unit lasting me 3 hours.  I didn’t look all that hard figuring it would last a three hour tour with Gilligan, mom and the doctor too, and I had more important things to do before I left like watching Penn State lose to Temple for the first time in 74 years.

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

The GPS died just as we entered Bradford, PA.  My sister lives across the border.  We are probably twenty minutes or less from her house.  But this is the most critical 20 minutes of the whole trip–it is the final set of turns and roads that I am not familiar with.

If I had known the battery wouldn’t last, I would have waited till I got here to turn it on.

If I knew Penn State was going to play like crap, I would have left three hours earlier.  The damned GPS would still have died, but at least it wouldn’t be dark out.

I pulled off to the side of the road.  I was going to throw a Hail Mary.  I was hoping the cord to connect it to the cigarette lighter was in the glove box.  I was pretty sure it wasn’t but I was desperate.  I didn’t even have the bad directions from MapQuest.

“I know how to get there,” my mom insists.

This from the woman who would have had me get off the wrong exit two and a half hours ago if she had pointed sooner and I was an idiot that didn’t know where I was going.

I don’t know where I am going right now, and I can’t find the car charger.  Kettle meet pot.  I am an idiot.

So at 10:30 at night, on a remote stretch of highway, I am going to let my 78 year old mom guide me.

What’s below idiot?

So I cautiously get back on the road thinking we are never going to get there.  Maybe I should just call my sister and have her give directions.  With my luck, the phone would die.  And that option would entail me having to give her meaningful landmarks of where we were (um, it’s a dark road, with some dark trees, does that help?) and hoping that she could guide us in for a safe landing.  She’s had benign brain tumors–three craniotomies, two gamma knives and a radiation treatment in a pear tree.

I should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque.

So down the road of perdition I go.  As I come up to an exit, marked with a flashing light, I stop.  I have the yellow flashes; I don’t need to stop.  Fortunately there is no traffic behind me.  I am pretty sure this was the next target destination according to the GPS before it died.  It’s final words so to speak.

Rosebud.  Or I-86/Rte. 17.  Something like that.

I look at my mom.

She looks at me.

Abbot and Costello have nothing on us.  I almost want to ask her “Who’s on first?”

Instead I ask, “Are we supposed to turn here?”

She looks around.  This is quite an ordeal, because of arthritis in her neck.

“Yes,” she finally replies.

“And when were you going to tell me that?  If I didn’t stop here, we’d be past it before you told me.”

So this is how it went.  Every intersection, I had to come to a stop and ask if we were supposed to turn here or not.

At one point, we come to an intersection with only three roads.  You can go straight or right.

“Go left,” she says.

There isn’t a road to the left.  There is someone’s house.  I’m sure they don’t want me to drive through their lawn.

“You mean right?”  I am so optimistic she will correct herself.  I also thought Penn State would win.

“No left,” she insists.  (She knows where she is going!  She has insisted this to me several times now, probably because I am questioning her choices and my sanity. I am beginning to have my doubts.)

I point out that I can’t turn left.  She looks.  Another ordeal.  It looks painful.

Then, she looks the other way and points (to the right,) “go left.”


We did eventually make it to my sister’s house.  God only knows how this was accomplished.  But score a victory for the Geriatric Pointing System.

Read Full Post »

While I am not a technophobe, I am one of those seemingly rare individuals that refuses to become dependent solely on modern technology.  I do not own an iPhone, let alone a smart phone.  I have a dumb phone.  It makes phone calls.  It receives phone calls.  I can receive and send texts, if I choose to sit there for fifteen minutes trying to convert my number pad into words when a simple phone call would transmit the same information in seconds.  Number pad?  I still have the rotary version.  You have to dial.  OK, I’m kidding about that, but you know what I mean.

I do not have to have the Internet by my side 24 hours a day.  (I also don’t pay a thirty dollar fee for a “data plan” which is simply a modern-day code for highway robbery or extortion.)  So I am old school . . and cheap.

Seriously, did Lewis and Clark need Siri to get across the country?

“Um, Siri, what is the best way to the Pacific Ocean, avoiding highways?”

They did not have–or need–that technology.  They didn’t need Siri–they had Sacagawea!

So when I had to take my son to Pittsburgh this weekend for a hockey game, I passed on taking my wife’s minivan with the built-in GPS system.  Who needs GPS?  Mankind survived for thousands of years without GPS.  Did Columbus need a GPS?  Ponce de Leon?  Marco Polo?  Moses?  Okay, Moses could have used a GPS out there in the desert and it might have cut thirty years off his trip, but he still managed to get where he was going without a GPS.

I can do this.

If ancient explorers could read the night skies, use a compass, and navigate their way half way around the world, surely I can find a hockey rink in Mt. Lebanon, PA.

Our coach emailed the team and warned us that the Squirrel Hill Tunnel was closed for construction and the detour had traffic backed up significantly.

Marco Polo didn’t have to deal with road construction.

Our coach proposed a detour south off 22 to 70.

Doesn’t that look an awfully long way out-of-the-way?  Would Sacagawea send Lewis (or Clark) down through Mexico before heading up to the Pacific Northwest?  Is this the route Columbus would have taken?  Now I know that none of these explorers had a computer and MapQuest (TM), but often they did have some type of maps, unless they were the ones charting the map for the first time.  I’m not trying to discover Mt. Lebanon.  I just want to go there.  I have no qualms about using MapQuest.  My maps are on pixels rather than parchment, but the smart explorer uses what means he or she has available to them, right?

So I played around with MapQuest, and tried clicking a button that avoided highways.  This is the route I came up with.

Doesn’t that look a lot more direct?  And faster?

Looks can be deceiving.  And I am an idiot.  It is a dangerous combination.  I am Moses and Mt. Lebanon is the Promised Land.

You see, travel on roads that are not highways, is slow, frustrating, and stupid.  If there had been a highway in the desert, Moses would have taken it.  Even if it was under construction.  So while my son’s teammates were zipping down the coach’s detour in cars, we were mounting camels in Monroeville.  There was no manna from Heaven, but we had burgers from Five Guys.  That’s way better than manna, so we’ve got an edge on Moses there.

Apparently Satan was hell-bent on keeping us from the Promise Land, though, despite our itemized directions.  I forgot to take some vital details into account when planning this expedition.  For one thing, the game was at 8 PM, and we are in October.  It was getting dark.  Now while that might have been a problem for Moses, I did have an overhead light in the camel car, so I was able to read my MapQuest map.

But apparently no one in the greater Pittsburgh area needs road signs.  They all must know where they are going, because you cannot figure it out driving around in the dark.  MapQuest tells me:

Stay straight to go onto Curry Hollow Rd.

Curry Hollow Rd becomes Brownsville Rd.

Brownsville Rd becomes Broughton Rd.

Turn right onto Library Rd/PA-88.

  • Library Rd is 0.1 miles past Gerhold St
  • Walgreens is on the corner
  • If you are on Bethel Church Rd and reach Superior St you’ve gone about 0.1 miles too far

It sounds so simple.

So after hitting 17,000 traffic lights–all of them red–and going through road construction anyway–we come to a place where the road splits.  One lane continues straight, and one veers off to the right.  MapQuest tells me to stay straight onto Curry Hollow Road.  There is a sign here at this intersection that says “Curry Hollow Road.”  But there is no arrow.  ALL of the traffic travelling with us is going right.  Apparently, they aren’t going to the hockey rink we are going to, or they didn’t check their parchments properly.  We head straight . . .

Into the Twilight Zone.

After travelling on what we thought was Curry Hollow Road (and there was never a sign at any corner to verify that little bit of information) for several miles, we begin to doubt MapQuest.  My son was building idols to other Gods.  He has a smart phone with Internet but doesn’t know how to use the GPS.  It’s just a useless piece of junk if you don’t know how to use it.  Moses may as well have had it.  He could at least throw it at someone and get their attention.

Maybe all those other people knew what they were doing.  This was ultimately confirmed when we came to a T intersection that actually had street signs.  Neither of the choices was any road that we were looking for.  Did we pass Superior Street?  I don’t know.  NONE OF THE STREETS I NEED ARE MARKED!

So we turn around and head back, thinking we should have made that right turn at Albuquerque because we certainly weren’t anywhere near Pismo Beach, let alone Mt. Lebanon.

So we ended up back on Curry Hollow Road, and subsequently Brownsville Road, but with God as my witness, we never did find Broughton Road.  Ever.  We thought we had found PA-88 Library Road–I am sure we were on it–but we never saw the Walgreens.  Businesses come and go.  I blame it on the economy, rather than my navigational skills.  So we continue on with the MapQuest directions certain that we will get to Mt. Lebanon before the Mayan Calendar ends.  I honestly thought we were back on track and we had supposedly completed several more steps on the list of directions and were getting very close to the Promised Land hockey rink, when we came to an intersection with a Walgreens.  Cue the Twilight Zone theme.

Apparently we weren’t almost at the rink . . . we were still back on page one of the directions at the Walgreens we had never seen the first time.

It’s not like Columbus or Magellan never got lost.  But they accidentally discovered some cool shit when they did that.  I didn’t discover anything but some dark alleys in suburban Pittsburgh–places I don’t want to be in the dark or ever return to.  And no one’s going to name a day after me like they did for Columbus.

It took us over TWO HOURS to travel from Monroeville to Mt. Lebanon.  MapQuest tells me the route from Monroeville is 23.21 miles and takes 51 minutes.  I don’t know where we wandered around or for how long (I think maybe we were abducted by aliens and didn’t know it) but it gives a whole new meaning to the phrase that I can’t get there from here.

My son missed the first period and a few minutes of the second thanks to my shortcut.  At least his team won 7-1.

Next time, I think I’ll get a TomTom GPS.

Or just take the stupid Minivan.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: