Monday, March 29, 2010

Unexpected adventures with Nigel the GPS

I know everyone has their zany GPS misdirection stories. I don't really have any complaints about Nigel the GPS. He does a great job getting us where we need to go. But sometimes I feel like he really has a sense of adventure. He's not content to just get us there. He likes to take us on the scenic route, or a different way each separate trip to the same destination, or on roads that Google Maps doesn't even know exist.

It got to the point where, on our road trip to Middlebury last week, I actually asked Jeremy to check Nigel's settings. There's one screen that lets you set a preference for a few options, like avoid toll roads, avoid traffic, avoid U-turns, etc. I was beginning to think that there was an option called "take the road less traveled" that was turned on for Nigel.

But there wasn't, so I really don't have any explanation for why Nigel GPS'd us straight into a lake on our drive home from Middlebury. We were cruising along just outside of Vergennes when all of a sudden Nigel said to continue straight ahead, but straight ahead was Lake Champlain.

Lucky for Nigel, and for us, there was a ferry. How did he know there was a ferry? There were no signs for it. Google doesn't know about it. But it was there, and it was free, and we took it. Looking back it seems like some kind of alternate dimension that opened up just for us at that moment. I wonder if it really existed.

The whole rest of the drive until Syracuse, Nigel wound us through country road after mountain highway after small-town main street. At some point around Lake George, we hit the freeway and I was really excited to finally cover some ground. Until Nigel told me to take the exit in three miles for another podunk backroad. Oh well. Over the next three hours, we got a great look at half a dozen lakes dotted with empty summer camp compounds. It was really rather gorgeous.

After we got home, I looked on Google Maps to try to recreate the route Nigel directed us on and it's impossible. We drove through so many tiny mountain villages and turned left and right on their main streets, cutting even between winding two-lane roads that I can't figure out the logic he used.

Maybe Nigel is just adapting to his new East Coast habitat. It's been an adjustment for all of us. Out west, miles away = minutes to get there, pretty reliably. Here, you have to multiply by a factor of about three to calculate an accurate travel time.

Not that I mind. I forgive Nigel for his overly adventurous spirit because the creative routes he ends up taking us on allow me to experience to the fullest the beautiful scenery in this area. Guiding us toward the freeways on our way home from Vermont might have been more efficient, but without Nigel, we couldn't say we've taken a ferry across Lake Champlain from Vermont to New York, now could we?


Steven said...

That reminds me of The Office episode where Michael drives straight into the lake because the GPS told him to. Haha.

Liz Johnson said...

Hahahahahaha seriously though, where did that ferry come from? Was anybody else on it? I'm starting to wonder if that was an alternate dimension, too.

I once heard that east-coast roads were formed simply by paving cow paths. I sometimes wonder if that's right.

Bridget said...

Steven, I don't think I've seen that before! I'll have to look it up.

Liz, I have no idea. But there were other people on it and we do have that photo, so it must have been real, right?

Suzanne Bubnash said...

I too thought of Michael Scott!

Just this winter there were several people/families out west that were stranded on remote logging roads in snow and had to be rescued. Because they followed their GPS. In another scenario, a homeowner is suing because a GPS tells people to drive right through his property so all these cars come by & want to trespass because the GPS gives them that route. So look out.

Merkley Jiating said...

The Office. Awesome! Our GPS has an "Avoid Ferries" option. We didn't know about it until we ended up on a ferry over the Potomac from Maryland to Virginia this summer.

AmandaStretch said...

A ferry over the Potomac? This I must find before I leave DC, if ever I do.

This weekend, I was driving into DC and decided to take the freeway instead of the local road my iPhone wanted me to take, because I can get into DC just fine, it's the finding my way to my friend's place for the first time that was the problem. Even when I was ON said freeway, the iPhone refused to recognize it and decided I must be on a side street. I was getting the weirdest directions. I finally got a route I could work with, but it was frustrating.

karina said...

We've driven from Middlebury to Michigan a few times (which involves going on I90 through upstate NY). Each time we've tried to find the best possible option for getting there. We've found that they all involve quite a bit of driving on "back roads" (which must just be the only roads). We did not, however, use the ferry option...maybe next time.

Jill said...

Sounds like a fun adventure! We love ferries, especially free ones :)
Maybe Nigel was set to find the shortest route, as opposed to the fastest (which is generally the freeway route). We've done that before and it has taken us a way we would have never found ourselves.

B-Rad said...

This is exactly why I still haven't purchased a GPS yet. I know they're convenient and nice in big cities, but they can also get you lost on road trips (as many have already stated, The Office episode involving Michael driving into a lake is a classic example). I believe the best option is to get directions to your destination (from Google maps or friends that know the area) and then cross-reference those directions with a good old fashion road atlas. Plus it gives you a good excuse to study maps (one of my favorite pastimes - just ask Andrea).

Craig said...

One thing I really love about the GPS is you can take any road or detour that you fancy, because the GPS will recompute as needed and you won't get lost. Driving around in Germany I took off on some really out of the way country roads and it was marvelous! We've done the same on some roads here in the Oregon Coast Range.

Bridget said...

B-Rad I totally agree that looking at an atlas has become underrated. It's hard to get the big picture sometimes with a GPS (and also the states here in the east are so wonkily shaped).

One of my favorite uses for the GPS is for navigating from familiar place to familiar place, when it's not a trip you've made before so you don't know the best way to get there. It's nice.

Earthchild said...

I, too, must join the others in saying that I thought of Michael and Dwight and the gift baskets. Haha!

Wow, that's...uncanny..... we do not have GPS (not that we'd need it---my dad is the ultimate navigator and only needs a map when we drive more than 150 km from home) and, to my knowledge, we don't have ferries around here, either. I wish we did!


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