Friday, July 23, 2010

The Route Of All Evil: My GPS Wants Me Dead

I’m not one to anthropomorphize machines. For example, I don’t name my motorcycles, and I don’t refer to them as “she” like sailors do with their ships. But this afternoon I broke that rule for the first time.

With my work week pretty much over, I decided this morning to go for a ride. It was shaping up to be a hot one inland, so I strapped the Camelbak onto the bike and opened all the vents on my Arai before rolling out of the garage.

I was comfortable until I had to slow down for road construction, or heavy traffic in a town; only then did I realize how hot it was. But as long as I kept moving, I was okay.

About halfway through the ride I got an urge to go to a local lake, a popular resort area with a good restaurant. I pulled over to the side of the road and searched for it on my GPS, and asked it for the shortest route.

Be careful what you wish for.

After about 5 miles of pavement, the road the GPS told me to take turned to graded gravel. Five more miles and the GPS told me to turn left on what appeared to be someone’s driveway, but which it promised would get me to the lake in 35 minutes. That estimate didn’t jive with the mileage—the lake was supposed to be just 7 miles ahead—but I turned anyway.

Soon the road went from graded gravel to rough dirt, and I found out why the GPS expected it would take me more than half an hour to go 7 miles. It got narrower, and rougher, and steeper, until I was feathering the clutch and picking my way up a one-lane track covered with sharp rocks the size of baseballs.

I was going so slowly the ETA on the GPs was going up, not down, as I rode. At the top of a hill that might have been a lost stage of the Dakar Rally, I stopped. Ahead of me the road dropped sharply and disappeared around a bend. The rocks were bigger and sharper than anything I’d seen so far.

I was sweating buckets by now, and not just from the walking pace I’d been riding. I was way past my comfort level, and worse, I was alone, and no one knew where I was. I turned the bike around and headed back the way I’d come.

As I said, I don’t name machines, and I don’t give them human attributes. But today I made an exception for my GPS, which will henceforth and forever be known as The Route Of All Evil. —Jerry Smith

1 comment:

  1. "She routes, she kills". I think a USGS map is in order.