Wednesday, February 23, 2011

If You Can't Count on This...

Some things you just believe in. Experience teaches you that you can count on them. The sun rising in the east, setting in the west. The neighbor’s dog barking you awake at 6:30 every morning. The Cubs blowing any National League Central Division lead they may hold. Google Maps getting you where you want to go.

Today, that last maxim of the 21st century fell.

Three friends (C, K, and D) and I planned an outing to a quilt exhibit in a museum in a nearby town. We had been to this town before, but not to this particular museum, so yesterday, in an attempt to be efficient, trustworthy, loyal, brave and display all other valued personal characteristics, I thought I’d go online, get the museum’s exact address and print the driving directions for our sojourn.

We met up at C’s house and got started on our way. The first half of the trip was a no-brainer. We knew we were going to head north on I-Whatever, then take the Whatchamacallit Exit leading us to the bridge to the destination town. K was driving, and I rode shotgun, Google Maps directions in my hot little hands.

Just as we approached the end of the bridge, D said, “Turn right as you come off the bridge.” Ruh-roh… I said, “Um, the directions say to turn left.” But one of our friends who was actually exhibiting a quilt in this show had told D to go right. This left K in a quandary, not knowing what to do. At this point, D waffled a little, and said maybe our friend got it wrong, and as a group we just wanted to punt.

[I might gently point out that said friend and D were once in a car heading from St. Louis to Paducah, Kentucky, when they realized they were lost. They managed to ask someone for help, and were told that they were in Indiana. Ever since, they have borne the rallying cry: They’ve moved Paducah to Indiana!”]

Our intrepid driver went right, but in very short order, we all kind of jointly decided that we ought to hang a u-ie and follow the Google Maps directions. Mm-hmm.

On we went, 6.2 miles till you take a right here, then 2.9 miles and take a left there, 3.4 miles to the Homer Simpson Parkway, then left at the barn from another planet. We did just as the instructions said, and the mileage and the roads were all just as they said. We joked that this was going to end us up right where we made that original u-turn. Ah, if only…

The only problem was, and I do hate to nit-pick, that there was never a museum to be had at the end of the route.

We thought we were being taken to the middle of nowhere, but it turned out to be about 6.1 miles past the middle of nowhere. Cornfields to the left of us, cornfields to the right of us (all whacked down to their stumpy stalks, of course).

When the last road was reached, and the green pushpin on the map indicated that we had reached our destination, we were sitting at the end of a road that was tough to even turn-around on. There was a mailbox right out of the Bates Motel with the numbers 8175 on it. The address of the museum was supposed to be 2751. The street name was not even vaguely similar to the street the museum was on.

K bravely got the car turned around, and we began to retrace our route. “I know,” I said, “I’ll call the Center of the Universe (CoTU) and he can look up the correct address online. I must have made some crazy mistake when I plugged this in to Google Maps.”

I made the call, and CoTU gamely tried to come to our rescue. He got the same address I had. He gave me the museum’s phone number, and I figured we’d call them for directions. The only problem with that idea was that I had very little ability to tell them where we’d be starting from. That’s when we decided to turn to K’s GPS system. She pulled up “Local Attractions” from the menu, plugged in the museum name, and a holier-than-thou voice with superior bone structure and a hundred-dollar haircut began issuing orders. “Proceed to the next street and turn right. (You idiot, you.)”

We were at the museum in twenty minutes. The woman at the front desk said we were the third or fourth person who described the same crazy experience trying to find the museum.

The original right turn was correct.

The quilter and D were right.

Google Maps and I were wrong.

We loved the quilt show, and most important, we were right on time for our lunch reservation at a lovely local tea room. We laughed about the odyssey over our salads, and D generously said, “At least we saw a lot of things we’d never seen before!” I said, “Yeah, that’s what Dante said in the third circle of hell, but I don’t think that made it a good thing.”

Moral of the story? If you want to play it safe, stay home, make yourself a quilt, and have lunch at your kitchen table. On the other hand, if you want to have an adventure with some great friends, print out a map, get in the car, and hit the road. Just make sure you have a GPS, a charged-up cell phone, and a driver with a sense of humor.

Here I am with D and K; C graciously took the photo! We're standing in front of the wonderful quilts on display.


  1. Woo, woo, I just love roadtrips with friends, don't you? I might have been on some of the same roads as you; one of my favorite stories involves a trip from St. Louis to Chicago. On the way back, with the car packed so tightly from our shopping trip that you couldn't get another tube of lipstick in, my friend's car started making a funny sound, like we were dragging a cardboard box or something. Fortunately, there was a car dealership out in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately, it was the front fender that was dragging and they couldn't fix it. Fortunately, they could remove it for us. My friend refused to leave it, thinking that she could get it put back on in St. Louis. There was no room anywhere, except for the backseat, across the laps of the passengers (which included me). We carried that s#$%! thing the rest of the trip home. It's a good thing that we took potty breaks while we were at the dealership!

  2. Funny story! I've gotten a couple of bad tips from Google, too, but no cornfields were involved. I'm glad you are posting again!

  3. Always take Google maps with a grain of salt and a large margarita. I just looked up directions from Los Angeles, CA to Japan, for fun. I actually got them. Twelve detailed directions for roads and turns. Then #13 - "Kayak across the Pacific Ocean." #14. Continue straight.

    Not kidding.

    Then it gives me driving directions across Hawaii, and back into the kayak. Approximate travel time - 35 days, 6 hours. :)

  4. Ah, the adventure of getting there!
    Love your writing skills!

  5. Someone told me about the GPS they purchased that was more of a cheap, generic variety. Whenever they approached a street ending it Drive, it would voice 'doctor" (DR) Now that is some sad-ass GPS.