Every so often the Sat Nav I use to chart my way round the US decides to throw me a curve ball. It doesn’t happen very often – once every thousand miles or so – and as I’ve now done over 2300 miles on this trip I was well overdue for some Sat Nav shenanigans. It’d made a half-hearted effort the other night when I was in the midst of the heavy post-eclipse traffic on the I-40. It told me that I had to stay in the right hand lane at a flyover intersection when, in reality, my exit lane was the one on the far left hand side. This made for quite an interesting few seconds of driving as I tried to navigate the five lanes of freeway traffic between the right and left lanes, at night, with half-a-mile of notice.
Don’t get me wrong – it has served me well over the years. I purchased it in a ‘Best Buy’ just outside of San Francisco at the start of the first road trip I did around this country. I figured it was cheaper to spend $80 buying one outright, with a US map installed, then it was to pay the hire car company $9-a-day to rent one. Ever since then it has guided me relatively successfully around forty-seven of the fifty states (only Georgia left of the continental forty-eight now!).
Today though, it decided to have a bit of fun. Having programmed in the address for the hotel in Live Oak, Florida, everything seemed to be going ok. It took me off at the interstate exit just before the town and then seemed to point me in (what I remembered from the map) was the right direction. I drove down a small highway for a couple of miles and then slowed to make a right turn as directed. Something seemed wrong though as I couldn’t make out where exactly I was supposed to turn into. Slowing even more I saw where it was directing me – down a narrow, one-way, unpaved lane that was only a bit wider than the car.
I gave the Sat Nav the benefit of the doubt as it has, in the past, sent me down routes that seem very wrong but then turn out to be an unexpected short-cut. I started down the lane and, almost as soon as I did, two things happened:
- The heavens opened in spectacular fashion. A thunderstorm had been rumbling away to itself for the past half-hour or so and it picked this moment to kick it up to monsoon mode. It absolutely threw it down.
- A large truck (I think it was a log lorry) turned into the road behind me. There was no way I or he could turn around so I had no option but to carry on.
After four miles of driving down a lane that was rapidly becoming a river the Sat Nav announced triumphantly that I had reached my destination. I doubted this somewhat as I was now in the middle of a forest. I kept driving for another couple of miles until I reached the end of the lane. I had the option of turning right or left and took a gamble and went right. The truck followed me
Another few miles down this new lane there was a small crossroads where I was able to pull over and let the truck pass. It was clear the Sat Nav was not going to be of much help as its map was obviously incorrect for the region around me. I checked google maps on my phone but there was no signal to speak of. I could vaguely recall where the hotel was in relation to the town so decided to do things the old-fashioned way. In my bag in the boot of the car there was a collection of fold-out road maps for the south western US and a Florida state map.
It was still absolutely throwing it down with rain, and there was some pretty spectacular lightening, so I grabbed my coat and proceeded to get comprehensively soaked while rummaging rough my bag in the boot. I grabbed the maps and dived back into the car. The torrential rain, thunder and tropical climate made me worry that there might be a Dilophosaurus sat in the passenger seat when I returned but I got lucky this time.
I was able to find out where I was on the Florida state map by tracing the route I had taken from the interstate and comparing this to where I thought the hotel was. The Sat Nav had sent me in completely the wrong direction. By following some more small lanes for just over ten miles I worked my way back to the highway I’d originally turned off and turned back onto the main road. The instant I did the rain stopped and the sun came out. As I drove down the highway towards where the hotel actually was I swear I could hear the Sat Nav quietly chuckling to itself.