A Time Before GPS by Marty Glaser

I remember long ago learning to study maps when I was planning a trip. After deciding what roads I would drive, I wrote out the directions North and South with the road between arrows. I could quickly glance at my route chart without going back to the map. On the initial and return trips, I employed the same technique, which I found extremely useful.

I was pretty good at getting someplace the first time. I also seemed to be pretty good at getting back home. I utilized the “Take a picture” in my head of locations, buildings, names of stores, etc. Once I had gone some place, I always seemed to be able to return.

This skill was acquired when I was fifteen and a half years old. If my parents allowed me to drive their car, they made sure I drove carefully and with respect, and provided the necessary care for their vehicle. My father taught me to change tires, check the battery, and radiator fluid. Topping off the windshield wiper fluid and checking the windshield wipers for cracks was standard procedure in our family.

Since my father didn’t want to let me drive on the highway until I was ready, he had me drive the back roads from Tully Dam up through Rindge, New Hampshire. I drove so smoothly that I put my father to sleep on several occasions. Forced to figure out where I was, I pulled out the map, charted my present location and drove my charted route home. When I drove in the driveway, Dad woke up. He asked me where I had driven. I gave him the report and told him I studied the map and got back home safe and sound. That is the way it was back then.

Now, everyone sets the GPS to their destination and follows it as if God is the GPS. But Lenore and I still use maps. Even though the GPS is usually accurate, if we ever have a detour, we’d rather use maps to calculate alternate routes.

The GPS does have many benefits. If you need to get off a main highway, stop for restrooms, food, or coffee, it’s invaluable. If you need to stop for overnight lodging, again the GPS is valuable. Lenore and I have learned to use a combination of both GPS and maps. This allows us minimal trip disruptions.

When we travel to New York State to see David, Jessica, and Olivia, the GPS routes us over the George Washington Bridge. If you can imagine this scene, I am yelling at a machine, arguing that I don’t want to go over the George Washington Bridge and I would rather go over the Tappan Zee Bridge.

Life was simpler when I simply studied and followed maps and I enjoyed driving a lot more. Lenore religiously programs the GPS in the morning just before we leave but I like to study maps beforehand. I guess, the marriage between map reading and taking advantage of the advances in Global Positing Satellite Communication is the best way to travel by car.

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