This month, I’m driving to a lot of unfamiliar places for book events. Here’s what I’ve learned about trying to find my way there:
- GPS and Mapquest never agree. Generally, I tend to trust Mapquest more, because the GPS plays nasty tricks on me. (See below) But occasionally, Mapquest will get something VERY wrong — and then I’m left with the GPS snickering and flashing its “recalculating” message while it plans something evil. I know that Google Navigation is probably the most accurate, but I don’t like driving with a phone in my hand, and there’s no place for a mount on my dashboard.
- My GPS has a fondness for the Schuykill Expressway, the single most congested highway in this area. Whenever possible, it tries to divert me onto it. (“Yes, you’re driving from central New Jersey to the border of Delaware, but wouldn’t you like to take a side trip through Philadelphia via the Schuykill Expressway? Come on! Where’s your sense of adventure?”)
- When a road is actually closed and I have to turn around and find a different way, instead of plotting an alternate route, GPS will send me in a big circle and point me back to the dead end.
- Pennsylvania roads have too many names. There is often a number — sometimes more than one, such as US-202-N/US-322 W — and also a name — like Wilmington Pike. Mapquest, GPS, and the road signs will all say something different.
- Then, there are directions like this: Take PA-100 N. Merge onto PA-100 Spur. Stay straight to go onto Graphite Mine Road. Slight right onto Pottstown Pike. Yeah — what the heck, because those are all THE SAME ROAD. I don’t even have to change lanes!
- When driving around the ritzy Mainline area outside Philadelphia, 5-way, 6-way, and 7-way intersections, with all the roads heading off at strange angles, are extremely common — and NONE OF THEM are marked with street signs. The message is: If you don’t already know where you are, you don’t belong here.
- The person in the car behind me feels the same way. He HATES me because I’m trying to read the street signs, and he will ride on my bumper just to let me know how he feels. Even though there’s a passing lane.
You know what? Forget paper maps. What I’d really like is teleportation.