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The misdirected adventures of Lea, my untrustworthy GPS

October 8, 2010 - Art Smith
Thursday after work I had one simple goal in mind. Get from Parkersburg to Racine to watch a volleyball game at Southern High School.

It sounded simple enough, according to Google maps it would take me about 45 minutes to get there regardless of which one of the three routes it recommended. I should have listened to my trusty friend Google.

Instead I trusted my travels to my Lea, my GPS with an attitude. Shortly after I got on Ohio 7 it had me get off onto another state highway near Little Hocking. Fair enough I thought, the GPS must have been shortening the backtracking route I noticed on Google maps.

All went well for a while, a nice late afternoon drive along the Ohio River, all went well that is until I got to the road closed signs several miles down Ohio 124.

“You just ran out of road,” a local gentleman informed me. The road has been closed for two years, he said, “It causes a lot of problems for people that depend on those GPS devices, had a semi stuck here last week” he said. “You know you can update those maps if you have a computer,” the nice man told me.

He asked me if I had four-wheel drive. I do. He then gave me directions along a tiny gravel road up over the hill. Take it, he said until you get to a paved road, and then turn left. “It will get you there.”

Feeling like a mountain goat I headed up the path, I mean road. Getting to the top of the hill, I actually passing a herd of goats, and found the road.

Lea, as most GPS devices do, plotted a new route, that is until I got to another road closure. This one upset “her” as she told me to turn around about every 50 feet for three miles.

“She” eventually adjusted to the new road and got me there. Coming home, I took the trusty Ohio 7 route.

It’s not the first time my GPS has lead me astray. Last week in Oil City, PA, I swear to God, it had me drive in a complete circle.

Once I let it plot the shortest route between I77 and Beverly. Apparently the software that powers the device considered the one lane road it had me on to be an actual drivable route.

GPS devices are only as good as the maps that are contained on them. The older the GPS gets, the more out of date the maps get. In the past few months the GPS has indicated that I was off road several times when in fact I was simply on new road. The problem on Ohio 124 is likely indicated on updated maps.

The maps can be updated on some devices, but not mine. The cost to update the maps frequently cost almost as much as new devices.

The fact that smart phones can now be used as GPS devices has driven down the cost of the dedicated machines.

You may be wondering why my GPS is named Lea. L, E, and A are the first letters of first names of my wife and two daughters. It seemed appropriate to name the GPS after the trio that has been giving me driving advice for years.


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