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Adventures with Navigation Systems

I’ve had some adventures with navigation systems lately. My car is a 2013 Dodge Charger with built-in Garmin navigation. I travel quite a bit this time of year, and roads have changed in the past nine years. Old ones have closed, and new ones have opened. I decided to update my navigation system a couple months ago, and that’s when my frustration began. Apparently, my car is too old for a navigation update. Garmin won’t update anything 2014 or older. Boo, hiss.

Because I was unable to update my car, I started pricing navigation systems that attach to your dash or windshield. I was dismayed by the cost of new systems, but I didn’t want a refurbished one, either. I found a reasonably priced system by Janfun, a brand with which I’m not familiar. At $59.99, it was a lot more economical than the Garmin, TomTom, and Rand McNally devices I looked at.

I ordered the system and used it, or rather attempted to use it, to travel to a writers’ conference in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. I had a good idea of how to reach my destination, but I wanted to be sure to turn on the appropriate highway in Bentonville. It gets a little tricky right there.

I had promised a friend that I’d pick up a book she won at the Joplin Public Library, and I typed my destination address into the machine while sitting in the library parking lot. The machine brought up three routes, all of which were double the drive time of the one I always take. I couldn’t get it to pull up the most direct route, but I figured it would recalculate once I was on my way and be fine. Yes, I double checked to be sure it had my correct current location.

It began telling me to turn around before I even left Joplin, Missouri. I thought maybe it wanted me to take a main road that currently has a closed bridge, so I ignored it at first. I knew exactly where I was and that I was taking the best route. I still thought it would lock on to my course, so I continued on.

Every ten minutes or so, the machine announced the speed limit and told me to slow down. Most of the time, I wasn’t even speeding. After telling me to slow down, it would tell me to take the next exit. I knew better on most of them. That is until I was almost to Bentonville, and it told me to turn on a highway that sounded vaguely familiar. I took the exit, and the darn thing was happy with me for a few miles.

Unfortunately, it was the wrong exit. When I realized I was heading the wrong way, I pulled over and typed my destination address into my car’s nine-year-old system, which I named Elizabeth when I bought the car. Elizabeth took a few seconds to find me and put me on a path back to the right highway. It then led me straight to my hotel with no issues. Meanwhile, my new system continued to tell me to turn around and slow down every ten minutes or so.

Just so you know, it’s quite difficult to speed in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. To give you an idea of how annoyingly asinine my new gadget was, at one point I was driving 23 miles an hour on a particularly sharp curve when it said, “The speed limit is 45 miles per hour. Slow down.” It followed that immediately with “Turn around at the first opportunity.” I recognized my surroundings. I was on the right road, just a few miles from the hotel.

I finally arrived at the conference, later than planned, and regaled my friends with the details of my frustrating journey. One of my pals told me she had a spare Garmin in her glovebox that I could have. All I would need to do is update the maps. I thanked her profusely and returned my new system, along with a note regarding how irksome it was to use, to the place from which I’d purchased it.

I took a business trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota a couple weeks ago. My boss drove the entire way there, so I didn’t need to worry about following a map. I did notice that he had his phone plugged into the company van’s console, which was displaying a map from his phone. This seemed a simple way to do things, so when he gave me the keys and said my coworker and I could take the van to Mall of America, I figured I’d do the same thing. Wrong again.

I plugged my phone into the console, and the screen in the dash gave me an error. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get the darn thing to work. So, my coworker and I decided to use the navigation on my phone. She held my phone while I followed the instructions it gave me. It took us on a merry chase. We were driving in circles through residential areas, onto different highways, and back again. We both felt like kissing the ground when we finally parked at Mall of America.

We decided we’d use her phone on the way back. The route it used was less twisty, but it was still a stressful trip back to the hotel. My friend is a great navigator, though. She looked ahead as I was driving and let me know what lane I needed to be in (there were six going one way) and how soon my turns were coming. Once we returned the van to hotel’s parking garage, we agreed we’d be walking wherever we went for the rest of the trip. Highways in the Minneapolis area are no joke.

Fast forward to last week. I successfully updated the Garmin my friend gave me. It cost me $49.99 for updated maps of the US and Canada. It took a little less than two hours to download the new maps into my system, and I felt really good about being current for the first time in several years.

I attended my semi-annual writers’ retreat last weekend. I had a slight medical issue that required some over the counter medicine I had failed to pack. Since the campground where the retreat is held is close to Neosho, Missouri, I knew I could easily obtain the medicine I needed from one of the stores there.

I decided that my quick trip to the store would be a great time to test my Garmin updates. I’m not extremely familiar with that rural area, but I know one way to get to Neosho from there. When I typed in the coordinates, my system popped up a route that was different from that which I had planned to take. I decided to follow where it led. After all, it had brand new maps.

I followed the instructions and turned down the dirt road indicated. Then I turned down another dirt road. When I came to a fork in the road, one side said, “Keep Out Private Drive.” The other side had no sign. My system wanted me to take the road that warned me to stay away. I took the fork without any posted warnings.

My system recalculated as I bounced over huge potholes and rocks, kicking up dust in my wake. The third dirt road wound around and around, finally emerging onto the paved road I’d planned to take in the first place. I’d been driving for 20 minutes and hit the main road a half mile from where I would have accessed it if I’d gone the way I planned.

Even though I knew exactly where I was and where I was going at that point, I left the system on to see what else it told me to do. To its credit, it gave me the proper route. Once on the highway, it was spot on. The city of Neosho proved to be no problem for it, either. I think my updated Garmin will work out just fine as long as I stay off dirt roads.

I was visiting with my friends at the retreat about the joys and annoyances of travelling when we arrived at the topic of navigation systems. We agreed that they are great as long as they work properly. However, when they mess up, good luck. One of my friends advised me to always take a paper map with me as a backup for when the electronics are wrong. Old school and wise. I think I’ll do that from now on.

Have you ever had a navigation system adventure?




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