Tuesday, August 11, 2009

GPS, Friend or Foe

If you have been following my blog the last week or so, you may have picked up on the fact that Man, Moi, Big Butt and Tana took a couple of detours. Detours encountered while more or less “relying” on GPS systems.

Gotta say I hate and love GPS systems. Love the maps on my computer, currently using Microsoft Streets and Trips, with GPS. (Man and Big Butt share a Garmin). I can zoom in and out, change the route while underway, lots of neat things. Man loves the voice commands on Garmin, I will admit, they are pretty good. Yep, Garmin beats S & T’s in the voice command arena.

However, maps are NOT up to date on either program/GPS. We have updated Garmin, not a cheap undertaking, but we have not seen any road changes. Friends tell us they have. They must be traveling different roads than we are! LOL We are not real happy with roads that change in concrete/blacktop, but not on GPS systems. Cannot tell you how many roads we have driven on that do NOT exist per GPS, looks like you are driving through a corn field, or maybe a sugar cane field, if you are in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas. It is a bit bizarre, driving on a road but GPS shows you floating cross emptiness.

I will fess up, I really need to get more practice with S & T’s. I don’t use it frequently or hard enough to learn all the tricks. Man, are you listening?? Moi thinks we need to travel more, so I can practice. LOL

When I set a route, like the other day on the run around Chicago, I sometimes force the route a bit. I wanted to go via McHenry County Illinois, and take routes further outside of Chicago. I did not want to go busting thru downtown Chicago. So to force the route, I said, take me to Woodstock, right in the middle of McHenry County.

GPS took us RIGHT to Woodstock via 47, then through it, around downtown and back out to 47. I am still trying to figure out why I did not realize that Big Butt and Tana should have just stayed on 47 and not taken the downtown route. We got lucky, no low bridges, all turns fairly easy to maneuver and no damage done, cept to Man’s mood.

Friends of ours traveling to Elkhart via Chicago same day had even more fun, their GPS put them on a dirt bumpy horrible road for a LONG time.

What happened in Milwaukee?? I still don’t know. What I do know is that we ended up in downtown Milwaukee, off the expressways and basically the same thing happened to MOC friends of ours. They were using the GPS systems as well to navigate around, errr, through Milwaukee.

Now, my memory ain’t what it used to be, but, I swear Man and I fuss more now over routes and turns. OK, to tell the truth, there is a lot more fussing now than before GPS systems. I had hoped to ditch paper maps. Now, I know better. DO NOT GIVE AWAY your paper maps. KEEP EVERY ONE OF THEM. You are gonna need em. Cause when the GPS systems fail, the paper ones are where you are gonna turn to get you out of the mess GPS just got you into.

So, I guess I need more practice with GPS and really need to study routes around cities, small and large very very very carefully. We have fallen victim to the hype about GPS, and depend on it too much. As nice as they are, if you do not master the GPS, it will take you places you really do not want to go when you are running Big Butt and Tana down the road, 53 feet and nearly 22,000 pounds. The reality is, they are either friend or foe, depending on how well you can make them work FOR you. And ya better compare them to your paper maps to be sure the road is there, or NOT.

*Photos have nothing to do whatsoever with this blog story, cept that they are from my family history files, and it seemed like a fun place to use them!


Chuck said...

I couldn't agree more about keeping paper maps, even with GPS. Normally I plan my travel routes with Streets & Trips and Google Maps. I look very hard at the major intersections so I can remember them when I get there. Often I print a local map of a town.
But lately I have gotten careless and have not studied the route on paper/computer before the trip. That's when I have problems with GPS navigating - when a road splits in 3 or 4, GPS voice commands can be confusing.

Love the street signs!

Greta Koehl said...

I rely on paper maps, but then I'm basically hopeless when I'm outside my own neighborhood, so GPS probably wouldn't help me. Glad I'm not the only directionally-challenged person.

Anonymous said...

As you I have spent lots and lots of money on updates and more updates, Garmin, DElorme, and a new MS S&T program with the GPS plug in for the laptop.
We found out how unreliable it was when we took our first long vacation across to Nebraska, in So Dakota the street name were on the streets post but not on the Garmin just a RT # very confusing at times, MS S&T you can program your route and plan it the way you want go then save it as a route, I cant do that with the garmin it want to take me the way it thinks is best for me.

Trailer Trash 2

KathyandDave88@hotmail.com said...

1. Trailer Trash 2 said it: I like to plan the route on S&T, then follow it live, but having the PC in the truck is a pain. I'd love to plan in the PC, then dump the plan into a smaller GPS, then upload the trace to the PC for later reference. My brother, who races his bike (think Tour de France), uses a bike program on the PC, downloads to his miniature Garmin, then gets the trace back later. Does any body know of a thing like this for trucks/RV's?
2. My GPS has gotten me out of some wrong-turn jams: once in LA and another time in Connecticut, so I still like to keep one running while traveling unknown territory.
3. Microsoft should buy TomTom, which would resolve their patent lawsuit and fulfill my wish.