Daily Archives: July 12, 2013

Sat Nav to the Rescue

Map of Interstate 40

We realize now that all the exits off the scenic parkway have similar looking, unobtrusive tourist signs, not INTERSTATE 40 LEADING BACK TO YOUR TRAILER signs, so we didn’t think too much of it when at the bottom of the (wrong) exit ramp it looked a little different than we remembered and we couldn’t turn left as we both thought we should. Jimmy simply turned right and then executed one of his customary U-turns (first perfected over solid lines on a bridge in Toulouse, France where he was stopped by two scarily-clad-in-black-leather French motorcycle cops). After ten minutes of suburban touring along a five lane road with big chain stores looming over us, he finally said, “This doesn’t look familiar, does it?”

Compass (Photo credit: Roland Urbanek)

No, it didn’t look familiar and a quick glance at the compass prompted me to say, “We’re going south-west. I would have thought we should be going north-east.” I might just as well have spoken Japanese to him. For a man with a good sense of direction and the ability to find places by following his nose, he has never gotten his head ‘round the points of the compass. And we needed a town plan, not the state map that I clutched on my lap as a security blanket.

After shooting me a look of incomprehension, Jimmy suggested trying the sat nav. We pulled off the road into a strip mall parking lot, fumbled around under the seats, in the door pockets and finally in the glove compartment for the sat nav disk, dusted it off for its first outing in two years and popped it into the radio. The only instruction on the screen was to read the manual . . . which was in French. (Ha, ha, ha. So Teddy, the car salesman, had the last laugh. When we bought the car, he had tried to sell us the disk “at a really good price” but we had refused to pay for it as the car had been advertised with a sat nav and we contended that it wasn’t much good without a disk. Teddy magicked the disk out of the used car lot and the manual came from . . . . France?)

This is not our sat nav. We'd never get there using this method.

At a loss as to what to do next, we did what anyone in a similar situation would do and started jabbing the sat nav screen and swearing.

“What’s the ****** address where we are staying?”

“I don’t know. The zip code is 28778.” But of course that would be too easy. We couldn’t find anywhere to enter a simple five digit code. “Try Swannanoa, the suburb of Asheville where the campsite is.” The computer screen wouldn’t accept the second  “n” in Swannanoa. It blanked it out.  “Try Patton Cove Road. That’s near enough.” After the first few letters the computer suggested Patton Camp, Patton Hill, Patton Hollow and Patton School but wouldn’t allow Patton Cove as an entry. Jimmy jabbed back, back, back.

Swannanoa River at Asheville, North Carolina.
Swannanoa River at Asheville, North Carolina. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“There. Look. Phone number. Try that,” I blurted, my desire to articulate now gone. The sat nav wouldn’t accept the 800 free phone number I had looked up in the camping directory which came as no surprise as we were trying to pinpoint a location with it.

“Put the interstate in.” After much heated discussion as to whether it was I40, I-40 or I_40, the in-car computer refused to accept any variation of Interstate 40, faltering at the “0”.

“Here’s a phone number for the RV dealer next door to us! Try that!” I exclaimed triumphantly. The area code and first five digits of the phone number went in a treat but the contrary computer refused the last two digits. After three aborted tries, I snapped at Jimmy, “Oh put anything in for the last two digits. See what it comes up with.” We then had directions to First Presbyterian Church.

From memory of the directions we’d followed originally to the campsite the church was near where we wanted to go. Guidance Gertie now helpfully instructed us in her slow parlance for lost dummies, “Move out onto the indicated highway and verbal instructions will begin.” (Kind of sad and a little creepy that I’ve named the sat nav.)

“Well if we knew which highway to get on and in which direction, we wouldn’t be asking you, would we?” I yelled at Gert. Somehow it seemed slightly less

We weren't this far off course. it just seemed like it at the time.
We weren’t this far off course. it just seemed like it at the time.

deranged to bellow at a talking computer that couldn’t hear me, than my usual state of affairs – at a silent computer that couldn’t hear me.

As Jimmy pulled out of the parking lot onto the highway in the opposite direction to which we had been traveling, I glanced at the compass. It said NW.  “Yes!” and I punched the air gleefully.

“Proceed along the indicated road for five miles,” Gertie told us.

“Let’s see if she takes us to the church, shall we?” I suggested.

“I was intending to,” said a newly confident Jimmy. And she did. And she took us to Swannanoa with two n’s along I-40 with a zero and straight down Patton Cove Road past our campsite.

Can you find your way around with technology or is there some IT disconnect in just our brains?