Caught mapping

I have this portable GPS. I haven’t used it very much because I never seem to drive anywhere where I would need a map. It’s not that I don’t actually GO anywhere, just that I drive mostly around the Vancouver area and since I’ve lived here all my life, I generally have a pretty good idea how to get where I’m going. Also, I still have and occasionally use a bunch of old, outdated paper maps, the kind that once you unfold them, you can never get them refolded properly. Also also, when I go on vacation, I seem to go far enough away that I have to take a plane to get there. There is very little need for a GPS unit when one is on a plane.

But PG and I are planning a road trip this summer. We would like to drive down the West Coast of the USA, likely as far down as San Francisco. Both of us have done this trip before: it’s practically obligatory for Vancouver residents to have driven the Coast Highway down to Northern California at least once. I have made this pilgrimage twice in my adult life, and PG has done it once. On a bicycle. With about 200$ in his pocket. He was in his late teens and eventually had to call his parents to wire him money to get home – but that’s another story.

Anyway, as I say, we are planning this trip. More precisely, I am planning this trip. I plan things, PG wings it. The way he doesn’t plan makes me nervous. The way I do plan makes him itchy for spontaneity. We are trying to find a happy medium.

Part of this happy medium is the GPS. I have agreed to leave my ancient paper maps at home and rely entirely on the GPS to get us where we want to go. Oh, I know, millions of people do this all the time, it’s no big deal. But I have never done it. I must admit that it kind of annoys me that I can’t see the big picture with the GPS’s small screen, that I can’t plan out an entire route, only small bits at a time. It also niggles at me a bit that we won’t be able to play music very loudly if we want to hear what the GPS gal – “Serena” – tells us to do. But I’m going to try.

So PG asked me if the maps were up to date. “Huh?” I replied. He patiently explained that you have to update the maps every so often, since routes change. He asked me if I had ever done that since I got the GPS. “Um – no … I think,” I replied. That was embarrassing, because PG is not known for his extensive knowledge and use of technology. But he did know this stuff.

And that became my assignment for today: update the maps on my GPS.

Should be easy, I thought. Everything is online, so all I have to do is go to the manufacturer’s website, select the model of GPS I own, choose the updates I want, pay for them – wait, what? I have to pay? They’re not free? You mean this doesn’t work like going down to the local BCAA office and requesting an old-fashioned route map of wherever I want to drive to? Really?

Oh. So today I have not only learned how to update the maps on a GPS, but also that it is apparently not free to update the maps for a GPS.

Now I have to go outside in the drizzly rain and see if the thing can acquire a satellite through the clouds to make sure that everything downloaded correctly. If it didn’t, technology be damned, I’m heading over to BCAA to ask for a paper map.

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15 responses to “Caught mapping

  1. I love my GPS! It’s very useful and means that I don’t have to fight with re-folding an unwilling map. I have a stand-alone GPS unit but my husband and I also have turn by turn mapping with our smartphones too. We’re never without a map, either Google Maps or the GPS. I’ve never had my GPS lead me astray yet. I’ve even used it for walking directions in Italy and Germany; very helpful.
    Go, go GPS!

  2. We’re out here near the Oregon coast and so far haven’t needed a GPS, though sometimes I wouldn’t mind having one. Anyway, even though I’m on vacation I felt the need to touch base with my sister.

    • mrwriteon – Oooooh! So PG and I will be following your tracks this summer – and now I can tell him that my big brother didn’t need a GPS for a similar road trip and he managed just fine … well, if you do actually manage just fine the whole time, I mean. (If you don’t get horribly lost. If you don’t get stranded somewhere totally isolated for days on end. If you do make it home safely. With your vehicle. With all your stuff. Okay, I’ll stop now.)

  3. We have a GPS with both North American and European maps. Last year we travelled all through northern France and it never once led us astray. And we’ve always gotten to where we’re going in the States and Canada too. Personally, I love Simon.

    • Jazz – Was is hard to get used to relying on the GPS as opposed to a real map? I’m thinking that there’s a bit of an adjustment to be made – although I suspect Simon is as accommodating as possible …

  4. I agree with the map-bringers, too. The GPS has led more than one person astray, often with dire consquences. And just because a certain technology exists, that doesn’t mean you have to use it and only it forever. If you have a Kindle, does that mean you’re never allowed to read a paperback book again, ever? Just because all the news is online faster, does that mean you can never again experience the joy of a fat weekend newspaper? Just because you have a microwave, does that mean you should never cook a meal from scratch on your good old stove? I could go on, but I think that’s enough ammo to use agains PG.

    • XUP – It’s so ironic, really, that PG is so technologically – uh – backward (i.e. I doubt he knows what a Kindle is and he very rarely uses his hand-me-down microwave) yet he is so insistent upon us using the GPS.

  5. I must say I agree wholeheartedly with Nora on this, too.
    And, beware of Serena’s ‘wise counsel’ – she may be extracting some sort of evil vengeance and directing you into the hinterland of Utah from where you will never escape. You read about these things happening. Take TrailMix.

    • VioletSky – Good advice. I think I will also let Serena know that she can easily be replaced if she screws up – there’s always Paolo or SĂ©bastien or Julie or Karen or Jack …

  6. I’m afraid I like paper maps too much to have to do without them. I like to see the whole area where I am and not just the little route that’s taking me there. I like to see where things are in comparison to other things. Mountains, rivers, the coastline… I would bring the maps if I were you. You can be much more spontaneous with them.

    • Nora – But I promised to try to be paper map-free! (But maybe I’ll just tuck a California map in the side pocket of my suitcase and I’ll only bring it out when PG is in the shower or has gone out to pick up some snacks.)

  7. I have arguments with mine; if I am going somewhere new I use it but, because it is a pain to set up when you are half way there and driving I have to put it on when I leave – then it tries to make me go a long way round to get out of town and on the way. But I have lived here for 17 years; I know the place gets gridlocked, and I use short cuts …. which my satnav doesn’t know and doesn’t like. So it keeps trying to turn me round and I keep telling it to shut up, until I get to the point where I actually need it of course.
    I really must update it sometime.

    • Alienne – I can certainly see how that situation would be most annoying! I would argue with my Serena in that case, too! I don’t think that will happen on our trip, though, because we’ll be far from home and unfamiliar with the roads, so we really wouldn’t know if there were any shortcuts or better routes, which is probably when she’s at her best.

  8. I have quite a collection of those free CAA maps for various cities in S Ontario (and New York and Michigan). Love them. When they get all worn out, you just ask for another. I don’t think GPS would be good for me – I tend to get distracted very easily (ooh, look at that street, let’s explore. an historical landmark? we should check that out.) GPS would be very, very angry with me.

    However, the ability to find the nearest gas station or toilet facilities would be most helpful.

    • VioletSky – I LOVE maps and could pore over almost any kind of map at all for hours on end. I’m rather dubious about relying only on the GPS for this trip, but I will try it – and of course, there will be a full report when we come home … unless we ignore Serena’s wise counsel and get ourselves lost somewhere in the mountains of Northern California …