Rural Living

GPS and Circular Logistics


by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer

Margo Oxendine

All I wanted was to get from Hot Springs to Simms Avenue in Harrisonburg. It seemed a simple enough task. An easy-to-answer question.

But no. If one is not locked onto a mobile device with all sorts of options and apps (whatever they are) these days, well, just forget anyone being able to tell you where to go. Of course, there is the ubiquitous Global Positioning System (or whatever). It is found in many newer cars. And you can buy a portable one if you drive an older vehicle.

The reason I know this is because I recently passed up the opportunity to buy a brand-new, still-in-the-box, GPS at a yard sale. It was priced at $50. I am unsure whether that was a “deal.” I just know that I laughed out loud when the seller asked if I was interested in purchasing the thing.

“Definitely not!” I shouted, chuckling somewhat maniacally.

Here’s the thing: I once joined three old pals for a weekend in Williamsburg. I do not particularly like Williamsburg. Sure, I loved my early visit to the historic part. But, subsequent visits were always fraught with perplexing directions. When a town has six different roads with six different versions of “Iron Bridge” in their names, that town is just trying to confuse you.

My mother and I made two trips to Williamsburg, back in our happy road-traveling days. And both times, darned if we didn’t end up having to make a U-turn in the super-secret CIA “farm,” Camp Peary. (I guess it’s not such a secret, if Mom and I knew about it.) We were welcomed by stone-faced sentries at the gate. We adopted the demeanor of “two confused country girls,” and giggled in a self-deprecating fashion while we asked them how, exactly, we could reach the Williamsburg Inn. The gun-toting guards did not give us directions, per se. We were told, “Turn your vehicle around, Ma’am, and get back on the highway.”

And so, when my friends asked me to meet them in Williamsburg, I was overjoyed that they would be the ones driving.

We tootled about town in one fellow’s brand new Lexus. It came equipped with a GPS he’d dubbed Julie Newmar. (Are you old enough to get the reference?) I grew to detest Julie.

At one point, I realized that she was leading us in a circle. I bounced around in the back seat, shouting this information, only to be ignored. But sure enough: When you make four right turns consecutively, you will end up where you started. Thanks a bunch, Julie. I rest my case.

So, recently, I needed to get to that seminar on Simms Avenue in Harrisonburg. I tried to find driving directions on the location’s website, but that became a confusing conglomeration of useless links to nowhere. I began my exercise on the Thursday afternoon before Memorial Day, a four-day weekend. Thus, my phone calls went immediately to voicemail. (Voicemail: It’s everywhere, dad gum it! But that’s another column.)

I began my efforts again Tuesday.

I left specific voicemail messages about needing directions. I sent an email, asking the same thing. A reply was forthcoming. It suggested I go to Google Maps.

Finally, a young fellow returned my call. After several false starts and MapQuest suggestions, I guess he realized he was dealing with an Old Lady Luddite. He did his best, bless his heart. He spoke slowly. He guided me from one city street to another, helpfully pointing out that if I got to “x,” I had gone too far and should turn around. He also helpfully included points of interest I might see, if I were to turn down a street I did not need to be on. I am certain it was a frustrating, but eventually successful, exercise for both of us.

I have not yet embarked on my trip to Simms Avenue. I figure it may take two hours. I figure I will allow three hours, just in case.

I think of my dear late father, and his knack for perfect driving directions, a gene I inherited. Trouble is, no one wants our kind of directions any more.

And then, I think of the old 1970s “Firesign Theater” albums I used to howl at for hours. “You turn at the Old Same Place, where the barn used to be. Or is it the Same Old Place?”

To order Margo Oxendine’s A Party of One, email, or call 540-468-2147 Monday-Thursday from 9-5.


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