Monday, January 30, 2012

Go Places Surely

I know I'm not the last person on the planet to have a global positioning system in my car. While they've certainly come down in price in the last couple years, they're still a splurge (in my frugal opinion), and they're still not standard equipment on most new cars. (Interestingly, dropping a couple Franklins for a Garmin I can wear on my wrist seemed like a necessity back in my running days.) The airplane I used to fly was equipped with one, but it used latitude-longitude coordinates instead of ZIP codes and house numbers.

Anyway, the combination of Google Maps, Poynt, Mapquest and BlackBerry Maps has allowed me to get from Point A to Point B for several years now without getting too lost. Smartphones are, indeed, smart, and while the printed Mapquest directions are sometimes a little obtuse, they've done the job just fine, thankyouverymuch.

We recently inherited a GPS unit for the car. I installed plugged it into the cigarette lighter and tested it on a local drive last week, and put it into practice on our trip to Asheville. This ancient Magellan (three years old) worked perfectly, precisely leading us as if on a rope to the parking lot of every target.

One look at this line and my hungry, hungry husband's face 
fell. Hard. But this was just the line to get to the counter 
where you placed your order, and it moved swiftly.
As we approached 12 Bones on Friday, the restaurant was hidden around a corner by some buildings. We were in a part of Asheville that some might call "sketchy." (Well, it's called the River Arts District, so that fits, right?) Definitely not well-populated or teeming with tourists, like the downtown area usually is.

I just had to trust that the little screen was on the right path. And sho' nuff, it was. We turned that corner, found a parking place and joined the line of people waiting to chow down on some damned good 'que.

Every place we went was someplace I hadn't been before, and we arrived at every destination with no problem whatsoever. On a couple of occasions, the route FROM the spot was completely different from the route TO it, which was disconcerting (and took us through more sketchy neighborhoods), but we always made it there and back again.

Obviously, or I wouldn't be here, right? Heh.

I am, therefore, declaring GPS systems for cars the greatest invention since the wheel.

We've gone to unfamiliar towns and to unfamiliar parts of familiar towns plenty of times, but always with more than a bit of trepidation on my part. I remember the last time we left Washington, DC, how thrilled I was when, with little trouble, actually, I made it to the highway leading home. DC is the scariest place I've ever driven. Even scarier than Massachusetts, which has a rep for scary driving.

My husband has supreme confidence in both my driving and my navigating skills. Finally, thanks to this new little gadget, so do I. My car (a Ford Escape) came equipped with two cigarette lighters. I think they knew who was going to be driving it. I just ordered a unit that turns a cigarette lighter into two USB ports. With three connections, I can have the iPod, the Magellan and the BlackBerry all plugged in and charged up at the same time.

I love me some gadgets.

One thing that struck me about being GPS-equipped is that you really can be on your own. No need to stop for directions. We found Mela using walking directions provided by the BlackBerry instead of asking one of the many passersby. Those of us who are plugged in are little islands of information, happy to help, and happy not to need help. I wonder how this will affect our culture 20 years from now? By then we'll probably all be plugged in, or chip-equipped, and we won't need each other at all.

In the meantime, I wonder why I waited so long to get a GPS system for the car.

Oh. Right. There's that frugal thing.

So the question du jour is: Do you have a GPS in your car? Do you use the voice prompts (that annoyed me and I muted it right off the bat)? Do you want one or are you happy with Mapquest or Poynt? Or a road atlas? Do tell!


ws said...

Don't have one and don't want one. I don't even like to use the ipod adapter in the car because sometimes it vibrates which cause noises that I don't like. And, I love maps.

Anne M. said...

I don't have one and wish I did. I'd rather have a portable one over one tied to the car only so I could use it when walking as well as driving. Thanks for sharing your experience and recommendation :)

E. Jane said...

We have been GPS equipped for quite a few years, and for me, it is a mixed blessing. My husband is in love with it and overuses it. I get tired of hearing the "voice" of the GPS tell me how to go places I have already been many times. We call that voice "the lady," and my husband is smitten. However, it has saved us many times when we're in strange territory, so I wouldn't be without "her."

jen said...

I don't have a separate unit, but I bought the MapQuest app for my iPhone and it works much in the same way. I would suggest other frugal folks try this app before buying a GPS.

denise said...

The most modern equipment in my car is the cassette deck! That's what happens when you buy a Honda and don't drive it enough to wear it out. It will be 18 years old this summer - and hasn't turned 85,000 miles yet!

Somehow it doesn't seem right to use a GPS in a 1994 car. And, I find them distracting. The older I get the more difficulty I have multi-tasking and I feel like it's too difficult to listen, try to follow the directions, and read signs to make sure you know where you're going all at the same time.

This is an observation based on being in the car with others. Maybe if I was driving, I would find it less difficult. I never am particularly focused when I'm not the one driving.

I don't anticipate buying one any time soon. I have tried to use my iPhone occasionally to get directions etc., but not truly as a GPS.