The Humble Road Map: Your Road Trip’s Best Accessory
It’s probably one of the worst tech fails in the past six months: a bug in the Apple Maps GPS packaged with iOS systems last year sent unsuspecting drivers way off course in rural Australia. A few cases involved drivers who’d gotten so lost they needed rescuing.
I don’t have Apple Maps; I’ve been using the Google Maps app on my smartphone from day one and I love it. As a solo traveler, using a GPS is incredibly handy since I can’t drive and look at a road map at the same time. However, the Google Maps’ promise that you’ll “never carry a paper map again” isn’t exactly foolproof.
Occasionally, the system will misdirect me, particularly in rural areas. Once, when driving around western Connecticut, my GPS directed me to drive off the side of a road and down an unpaved hillside. Nuh-uh. Not happening.
Even when your GPS isn’t flawed, your network might be. Imagine my surprise to discover I couldn’t get any coverage while driving through parts of California’s Big Sur this summer. Luckily, I was following a single road north (Pacific Coast Highway, baby!) or I might have been up the proverbial creek without a paddle.
Even in cities, things can go awry. I had a hell of a time trying to find Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles last summer when my GPS kept leading me to the nearby Los Angeles Zoo. Thankfully, the Los Angeles tourism bureau had the good sense to include a pullout street map (above) in the free city guide.
So, let’s say you have no connection to your network–no phone and no GPS. You can always ask a passerby, right? Wrong. My big solo cross-country road trip took me through parts of South Dakota and Wyoming where there was no one else for miles. And miles. And miles. Being from one of the most densely populated of the states, I wasn’t prepared for the reality of being alone and not even being able to ask for help.
The takeaway: GPS is great but not foolproof, so when road tripping, always plan to take a road map. Every year, I purchase the most recent edition of the Rand McNally Road Atlas –it’s pretty inexpensive and can be a great memento of a memorable road trip.
If the idea of using paper maps has you seeing red because it’s not green, think of all the fun ways you can reuse your maps when they become obsolete. The possibilities are endless!
GPS, map, or both? Which do you take on a road trip?