Left at the Red Barn

IMG_1391I love traveling, especially when it involves a good road trip.  In fact, one of the things on my bucket list is to drive from Illinois to California on Route 66. It would be fun to check out roadside attractions like the largest Catsup bottle in the World in Collinsville, IL, the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX and the Wigman Motel in Holbrook, AZ while checking out the many old cafes and service stations-turned-museums along the way.

My daily commute, while not as interesting as Route 66, takes me down a couple back roads and past some places I would probably use as markers if I had to give directions.   One day on my way home from work, I thought about how much more interesting it is to give directions based on landmarks vs. using street names.  For some people, that is their how they are guided.  Give them a building, bridge or sign along the road and they know the exact location you are talking about.

Wouldn’t it be entertaining to be able to insert our voices and directions into our GPS? Imagine giving people directions like, “Turn left where the horse fence starts or make a hard right at that old house that looks like it’s leaning.  Instead of “In one-half mile, make a right onto Treetop Lane”, you would hear “After you pass the white ranch house with the red front door, drive a little further and make a right at the Mobil gas station on the corner.”

I’m not a big fan of GPS.  I’ll use it to find my way out of getting lost when I’m traveling but I can be a bit stubborn about using it.  I’m a little old school and like to look at a road map first, whether an electronic version or a good old-fashioned paper map.  Paper map?  Oh yes, we are still out there and loving our road atlases.

IMG_1471Long before navigation was available for use in cars, I took my first “road” trip with my girlfriends to the Jersey shore.  Since I was the driver, I sat down with my Dad prior to setting out on our journey and he gave me a little lesson on how to read a map while helping me plot our course.  On the day of our trip, we left early in the morning to avoid much of the traffic and made it down with no hiccups. Kudos Dad for directing me.  As much as I’d like to say the trip was a complete success, I cannot say it was.  Coming back home, while everyone else slept, I took a wrong turn.  The looks on the girls faces when I woke them and said we were in Atlantic City – priceless!!  No harm, no foul.  We just turned around and headed back out.  Oh My!  How did I ever find my way without an electronic device telling me which way to turn?  Although, I reluctantly admit my little traffic blunder probably would have been avoided had I used a GPS.

While knowing road and street names is always a good thing, I like traveling via landmarks.  The only downfall of using them is that they may disappear for whatever reason.  That house or business you used as a turning point is no longer there.  At that point you are faced with whether the turn is down the road more or you already passed it?  That bridge looks familiar.  Hmmm, I don’t know. I think it’s farther down the road (fingers crossed). A couple years ago, I was traveling with one of my best friends to go shopping.  She was driving and we took a couple back roads that I was somewhat familiar with.  We were chatting about where we were going when she made a left turn at a big red barn and said, “I hope they never tear down that barn because I won’t know where to turn”.

It can be entertaining how some folks give directions.  “Oh, why you go down the road here a piece way, and around the curve by a big blue house make a right.  A little bit farther, you’ll come to a “T” at an old sawmill.  Make a left then go over the bridge and it’s the 3rd house on the right.  If you went past the big red shed, you went too far”.  No road or street names, just landmarks and phrases like “a piece way” and “around the curve”.  Throw in some colorful description and you got yourself a great set of directions.

If the time ever comes when I cross that item off my bucket list and travel the 2,400 miles West on the Mother Road, I will most likely map my route ahead of time and use all those roadside attractions and small towns as guidance.  I don’t want to miss the roaming burros in the wild west town of Oatman, AZ, an 80-foot blue whale in Catoosa, OK or any other fascinating places along the way.

So, keep it interesting when you set out on your journey.  Sit down, spread a map over your dining room table and look at where you’re headed to give yourself general direction.  Take a little time when traveling.  And if you make a wrong turn, no big deal?  The beauty of it is, you can always turn around.  But then again, you never know, there just might be something that catches your attention on that wrong stretch of road.

Yeah…you just never know.