Garmin vs. Google Maps and my own Miss Daisy

It’s taken me a while to recover from my trip to Florida over the holidays. I called the road trip “Driving Miss Daisy” as I was driving my mother from her home in Northeastern Ohio to her condo in Clearwater, Florida. Between being unaccustomed to long distance driving and feeling a little concerned about being cooped up with my mother in a car for several days (this was a mutual concern, I should point out), I approached this task with mixed feelings.

I am happy to report that Miss Daisy was a good travel companion, with one exception. Being the travel planning nerd that I am, I had booked our hotels (four of them – we were taking our time, as well as planning a little detour in Alabama) and printed out a list with each property’s address, phone number and our confirmation number.

I planned to refer to this list each morning, plug in that day’s destination in the Google Maps app on my phone, and use that for directions to our next hotel. This worked (mostly) well the first day, guiding us safely from Madison to a hotel near my nephew and niece’s new home in Louisville, Kentucky.

Except we didn't wear hats

Except we didn’t wear hats

The next morning after loading the car, I turned to my mother and asked her for the address for the Hampton Inn in Birmingham.

“What address? Where?” Mom asked.

“You know. That piece of paper I gave you yesterday. I think you tucked in the side pocket by your seat. That.”

Peeking over her lap, I noticed that the pocket was empty.

“Is it in the glove box, Mom?” Silence. “Did it fall under your seat?” Silence.

“Um . . . I guess I threw it out,” she murmured.

“You WHAT?!!! Why?!”

“Well, I was cleaning up and it must have been under the Sunday crossword I finished and some other trash.”

“Didn’t you realize that I had the information for all the hotels on there and that we’d need it?”

“I guess I didn’t really pay attention to what it said under the information for Louisville.”

I wish I could tell you I didn’t browbeat my 86-year-old mother, but I’m kind of a bitch, and I did. I stopped short of drawing tears, but probably not by much. You know how we come to resemble our parents with age? Well, I look a lot like my sweet, chubby little mother, but I seem to have inherited the extremely low patience threshold of my father (along with numerous other less-than-stellar personality traits). I am not saying my father was a pill, because he was truly a wonderful guy, but the characteristics we had to kind of overlook about him? Those? Yes, those are the traits I inherited.

Part Deux

So I Googled hotels in Birmingham and eventually recognized the one I’d booked. I punched it into Google Maps, the vanilla-voiced GM lady told us how to find the freeway, and we were on our way.

Now, about four or five years ago I borrowed my son’s Garmin to navigate our way to my nephew’s wedding in Wheeling, West Virginia. It was the first time I’d used a Garmin and having someone pleasantly call out directions in unfamiliar territory was tremendously helpful.

We used it to get from Northeastern Ohio to the hotel in Wheeling, and from the hotel to the rehearsal dinner Friday evening. Cool beans. Saturday morning I confidently left the hotel to pick up Chris at the nearby Pittsburgh airport, Miss Garmin leading the way. As I crossed over into Pennsylvania I began seeing directional signs to the airport, but oddly enough, the Garmin was not acknowledging them at all. I thought if I followed the signs, she would soon “recalculate” and take me safely to the arrivals area. Instead, Miss Garmin kept insisting that I return to the established route (or something like that). Huh?

I’d see another fork in the road with clear signage pointing toward the airport and there she’d be again, admonishing me to return to the highway at once. “Recalculating,” she exclaimed.

Where Miss Google feared I was heading

Where Miss Garmin feared I was heading

I’m thinking WTF, then glanced down at the display and realized the source of her chagrin. According to the Garmin map, I was driving off the map, God knows where – no road in sight.

Whaaaaaat?!!

Clearly, I was on a freeway. But Garmin was trying to figure out how to get me out of the corn fields, away from the cows and ditches and creeks and whatever else I might be bumping crazily across.

At that point, I lost all confidence in both Garmin and the State of Pennsylvania road system. I decided to get off the freeway at the next exit and do things the old-fashioned way – ask at a gas station.

It was there that the attendant pointed me in the right direction with a sneer (I think it was the Ohio plates) and I continued on to the airport, ignoring Miss Garmin, and arriving just in time to pick up my boy. After Chris heard my story, he laughed and told me he hadn’t paid to update the Garmin since he’d purchased it, so the device simply did not KNOW that this new chunk of highway existed.

Yeah, real funny, mister.

But here’s what I’ll say for the Garmin – it never gave up. Despite driving off-road (as far as she could tell), Miss Garmin continued to recalculate and suggest ways for me to return to civilization. She was NOT leaving me alone in that field if she could possibly help it.

That was not the case with Miss Google Maps last month.

Miss Google does not like potty breaks or stops for lunch. She would prefer it if you don’t turn her on until AFTER you fill up the tank of the car in the morning. She is annoyed by quick detours to Starbucks or Rite Aid, and if you really piss her off – she just gives you the cold shoulder.

It took a couple of days to understand her rules, but I finally learned that it was best just to turn her off for a little break whenever we decided to do something crazy like get off the freeway for lunch. Miss Google does NOT deign to recalculate. And she will not relentlessly try to keep you on course. She will suggest making a couple U-turns, but if you don’t cooperate, she washes her hands of the whole business and turns herself off. It’s my way or the highway, Jack. That’s what she may be saying under her breath.

After you get to know the girls, I have to say I would still choose Miss Google over Miss Garmin. Miss Garmin is more patient and persistent, but she’s old school. I don’t know what satellite she’s in cahoots with, but it is not willing to assess the situation and give advice that is truly au courant.

Miss Google may be temperamental, but she’s paying attention. On our leg from Fairhope, Alabama, to an armpit of a town in northern Florida that I won’t name, the weather was just nasty. There was torrential rain (and for once, I’m not exaggerating) and at times cars were creeping along the highway at about 35 mph with their flashers going (except for those dumb ass semis, of course). There were tornadoes touching down in Mississippi and Georgia, we learned later, and it was simply a miserable drive.

Minutes before we saw a huge electronic sign warning of dense fog ahead, Miss Google Maps had already told us to get off at the upcoming exit and take an alternate route to avoid the fog and piled up traffic. She safely led us around the worst of it, then back on to the Interstate, eventually finishing that day’s white knuckle drive at the Dank & Moldy Lodge east of Tallahassee.

I found this photo online that kind of resembles our room in Armpit, FL

I found this photo online that kind of resembles our room in Armpit, FL

If she had been REALLY smart, I think she would have insisted on taking us to another hotel, but I’ll take the blame for that one. You cannot always trust the TripAdvisor stars. Just saying.

So Miss Daisy is safely ensconced in Clearwater and happily driving her very own car to get her hair done or shop at Publix. I am happy to say that I do not have returning-to-Ohio duty. But to whoever drives Mom home, I would just say – hold onto the vital information yourself, don’t irritate Miss Google Maps if you can help it, and don’t spend the night in northwest Florida if you can possibly avoid it.

About katemahar

Freelance writer and event planner by trade . . . mother/daughter/sister/friend . . . passionate traveler . . . compulsive reader
This entry was posted in Travel and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Garmin vs. Google Maps and my own Miss Daisy

  1. As we say in Texas . . . Bless your heart! I know what you mean about your mom, and your dad! I would have met you in Armpit, Florida. For the record, I call GPS systems that talk “Bitch Bitch”…all of ’em. Love you and your wondering ways, Kate!

  2. Chris says:

    I love Miss Garmin…. she has been my friend and guide for over 5 years. She does get pissed at me every once in awhile and, yes, I must update her every couple of years. Next time put your info in a book never trust old people. And listen to books on tape….makes the trips fly by.

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