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Ah, the humble GPS.  I acquired my first one sometime in the late 1990's, a valuable tool for someone with a penchant for wandering off into the sagebrush and gods-know-what in search of Native American rock art.  Yep.  I'm also a rock art enthusiast and have been known to go offroading in a Toyota Corolla (not mine) in the middle of the Mojave Desert to find a canyon full of rock art that really IS there but isn't on any road.  

But that's a story for another time.  (Some of you may be suspecting that my husband lives an unintentionally interesting life.)

So, as a Woman of Adventure, I've owned a variety of GPSs, from the handheld to the car mounted and the latest Unintended Acquisition (as those of you who read my last adventure know), I've inherited the Dreaded Farting TomTom.

I have a love-hate affair with TomToms.

My first car GPS purchase was, in fact, a TomTom.  I took it out of the box, excited to have the thing, mounted it on the dashboard and instructed it to take me home.  A well-bred, cultured, female voice spoke up and gave me directions (it wasn't hard.  Just "keep on going down the road, turn left there, and left THERE and then you're home.")  I was delighted.  I asked it to find me a restaurant, and it served up a list of everything but fast food, and that was nice, too.  And it seemed to know every Starbucks within a thousand miles, which seemed nice at the time but should have actually made me suspicious when it turned out to be blissfully unaware of Starbucks' competitors.

The next day I headed to a science fiction convention in Houston and sure enough, the GPS (now called Biffette because she sounded like a sorority girl) directed me around 635, down 45, and straight to the hotel.  Lovely!  I even used it to find a nice sushi place... though it was interesting that she only seemed to know the more upscale and pricey ones.  Still, that could be forgiven and besides they did serve a very nice saki there.  Once the convention was over, I elected to make my way homeward via way of College Station to see my son and daughter-in-law, and did the "take me to College Station" command with a few deft jabs of my fingers.

Biffette paused for a few seconds and directed me to the highway and off we go north.  About 20 minutes down the road I check the expected arrival time for College Station and am thunderstruck to find out that it's going to take about five hours.  This made no sense at all, because I knew from past experience that they're just about 90 miles apart (give or take a county) and the whole journey takes about somewhere around an hour and a half if you obey the speed limits and don't forget that any group of three houses is likely an incorporated township with a cop car hiding behind the small store to enforce a 40 mph speed limit.  

I check the proposed route.  

Biffette's method of getting me to College Station is to have me drive to Waco and take highway 6 out of Waco to College Station.  Now, that's a 90 mile detour.  While I don't mind a scenic route, 90 miles is a bit more scenery than I care for.  So I have Biffette recalculate, and she insists that no matter how I change the options, THE correct way to go is to take a 90 mile side trip.  I can see we're going to lock horns on this one.  But I am the master of technology and no conglomeration of chips is going to send me on bizarre jaunts.  So I zoom the map out to find a different midpoint -- and that's when I discover that, according to Biffette, there are only eight highways in the state of Texas.  

This is news to me.  

I've lived here for nigh unto fifty years and I'm pretty sure I've seen a few more strips of pavement than that.  I continue driving and when I come up to a sign that says "College Station, 60 miles," I take that road.  Biffette tells me to turn around and go back to the nice eight lane highway.  I ignore her.  She tells me again, sounding a bit snippier.  I explain that I'm taking this lovely road (which is marked on her maps if you zoom in REAL close) because the Texas Highway Department says that College Station is somewhere in this direction and they wouldn't lie to me.  After a few more increasingly terse instructions to Turn Back Now Or There'll Be A Disaster, she falls silent and eventually comes up with "drive ten miles on this road."  

There we go.  I've won.

Ten miles down the road, she suddenly tells me, "Turn right."  

I look right.  There's a field of cows.  No road, just cows.  And grass.  And more cows.  All of them are larger than my car.  Attacking cows in the middle of a field with your car is likely to get you shot for annoying the livestock and unlawful malingering on cow pies.  I drive on, ignoring her attempts to direct my navigation.

I cross a railroad track.  "Turn left," Biffette says firmly.  I explain that if I turn left, I'm going get very bad gas mileage and will end up contesting the right of way on a railroad with a zillion ton train.  "Turn left," Biffette insists.  

I think she's trying to kill me.  

A dozen miles and two turns later, I find myself on a gravel road.  I look at her maps and discover that there ARE no roads wherever it is that I am, AND that she doesn't have a "bread crumb trail" so I have no idea how I got here...wherever I am.  Further screen-prodding shows that there's not a road for fifty miles around -- although whatever this is that I'm driving on actually has speed limit signs and even a state road designation.  There are no maps in the car, and in desperation I call my daughter-in-law.  We eventually figure out where I am (which was only a 40 mile detour) and get me back to a nice blacktop road and into College Station.

Needless to say, I returned Biffette the next day and got a Magellan.  It didn't know where all the fancy restaurants were, but it knew how to find all the roads in Texas, which was a great improvement.

So after experiencing the Farting TomTom's suggestions on how to get from Tampa to Sun City Center (which involved orbiting the airport twice, taking a run into areas of the town not mentioned in the guidebooks, and having a lovely tour of the oil storage facilities, I replaced it with Sulu (my Navigon GPS.)  Today, my brother asked me if he could have the Farting TomTom for their trip home, since my husband and I are actually armed with two other GPSes plus Android cell phones with navigation, three tablet devices, two Kindles, AND two computers (our technology gets lonely without us) and he felt that we can probably find our way back to Texas even if we only have two GPSes available.  I gave him custody of the thing, reminding him of our Scenic Tour.  He waved his hand dismissively and said, "Psh.  Won't be a problem."

So I'd like to state for the record that if it takes him home to Huntsville via Cincinnati, this is totally NOT my fault.

Originally posted to Cyberwizard on Thu Aug 09, 2012 at 10:29 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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