My husband and I both come from a long line of “country folk.” We’ve spent our entire lives bouncing around on back roads for work and fun (mostly fun, but sometimes that’s work, too!). With the advent of on-board GPS in vehicles, it’s gotten really easy to just plug in a destination and head off, secure in the knowledge that Google or some other helpful entity has it all figured out for you.
Which is what we did this weekend. In an expensive truck with less than 2,000 miles on it, on a Sunday, into the Checkerboard Rez (we couldn’t even tell for sure which “square” we were on at any given time), with nothing but a briefly mentioned short cut in mind. But, being the “country folk” we are, we just plugged in the town we needed to get to, and selected the first “detail” offering from the GPS (BAD IDEA #1) and went on our merry way.
BAD IDEA #2 was when we hit a dead end and turned around, only to find a parallel road that the GPS instantly accepted as being the “right” road, which should have made us wonder why the other road was originally the “right” road.
BAD IDEA #3 was when the road deteriorated into a very definite 4x4 (vs. street vehicle) road, and we unquestioningly continued. After all, the GPS was counting down the time and miles to our stated destination. And we did, in fact, have 4 wheel drive with all kinds of bells and whistles (not really tried out at this point, however).
BAD IDEA #4 was when confronted with an unlocked gate, we entered (properly re-securing it behind us), and found the road had apparently disappeared. But not on the GPS. And danged if we didn’t find said road just a few hundred yards away, just where the GPS showed it.
BAD IDEA #5 (you see where this is going, right?) We stopped at the top of a relatively steep hill where the road had been washed out, leaving deep ruts. In addition, there was melting snow on what appeared at first to be sandy soil, and actually turned out to be snotty soil (BIG difference).
GOOD IDEA #1 (one of very few, unfortunately) I suggested walking to the bottom of the hill to see if we could even get further, since there was one of those straight-sided, very deep gullies in the near vicinity.
BAD IDEA #6 Before I got to the bottom of the hill, I heard hubby driving down, slipping and sliding to the bottom, which did not bode well for a return trip.
LUCKY THING #1 (Luck, as you will find, was in VERY short supply) The road was passable,
although that gully stayed waaay too close for comfort.
BAD IDEA #7 We decided that since the road was impassable due to further washouts, we could just cross-country up the hill and catch it when it flattened out. Okay, so that wasn’t such a bad idea after all, because it did, in fact, flatten out and the road was passable again.
Until REALLY BAD IDEA #8 A fence had been wired shut across the road (just when it was getting nice again, too!), but someone had very kindly opened up the fence next to the road. Easy peasy. NOT. The opening was within scant feet of that deep gully, had a two foot washout into the gully just past the opening, and required an immediate hard left up an embankment to get back on the road. And it was snotty-er right there.
GOOD IDEA #2 I exited the vehicle and pretended to be directing hubby (who was obviously using all the camera angles rather than my hand signals to maneuver). But it was probably for the best, anyway, because my moaning and holding my hands over my eyes as he slid closer to the gully and the washout might have been too distracting if I’d been in the truck.
LUCKY THING #2 (not really, but it seemed so at the time) After he successfully re-attained the road, that we now knew with fair certainty was something we wouldn’t get back out on, we saw a set of fresh 4-wheeler tracks, and under them, and the snow, older pickup tracks, which had NOT been present during the aforementioned BAD IDEAS. Ah-ha! Those tracks must have been coming from the other way, and THOSE people were smart enough to turn around and go back, unlike others we knew all too well. We were on our way now!
BAD IDEA #9 Thinking we actually had Lucky Thing #2, because over the next hill we found another locked gate, this one VERY locked, wired, signed, and bermed. And which had clearly not been used for even longer than the road we’d been on. We had no option but to turn around. We discussed if it would be possible to tear down the other fence (I know, not nice, but there was that opening next to it, so clearly we were only being semi-horrible people) and the other possibility that we’d have to wait overnight for the ground to freeze to get back up that snotty, wash-out hill.
GOOD IDEA #2 Watch for the four-wheeler tracks, and hope they lead somewhere besides back the way we came.
LUCKY THING #3 They did. They turned off on a road the GPS showed, but of course hadn’t taken us on because IT WAS FOLLOWING OUR INITIAL DIRECTIONS (wrong as they were). Within about an hour we were sitting on the side of a very nice gravel road.
MORAL(s) OF THE STORY: Carry a paper Atlas so you know where in the heck you are. Make sure the address you tell your GPS to take you is NOT a BLM road out in the middle of some district that is spelled the same as the town you wanted to go to. Tell someone where you are/are going, while you still have cell service.
Or, just stick to the main road. I know this won’t be our first choice, but I’m sure we learned something important from this near catastrophe. Really. Probably. Maybe. Oh, crap.