The perils of relying on GPS

Not long ago, we heard the story of the B.C. couple who got stranded in northern Nevada. He walked out to get help, and she stayed behind at the vehicle and survived for nearly seven weeks. He was never found.

Not long ago, we heard the story of the B.C. couple who got stranded in northern Nevada. He walked out to get help, and she stayed behind at the vehicle and survived for nearly seven weeks. He was never found.

Apparently, they were using a GPS they had recently acquired, and it led them to their fateful situation.

Their story is far too common in our contemporary times. Many people have horror stories about following GPS routings, particularly if they haven’t used one much.

Recently, while traveling in the Maritimes, we had the opportunity to use a GPS. It was part of our rental car agreement with Hertz, and was listed as “Hertz, Never Get Lost.” Well, we did get lost — twice.

We had used the GPS in the early part of our trip, but we didn’t rely upon it because we knew where we were going. Later, in new country, we decided to count on the GPS and not consult the map we had. Big mistake!

While we were in Baddeck on Cape Breton Island, we were told about an antique store in a village called Orangedale. We didn’t know where Orangedale was, so we tapped in the name on our vehicle’s GPS. Then we settled on “Shortest route.”

I should have sensed a problem when the system’s voice told us to turn off the freeway almost immediately.  Soon, we were lined up for a tiny ferry across a body of water called Little Narrows. That short ride cost us $5.75.

Next, we left the paved road for a pot-holed gravel road. Suddenly, the voice said, “Turn right onto Robinson Road.” So we did, and the gravel road narrowed into a single-lane dirt road.  Soon it crossed a railway track and took us deeper into the woods, and the trail got narrower and muddier.

Perplexed, we stopped just before a muddy dip deep in the forest.  The GPS indicated we were 6.7 kilometres from Orangedale.

We decided to turn around, but because there was a ditch on either side of the trail, we had to inch our way around. If the vehicle had been any larger, we couldn’t have turned around.

We drove back and crossed the railway track again. At that point, the GPS told us to turn right on another narrow trail. It was even muddier and had wet ruts leading along it. We said, “No, thank you” and retraced our route back to the gravel road.  Now we were 16.8 kilometres from our destination, which we found by staying on the gravel road.

At the derelict antique store, the owner told us no one travelled on the trail we had followed into the woods.  In fact, he said no one had lived in that area for over 10 years. Had we managed to get stuck, he thought we might have been stranded in that back-country for quite a while.

So, after that when we used the GPS, we set it for “Mostly freeways.”

A few days later in Saint John, N.B., we made dinner reservations at the Reversing Falls Restaurant. The address on the brochure was “200 Bridge.”  So we switched on the GPS, which listed “200 Bridge Street” and “200 Bridge Road.”

Because “200 Bridge Street” was listed first, we followed that route. It led us into an abysmal area of Saint John with falling down buildings, garbage all over the streets, and suspicious characters in doorways.

We found a spot away from the rundown buildings and re-programmed the GPS.  Soon we were sailing into a much better area, across a major bridge, and right up to the first-class restaurant we were seeking.

“Whew” was all we could say.