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Point me in the direction of Albuquerque

Map reading 

Ok, I’m going to stir the pot early in the New Year and get the debate going.  You are going on a trip: Global Positioning System (GPS) or paper map?

I am a faithful supporter of good old fashioned paper maps.  Yes, the kind that are awkward to re-fold; the ones that you buy from the gas station or the local Co-op; that information document that can be used countless times by all members of the family (as long as they can read).  When I was 15, I expertly navigated our family around Florida on a memorable Christmas vacation.  A couple of years ago, my sister and I traipsed around cities in Ukraine with a bag full of maps with unrecognizable Cyrillic writing. I am hooked on paper maps.

I don’t have a Tom Tom or a Garmin GPS in my vehicle.  I have a tattered ‘City of Edmonton Map Book’ that has served me well over the years.  I bought a new Map Book this Christmas to make sure I had all the newest streets and cul-de-sacs at my beck and call.

I must admit that I have not had much experience with a GPS device  - however, my one incident in Blaine, Minnesota in 2006 remains with me to this day.  Here’s the scenario: frantically driving in a rental car to make our daughter’s soccer game in an unknown city.  Pouring rain.  No map in the car.  Rush hour traffic (in Blaine, Minnesota). Suddenly find ourselves in an industrial area and, in an instant, the GPS craps out.  Call it ‘reception loss’, ‘malfunction’…whatever…it craps out.  No signal. Nothing. Agh.

Many co-workers and friends have GPS systems – and I’ve heard the stories – and they can be entertaining.  I’ve seen the articles about people driving to the edge of cliffs because they relied on their GPS.  Ambulance drivers in the UK have been told not to rely solely on their GPS devices as it has resulted in delays in getting to patients. And a slight spelling error in a GPS destination (Carpi versus Capri) took Swedish tourists on a 400 mile adventure through Italy.

But for every bad story, there is a good one. Handheld GPS are incredibly valuable for those who go four-wheeling, hunting, fishing, hiking, snowmobiling, etc. Hundreds of thousands of people successfully travel from Point A to Point B with their car GPS navigation systems. You don’t have to pull over to ask for directions – and you don’t have to unfold a map.

Hmmm…. to each his own….

Photo credit: Senor Hans


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