Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Strange things come to mind when you're reading blogs

A blogger I read frequently just bought a new car with GPS. It reminded me of a radio program I heard on NPR about people relying on GPS for navigation that ended badly.  Myself, I have seen routes proposed by a GPS that truly go "round the barn" when  straighter line routes or easier roads are available.  GPS  proposed to send my doctor onto a two lane toll road trip through eastern  Kentucky on his way from Tennessee to Charleston WV hauling a huge trailer, because that way was a few miles shorter than staying on the interstate.  Not smart.  I'm from there, so I hastened to convince him to stay on  I-75 and I-64, and forget the distance saved.  Maneuvering a trailer through the southern Appalachians wasn't for the novice.   

In the worst case, people have gone out for day trips in the Mohave desert using their GPS to navigate on old mining roads and gotten very lost because the roads are not maintained anymore and some of them on the GPS maps don't even exist. (Why, oh why?  I went through the Mohave once and saw all I will ever need to see of that place!)  Some of these people have DIED.  The radio told a heartbreaking story of a mom and her small son who got lost and were out in the desert for days before being found.  She survived but the little boy died.

My only brush with the desert happened when we drove from Phoenix into Nevada in the mid 1990's.  We had maps but I decided I should check with the hotel concierge before we left to determine the best way to go.  She very sternly lectured me, an Eastern tenderfoot, about driving in the desert.  Be sure there was a full tank of gasoline before you left. Check your car over, even the rental car.  Take water with you, even if you were never planning to get off four lane paved roads.  You never know what the rental car might do and you have to have water with you, either for an overheated car or an overheated person.  If you don't know where you're going, don't drive at night.  Get an early start.  She made me know that this was serious business.  It doesn't sound like the place for day trippers.

We didn't have any problems except for a monumental traffic jam at construction on the Boulder Dam road, which left us sitting in excruciating heat for hours without moving.  Brutal.  And, when we were on the move we were afraid to use the air conditioning too much because the  rental car ran very hot.  So we rolled down the windows and "enjoyed" the 110 degree breeze. 

On the way back to Arizona we saw a tour bus broken down on the side of the road in the Mohave, the driver talking on his radio (probably begging for a replacement bus to be delivered, pronto) and the poor passengers huddled in the shade at the side of the bus, sweating in the heat.  Poor travelers.

On another subject, a Japanese blogger wrote about her school system having a geiger counter to survey the playgrounds for radiation contamination.  The kindergarten wanted to buy a geiger counter of its own to use more frequently.  My, my.  This led me on a search for geiger counters online, where I found a site that sells them exclusively (a sign of the times, indeed).  The big boxy ones I was used to seeing at the nuclear plant where I worked cost $1200.  I thought they would have been much more expensive.  And they were selling like hotcakes, to normal people, not businesses or institutions.   Imagine a situation where having a household geiger counter is normal.  My heart goes out to you, people of Japan, still wrestling with these terrible occurences.


Nancy said...

Moral: always keep an atlas/map in the car and learn how how to use it.

Tanya said...

I will be careful to avoid deserts with our GPS! And the geiger counter at the elementary school is being put to good use... It registers that radiation is higher at my crosswalk than on the school grounds. Good for the kids, not so wonderful for me at the crosswalk (only there 30 minutes a day.... I'm not worried.)