We’re Back, and How Mom Learned to Love the GPS

We didn’t start out at the crack of dawn. Nope, we started out at about the crack of 10 (although that might sound a lot like a plumber reference, it ain’t). I went around feeding critters that morning so that SwampMan would have one day less of feeding to do, planted some plants that I knew SwampMan would forget to water in the hope that some of them would survive (as it happened, we got so much rain that some of them drowned instead of dying of thirst) and, of course, SwampMan was convinced that I was going to die horribly on the highway so didn’t want to let me go. Then off to Georgia to Mom’s house. She was very impatient, but I’d told her that since I worked Friday, I was not going to be up at dawn. Besides, I’d probably have a hard time sleeping, and wanted to get as much rest as I could.

We took highway 82 through Georgia to Alabama, then got on 65 through Birmingham, exited on 78 to Memphis and then on 55 to St. Louis, then 70 to KCMO. I plugged in the GPS and turned it on, but Mom said it was getting on her nerves and turn that damn thing OFF. Mom drove for the first three hours and we were still well inside Georgia, so I offered to drive. Heh. That imaginary brake over on the passenger’s side got a LOT of use because the traffic on those Georgia back roads was going 85 and 90, and I didn’t want to impede the traffic flow. That would be rude. I drove for the rest of the trip.

We stopped for the night in a small town in Alabama not far from the Mississippi border. The room was expensive and not very clean. I was all for getting a refund and moving on down the road, but Mom was exhausted so we checked for bedbugs, found no evidence of any, and stayed. (I kept my luggage inside a huge ziplock bag just in case.) We stopped early for the second night in Columbia, Missouri. I had enjoyed a very good sleep on those nice, soft beds in the Alabama hotel, but mom prefers a bed with the consistency of a concrete slab covered with a sheet, so she tossed and turned. Plus, she didn’t want us to wander around in the dark in KCMO looking for a hotel, so opted for the early evening. Luckily for her, the hotel in Columbia had her preferred concrete slab-type beds, so she slept a bit. I did NOT, but that was okay. I’d slept the night before.

Mom called my lil’ brother and got directions to his house the next morning while I was carrying out luggage. I plugged in the GPS, found favorites, and pressed his address. The night before, the hotel we’d stayed at had been down several turns off the freeway and, in the morning, I no longer trusted my memory of how we’d gotten there. I plugged in the GPS and turned it on. It was nice to have a voice agreeing with my decisions as to which way to go! Mom was not impressed. She still didn’t trust it.

There are a lot of places that I wouldn’t trust a GPS, either. For example, out in my neck of the woods, it will tell me to turn right or left onto a road that no longer exists and is now, in fact, a solid stand of planted pines. Apparently those old secondary roads still exist in virtual space on a map somewhere even though they no longer appear in the real world.

When we got to KCMO, the GPS chimed in again and told me to turn right. “Stupid thing! That’s the wrong exit!” Mom said. We got off at the exit Mom said, then she read the instructions. “Stay in the center lane.”

“Uh, there is no center lane here!” I offered.

“Well, stay in the left lane then!”

We went down the road looking for the landmark at which we were supposed to turn left. It was not there. Meanwhile, the GPS was ordering us to turn around.

“Maybe I wrote down the directions wrong, and we were supposed to turn left instead of right.”

“Okay!” So we turned back in the other direction looking for the landmark. It wasn’t there, either.

“I better call your brother and tell him we’re completely lost!” said Mom.

“Well, let’s listen to the GPS first.”

We twisted and turned a bit, then “In 800 yards, turn left, then bear left. Turn left.”

“Hey, Mom, we have a center lane now!”

“And there’s the school where we were supposed to turn left!”

“In 400 yards, turn left. Turn left. In 400 yards, turn left. At the end of the road, turn left. You have reached your destination.”

Mom was looking for the address to make sure we were at the right place when lil’ brother came walking out. He seemed mildly amazed to see that we’d made it.

“What, you think we can’t follow a map and directions?” I laughed. We hadn’t, of course, at least not to his house. “We have GPS!”

We drove around town, and lil’ bro showed us where the hotel was that he recommended for the evening. When we got back to his house, I put the hotel into the GPS. I followed his verbal instructions which were corroborated by the GPS for getting back to the hotel that night. Now that Mom was no longer worried about getting lost somewhere, she slept well. I suppose I wasn’t much comfort.

“C’mon, what’s the worst that could happen if we get lost? We’ll eventually end up at the border to Canada, Mexico, or at the Atlantic or Pacific oceans, and then we’ll know for SURE that we shoulda took a right at Albuquerque.” I dunno why she didn’t find THAT comforting!

We had the BIG family reunion with lil’ brother’s family Tuesday. Did I mention what a great cook lil’ bro is? Much better than I am. He prepared fantastic food for us the entire time. He would have fixed us three meals a day if we’d let him, but he’d introduced us to Culver’s, and we had to get our fill of butterburgers before we left town. Smoked ribs was the meal of the day for our reunion. We got to meet lil’ brother’s first grandchild, a beautiful little 2-week-week-old baby girl with long black hair.

Oldest little brother that we were taking back to Georgia was there. He was very painfully thin. It was obvious that hard times had been waaaaay harder for him than most, but he still kept his cheerful demeanor and outlook. He’d recently had to have surgery for a massive hernia and then a wire through his eye. We made arrangements to meet him the next day at a service station at a certain exit for, he told us with certainty, we’d never find where he lived, and we needed to pick up his clothing and tools for his trip back, and make arrangements to put his tools that we couldn’t carry in storage until he decided whether he would stay in Georgia. We were going to be there bright and early, but he was still working on refinishing and rebuilding a piece of furniture that had to be completed before he left, so we decided to get there about noon. We were to call him upon our arrival, and he would come meet us.

The next day, we arrived at designated station and called him. No answer. We called several times. Still no answer. I asked mom “Do you have his address?” She did. I tried putting it into the GPS, but it did not have addresses that went up that high, or so it said. While I was working with the GPS, she called my other brother, who gave her verbal directions that she wrote down.

“I have the directions. Your brother mapped it on his phone.”

“Um, okay, so where do we go?” I asked.

“We turn east on the highway.”

I looked at the sky. The sun was directly overhead. When I was in Florida, I always knew which way the ocean was but I couldn’t rely on that in Missouri. After all, what if my invisible ocean location detector fixated on the Gulf of Mexico instead or, even worse, the Pacific? Hoping that Mom was more closely related to Carrier Pigeons and other homing birds than I was, I asked her “So, any idea which way east is?”

“I think it’s that way and besides, the road sign says this is EAST whatever the hell street it is.” We went, I dunno, about 30 miles or so in the direction Mom thought was east, all the while the GPS telling me to turn around ASAP, then it started telling me to go left. I mentioned that, but Mom was adamant that her directions were correct. It was a nice day, and we had pleasant scenery of rolling hills with corn dying in the fields and people with signs up saying “hay wanted”. I enjoyed the drive. We did not find the street that we were supposed to turn on.

Mom said “Maybe we better turn around and go back to the station.”

“Nah. I’ll follow the GPS when I like the direction.”

“Turn left now.” It was a gravel road. “Nah. Don’t like that one.”

At the next gravel road, the GPS intoned “Turn left now.” “Nah. Don’t care for that one, either.”

At an intersection with a nice paved road, the GPs intoned “Turn left now.” “Yeah, I like this one much better. I believe I will.”

“We’re going to be really lost!” Mom worried.

“Nah. The GPS always knows where we are, and how to get to where we want to go. We have to use our own judgement on the roads that it directs us to, though!” I told her.

We reached another paved road. “Turn left now!” It looked good, so I did.

Then we reached another gravel road, and it instructed us to turn right. I was a lil’ hesitant, but Mom pointed out a sign for a lake that he lived near pointing in the same direction, so we’d reached the general area.

We went up and down and around and around a tangle of gravel roads that were so close together that I think the GPs had a problem with fixing our exact location or maybe the turns were too close and I was reaching them too quickly, but we seemed to be going up and down roads rather pointlessly. Many of them had no road signs. We stopped and asked a woman watching a child play in the front yard if she knew of the road that we were seeking. “Never heard of it. Let me call one of my friends that lives here and see if she’s heard of it!” but her friend wasn’t home. We continued following the GPS. “Turn right now!” it intoned again at an unmarked road and, shortly after turning onto it, announced “You have reached your destination!”

Hunh. It was indeed our destination, the destination that the GPS said didn’t exist. How about that! The people inside called their son, who my brother was off with fixing something, and he told my brother we had arrived. My brother checked his phone. He’d forgotten to recharge it the night before and the battery was dead. Everybody was extremely surprised that we’d found the place since there are no street signs. I was content to let them think we were map reading wizards that did not go @ 30 miles in the wrong direction but Mom said “My daughter has GPS and it is WONDERFUL!” Yep, it can be. When you follow it.

The way back home was proceeding rather uneventfully on the first day. I’d taken 70 back to St. Louis, then 55 south, and was keeping an eye on the weather. It was supposed to be nasty down south, and I didn’t think I wanted to go back through Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia on side roads during the week in severe thunderstorms. Mom adamantly did not want to go I-55 to I-10; she wanted to get off on 78 again in Memphis. We were still having that discussion when “PING!” said her car. The dash told me that her tire pressure was low.

“Uh oh. Low tire pressure!” I told her.

She was not happy. “What are we going to do?”

“Look on the map. Find the nearest town.”

The next exit was Burdette, which had nothing there. I turned in the direction of some silos, hoping for a service station. The silos turned out to be just silos, so I turned back, saw a man on the side of the road talking to his wife, and stopped.

“Do y’all know where the nearest service station is? We’ve got a tire with low air pressure, and got off the freeway exit here, but can’t find one.”

“Why sure I do! It’s right here!” he announced, and he had an air compressor with an air hose on the back of his truck. “Pull up just a little more, and I’ll air it up.” After he aired it up, he called his uncle with a tire repair place, trying to locate him to open up his shop for us, but couldn’t get in touch with him. “The only other place is Walmart in Blytheville. I’ll call ahead and see what time their tire repair place closes.” It was still open, so he told ’em that we were on our way, gave us directions for the quickest way back, and we were off again. As soon as we reached Walmart the low tire pressure warning pinged again. We’d hoped that the rough dang freeway had just beat the air outta the tire, but nope. We had an actual problem. The person working inside told us that they couldn’t take any more people that night, but we told her that we were expected. She checked, and was told that they knew we were coming. The tire people stayed late to get our tire repaired, and we were so thankful! They took a jagged chunk of aluminum out of the tire that looked like it was a part of somebody’s grill.

We went ahead and spent the night in Blytheville. Mom was a nervous wreck about us getting stranded. “The worst that would have happened is that we would have had to put the donut on, get a hotel room, and get it fixed in the morning. It would have been all right!” we tried to assure her. She was not convinced. She agreed with us, however, that we were very lucky to have that happen to us in a nice place like Blytheville and Burdette!

The weather channel showed some severe thunderstorms over Birmingham the next day, so I just stayed on 55 south. Mom was NOT happy, arguing that we’d hit big cities and lots of traffic. “Like what?”


“That ain’t big.”

“New Orleans!”

“That ain’t big and, the way we’re going, we won’t even see it!”




“You better be glad it’s there, because around there is the only place to eat! Besides, we’re going outside of Tallahassee, not through it.”

After we got out of Arkansas, mom was agreeably surprised at the good state of the freeway and, once we hit 10, was even happier. We did go outside the cities. There was a lot less traffic, hardly any, in fact. And the roads were great, smooth and in good repair. We did hit some torrential rain that slowed us way down, though, but probably not as much as we would have been on the secondary roads.

Mom did get pretty mad at me because I got off I10 to go down to Gulfport to look at the Gulf of Mexico in Mississippi and to stretch my legs. We looked at a big ol’ yacht parking lot and wondered about whether they’d be effected by the storm that is now Isaac. My brother and my mom had never been to the Gulf of Mexico. We got back on the highway, and I intended to drive straight through, but Mom was tired and wanted to stop for the night. We did just outside of Mobile.

Once we hit Florida, I tried to talk Mom into looking at the Florida side of the gulf, which is, IMO, the loveliest place of all. She just wanted to go home.

“But we’re RIGHT HERE!” I begged. Nothin’ doing. She wanted her house.

So, we went home. My lil’ brother slept most of the way again. He said that in the back seat, he couldn’t see anything except the back of our heads, and that got pretty boring after a few miles.

Mom surprised me by agreeing with how good the trip was on I10 and I55. “You know, the next time we go, I think I’ll go this way!” Heh. That’s the way I wanted to go to begin with because I knew the city traffic would bother her, but nothin’ doing. I’m glad that I put my foot down about Atlanta! She would have REALLY not liked that.

I went up Tuesday to bring them directions to a place in South Carolina, and couldn’t get Mom on the phone. “I hope I don’t have to climb over your fence, but I will!” I told the answering machine. She usually locks the gate.

When I got there, they had just gotten back from Home Depot. Chuck had just gotten done with the chores that she thought that she was going to have to give up her house over because she couldn’t do them. It had taken him a few hours’ work. They were minor but she’d magnified them into a huge obstacle.

“I’m glad your gate wasn’t locked!”

“Oh, I never lock it now that your brother is here!” she assured me.

Hunh. How am I supposed to take that? I’m almost as tall as my brother, definitely outweigh him, and am probably meaner as well. Yet she feels safer when he’s there.

I handed her the directions to the place in Florence. “I’m not going there until I get a GPS!” she declared.

I haven’t told her about the other things that GPS can do, like telling you what service stations are ahead at the exit, or what restaurants or hotels. I didn’t have that feature on because mine was three years old and hadn’t been updated.


5 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    no2liberals said,

    Welcome back, Swampie.

  2. 4

    nuke said,

    I told y’all to drive fast so’s you wouldn’t be on the road so long!

  3. 5

    kae said,

    Sounds like Mom likes having her son home!

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