Sunday, January 10, 2010

Adventures with Irwin – a Trip to Motor Mill

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

We never thought we needed a GPS since we travel with the DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer for each state we’re traveling in. But one night, I was flipping past one of the shopping networks and they were advertising a GPS unit for a good price. We’ve had problems with directions sometimes, especially when the road names don’t match what’s in our gazeteer, so I thought I would order one and see if it would help.

We were so excited to take it out for a test the first weekend after it arrived. The unit came with the voice set to a woman, but she sounded sort of bossy and not all that nice, so we tried out various other voices and settled on a nice sounding voice with an Australian accent. And we named him Irwin since the only Australians we could think of were Crocodile Dundee and Steve Irwin.

All summer long, Irwin was reminding us that his maps weren’t up-to-date, so, before we took our fall trip to Iowa, Joann plugged him in and updated the maps. We planned our sunrise stop to be the Motor Mill Historic site. Since we would be arriving in the dark, we pulled over after we entered Iowa and I programmed him to take us to the town of Motor. Motor hasn’t actually been a town since at least 1903, but Irwin listed it as a city in Iowa, so I asked him to take us there. As we followed his instructions, Joann kept saying, “This doesn’t look familiar.” And I kept thinking. “How could anything look familiar? We haven’t been to Motor Mill in almost 10 years”.

As we approached the town of Motor, Irwin directed us to follow Galaxy Road, so we did, right up until it dead-ended at the river. You could vaguely see the mill across the river in the dark, but the bridge has been out since a flood in 1991, so we certainly couldn’t go that way! We had planned to catch first light at the mill, so we quickly back-tracked in the fading darkness to the highway and watched for the sign we had missed pointing us to Motor Mill on the other side of the river.

When we were ready to leave the Motor Mill Historic Site, Joann asked me if I wanted to program in the next town, so I did. Again, Irwin pointed us to drive into the river, over the non-existent bridge, to head for the next town. We began driving in the only direction we could go, and he said, in an annoyed voice, “Recalculating.” Irwin has to recalculate a lot when we travel, since we get easily side-tracked, and his “up-to-date” maps leave a little to be desired. Usually when we’re shunpiking, I program in a town to get us headed in the right direction, but as soon as we’re clear of the city, I turn off the directions and we wander.

Irwin still comes in handy, though, because he shows the roads that are coming up. So when I tell Joann to “take the next left,” she can see when we are approaching it. And most times, if we miss that left, we just take the one after that . . . unless it happens to be going in the wrong direction, in which case we do some sort of U-turn, Y-turn, or “Asterisk-turn” -- whatever is required for the width of the road we happen to be on.

I know of lot of you have a GPS unit for your vehicle. What kind of adventures have you had with your “Irwin”?

Happy Shunpiking!

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