Sunday, August 16, 2015

Adventures With Google Maps

I know I've said it before, but I like Google.  A lot.  Probably more than anyone should.  They know all the sordid secrets of my search history, and could probably own my soul if they so chose.  That's why I find it so frustrating that Google Maps seems to hate me so much, or just plain goes out of its way to make my life far more interesting than it needs to be.

You would think I would learn that Google Maps seems to like to screw with me sometimes, just apparently to amuse itself.  Let's count the ways Google Maps has messed with me so far this year, shall we?

1) I'm still cutting them some slack on the walking directions in New York City, since they are still in beta, but that situation was ridiculous. How could it not keep up with the speed of people walking?  I still think that might be more of a problem with my service than Google itself.

2) They got me again when I needed directions to a park that I have been to many times before, but I was coming from a different area and didn't know how to get there. For whatever reason, Google Maps decided to take me to the back of the park, to an entrance that has been closed for so many years I had no idea it even existed.  I ended up having to follow signs to get around to the actual entrance.

3) I used it on vacation, when my mother and I took my niece and nephew to Great Wolf Lodge in Massachusetts.  It got us close to the destination -- sort of. It just randomly stopped us in an area and told us we had reached our destination.  Ummm, no.  This is like the middle of a freaking forest, not Great Wolf Lodge.  We had to pull into a state park and get new directions to actually reach our destination.  So, I guess it really did get us there, eventually, but just with an interesting scenic drive as a bonus.

On a normal day, Google has no trouble telling me exactly how long it will take to get to work in the morning -- even when I did not ask it, nor tell it where I work.  Kind of unsettling, but they are usually accurate.  Obviously Google knows my location.  Every time I need directions, however, it tells me -- without fail -- that my destination is 3 hours and 42 minutes away, and I need to get on the New York State Thruway.  Why, Google, why?  You know where I live.  Why do you suddenly think I live in New York City or Long Island?  I've learned that I will always have to remind it of my current location.

You might be wondering, "If you have had so many problems using Google Maps, why do you keep going back?  You must be a glutton for punishment."  Maybe I am, or maybe I'm just really stubborn. Maybe I just hope that Google Maps and I can learn and grow together to overcome these issues. Also, I don't have a GPS, so Google Maps is my option.

Which leads us to this weekend's adventure.

I will admit that it may have been kind of stupid to head out on my own to begin with.  My car is still not right. In fact, I just celebrated the 3 month anniversary of driving around with my "Malfunction Indicator Light" on a little while ago.  The car is so loud that it sounds like a damn motorcycle or airplane when I'm driving.  (It does have to get inspected this month, so one way or the other this will have to be addressed at some point. I'm just procrastinating.)  So, maybe not the wisest of ideas to head off into the unknown.  Whatever.  Car seemed to be running fine, so off I went!

My destination:  The Dover Stone Church.  It's only about half an hour drive, so not a terribly big adventure.

Who's riding shotgun with me on this little adventure?  You know it, baby: Google Maps.  One day my blind faith and trust in them will be rewarded, I hope.

The directions looked pretty clear-cut in the brochure (see the link above), but I'm not all that familiar with that part of the county, and I wasn't about to keep my phone open trying to read that brochure while driving.  That way lies accidents.

Everything was going swimmingly until Google Maps told me to take a right onto a street that I was pretty sure hadn't been mentioned in the brochure's directions.  Maybe I do have too much faith in Google, or maybe I am just incredibly stupid, but I made the turn.  Why not?  Granted, my car is a bit dodgy in the maintenance arena at the moment, but I had a full tank of gas and I was on an adventure, so why not?  I thought maybe Google knew a shortcut to my destination.  Why they would know better than the town the destination was located in never crossed my mind at that point.

There we were:  Google Maps and I were on a lovely drive, down a winding country road.  We were travelling past farms and meadows -- a very bucolic and idyllic scene.  We were happily driving along for a while, and I assumed that eventually we were going to come into town.  The brochure said parking was near a pizza place and an elementary school.  At some point we had to be near a more populated area.

And then it happened -- the moment when I knew, once again, that Google Maps had betrayed me and was taking me to some untold destination.  It tells me to take a left onto another road.  WTF? Google, my dear, I don't even see a road to turn onto.

I slowed down to take a better look.  Is that...?  Is that what Google is calling a road?  Honestly, it looked like someone's driveway.  It was a dirt road, with a very faded sign at the end.

No.  Just, no. There is a limit as to how much of an adventure this is going to be, and you have just crossed that line, Google.  This seems like it could be the plot of a horror movie.  Lone female, out in the country, driving down an unfamiliar dirt road.... Blam!  Zombie attack! Serial killer!  Aliens! Pick your poison.

Ignoring my overactive imagination and getting back to reality, there were some very real reasons not to go down that road.

--I know there is an area out here, somewhere, that I don't want to stumble into.  Maybe the urban legends about it are true, maybe they aren't.  Maybe they are just really nice people tired of dealing with other people's bullshit and attitudes.  Either way, I don't have any desire to find out.

--This totally looks like I am going to drive down the road and end up at the front door of a farmhouse.  I do not need to make a random appearance in some poor unsuspecting soul's yard.  My car isn't exactly quiet.  No need to scare the shit out of anyone.

--I am not driving down a dirt road, in the middle of nowhere, in a car that may or may not fall apart completely if banged around too much.  If I actually have a muffler left on the car at this point, I'm sure I won't after bouncing along that road.

Not happening.

So I pulled over to the side of the road, without turning down the dodgy dirt road, and decided to change directions.  I put in the name of the pizza place that was in the brochure as a place that you could park.

Boom!  Instant directions, which did not include the dirt road. In fact, they sent me all the way back in the direction I had just come.  I got to the pizza place only to find all sorts of signs saying that the parking was for the restaurant customers only.  (I think maybe the brochure needs to update that fact.) I remembered from the map in the brochure that the entrance to The Stone Church should be just a little ways down the road, and the elementary school -- the other suggested parking location -- should be just on the other side of it.

And it was.  There were several other people walking along who had obviously parked there for the same destination.  Thank you helpful brochure!  I was really getting tired of the driving portion of the adventure at that point.

One turn, Google Maps!

That's right, folks.  The entire trip should have been going straight and making one right turn.  I have no idea where Google Maps was trying to kidnap me to, nor do I care to find out.  Maybe it was taking me to the wrong side of the park once again. Maybe it was lonely and wanted to make our trip special with a scenic drive. Maybe it was luring me out to a shack in the woods to meet my demise.

I don't know, and I don't care.  I sure wasn't going to use it on the way home.  I can handle making a fucking left turn by myself without navigational assistance.

At least the Stone Church was pretty cool, and worth the effort to get there.  I took some pictures.

Marker to explain where you are.

Entrance/Exit path to the park.

The Stone Church, as seen from the trail.

The view in the cave.  There is a waterfall in there, but I couldn't get a decent picture of it.

Looking back out at the entrance and the trail.

Will I be using Google Maps again?  Yes.  I still don't have a GPS, and 90% of the time they are really very accurate.  I still don't understand how it can give me perfect directions to get from here to The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, yet a destination in Dutchess County just boggles its little electronic mind.  

Consider it a lesson not learned, if you must.  Chalk it up to me being an idiot to keep trusting it.  I don't care.  I choose to think it makes my adventures more interesting, and maybe one of these happy little mistakes will lead me to something awesome one of these days.

**Also, as I discovered on the way to work this afternoon, I think my car may really have lost whatever bit of muffler it had still possessed.  It is exponentially louder now, and the whole car freaking vibrates from it.  My neighbors are going to love me!**

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