I'm taking a break from FGS posts for a public service announcement for genealogists planning research trips. When I left Springfield yesterday, I headed to Paducah, Kentucky to work in a little research before going home. The plan was to research in Pope County, Illinois today and Livingston County, Kentucky tomorrow. Neither place has a motel (that I could find) but Paducah is sorta between the two.
The untrustworthy Lula isn't a friend or relative traveling with me. Lula is my GPS. (You named yours didn't you?) She got her name a couple of years ago when I was on a research trip to Mississippi with three cousins. Someone in the crowd decided she should be named for our grandfather's sister that we can't find after the 1900 census and it stuck. (We still haven't found the real Lula.)
On that trip to Mississippi I learned that you need a back-up for Lula in case of a major thunderstorm - satellite signals don't work too well during those. Before I left home I printed directions from Google Maps for every leg of my trip so I had directions from my hotel in Paducah to Golconda, Illinois where the Pope County Courthouse is located. Problem - I didn't look at them. I admit that I should have stopped and pulled the directions out of the laptop case in the back of the car when Lula made me turn into a park a few blocks from the hotel. (She seemed to think there was a road out of there that connected to the road she wanted me to take but I didn't find it.) Anyway, I got out of the park and found the road she wanted. (You notice I'm not calling that the "right" road.)
In a few minutes I saw a blue bridge looming in front of me. Have I mentioned I don't like heights? Well, this was a pretty high, narrow, two-lane, singing bridge. And there was traffic coming at me so I couldn't drive down the middle of it. Across the Ohio River is a long time to hold your breath. I told Lula we were going to find a different way back.
I knew it was supposed to take about 45 minutes to get to Golconda and Lula was estimating my arrival time along that line. I made every turn she told me to make until she thought a gravel road was a good idea. That just seemed wrong to me so I didn't turn and looked for a place to pull off. Before I could do that, Lula recalculated and decided that my destination was just 2 miles straight ahead so I kept going. When she said I had arrived at my destination, this is what I saw.
Having been to a lot of courthouses, I was pretty sure that wasn't one.
At this point I did pull off and dig out the printed directions. Problem - wherever the heck I was, wasn't on my printed map. I checked the GPS for service stations and found that the nearest one was almost 10 miles away. I set a new course for it, hoping Lula actually knew the way there. A few miles before I got to the service station, I came to an intersection that was on my map and was exactly where I wanted to turn. From there I followed the directions and arrived at the Pope County, Illinois Courthouse almost 2 hours after I left the hotel.
Oddly enough, even though Lula couldn't find the courthouse, she had no trouble finding her way out of Golconda and back to Paducah on the exact route that I had printed (and which took me across the river on the I-24 bridge, a much better choice than the blue one). Go figure.
So. If you are taking a research trip to an area you are not familiar with, do not think you can trust your GPS - no matter what her name is. When I leave here in the morning for Livingston County you can bet I'll take a good look at the printed directions first and they will be right beside me for the whole trip.
P.S. It was a really good research day once I found the courthouse.