Monday, September 12, 2011

Lula Can't Always Be Trusted

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. 

20 comments:

  1. OMG, I just KNEW it had to be the stinking GPS. Our new one gives us some really BIZARRE directions, in effect taking us 15 miles out of our way, and sadly, that happens FREQUENTLY!!

    I use the Android Iconia GoogleMap app to double check Jack (that is his name, fitting somehow seeing that he is only so so good on directions, sighhh).

    When we get the "feeling" that Jack is having a moment, I double check the Iconia, and then we take the route that looks the best, comparing them.

    Still, sometimes I still have to get out a paper map, so keep them close by.

    Love technology, it will be such a great thing when they get it to work correctly.

    SIGHHH

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  2. Another problem - I was cut off from the world. No cell signal. The paper was the only help I had.

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  3. Lula has a split personality. Just saying.

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  4. I ran into the same issue last year. I had printed directions and borrowed my in-law's GPS as a backup. As soon as I took off, I realized the GPS had issues. It kept trying to send me north even though I was supposed to be going south. About halfway through the trip, I thought it was finally acting right until it told me I had arrived at my destination and I looked around and saw nothing but the dirt road I was driving on.

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  5. Ours is Maggie (for Magellan). Maggie did that to us last year in DC. Every 5 minutes, "Recalculating!" just like the State Farm Mayhem. It took us 2 hours to get out of DC that day. And it was noon on Sunday! We did learn where some things were, so I guess that's a bonus.

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  6. Oh, and I grew up just outside Paducah and I know that bridge. You are a brave, brave woman.

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  7. Ginger - I knew that comment was coming. This was all on her - she was so far off, I'm not even sure I was in the right county.

    Dee - It's those rural areas that seem to be tricky. Although I will have to say that she got me to a cemetery in the middle of nowhere once that I would have never found on my own - and back to civilization.

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  8. Jen - Not so much brave as "it's too late to turn back now."

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  9. MMM, you will excuse me while I go have a giggle fest, yes, at your expense. Only reason, is I am allowed, cause, been there, done that. Prayed a bit too! LOL

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  10. As I told my daughter, when we first got the GPS, if the GPS has you going up an unpaved road,you are going in the wrong direction. I had to turn around on that dirt road and find the correct road.

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  11. Linda,

    I think you should change the voice to a man's voice and rename it "Diablo" which is devil in Spanish. *snort*

    ~Caroline

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  12. It took at least five minutes to stop giggling before I could comment. So glad you had a plan b. And you may need to think about what Lula's hiding.

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  13. Brenda Joyce Jerome, CGSeptember 12, 2011 at 9:20 PM

    Linda, if you need cell phone service in Livingston County, go to Smithland Cemetery (on the hill just up from the courthouse) and go to the top of the hill. No cell phone towers in that part of the county. Good luck.

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  14. Caroline - Hmmm, can I do that? I'll be checking it out in the morning. That'll teach Lula to mess with me.

    Susan - She is definitely hiding something.

    Brenda - Thanks, I'll keep that in mind.

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  15. Great story, Linda. Matilda (our GPS) got us lost one day in the back roads of Louisiana and we were in my husband's car (read: no maps). I have never again traveled without maps in the car!

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  16. Oh my, Linda, this totally sounds like something I would do! I swear all mine ever says is "recalculating..." Love that shot of the courthouse :)

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  17. Poor Lula must have just been a little confused, or maybe too hot, or.... It's too bad you had to go over the bridge but good that you arrived safely at your destination. I don't have GPS and always wondered if they could be trusted. I guess a back-up system (i.e. real paper maps) helps. Thanks for the chuckle this evening, Linda.

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  18. My GPS' name is Chuck. I have him equipped with an Australian accent, so (more often than I would like) he says, "Umm ... I think you missed that last instruction, so when you get the chance, chuck a U-ey and go back the way you came." I'm hopelessly directionally-challenged, even with a GPS. I'm just impressed that Lula survived the trip :)

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  19. A man with an accent - now there's a great idea.

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  20. Ha! Mine is Eliza Jane and she has a British accent. :)

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