Lesson #1 for Rural Driving: Forget the GPS

My Generation

City drivers put their faith in a little black box, as the rest of us wonder why they think it's more right than the DEAD END sign at the road's end.

Published on: June 28, 2010

Every year at about this time, the population of the greater Bushnell area swells by about 30,000, as young  people from all over the country flock to a hard rock Christian music festival known as Cornerstone. Normally, this doesn't shake the locals up too much; we see a lot more traffic, maybe a few lost drivers, and you definitely want to avoid going to Dairy Queen or the local IGA if at all possible this week. And because the event takes place on a huge campground just about three miles from my house, we can often hear the music from across the hills and hollers. One year, we even sat up in bed and watched the fireworks from our bedroom window.

This year, however, because all the rain has softened the roads and caused them to literally collapse and sink, we have three roads closed within a mile of our house. This includes the main blacktop that leads to Cornerstone, which anyone coming from the east would use to get there. 

So starting Sunday, we began seeing a few lost drivers. We live a quarter mile off of a gravel road, on a dead end road that's really more like a lane. The only folks who ever come down here are ourselves and our neighbor, when he's checking his cows. And the mail lady. 

I was perplexed at first. I mean, come on, there's a DEAD END sign at the end of the road. Do they think we're kidding with that? Then last night at about 2 a.m., a school bus came barreling down the road, followed by a van with a trailer. Then a stretch SUV. Then about a half dozen more cars, vans and SUVs. Then a couple dozen more by 7 a.m.

In the light of day, it occurred to my husband that their GPS units were re-directing them down our dead-end road. Which has been a dead end since the bridge went out 30 years ago, or so I'm told. But GPS apparently doesn't know that, nor does Google maps, Yahoo maps or Mapquest. [As I'm writing this, three more cars are heading this way.]

I've met some real nice people as we've tried to redirect them. They're pierced and they have purple hair, but they're so nice. Indiana, Michigan and Virginia and more. 

And curiously, they've put all their trust in those little GPS gadgets. I was trying to tell one young man from Michigan how to take Route 9 back around through Bushnell. He started squinting at me and looking confused. 

"Just take a look at your map," I said. "You follow Rte. 9 back west and through Bushnell."

"Oh. I don't even have a map. Just my GPS!" he said, laughing.

I drew him a map, and gently tried to explain how GPS doesn't always work 'round these here parts.

Then I went back inside and printed off a few maps. I have a feeling we'll keep having this conversation, all day long.