Nobody Said GPS Technology Was Perfect

Quirks in the system can leave you wandering around the countryside.

Published on: May 1, 2013

For the past six months or so when I ask for directions people just want to give me an address, assuming I will type it into Map Quest or some other search engine. I usually hold out and ask for full directions. Finally, a couple weeks ago, I thought, OK, I'll just use the address.

I was going to Crawfordsville to Bob Stwalley's farm where Vance York and a team of volunteers from Pioneer Village at the Indiana State Fair were loading up four Huber tractors, three in very good shape, that Stwalley donated for display.

I punched in the address. He lived on a north and south road. I was supposed to end up between 400 North and 500 North in Montgomery County.

Majestic tractor: I still got to see the Huber on a trailer headed for the state fair Pioneer Village even if I did arrive late.
Majestic tractor: I still got to see the Huber on a trailer headed for the state fair Pioneer Village even if I did arrive late.

Unfortunately, I didn't remember north from south when I snatched up the MapQuest directions I printed out early that morning and headed out. I followed them to the letter. I wound up on 200 East, just like I was supposed to, between 400 and 500 South. But the south vs. north didn't register. I drove up and down the road twice – nothing looked like a place where old tractors would be, and I didn't see pickups and flatbed trailers that would be there to load up the tractors.

Fortunately, I had another technology. I called York on the cell phone.

"Oh my gosh," he said. "I'm sorry. We're north of 74 – you need to be between 400 N and 500 North."

Why was he sorry? I probably typed in the wrong address he gave me. So I headed north. The problem was roads don't run true there. Half an hour later, just as the tractors were loaded, I arrived at a beautiful brick farmhouse built in 1860.

Stwalley came out to meet me. I apologized for being late.

"Oh, it's not your fault," he says. "GPS is messed up in this area. It sends people who want to come here to the south location, and people who want to be there here. It's the darndest thing."

No kidding! Are you listening MapQuest? The only saving grace was that I arrived only two minutes behind Mauri Williamson, and he didn't have a good excuse!