“I don’t recall a golf course being here,” I muttered to myself as I was driving home from Pigeon Forge this past Saturday. That was the first inkling that I must have made a wrong turn somewhere, making a tiring drive even worse.
My long drive home came at the end of a packed weekend where some friends and I got together for some hiking and sightseeing. On the first day up there, we summited Klingman’s Dome and it was then that I again realized why they call it the Smoky Mountains. It was a nice walk to the top only to see a bank of fog. That makes my son Henry two-for-two when it comes to missing out on the view from the state’s highest peak as it was also fogged in last time I took him up there.
Our next day consisted of the Gatlinburg walk as we took to the Strip up there and visited the Alcatraz Museum, which is like a Hall of Fame of crime, with items like the white Bronco of O.J. Simpson fame on display. And, by the way, you wouldn’t know there’s a pandemic, because Gatlinburg was packed and I’d say only about five percent of the people I saw were wearing masks.
Turning a shortcut into a long cut
Anyway, it was on the trip home that something happened to me that hasn’t happened in forever: I got lost.
In a day that everyone has a GPS at their fingertips, getting lost while driving is almost unheard of. I mean, I used to get lost all the time while driving – especially on dates – back before the invention of the modern GPS. Now, most cars have it and if it isn’t one of your options then you certainly have it on your phone.
Actually, the last time I got lost while driving happened about eight years ago in Washington D.C. and it wasn’t my fault. It seems that the turn-by-turn navigation doesn’t work well sometimes when you’re in big cities so it couldn’t find us. We ended up weaving in and out of streets until someone from OnStar was able to connect with us and lead us back to our hotel.
I’d forgotten how disconcerting being lost can actually be. Not knowing which way to go in a big city like D.C., combined with traffic zipping by at breakneck speed made for some tense minutes until the nice lady was able to find us and point us in the right direction. The whole thing gave me a newfound respect for those pioneers prior to ye olden times of 2000, who used folding maps to get from A to B. Talk about it being dangerous looking down at your GPS for directions. Think about trying to unfold and look at a map while you’re doing 80 down the interstate – not that I do 80 down the interstate.
“You just follow the signs,” one of my friends once told me. “I never use a map or GPS. The signs will get you there.”
“Yeah. Whatever. I’ll take the GPS and you take your signs,” I scoffed at him. “I don’t want to have to think while I drive. It’s annoying enough to have to stay awake while I drive. I can’t wait for them to invent that auto-pilot someday. I’m getting that option.”
However, something my friend failed to mention in his argument is that - barring someone switching signs like Wiley Coyote did to the Road Runner to get the fleet-footed bird to run underneath the ACME anvil suspended above the bowl of bird seed – signs are rarely wrong. Specifically, road signs don’t require internet access to work.
This was my problem Sunday afternoon. I decided to take a short cut I’d learned on my drive down to cut out some of the drive through Crossville. Since I like the GPS to tell me where to go, I tried to flip on, but instead of hearing her authoritarian voice commanding my drive, all I got was a spinning circle as it couldn’t connect. I was in a dead zone.
“Eh, I remember,” I said to myself as I took a right. “I just came through here two days ago.”
I began driving, not suspecting a thing since the drive between Sparta and Crossville looks the same as you top each and every hill. However, a few miles down the road I began noting things I hadn’t seen before.
“Wow, they are really building a lot of new stuff,” I told my son Henry as I saw a couple of new stores and housing developments. “This area is really developing.”
Still blissfully unaware I was on the wrong road, I continued noting the various buildings, wondering why I hadn’t noticed them on the way down. The sobering realization came when I saw an 18-hole golf course on my left.
“Oh shoot,” I said, realizing the reason why everything was looking new to me was because everything was, in fact, new to me. “I’m on the wrong road.”
I loudly lamented my bone-headed mistake and was able to finally get a connection just as I rolled past the Putnam County sign. Cookeville? How did I get that far off course? What followed was me pounding my steering wheel and yelling myself for half an hour, much to the entertainment of Henry.
“How did you get lost, dad?” he asked after I came down from my tantrum. “Don’t you have …?”
“Yes I do, son,” I cut him off. “It’s just that sometimes the signs are confusing.”
Henry thought for a moment and shook his head. “I wondered why we were going to Cookeville,” he said matter-of-factly.
“Huh?” I groaned. “What do you mean?”
“The sign that you turned at a while back when you said we were taking shortcut,” he said. “It said Cookeville was this way.”
“Why didn’t you …? I began.
“I thought you knew where you were going,” he innocently replied. “You said it was a short cut. It just didn’t seem very short to me.”
“I guess I just turned it into a long cut,” I growled.
Maybe Henry should have drove. He’s just 14, but he’s better at following signs than I am, obviously.