I was very relieved to hear that the couple that went missing near the Northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park have been found and they are okay.  They had been missing for 6 days and the search efforts to find them were massive.  Turns out they got bad info from their GPS. They were trying to get from Cooke City, MT to Billings and the GPS in their car gave them directions to cross the Beartooth Highway.  Problem is, the Beartooth is closed for the winter sometime around early to mid-October.  But they are alive and recovering which is the main thing.

I can relate.  In my time I’ve had some adventures with GPS and it’s predecessor, MapQuest.  I once printed MapQuest directions to a hotel in Vancouver, B.C.  I’ve been to Vancouver a number of times and I know the way.  During my college years in Everett, WA, we made several trips to Vannie because the legal drinking age in Canada is 19 and in Washington it was 21.  I KNOW the way to Vancouver.  But rather than heading up the regular highway, MQ told me to get off the highway and head north cross country after I came through customs at the border.  Then after what seemed to be an hour it had me turn west and head into town.  I think in all I went 50 miles (or was it kilometers) out of my way.  But that was then, this is now.  I got me a GPS!

A few years ago when Judy and I took a cruise to Alaska I had a blast!  Definitely one of my top 2 vacations ever but there was a small problem…..see, I always like to have some idea of where I am.  On the cruise I could approximately tell where we were but that’s not good enough.  I made a vow then and there that I would buy a hand held GPS so next cruise I would know exactly where I was at all times.  And I did.

Then, a little over a year ago, I started doing this travel job as a part time backup so I bought a portable Garvin so I could find my way around the multitude of new cities I would be visiting.  Lots of folks have these and give the electronic voice a name.  My wife, for example, calls her GPS “Rosie.”  I haven’t yet named mine but have been toying with names.  Maybe “Lucille” or “Juliette.”  I don’t know…it just doesn’t seem that important to me.  But I got the GPS!

Then I found out that my smart phone has GPS capabilities.  That’s right…I’m a GPS triple dipper!  Turns out that in my travels the one on the phone is the one I use most and for the most part it’s pretty accurate.  It’s saved my bacon a few times and been reasonably close other times.  There was even one time I thought I knew better than her and it worked well right up to the time I saw the sign saying “Road Ends: 1 mile.”  Had to backtrack almost 40 miles because I didn’t listen to the GPS.  Recently, though, she got confused.  Not enough to get me stranded in the wilderness in the middle of winter for 6 days but certainly enough to go a few miles out of my way.

I had a business trip to Fillmore, UT last week.  Fillmore isn’t a big town but it has 2 exits off of I-15.  One exit on the north end of town and another exit 3 miles further down the highway on the south end of town.  Not a huge town by any measure.  My hotel was off the highway at the southern exit.  This is in the Great Basin so you could see the sign for miles.  Easy to find.  I checked in and settled into my room for the night.  Did my homework and went to sleep.

Next morning after breakfast I packed up and got ready to go.  Meeting in Fillmore from 9-11 then jump in the rental car and drive 2 hours to Mount Pleasant for a meeting from 2-4.  Piece of cake…I got GPS!  I finished breakfast, got my suitcase and computer bag to the car and plugged the address for my meeting into the phone GPS.  Lucille, or Juliette, or whatever the heck her name is going to be told me to get back on I-15 and go north 3 miles to the north exit then head back into town.  It sounded right so off I went.  I was all set to make a right turn out of the motel parking lot when what to my wondrous eyes did appear?  200 yards to my left was a building with a sign in front that looked suspiciously like that of the company I was supposed to be visiting.   I sat there and thought about it for a minute or two and decided what could go wrong?  I’m on old Hwy 99 and the address of my meeting is on old Hwy 99.  If I go left instead of right I’ll go through town and it ain’t that big.  I should be able to find the place and I have plenty of time.  So left we go…shut up Lucille.  And how bout that…the building I could see from my hotel was exactly where I was supposed to be.  I didn’t have to go 3 miles north only to come back through town for 3 miles to get to a building that was 200 yards from my hotel.

As I said earlier, I’m really happy the missing couple was found and they’re okay. Being stranded in winter in the mountains of Montana is no joking matter.  But sometimes all the technology in the world is no substitute for common sense and preparation.  Read your maps…know where you are…and be careful out there.  And in the immortal words of the Mayhem guy on the insurance commercial….”Recalculating….”