Maps

I’m always rather startled when I hear someone say that they don’t know how to read maps. I was taught how to do so in elementary school and it has definitely come in handy over the course of my life. Even in this era of GPS, it’s quite valuable to be able to find your location on a map and be able to determine how to reach your destination.

Maps and atlases and the like have always fascinated me. I can look at them for hours. Over the years, I have often used them as artwork on my walls. I think this has to do with my love of travel. If I look at a map, I can imagine myself being there. It also has to do with my love of reading. If a book includes a map, I can take the journey with the main character. I find that exciting.

Maps can also teach you a lot about a place. Why did they name that street in that way? Place names often reflect history. They make you want to learn more. I often wonder who named Purple Cow Road, and what they were smoking at the time.

Now that I rely on GPS and/or Google Maps so much, and since I moved to the Seattle area after I built up that reliance, and since the hilly terrain means that streets don’t always adhere to the strict grid pattern I was used to in flat Florida, I tend not to know where I am with relation to other parts of my city or state. I don’t have that map image in my head anymore. It’s pure laziness on my part, and very unsettling.

I do recommend that everyone carry local maps in their cars, because you never know when your GPS will go kerflooey. There was a recent week of sunspot activity where my GPS kept thinking I was miles from my actual position. I cannot tell you how frustrating that week was.

If you don’t know how to read a map, there’s no shame in that. You just weren’t taught. But you can still learn. I have total faith in you. I suggest you start by checking out this very informative article on wikiHow entitled, “How to Read a Map”.

Whether you know how to read a map or not, I hope you’ll find your way back to this blog again and again, dear reader!

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What’s Your Orientation?

Don’t get excited. I’m not asking you about your sexual orientation. Not only is that none of my business, but I really couldn’t care less. You be you.

No, I’m talking about… what should I call it? Your compass orientation. How you visualize yourself in the world.

The reason I’m thinking about this is because my husband and I have a difference of opinion as to how a GPS should be set up. He likes his maps pointing ever northward, regardless of which direction he is going. I, on the other hand, greatly prefer to have my maps move with me as I move. I’m way too dyslexic to have to figure out if that turn is a left or a right based on where the sun is sitting in the sky. Show me, for heaven’s sake, which way to turn from where I’m facing right this minute. Otherwise I’m completely lost.

Recently I heard a story on NPR about how certain languages are compass oriented, and others, like English, are not. We describe things as being to our left or right, or in front of us or behind us. But it seems that some languages describe things as being to the North, South, East, or West. It doesn’t matter which way that person is facing when they have their discussion. They say, “You left your keys on the table to the north of you.” If plopped down in that culture, it would take me an awfully long time to find my keys. But I’m sure that if you’re born into it, that’s the norm.

The way I imagine it is that some people’s consciousness is inside their head, looking out of their eyes. That’s how I see the world. It’s faced in whatever direction I am faced in. But other people must have their consciousness floating slightly above themselves, and always oriented to the compass, as their body turns beneath them. I can’t relate to that at all. Not at all.

I wonder which is more common. What’s your orientation?

Vintage COmpass by hourglassthorne on DeviantArt

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Geocaching

I do love when my fancy gets tickled. I’ve discovered that there is a whole other, secret world out there, and it’s been right under my very nose all along. Unless you’re in the know, you probably walk past geocaches all the time without realizing it. I certainly have been. But now I’m in with the in crowd, for a change. That’s half the fun: being in on a secret.

Does the idea of a treasure hunt excite you? Do you like exploring, and seeing places you might not have otherwise seen? Then geocaching is for you!

A typical geocache is a waterproof container which contains a logbook to sign in on, and quite often little trinkets or treasures. If you take something, the deal is you leave something of equal or greater value in its place. To do it, all you need is a smart phone.

First, log in to www.geocaching.com and register for the free app. Then, you’ll be able to see if there are any geocaches near you, and the GPS will lead you to them. If you don’t find them right away, check out the hint on the app.

There had been a geocache right across the street from my house all along! It was hidden in a rock wall. And there was another one a block away in the park, down a pretty path I’d never been on before. That one was hidden behind a tree stump. I took a tiny crystal, and left a colorful marble. It turns out there are more than 4000 geocaches in my town alone.

It was weird, the sense of delight and accomplishment that came over me when I found my first two geocaches. And the cool thing is, there are geocaches all around the world, so it’s something you can do while you travel, too. I certainly intend to. It’s a great way to exercise, and see things off the beaten path.

I also plan to create a few geocaches of my own. It will be interesting to see how many people find them. I’m looking forward to that!

Welcome to my new obsession.

 

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What Three Words

I just stumbled upon a very interesting website called what3words.com. The story behind this company is kind of fascinating. It has to do with the trouble the nomads of Mongolia have in receiving mail.

I had never thought about this before, but it’s true. How do you send for an ambulance when the place on which you park your yurt has no named streets, let alone a zip code? How do you meet with people? How do you receive your correspondence? The postmen of Mongolia must be pulling their hair out by the roots.

Fortunately, what3words has come up with a nifty solution. They have divided the entire planet up into individual squares, 3 meters by 3 meters, and every single square has been assigned a three word combination. I know, you’re thinking, “Why not just use latitude and longitude?” But honestly, would you remember that long string of numbers? I know I wouldn’t.

Now, with just a simple phone app, or a visit to their website, you can discover what three words are yours. I’m not going to tell you what three words I live in now, because while I love you, dear reader, I don’t like uninvited guests. But I just discovered that many years ago I used to live at commands.pimples.radar, and for some reason that really makes me smile.

Yurt

My Love/Hate Relationship with Cortana

I have finally managed to upgrade to Windows 10. The year-long delay was not for lack of trying. I’d upload it for about 5 hours, then try to install it for another 5, only to be told there was some sort of error, which, when researched on-line, seemed to be some catch-all code with no solution.

I must have heeded their nags and tried to upgrade about a dozen times, because I hated Windows 8. (And what happened to Windows 9?) It reached the point where I was sorely tempted to drive up to the nearby Microsoft compound and throw my laptop at the security guard. “Here. You figure it out.”

But then about two weeks ago, after I’d long since given up all hope, I apparently clicked on something without even realizing it, and the next thing I knew, I had Windows 10! Oh, happy day! More or less.

Yes, there’s a learning curve. And I had to iron out quite a few glitches. And I STILL can’t get Google Chrome to work properly, but over all, I’m liking what I’m seeing.

The feature I am having the hardest time getting used to is Cortana. You’ve got to understand. I’ve got very humble electronics. No smart phone. No Siri. Nothing that responds to my voice. The GPS in my car often exasperates me. So this trend toward anthropomorphizing our gadgets is relatively new to me.

But Cortana is trying really hard. She talks like the perfect friend. “Ask me anything,” she says. “Hi! How can I help?” “Anything I can do for you?” “What’s on your mind?”

So just out of curiosity I asked her, “What is the meaning of life?”

She sent me to Wikipedia. Sigh. I have to say that this was one time when Wikipedia didn’t give me a satisfying answer.

Don’t get me wrong. I doubt any of my other friends would have been much help, either, but at least we’d have had an interesting conversation about it. It would have given us more opportunity to bond.

So, Cortana, don’t get too comfortable. I still don’t consider you my bestie, even if you act like you care, and you’re always willing to be there for me. Keep trying, though. You never know. You might grow on me.

Cortana

My Brain on Cruise Control

With an 8 hour drive ahead of me from Seattle, Washington to Missoula, Montana, I wondered what my brain would do with all that “down time”. So I decided to take a digital recorder with me and whenever I started to think about a new subject, I’d take note. I have no idea whether I’m typical or completely out there on the lunatic fringe, but I thought it would be an interesting little experiment. So what follows is a look into my idle brain.

In between long periods where my mind seemed to simply hum along with the sound of my tires, I recorded these thoughts:

  • Did I leave burners on? I’m sure I checked… But did I?
  • Have I forgotten anything?
  • I hope my dog Devo doesn’t pee in the car.
  • I wonder if I’m passing Bill Gates on the highway?
  • It’s so nice to see something different for a change.
  • Why is my GPS not speaking to me?
  • Raining so hard I can’t see out the window. Wish I could afford a car with a working defogger.
  • Devo insisted I stop to let him pee less than a half hour down the road. I suppose it would be worse with small children.
  • After listening to an NPR story, I need to add The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat to my “must read” list, which is becoming so long that I fear I’ll never catch up.
  • My windshield wipers refuse to turn off. Great.
  • Do dogs’ ears pop when we come down from the mountains like mine do?
  • Devo is sitting beside me. He’s my best friend. Blue is sound asleep in the back.
  • Heading into Big Sky country. I can breathe again. I never realize I’m not breathing until I start breathing again.
  • Drove for 2 hours before I remembered I have cruise control. It’s not something I can use in the gridlock of Seattle.
  • I wonder what farming life is like? Lonely. Fulfilling. Hard.
  • I took this same route in reverse a year ago when I drove across country from Florida. I was so different then. What a year it has been.
  • Lots of talk about the forest fires on the radio. A sign outside of someone’s house: “Firefighters, it’s only a house. Take care of yourselves.”
  • Ideas for blog entries.
  • After seeing an out of date billboard on the subject: There’s a TESTICLE festival? Seriously?
  • You know you’re in trouble when the only radio stations you can get are gospel and traditional Mexican folk music. Radio is now off.
  • I begin humming “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson. Over and over and over and over…

[Image credit: larryrebich.com]
[Image credit: larryrebich.com]

My Love/Hate Relationship with GPS Girl

She lead me across the country and she helps me find my way around this new befuddling city of mine, so I’m really extremely dependent upon the voice that comes out of my GPS. I’m truly grateful for all she does for me. But there are also times when I want to slap her silly.

She has a cruel sense of humor. I think she knows I’m mildly dyslexic. She loves to say, “Turn left” when her map is clearly indicating that I need to turn right. I have learned the hard way that when that happens, you must ignore her voice and follow her arrows.

She has also led me to open fields and insisted there were roads where no roads have ever been. Once she led me to the edge of a cliff. GPS Girl is not to be entirely trusted. But she knows she’s all I have. I’m also weirdly connected to her because she was a gift from my late boyfriend.

Yesterday GPS Girl and I were deep into the hate portion of our love/hate relationship. I was trying to get to a building downtown where they were giving city employees free flu shots. Oh, she got me there all right. But how do you explain to her that the parking in downtown Seattle absolutely SUCKS? Getting me to the front door isn’t good enough. I then have to find a place to dump my car. That’s not her fault, technically speaking.

But as I drove around and around and around, hearing her smug tone as she said, “recalculating” was setting my teeth on edge. And then at one point I turned into a tunnel under a building, assuming it was a parking garage, and it turned out to be an on ramp for the interstate. Who builds a skyscraper over the top of an on ramp, for crying out loud? And since I was in a tunnel, GPS Girl went silent. She hates tunnels. I didn’t know where the hell I was until I was across the canal and miles away from my flu shot. When she woke up again, she tried sending me the wrong way down several one way streets, and up off ramps. I was beginning to think that she was seriously effing with me.

I had no choice but to ignore her instructions. She started to sound increasingly irritated. “Turn around when possible.” Why? So I could go back to the wrong way street? We were at an impasse. So GPS Girl pulled out the ultimate trump card; something I had never seen her do before. “There is no route to your destination.” In other words, you can’t get there from here. You’re on your own, Choochie.

So I did the only thing one can do when one has seriously pissed off one’s partner. I aimlessly drove around in circles, keeping quiet, until GPS Girl had a chance to calm down and reconsider her actions. Finally she told me how to get back downtown.

It was probably my imagination, but she sounded a little sheepish. Apology accepted. For now.

sign

My Jacksonville to Seattle Odyssey—Part 4

I had a lovely visit with my niece and her husband, and got to meet my grand nephews for the very first time. My nephew also stopped by. It was good to see them all.

And then I was off yet again. Miles and miles of miles and miles. I find myself intentionally hitting the rumble strips on the sides of the road to make sure the dogs are still alive and also to break my hypnosis. My boyfriend Chuck used to have an interesting theory about rumble strips. If you could place the ridges at specific points, as in a record, you should be able to have it make a sound, like a voice. So when you roll over them, they could say, “Waaaaaaake uppppp stupppppid…”

I saw a Wrangler billboard in Northern Missouri: “Where the heck does the trail end?” Good question. Very good question. I never thought I’d be on this trail, that’s for sure.

I’m having to get used to very long stretches between exits, and even longer stretches between gas stations. If I don’t time this right, it could be a disaster. So I’ll time it right.

Several new states for me today. I crossed a bit of Nebraska, and a whole lot of Iowa. Gorgeous rolling hills and lots of corn fields and other crops that I’m ashamed to say I couldn’t identify. At one point my GPS had me on some remote country roads. My GPS sometimes has a cruel sense of humor, so I began to wonder if I was lost. Another strange thing about my GPS is that it pronounces Sioux correctly, but Des Moines sounds like “Desmons” and Missouri becomes “Misery”.

IMG_0043

When I wound up here, I really started to wonder, but surprisingly enough, I was still where I was supposed to be. Huh.

I passed a Cattle Yard south of Sioux City that really made me contemplate vegetarianism. The stench went on for miles. I imagine there’s a whole host of disease associated with that smell. Meat production is a disgusting business. I wish I didn’t love hamburger so much.

I followed the same white ford for 150 miles. We were the only ones on the highway. I hope I wasn’t giving them the creeps. It did seem like a really badly written suspense movie for a while there. But then they turned off in Sioux City, and I suddenly felt a little lonely. But then I passed the Kum and Go convenience store and got a case of the adolescent giggles. Who thought that name was a good idea?

I started seeing billboards for Wall Drug today. It reminds me of the South of the Border billboards you see in the Carolinas. After a while, there are just so many of them that you know you’re going to stop, knowing full well it’s going to be a tourist trap. The curiosity just gets the better of you. So I will stop tomorrow.

I also saw a billboard that said, “Eat steak, wear fur, keep your guns, it’s the American way!” Well, I eat steak, anyway. So am I an American?

Crossing into South Dakota, the highway turned pink. I love that there are still a few pink highways out there. I thought historic Route 66 was the last.

Another stop that I had to make out of pure curiosity was the Corn Palace in Mitchell. I didn’t go inside because of the dogs, but the outside was impressive enough.

IMG_0048

I would have loved to stop at the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the South Dakota Tractor Museum, too, but the nation is suffering from the heat wave from hell, and I just couldn’t justify leaving the dogs in the car.

The local radio informed me that Pro Choice people are so anxious to kill babies that they’ll do anything at any cost to do so. That, in a nutshell, is a blatant and ignorant misunderstanding of the issue. It also makes me glad I’m heading toward a more liberal and enlightened Seattle.

But I have to say I’m loving these wide open spaces. A person can breathe out here. It’s funny. I get a great deal of comfort from being in the mountains because I feel all cozy and safe as if the land is embracing me. But out here in the wide open, there’s a certain comfort, too. The land is saying to me, “I’m bigger than you are. I’m solid. I’m here.” I like that a lot. And I’m not even in big sky country yet. I’m feeling oddly patriotic today.

Tonight I’m staying at A Bridge View Inn in Chamberlain, South Dakota. This charming little place deserves a blog entry all to itself, and I’ll do that at a future date.

Next stop: Billings, Montana!

Check out part 5 here!