Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Travels with Gretchen

When you're managing a large helicopter, you do a lot of driving.  Not allowed to fly with it, you resign yourself to chasing it; a route that takes the helicopter three hours can take you ten or more. 

Normally we take a trainee along; not only can they do our paperwork for us (ha) but they can help drive and navigate.  On this trip I don't have one though, which isn't bad either.  Since I don't like to stop often when I drive, I can barrel along the road without having to accommodate someone else's food and pee schedule.  I don't have to make small talk or supervise anyone.  Of course, I also miss out on other people's Pandora channels, interesting stories and stealing their Sour Patch Kids.  So there's a tradeoff.

I do have a companion, though.  She's pretty quiet a lot of the time.  If I have 300 miles to drive on the same highway, she won't speak up until there's a turn ahead.  She can get pretty bossy if I decide to deviate from the route she picks.  She occasionally tries to send me on weird shortcuts.  Her voice is pretty robotic.  I've named her Gretchen the GPS.

When I first started driving cross country at about 19, we didn't have Gretchens. I had a well-worn atlas and a series of index cards on which I would write out my route.  Mishaps often occurred if I mixed up or dropped the cards, and I would have to pull over and consult the map.  I also stopped at gas stations and asked for directions (oh, the horror!).  Much later, I used my phone to navigate, but something always went wrong: the program would malfunction, the screen was too small, someone would call.  Still, I never thought about getting a vehicle GPS until, following yet another helicopter, I was surrounded by vehicles catapulting through LA County, a place as different from the small towns I usually visit as possible.  I immediately ordered one.

Now Gretchen tells me exactly where to turn (with some variations).  She doesn't understand detours and gets irritated if I don't follow her directions, but having her along makes the trip much more pleasant.  Most of the time we roll down the highway in silence, both thinking our own thoughts.  I don't know what hers are, maybe "I can't believe she just went that way! What is she DOING? Recalculating...." In any case, I'm happy to have her with me, and we'll keep heading down the road, following the fires.
We saw this. I took a picture. Gretchen didn't say anything.


 

11 comments:

  1. Last year I got a new car that had gps built in. Although at first I thought I wouldn't use it, I've found it's downright handy.

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    1. I never thought I would either but now I really like it.

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  2. Road trip! Pretty scenery along the way, and Gretchen as a quiet companion except when needed...sweet.

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  3. Nice picture! I sometimes wonder how in the world I found places way back when without my gps!!! Mine is named Greta though!!!

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  4. We haven't named outs yet. Herb brought it along to Wyoming last week, so we didn't have to pay for one in a rental vehicle. I'm thinking: "We don't really need this." But..oh, yes, we surely did. Back-country roads in Wyoming aren't always mapped (but they have interesting names like Glock St, Derringer St, Steer Roping Ave, etc.)

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    1. Mine also tells me my speed, which is handy when I see a police car in the distance.

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  5. I dislike Gretchen very much. Don't trust her. Hosed me over to many times. Nothing beats an atlas, eyes on the road, and a little common sense.

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    1. I have to admit, sometimes I wonder where she's taking me. I think it's best to have all of the tools. She gets really confused by detours.

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