Monday, December 6, 2010

I love my TomTom

TomTom is a GPS device, and technically it's not mine - it belongs to Disabled American Veterans (DAV). A few months ago DAV bought TomToms for the vans we use to transport veterans from all over the state to the VA medical facility at Togus. I drive a van one day each week, and to be honest when I first saw the GPS I chuckled because I thought it was totally unnecessary. I've lived in the mid-coast region for my whole life and I like to think I know the roads in the area pretty well. Not so, as it turns out.

Some of the veterans we pick up live in pretty remote areas, way off the beaten path, so to speak. But I've always been able to find them even before TomTom arrived on the scene. Sometimes it involved a little research before I set out and every now and then I had to check the DeLorme Atlas to locate the right road, but I always got there. But now with the all-knowing GPS sitting on the dashboard all I have to do is enter the Vet's address, even if it's off the highway, down a country road and on a private lane and TomTom gives me turn by turn directions right to the front door - it even tells me, in a very charming feminine voice, when my next turn is coming up!

I admit, I didn't totally trust it at first - I turned it on and put in the address, but I still got my own directions and went the way I thought was best. TomTom and I didn't agree every time on the best route, but she was very patient with me and every time I deviated from her directions she would "recalculate" and produce a new route that was consistent with the way I was headed. And no matter which way I went, she always cheerily announced, "You have reached your destination" just as I pulled into the desired address. Over time I learned to co-exist with TomTom but I still never came to regard her as "necessary." Until today.

Today brought the first significant snowfall of the season. It wasn't bad when I started my run to Newcastle to pick up my only rider, but by the time I arrived the roads were snow-covered and getting very slick. The usual route from Newcastle to Togus, the one TomTom showed me when I first started using her, is over a series of very winding, hilly roads which are a challenge (but very scenic) in good weather but today they were just plain hazardous. No plows or sand trucks had treated the "back" roads so the ride was slow but, thankfully, uneventful and we arrived safely at Togus, where it was snowing even harder.

I felt the return trip would be safer if I travelled on the main roads instead of returning the way I had come, so as soon as I left Togus I departed from the route the GPS had plotted for me but as usual she agreeably plotted new routes every time I went by a turn she had chosen to put me on her preferred road. And ultimately she relented and produced directions that were consistent with the way I was travelling and everybody was happy. My route added a few miles to the trip but we arrived safely, dropped off my passenger and headed "home". TomTom knows where "home" is and how to get there no matter where we start or what roads we travel - today that became important.

From Newcastle to "home" is a straight shot down U.S. Rt 1 with no turns at all until it's practically time to turn into the driveway - if GPS directions ever seemed irrelevant, this would be the trip. By this time the storm had intensified and even Route One was getting greasy and traffic was moving slowly, which was OK by me. As I approached Wiscasset things started to get interesting - apparently Route One was closed just north of the Wiscasset bridge and traffic was being diverted onto Route 27, which goes to the Boothbay area - I did not want to go to the Boothbay area and if you know this area at all you know the ONLY way to get "home" is to cross the bridge in Wiscasset (or double way, way back and go another way entirely.) But I was given no choice - leave Route One and go down 27.

Now I know from my earlier travels in the area that there is a "back way" to get from Route 27 back to One right at the very end of the bridge I needed to cross - I just wasn't sure where the turn was. But TomTom, God bless her little electronic chips, knew exactly where it was and as soon as I made the turn onto 27 she "recalculated" our route to take me right to it! There was a long line of cars going down 27 and it was apparent that none of them had a clue as to how to get back on Route One, but when TomTom flashed a big green arrow to a side road and sweetly directed me to a "right turn ahead" I slowed, made the turn, and watched everybody else go straight, towards Boothbay. So there I was, by myself on another winding hilly snow-covered road; there was one hill I thought I would not make it over, and there was a 90 degree turn that, if missed, lands you in the bay but I made it and eventually I arrived at the end of the bridge on Route One. There were long lines of stopped traffic in both directions but I had come in just south of whatever was blocking the road so I just pulled out into the southbound lane and proceeded on my merry way - and as I watched in my rear-view mirror I did not see a single car come out of that detour behind me. Apparently no one else had TomTom to direct them.

So let me say it again: "I love my TomTom." I may even get one for my own truck.

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