One year has passed since traversing the hills and dales surrounding Rensselaerville, co-pie-lette Dakota in the passenger seat. Traveling solo this time, it seems prudent to pack a bonafide road map plus directions penned in my own hand. An unopened bag of Cheesy Puffs, a half-eaten Peppermint Crunch chocolate bar and a lonely Golden Delicious apple hunker down next to an assortment of rain gear. Elaine Stritch is toasting the Ladies who Lunch on the CD player and I join in, our voices pouring out of the open windows. A 12 oz. purple lidded cup holds the remnants of my morning coffee. Many a windy mile stretches between caffeine options once you exit the NY State Thruway. Making my way through Greenville, I notice the solitary gas station that once stood within a stone’s throw of Tops Supermarket has been leveled. My copious notes tell me to veer left at the 4-way blinking light onto Route 405.
Weaving my way through the vaguely marked roadways that ribbon Medusa and Preston Hollow, I recognize a major landmark. A weathered sign nailed to a post and painted in all caps proclaims HAY! A fork in the road gives me pause and I can’t remember whether to venture up the hill or around the bend towards the right. There is no signage to guide me and it is at this moment when I am overcome with a feeling of both déjà vu and anxiety. I blame this on the standardized Iowa Tests of my youth, specifically the subject of Map Skills.
Armed with a freshly sharpened Number 2 Dixon Ticonderoga, we were admonished to neatly fill in our answer sheets. Agonizing over the “You Are Here” questions, I spent too much time overthinking my answers. Fearful of running out of time, my pencil strayed outside the lines of those tiny circles. Clearly, Map Skills testing is responsible for the trust issue I have as an adult with Google Maps and Map Quest.
I follow the blacktop up the hill, around the bend, desperately seeking road signs, desperately seeking cellular service. Google Maps offers the calming refrain of “Recalculating” followed by a series of directions indicating I will arrive at my destination in 7 hours and 20 minutes. Door to door the entire trip should take 2 hours and 50 minutes. Herein lies the trust issue. Consulting my AAA map of New York state, I am unable to determine whether I want East or West Berne, South Westerlo or Plain Ol’ Westerlo. The voice trapped inside Google Maps starts to stammer, repeating itself, once again recalculating before growing silent. There is a small red icon blinking in the middle of what once was a map and then with a final shudder, the screen goes black.
In the distance, a sign for County Route 1 beckons. I pass a tired farmhouse and notice two men in the driveway tinkering with a rusty tractor. Further down Route 1 my GPS kicks in, advising me to turn left in 500 feet. Not wanting to offend the Google Maps God, I heed the advice and continue on. The voice tells me that I have arrived at my destination! I look left and then right, and then left again. I get out of the car and as far as I can see, lies nothing but expansive fields dotted with odds and ends of farm equipment. Turning the car around and retracing my tracks leads me back to the home of the rusty tractor. I can hear the theme song from “Deliverance” as I tentatively pull into the gravel driveway.
After three failed attempts, and three versions of directions provided by the helpful farmers who call County Route 1 home, I did indeed, arrive at my destination. Map Skills may not be my strongest suit, but there’s no argument that last Saturday I definitely was a girl out standing in a field.
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