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Monday, June 13, 2011

GPS Doesn't Know You Always Head Towards Tyson's Corner

In the last ten years I have travelled I-95 around 20 times. From 2001 to present I have travelled to Myrtle Beach, The Outer Banks and Virginia Beach, all using the beltway around DC as part of my route.

Some people go to great lengths to avoid it. Others, like me, have no trouble maneuvering through six lanes of traffic while being boxed in on all sides by idiot drivers. My wife’s butt puckers at the thought of even getting near it. We coordinate driving so that I am always the one who gets behind the wheel before the beltway. Although, there was that one time I screwed up and she ended up driving; white knuckling it the whole way. That nearly ended our relationship.

Regardless of my experience, I deferred navigational expertise to a computer and let the NAV system in my father-in-law’s JEEP Commander guide us. Matilda, as my wife called it, had been pretty accurate the entire trip. She did become a little fussy when we would make stops that caused us to go off the calculated route and then took her sweet time remapping while I would tie up traffic waiting for her. However, on the return trip, Matilda made an error and tried to kill us, HAL style.

When entering the beltway, from I-95 S and heading towards I-95 N, it has always been my practice to head towards Tyson’s Corner. I know this because the one time I argued with my wife, on which way to go, and did not go towards Tyson’s Corner we ended up going the long way around the beltway.

From that point on, we always head towards Tyson’s Corner. When Matilda advised against that I became a little argumentative with her over her navigational skills. My wife sided with Matilda and I braced for “I told you so” impact.

As we headed on the route provided to us by Matilda, my wife counted down the feet until our next turn. I watched the screen and waited in fear as I knew this would all end in chaos. There was no turn and Matilda jumped off of the highlighted route to a spot further ahead.

This is pretty much what I had in my head as Matilda went rogue on us.

Apparently, all of the construction that has been taken place around the beltway has changed the landscape of the roads which may not have been updated in the NAV system at the time my father-in-law bought the JEEP. In any case, Matilda led us astray and as I tried to correct my course and get on the right road, going towards Tyson’s Corner I found myself embedded in all kinds of construction and traffic I don’t remember seeing last year. Matilda kept calling out, “Follow signs for I-495”, which we were already on at the time.

Eventually, I saw buildings that I recognized and made it back to the right route. Still, I was leery in trusting Matilda after that incident. During our attempts to get back on track we nearly stomped a Honda Fit that tried to occupy the same space as us. Meanwhile, my sister-in-law and her husband were behind us about to slam into us as they were nearly slammed into by another vehicle. A cry of, “I don’t want to be the meat in this sandwich” came over the hand held walkie talkies we used to communicate back and forth.

You always head towards Tyson’s Corner. Hear that Matilda?
Oh and you don’t back up on the beltway shoulder. They don’t like it when you do that. Just go to the next exit. But that is another story.

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