Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Advice vs. Google Maps vs. Garmin

There's no short way to French Meadows Campground where Donna and Mark are working as hosts. It's in the mountains. Mountain roads are usually narrow and twisty. So narrow and twisty that there's no way I'm going to drive a top-heavy van as fast as the speed limit allows. So narrow and twisty that fifty miles seems like a hundred. The question, then, was which way would seem shorter from Truckee.

Google Maps offered two routes. The shortest one, via Soda Springs, was unpaved most of the way and very twisty. It would be faster to drive two sides of the triangle, taking I-80 southwest to Auburn, then east to Foresthill, then turn onto the paved Forest Service road along Mosquito Ridge, like this:

Google said it would be 54.7 miles from Auburn in just under two hours, if I drove close to the speed limit. That's how I went.

I was sort of queasy from motion sickness by the time I got to French Meadows. Mark suggested a return route that would bypass most of Mosquito Ridge's twisties. "Take the Robinson Flats Road cutoff. It's about six miles of unpaved road that connects to the much straighter Foresthill Road." It's like this:

That sounded like a good idea even though it's a few miles longer.

Not having cell service at the campground meant not having the details. And my atlases were sketchy about Robinson Flat Road since it's unpaved. I knew there was a sign at the turn, but after that...? So I turned to my Garmin GPS, loading in Truckee as my destination. But my GPS doesn't show you the entire route at once. "Just do what I tell you," it says. "Trust me. I'm a professional."

I found Robinson Flats Road, no problem. It started off nice, smooth and wide then got narrower and rougher. It climbed through the path of a past forest fire. It got gnarlier. But it finally connected to Foresthill Road, just like it was supposed to. The pink line on the GPS led me the whole way.

But then, rather than having me continue to the town of Foresthill, the GPS said to turn on another road. Hmmm, maybe there was a shortcut to I-80 Mark didn't know about because he'd had no reason to go to Truckee. So I turned.

Well, evidently Garmin only cares about distance, not time. The route it sent me along was a whole mile shorter (woo-hoo!) than the Mosquito Ridge route, but two and a half hours longer!

Oh, sure, it saved me the 16.4 miles from Auburn to Colfax, and I was driving more or less one side of the triangle instead of two, but all of it was worse than anything on Mosquito Ridge. A lot of it was only one lane wide. I was lucky to meet oncoming traffic only at the wider spots.

But I kept telling myself I was having an adventure, seeing places I wouldn't have otherwise, gaining on-the-ground knowledge I could pass on to my fellow wanderers, such as, "Oh man, don't go that way."

1 comment:

  1. The GPS we used to use didn't care about height either. What do you mean you don't fit under that arch?