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Serving: IN
narrow rural road Tom J. Bechman
TURN HERE? Would you go down this road if GPS told you to? As it turns out, this road in Sullivan County, Ind., is passable, just narrow.

‘Trust but verify’ good policy in this virtual world

The “GPS lady” sounds real, but she is not real.

If this story sounds familiar, it is. In December, my wife, Carla, and I listened to the “GPS lady” and turned off the state highway, trusting her to deliver us to the Indiana Farm Bureau Convention in French Lick. We made it, but only after navigating twisting country roads and surviving a town straight out of “Deliverance.”

So, I should know better. But with the emphasis on a virtual world this year, I was lulled into trusting the voice inside the dashboard. Never again!

No joke

As if I needed I reminder, I got one earlier this spring when trying to visit Jim and Jane Gillooly in Daviess County, Ind. Interstate 69 runs through their farm. Carla and I came from the south, having visited Jim and Carol Jo Droege at Wadesville. Both couples are Master Farmers this year.

Just outside Petersburg, GPS told us to turn right. I missed the sign, but Carla saw it. She started laughing.

Why? It was an actual highway sign that said, “GPS is wrong, don’t turn here!” Sure enough, since we had already turned, we went farther. Soon, we were getting farther away from our destination.

I got us back to a state highway, and we found the farm. Jim and Jane said we weren’t the first people to get snookered by GPS. My only regret is that I didn’t get a picture of the sign. I was going to snap it when we came back, but we couldn’t find it again!

You were where?

That brings me to June 8. I was heading to visit Brenda Sermersheim near St. Anthony in Dubois County, Ind. She gave me good directions. Go through Jasper, stay on state highways — sounded like a piece of cake.

I still had Carla program the address into GPS before I left, this time by myself. I was 10 miles from Jasper when the famous “GPS lady” started her chant. “In 500 feet, turn left … turn left now!” That was a county road, so I ignored it. I also ignored the second time she wanted me to turn, but then I saw “construction ahead” signs. So, the third time she squawked, I turned.

I saw parts of Dubois County I never knew existed. Beautiful country — hills, cover crops, quaint churches.

All was well until I was about 5 miles from Brenda’s house. “In 500 feet, turn right … turn right now!” It was a narrow gravel road, but I turned. In 500 feet, it turned into a dirt path with grass down the middle. Wait a minute … I kept going. Farm fields were on either side. Then suddenly I was crossing a shallow creek bed. This can’t be right.

Finally, I went up a hill with soft shoulders. I debated shifting into four-wheel drive but made it. Over the hill was a real blacktop road.

I told Brenda about the experience. “Oh, I know where you were,” she said. “That’s not really a road.”

Yes, I figured that out.

“But you’re not the first to go there,” she added. “GPS took a couple semi drivers there, too.”

I have a suggestion. Before you get all caught up in virtual reality, remember, there is no substitute for reality. And to the county commissioners in Dubois County, maybe you want to ask Pike County where they got the sign that says, “GPS is wrong!”

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