I used to pay an annual sum to a very good auto club for the peace of mind of knowing that should I need their assistance, they were just a phone call away (this was when cell phones were the size of building bricks and long before on-board satellite anything). Living in Canada as I do, in regions where cars are plugged in over night to keep the battery from seizing, being able to call on a helpful man in a truck with booster cables, nifty tricks for opening doors the keys of which are hanging locked inside from the ignition with the engine running, or towing one out of snow drifts really was peace of mind more than worth the membership fee. The service I appreciated the most, however, was route planning. I could ring up the office, tell them where I was travelling from and to, any stops I wanted to make along the way, and a few days later I would receive a neatly bound package with a large overview map, fold-out detailed maps with important details like interchanges, one way streets, odd off ramps (hello Montreal), as well as helpful info about lodging, scenic sites, etc.
Times have changed. I now live in Sohoe, a lovely southerly region where stories of frozen batteries are the stuff of urban legend; new cars are hooked right up to your cell phone, and through the wonders of sat nav, a helpful lady in India can send assistance your way before you even know you need it.
Through these wondrous technological advances, a person (such as me) can now plot their road trip from the warmth and comfort of her own home, equipping herself with step-by-step directions, and, if she likes, accompanying maps. This is a wonderful gadget, both useful and fun. For example, when I dream of getting away, I discover that North Carolina is practically immediately south of Sohoe... if I were to drive directly south for 12.5 hours. Vancouver, another fun place to visit, is only 1 day, 21 hours due west - or 4,400 km.
More practically, I plotted my path home yesterday from The Appointment back to this Slice of Heaven on Earth. Everything seemed to be going so well, mostly because the first seven or so directions were "continue on..." as the name changed from Smith Road to Jones Road. Then came a few "turn left on Brown Rd/Hwy 101" directives, and though I haven't completely worked out how to interpret the bit that says "drive for 20 min." (does this mean before or after I turn?) I was feeling confident I'd be back with the Peanuts before nightfall.
And then I missed a vital step - most likely because I thought "drive for 20 min." referred to after making the turn. I was driving and driving, keeping an eye out for the left turn onto Next Road which would take me to a town I'm very familiar with, and then onto a county highway I've driven many times before. Instead of Next, and instead of Familiarville, I came to a T junction at County Highway What-the-heck on the outskirts of Huh? I had to make a decision: turn left into an unexpected town not mentioned in my directions, or turn right into undiscovered territory on the way to who knows where. I went left. I imagined worst case scenarios of the rain falling harder, the sun going down, not being able to see the road, never figuring out where I was and having to phone BIL to tell him I'm lost in the desolate countryside, please remember to give my St. Michael medal to Number Two Nephew.
I finally figured out I should be going the other way, so I turned around, and determined to turn left on one of three side roads that should lead directly to the highway I misplaced earlier in the proceedings. Only the option I chose took me waaaay out into the country, before circling back around - a 20 minute scenic detour bringing me a bare five km further along the route. I enjoyed that.
Rest easy though, dear reader, for I did arrive safely back home, slightly ruffled and ever so grateful to have five pairs of Peanut arms wrapped around me. How I missed them!
I took the long way home. What a metaphor.