Sunday, November 28, 2010

gettin' there

I am not a Luddite.

Since the 60s, I have been an early adopter of new technology.  If it is new and electronic, I would be one of the first to buy it.  Whatever it was.

But not a GPS.

And I know why.

I love maps.  The colors.  The spatial context.  The frustration of unfoldability.

A GPS seemed to be at best redundant.  At worst, a nuisance.  I do not need a snooty computer voice telling me when it thinks I made a wrong turn.

My brother helped push me into the 21st century during our drive to Mexico last year.  He brought along his laptop GPS.  I must confess -- I was enthralled with its accuracy.  Even though the Mexico maps were quite primitive.  Just main highways.  And not all of those.

Because I want to travel more in Mexico, especially to places I have never been, I decided to buy a Garmin GPS after fellow bloggers told me the Garmin has great Mexico maps. 

And I did not look forward trying to drive through or around Guadalajara while clutching my Guia Roji in my right hand while trying not to miss the elusive exit to Guanajuato.

So, I bought a model with all the bells and buzzers you would expect an electronic geek to buy.  And put it to the test in Oregon.

I gave it a solid B+ up north.  The screen is bright.  The maps are easy to understand.  The voice directions are clear.  Amazingly, the voice does not sound computer-generated.  A bit snooty?  Yup.  But, after all, it is supposed to know where I am going before I do.

The only issue was its slow speed in finding points of interest by name.  It simply failed to find some very obvious stops -- like the Tillamook cheese factory.

On the Yucatan trip, I put it to the full Mexican road test.  After a week in the Yucatan (and a week here in Jalisco) using it as my navigator, I would give it a C+.

It is still very good at finding destinations with a full house number and street name.  It can find my oddly-numbered house in Melaque with no problem.

Unfortunately, few businesses advertise their addresses that way.  The GPS is of no help with the usual "near the corner of Calle 39 and Calle 40."

"Calle" is a good example of another rather annoying characteristic of the GPS.  It pronounces all Spanish words as if it were a guy named Merle from Des Moines. 

Instead of "ka/yae," it says "call."  You can only imagine what it does with "Miguel Hidalgo." 

But that is merely an annoyance.  As is the occasional eccentricity of the maps to recognize a spur road built years ago.  The GPS gave the impression we were driving through what was once a farmer's field.

The biggest problem is its inability to properly recognize one-way streets.  Most Yucatan cities and villages have a very logical grid pattern of one-way streets.  Even numbers on one axis.  Odd numbers on the other.

The Garmin has no problem recognizing one-way streets.  The problem is that it often thinks streets go one way when the traffic goes another.  More than once, we had to ignore that all-so-smarmy voice to avoid a head-on collision.

Those sound like rather bad defects until you weigh them against the number of times the GPS helped us find spots we would have otherwise missed on our own.  And I never had to ask where we were.  The GPS always had an answer.  It was almost like being married.

I am still a big advocate of my big red highway atlas.  But, tied with the GPS, I should be ready to travel wherever I want to go in Mexico.


Calypso said...

in Xico the one way direction changes often and thus is often ignored. There is no guarantee of single minded direction regardless of arrows - you can hardly fault the gps on that one. At least in that part of Mexico.

sparks_mex said...

"Get into the lateral to make the next left turn" .... you think?

1st Mate said...

Too bad they didn't think to have a bilinguist do the voice for the GPS. Suppose you were actually Mexican, attempting to use this gadget, and "call" didn't mean anything to you. I guess you could always look at the screen... But when the Capt studies the screen while driving I'm a nervous wreck!

Unknown said...

Good to see you're settling back into Mexico with your usual good humor. If you were worried about going soft in Oregon, you should have tried to remodel your whole house while living there; its working for me.

I love maps. I use GPS on my phone, but it seems too slow too often. I like the idea of both GPS and your highway atlas. Maybe I'll have to invest.

I have no doubt that you'll find many an adventure over the coming months. I look forward to traveling along!


Joe S. said...

Steve, you can imagine what my Garmin Lady's voice does to the pronounciation of "Terwilleger", something like "Tee Will Eager", always causes a laugh.

Brenda Maas said...

My friends GPS, don't know what brand it is, has the voice in Spanish also. One trip when we knew where we were going she switched it to the Spanish and we practiced our turns, directions, etc. in Spanish. Pretty funny. However we did switch it back to English in Phoenix for our directions.
So it is also a language learning tool if you have that option on yours.
Have fun.

Chrissy y Keith said...

I switch my Garmin to Spanish while in Mexico. I also use my map along side.

Islagringo said...

And without it, how would we have ever known that the highest hill in the Yucatan was 400 feet!

Steve Cotton said...

Calypso -- i have not tested whether or not the GPS will pick up the one-way streets in Melaque. But I am not certain if anyone really knows which street goes which way. In spite of the arrows on the sides of buildings.

El Jubilado -- You know, I have not yet discovered if the GPS is that smart when suggesting left turns. I know I am not -- as evidenced by the way I turn onto Reforma from the highway.

1st Mate -- The GPS will speak Spanish to me. But when it comes to directions, my grasp of the language is not yet there. Whenever someone tells me, in Spanish, to turn left in two blocks, I think they are interested in lunch.

Jaye -- And you are welcome to enjoy the adventure. Your experience may be the reason I did not tackle the windows project over the summer.

Joe -- Or "Glisan." At least, they do not sound too computerish. Just a bit daft.

Brenda -- I think I will try the Spanish voice while I am driving locally. Where I can double-check my linguistic understanding.

Chrissy -- I am going to give it a try. Why not? What can I lose -- other thabn my front bumper?

Islagringo -- But I was saving that bit of news. Just kidding. I should have mentioned how small things amused us on the trip.