I know J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote in a poem: “Not all who wander are lost.” However, if anyone happens to see me wandering, there is a pretty good chance I am, indeed, lost. I’ll be the first to admit it, unless my family members get to you first. If that’s the case, then I’ll be there to confirm the fact.
Once, I got onto I-64W in Lexington en route to Cincinnati. Soon after, all of my family dozed off. I really can’t explain how the following happened other than I simply wasn’t paying attention when I should have exited. After traveling about 45 minutes, I noticed a sign for the Gene Snyder Freeway, which I know for a fact is in Louisville. I jostled my husband, who was resting in the passenger seat.
“I think I’ve driven to Louisville,” I whispered.
“That’s impossible,” he replied. “We’re supposed to be going to Cincinnati.”
“Yes, but just look at the signs,” I advised as we passed yet another marker touting the Gene Snyder Freeway.
Needless to say, that was the last time he fell asleep as navigator without the assurance that I was driving with the assistance of a GPS.
That’s how we travel best: me behind the wheel and him navigating. The exception to this, however, has to be when we are traveling internationally. On a recent trip to Ireland when we rented a vehicle, I yielded the driver’s seat to him. I attempted to navigate. Although I’m much more comfortable behind the wheel, I don’t think it would have mattered, at all, in a country where the driving rules are essentially the opposite of those to which we are accustomed. Not to mention, the roads are so narrow.
“Turn left in 800 feet,” I would say, per the directions of the GPS.
“Is this our turn coming up?” he would ask to confirm.
I have little to no confidence navigating, even with the help of electronics. Somehow, the turn always looks further away on the GPS than it is in reality.
“No,” I’d say just about the same time the GPS announced it was rerouting us. “Yes, I guess that was our turn.”
But it wasn’t just interpreting the directions of the GPS that gave me difficulty. As navigator, I was seated on the side of the vehicle from which I’m used to driving, but without the familiar accessories: the steering wheel, the gas pedal and the brakes. That’s not to say I didn’t repeatedly press my foot into the floorboard attempting to slow us down. Numerous times. So, I was at the mercy of my husband’s driving. From my perspective, and from the fact we kept brushing up against the branches protruding out onto my side of the road, I felt he wasn’t leaving much room for error.
“You’re really close over here,” I gently explained to my husband. “Do you think you could stay over to the center a little more?”
“I can’t,” he replied. “I’m already driving over the centerline.”
I know he thought he was close on his side, but I knew he was close on my side, too. Once, we heard a loud pop, and the sideview mirror on the passenger side went airborne before dangling by a wire on the side of the car.
“What did I hit?” my husband asked.
Really? I thought. What does it matter? Epic I-told-you-so opportunity, but I let it pass. Evidently, this type of mishap must happen often, because when we had the chance to pull over and assess the damage, the mirror popped right back onto the side of the car.
But that’s what happens when you travel. You wander. You get lost. You get back on track. You face challenges. Overcome them. Then you do it all over, again, on the next trip.
(Note: Marjorie Appelman is an English, communications and journalism teacher at Mason County High School and co-founder of the travel blog, Tales from the Trip, which is also on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. She can be reached at [email protected].)