There’s been a bit of a learning curve with traveling to the 55 counties and I think I’m figuring out what most people have probably known for a while — like, maybe don’t entirely rely on GPS or cellphone navigation apps.
It’s a hard lesson.
I don’t like to think where I’d be without them.
Canada is not out of the question.
This is not an exaggeration.
Getting lost has been one of my signature moves for years and one of the reasons I haven’t traveled so much. Back before computer assisted navigation, there were a few times when I had to call someone to apologize for not being somewhere because I’d simply arrived in the wrong town.
I was late to a friend’s wedding because of that.
Even with global positioning systems in place, I’ve wound up in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
There is no explaining how that happened, only that it did happen, but thanks to GPS, problems with me getting from point A to point B have been less frequent, and I’m less of a nervous wreck whenever I go further than an hour from home.
It’s better since I started using the navigation app on my phone.
I know that I rely on it too much and have become a little too comfortable with the soothing mechanical voice telling me to go this way or that, merge right — or my favorite, “make a U-turn.”
But at least I haven’t found myself at a rest stop in southern Ohio, calling someone in Pocahontas County to ask if we can reschedule for the morning.
I like the convenience of using my iPhone. You don’t even have to put in an address most of the time, just type in the name of the place you’re going, and it will find it for you.
That’s saved me a few headaches right there.
With traveling around the state, however, I’ve learned more about some of the limits of my phone. The programming will choose the shortest, most efficient route it can find, which may not be the safest, easiest or most interesting way to get where you’re going.
This was how I’ve ended up on a dreary, grim road through Ohio.
On my trip to Hancock County, I plugged in “World’s Largest Tea Pot” and my phone said, “Let’s go to Ohio!”
Of course, it didn’t actually say anything of the sort. It just said, “take a right turn” and out the parking lot I went, oblivious to what I’d committed myself to.
Cellphone navigation frustrated me while I was in Ohio County, in Wheeling.
Olivia Litman, the marketing director for the Wheeling Convention and Visitors Bureau all but warned me that it might. It wasn’t that Ohio County roads and city streets didn’t show up in the online data base, but it seemed to take the system an extra moment to catch up.
I missed turns in the city because my phone showed me as being a few dozen yards back from where I actually was or told me to turn after I should have.
It took me a full day to get used to this and not end up on the wrong block, looking for a way around a one-way street.
This wasn’t entirely bad.
I got a better look at some of Wheeling’s old buildings, which conjured up memories of movies set in the 1940s and 1950s. I liked the look of the place and regretted the crummy weather slowing down some of my exploration.
In Lincoln and Clay Counties, cell service was spotty. I lost the signal somewhere around Big Ugly in Lincoln County. My phone went silent. The little arrow on the screen stopped abruptly and it was as if I’d driven off the edge of the earth.
Getting out of the holler took close to an hour, mostly because I was stubborn about knowing my way out.
Eventually, I pulled out my spare GPS device that got directions from a satellite.
This didn’t lead me back to the main road, either. That sent me to what appeared to be a mostly dried-out creek bed through a farmer’s property, but it at least got me turned around and back to where I got lost in the first place.
Once there, I was able to figure my way out before I ran out of gas or drove my car into a ditch.
I even found my way to Carnivore Barbecue in Hamlin, where I ate my weight in pulled pork nachos.
In Clay, the loss of service didn’t cause any trouble. I didn’t get lost and had no trouble getting from the trail to Pizzas and Cream (which is awesome), but I also paid better attention to the road.
A little more wary, slightly wiser, I’ve come to rely a little more on a West Virginia state road map to help me get from place to place — at least, I know to check the map before I blindly plug the name of a town into my phone and then put the car in gear.
I still get turned around some, but I haven’t disappeared down some back road, frightened that I’d never be found again.
As I’ve visited counties, I’ve also learned about keeping supplies in the trunk of my car, like bottled water, a camping chair, rain gear and socks.
I imagine the list of things I need to have around will only grow as I go.
In Clay County, I hiked along the Buffalo Creek trail during a downpour. I got soaked to the bone and could’ve used a poncho, not to mention a towel to sit on afterwards and maybe a change of clothes.
After I dried out, I thought more about the high grass I walked through along the trail. Given my recent run of luck with ticks (so far, four separate incidents), it might have been a good idea to have some calf-length socks to maybe fend off some of the bugs.
I already have bug spray, but that doesn’t work much in the rain.
Of course, an easy fix would be to not hike in the rain.
A couple of times over the past few weeks in these trips around the state, I’ve been places where it would have been nice to have someplace to sit, though it’s like they say: an object in motion tends to stay in motion and an object at rest tends to stay at rest — particularly, if it’s comfortable and holding a beer.
I’ve learned to carry some cash, not a lot, but maybe twenty bucks.
While it absolutely is the 21st Century, lots of people still prefer hard currency over cards — like people selling soft serve ice cream in little buildings by the side of the road or anybody selling almost anything deep fried at a festival or fair.
Try waving plastic where it’s unwanted and you will be sent away by embarrassed teenage girls who’re sorry for your predicament but have no idea where the nearest ATM is.
I lost out on what looked like an epic funnel cake last week over that. I’m still kind of sore about that.
Last Week: Logan, Lincoln, Jackson, Clay and Boone Counties.
This Week: Mason, Mercer, Cabell, Putnam and Wirt Counties.