Last year, my company asked me to lead a project that would have me traveling to manufacturing plants located in very remote places. Some were so remote in that I was given instructions on where to fill my gas tank when it reached the half way mark. I was not at all comfortable with getting lost in the middle of nowhere.
In the late 1990s, I traveled alone all over the United States for about 7 years. As a rather petite female, I saw the opportunity as a coming of age. I had always had a man in my life to depend on. Either my father or a boyfriend or a husband. By tackling this daunting task, I gained valuable career advancement along with something a lot more important, self-reliance and independence. I survived all kinds of weird occurrences and scary situations and didn't break down into a puddle of tears and look for the nearest man to help. It felt good. I grew to enjoy it. Since that 7 year project ended, I haven't traveled much, especially alone, and definitely not by car except for the plants within a few hours from my corporate office. I can't say that now, I would be so keen to do it again.
So this project was at plants in the southern states surrounding Georgia and the distances are deemed "too short of a drive" to fly(usually 4-6 hours). And regardless, the drive from the airport to these remote areas would have been just as excruciatingly long. I know, because I live in just this sort of area. Where roads aren't marked and directions are given by neighborhood markers rather than street signs. For example these were my directions for finding the plant "office" once exiting the interstate in South Carolina and turning left.
"Go 5 miles and turn left after the Big Ford Place. Drive about 10 miles and you'll see a Quickie Mart. Turn by it and immediately left by the Walmart. Stay on that road until you pass the railroad tracks and then take the second road on the right. Be careful because there is a road that is just a subdivision road, don't count it. Keep going until you see a church on the right with three huge crosses and right past it, you'll see an abandoned store. When you see that store, keep going a little ways and look to your left and you'll see a driveway with wagon wheels on the edge with reflectors in the middle and a ceramic goose on the porch. Go exactly 1.8 miles past the wagon wheels until you see a taxidermist and turn left on the next paved road. Turn immediately on the dirt road on the left, but don't turn into that first building, keep going (it will turn into pavement) although it might look like it ends, it doesn't, there is another building behind it and that is the one you want." This came from everyone who visited the plant. These were supposedly "good" instructions. Each time I asked hoping for better, I always circled back to these.
I tried to Google the plant and got nothing. So I told my husband that I was getting a street address from the plant directory at work and a GPS. I may end up needing him to come rescue me but I did not feel comfortable taking directions that only involved wagon wheels and ceramic geese. I needed something a little more substantial and didn't have time to obtain a gun permit.
So I researched and bought the Garmin Street Pilot C340 Model. It was the lowest end model that had speech and all the maps downloaded already. I also ordered the charger, and the dashboard mount. I have Amazon Prime shipping so 2 day shipping is free and everything arrived 3 days before my first journey to the plant.
We tested it by going to Chattanooga. Trying the different voices drove me crazy. The only one I can tolerate is British Karen. So Karen, hubby and I set off to Broad Street. Karen doesn't give you the most economical method of travel, and I think she gets snippy when you turn unexpectedly, because her "recalculating" tone is quite annoying (or so I thought then), but we ignored her and went our usual back-road way there. Each time, she tried her best to figured the next plausible route for us to take. At one point only, did she give up and say "turn around". She obviously didn't know that you can skip through the parking lot of the holiday inn to jump over to the next street. We'll give her that.
So Monday morning, I'm off on my journey to Timbuktu with more than a little trepidation. I punched in the address of the plant office. She guided me straight to the interstate on ramp. So far, so good. Then said 'stay on route' for xx miles, which would bring to the 285 bypass. Ok. I'm good. Finally she had me on the right road headed toward Clemson. So basic direction was all good. I stopped to fill up before the infamous "fill up point", which didn't alarm me because I drive a hybrid and I can drive a long way on a tank. Those scared about half way marks are the SUV and big truck owners and that should tell them something. Karen had a hissy fit when I pulled off the interstate and had to 'recalculate' quite a bit. I actually felt sorry for her but appreciated her working so hard to keep me on track.
Then. Then the moment when she told me to exit the interstate. Oh my. Chills went down my spine. I had faith in Karen. So much that I did not bring my ceramic goose directions. But I had my cell phone and thought I had a backup plan. Then I realized that I had no idea what that would be. Call someone at work and get them to read me the goose instructions over the phone? But that felt like I was being unfaithful to my dear companion who had so diligently guided me with all the care in the world with single minded focus while I listened to REM and sang at the top of my lungs letting her do all the work. Suddenly, I became very worried. What if I was way off course. My meeting was at 3:30. Dinner was at 6:30. I had to do a lot of work between 3:30 and 5:30, I couldn't afford to be late.
So I put my trust back in her. Honestly, I didn't have much of a choice. It would have taken me forever to find someone with the goose instructions and that would have wasted precious work time. I didn't know where I was except where she told me and what the display said. Some country road number. We turned here. We turned there. We drove mile after mile after mile. I had long turned the radio off. I had the cell phone in my lap. I was looking for road signs seeing nothing. I was getting near panic not knowing what do except maybe call AAA and tell them where I was and where I needed to go. Then Karen said our time of planned arrival was 3:03. It was 2:45. I was a little comforted. But what if I had typed something wrong. What if she was just an idiot? What if there were 2 303 IND blvd in this little remote villages, like one north and one south and I didn't get that part?
Ok. yea, I. Was. Freaking. Out. All I could see was houses. Certainly no industrial parks.
Then. Then what do you know. A church with three of the largest white crosses you've ever seen. It was like the sky opened up and rays of sunshine poured down on Karen. An abandoned store. Karen saying "prepare to turn left in 1.9 miles". Wagon Wheels, I didn't have time to check for the goose. Taxidermist. We turn. We see the first building, Karen says "arrival at 3:03 in .02 miles". And we hit pavement and there is this glossy building with our company's logo on front on the side of a industrial park. I was early.
Karen and I went all over South Carolina, Alabama, North Carolina and Tennessee. I wouldn't trade her for anything. Diamonds? Absolutely not. A girl's best friend is her GPS. And her name is Karen.