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Unfamiliar Roads

The smart phone has opened a whole new world to me. At least the GPS function has.

Dave has a compass built into his brain. He always knows which direction we're going. He loves maps. It drives me nuts sometimes, but he has been known to prop a map up on his steering wheel to look at while he's driving. He keeps an honest-to-goodness paper atlas in his car. He hardly ever uses the GPS programs on his phone or in his car.

I'm severely geographically challenged. I could figure out directions when I lived in Denver and the mountains were to the west. Once I moved to Chicago and flat land I seem to have lost any geographical sense I once had.

For some reason I had it in my head that Niagara Falls went east to west. Don't ask me why. Rivers flow west as far as I'm concerned. So my mind froze up a bit last week when I realized that Canada is south of New York in that part of the country. I started to wrap my head around the fact that Niagara Falls go west to east, only to look at the map more closely and realize that the falls really go south to north. It's going to take me a while to get over that one.

My phone GPS takes me the quickest route. Which sometimes means that it re-routes me down small-town roads to avoid city highway traffic. GPS has taken me down streets of northwest Philadelphia that I would never otherwise see.

My phone GPS allows me to explore local roads that I wouldn't normally have a reason to travel. I have friends who live on the backroads of Delaware and Pennsylvania. Twenty years ago I’m not sure I would have ventured to their houses. Now, I have no concerns. I can even explore other roads on the way. GPS will get me safely home again.

On a trip to Buffalo last week, GPS took me on a non-interstate road through some of Pennsylvania and much of New York. It was nice to not be on the interstate. I didn't mind slowing down as we passed through the small towns. I love looking at the architecture of old towns and spotting the various church steeples. It was hard to see anything more than the titles on historical markers, but sometimes that was enough to give a sense of battles that had taken place, or famous people who may have lived there.

At one point I passed a sign marking the birthplace of Francis Bellamy. I knew the name but couldn't remember why. I presumed he had something to do with music. Asking Siri was no help. Francis Bellamy wasn't in my address book, and that seemed to be the only place Siri wanted to look for him.

I was particularly conscious of the corn fields I was driving past. I decided that was because I've been reading Grapes of Wrath.

As I drove around Buffalo I could turn onto streets that looked interesting and know that my route would always be recalculated. I saw charming 1920s homes. I saw neighborhoods that looked like they had had a painting contest to see who could use the most, or the brightest colors on their homes. I saw churches that had been turned into antique stores, or simply nailed shut.

I like knowing how to get from point A to point B. But GPS has given me a freedom to take unfamiliar roads and know that I'll be able to get back on track.

By the way, Francis Bellamy is known as the Socialist who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance.

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,

along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;

I will turn the darkness into light before them

and make the rough places smooth.

These are the things I will do;

I will not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16)

- Ann Iona Warner

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