Sunday, June 12, 2016

Lost On Cape Cod (And Elsewhere)

It's a beautiful place to explore during the day, but Cape Cod is no place to lose yourself at night. I don't know how it happened, but we seemed to be driving in circles during one New England getaway in 1980, unable to pierce the darkness and return to the Boston area and make it back to my aunt's house. Brother and Michael didn't seem to know we were lost, at least not at first. I gather we just thought it look a long time to get where we were going.

So as the Royal Father and Queen Mother worked on the navigation, "Cape Cod Nights" played on the radio, along with several cute commercials for a boat supply store and a clock shop (to the Percy Faith Orchestra's rendition of "Syncopated Clock"). We finally busted out of the loop and made it back to my auntie's sometime around 11pm.

As an adult, you would think your servant would have soaked up the knowledge of what not to do. I didn't. Not when the street system enabled me.

McAllen, Texas and Tucson, Arizona share a common thread: a straightforward grid of north-south, east-west streets bisected by a freeway, with visible central landmarks. For McAllen, it was the two skyscrapers downtown. For Tucson, it's the mountains, especially if I can see the TV transmitters on top. That guidance also works for Phoenix, where I can roughly triangulate my position if I can see the cluster of blinking lights on top of South Mountain.

Back east, the principle doesn't work as well. I know it doesn't work in Williamsburg. With tree-lined streets and highways curving about, triangulating anything proves tougher. On my last trip, I went in what I called "the back way," plunging myself into the darkness of the Colonial Parkway before emerging into the semi-lit driveway of the Visitors' Center.

"Christopher," you say, "there is such a thing as Google Maps."

Yes there is, and I used it during the drive in from Richmond. But the app can be fussy on my phone -- and distracting. I would like to make it onto the proper street alive. And I don't especially care for its computerized voice acting as a backseat driver. I look it when I can and leave the rest to my imperfect internal sense of navigation, which is how we did it before the app came along.

Like parents, like son, wandering in the dark.

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