Probably around 1998 I succumbed to Peer Pressure from a group I then ran with called the Orange County Hash House Harriers. We are part of larger similar-named groups who do a Fox and Hounds thing on a regular basis. The organization is practically non-existent, anonymity is unquestionable, and the first rule of the groups is “There Are No Rules!” It is irreverent and makes questionablechoices regarding acohol consumption. The OCHHH runs (three out of four Saturdays and an annual three day run in Palm Springs) attracting fifty or more runners and more than three hundred for Betty Ford Rehab Weekend. Some runs are from point A to Point B and just finding your car is often a challenge.
Into this environment entered the handheld GPS, which some used to participate in Geo-caching, often retrieving and leaving clues and objects while doing a run. So, I invested about $225 in a Garmin eTrex Vista, a second generation trekking/hiking GPS with fantastic features: like topographical maps, a plotting feature allowing you to map out where you travelled, distance and difficulty reports, compass bearings and, most importantly, strong access to satellite navigation, even under canopy. It had not been that long since the Federal government allowed civilian use of the satellites they had put into orbit. My main problem with the eTrex was that, even though they had scheduled classes from REI on how to use the damn thing, I never got to one and my self-teaching was hindered by the fact that the instructional CD was inside my house…which is in a valley…which, unlike a canopy of greenery, prevented satellite reception while watching the video.
My first experience with Navigational GPS came a few years earlier when I was travelling to the San Jose area to visit three dental offices I had never been to before. At the car rental desk I was asked if I would be willing to test a new device and fill out a questionnaire, which I did. The GPS (for that is what it was) got me to my hotel on several occasions, to all three offices, found me a restaurant, and took me back to the airport to drop off the questionnaire and the GPS. My comments? 1. I didn’t like the authoritarian male voice. 2. I didn’t like it when it told me I “had missed my destination” and should “turn around immediately”. And 3. I thought it would be worth about $500 for purchase and maybe $25 for rental. It is interesting to see that they soon were marketing GPSs for about $2000, renting them for about $20 and offering a variety of female voices, none of which sounded like anyone’s wife.
About 2003 my wife, who has a very pleasant voice, even when telling me I have missed my destination, asked for a GPS for Christmas. Her needs were essentially driving at night when she felt uncomfortable trying to read street signs and finding her way home, when the route out was different than how she came in. Eventually I bought her a Garmin Street Pilot from Spot Chalet for about $1000 and expected that she might never use it.
She loved it! And she quickly got quite proficient in its use. There were a couple of problems: the maps went out of date and updates were expensive, and it was a little large to pack for travel. Both problems were solved in subsequent years when new units were smaller and cheaper. So I quickly inherited two more units, and a unit in my car, and a unit in my new car, with that unit in my old car, which I sold to me son.
Back to my title: last week I approached the “map out of date” problem by buying a state of the art Garmin, which now comes with a lifetime map update feature, allowing me to update two older Garmin models. It also has a feature similar to the GPS in my newer car, which allows traffic analysis and provides alternative routes.
So I now have what Mary calls a “service for six” supply of functioning GPSs, plus that eTrex, which recently functioned as an example of what a compass might look like in the old days. Have any of you similar GPS experiences?
In my next Post I think I’ll explore my observations of Kids and Cars in my American Culture.