Tag Archives: GPS

Hope For the Lost…?

Sometimes, I wonder if there’s any hope for the directionally challenged, especially those of us with “geographical dyslexia’ who head the exact opposite direction like someone reversing their letters.

Last weekend, my doubts were only confirmed when my daughter and I managed to miss the freeway exit for Newcastle, the second biggest city in NSW and hardly somewhere you could miss. Obviously, the sign was hardly insignificant or hiding behind a tree either. Yet, we achieved the seemingly impossible! We missed it.

Before I go any further, I should emphasise that we were heading for Newcastle just North of Sydney in Australia and not Newcastle Upon Tyne in the UK, or Newcastle Ontario and if you want to be really clever or completely lost you could even end up in Akhaltsikhe (Georgia), Nove Hrady (Czech Republic), Jaunpils (Latvia). Those would take my capacity for getting lost to new, inconceivable heights!!

While it’s all very funny to joke about how women can’t read maps or might hold the street directory “upside down”, for those of us who literally get lost in the shower the difficulties, stress and consequences of venturing further afield are daunting and even prohibitive. Indeed, as a sheep who’s been lost many times over, I’m often left calling out for a shepherd and lost beyond the powers of prayer. It’s no wonder that I have three sheepdogs at home and perhaps if I sat one of them in the front seat, they might be able to get me where I want to go. I’d just have to hope a ball or stick didn’t fly past or we’d end up in serious trouble. They wouldn’t stop.

Rowena & Amelia red car

Shame you can’t drive along with your navigator sticking their head out for a better view.

Anyway, I was put through my paces again last Saturday when I had to drive our daughter to Newcastle for her regional school aerobics competition. Theoretically, Newcastle is “just up the road” and about a 1.5 hour’s drive. Moreover, I’ve been to Newcastle quite a few times. So, finding my way around shouldn’t be a problem and yet it was. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t be like my Dad who only ever has to go somewhere once and can find his way back without any assistance at all. He might not have been to Newcastle for over ten years. However, I still remember him driving straight to Mum’s Aunty’s place which wasn’t right smack bang next to the GPO either. His navigational skills are legendary.

Papa and Chev

My proud grandfather with his Chev in 1938. 

 

However, Mum’s father’s sense of direction was also legendary but for all the wrong reasons. He not only seems to be the source of my spatial dyslexia he also refused to follow the map and had to find his own way. Once, after we’d moved house my Dad posted him a map with red arrows marked on it. Yet, he still managed to get lost. Thought he’d use “DIY navigation” instead. Go his own way. Dad was beside himself. Why couldn’t he follow the arrows? Jeepers! What’s a shepherd supposed to do when the sheep exits stage left instead of right and won’t heed the warnings? Just to add a bit more texture to this portrait, my grandfather was actually a Church Minister so goodness knows where he was leading his flock or if they were ever heard from again. Naturally, I jest on that front because in every other sense of the word, he was a true shepherd. Just don’t ask him to follow a map!

Bert & Marj State Border 1938

Pictured with his sister Marj (I think) on the South Australian & NSW Border back in 1938 when he drove to and from Dalby Queensland back home to Hahndorf, SA. 

 

While the spatially challenged were at the mercy of the street directory back in the day, we now have a host of gadgets and apps at our disposal and we have no excuse for getting lost. However, so far I’ve refused to get GPS because I don’t want my navigational skills to get worse. I believe wholeheartedly in the powers of neuroplasticity and that if I get lost often enough, one day I’ll be found. Well, actually it would be far better if I could find my own way there.

So, I decided that if I had any chance of turning myself into a navigational superhero, I needed to apply the Scout’s motto and “Be Prepared”. Friday night, I got the street directory out. Photocopied the route and highlighted it with a bright orange fluoro marker. You couldn’t miss it. I also sat our daughter down and went through the map with her. After all, she was going to be Navigator-In-Chief. We both knew where we were going. We’d been to this part of Newcastle before and it was quite familiar. The venue was also across the road from a huge Westfield Shoppingtown at Kotara and if we lost everything else, we couldn’t miss that. We could not go wrong.

However, as we found out, there’s a huge difference between seeing something on a map and seeing it on the ground where you have all sorts of landmarks which bring these streets and turn-offs to life.

Newcastle Link Road

How could we possibly miss a sign this big, bold and clear?

Before we had a chance to apply our knowledge of the Newcastle map itself, we missed the turnoff to the Newcastle Link Road off the freeway. I definitely remember seeing the exit and the sign beforehand. However, then I saw this little goat track off the freeway and couldn’t see the overpass and so I didn’t turn off. The next thing we were heading towards Hexham with no U-Turn and no side streets. We were stuck on a trajectory which was taking us all the way to Queensland.

Well, it would have if we’ve driven another ten hours down the same road. I’m not intending to exaggerate, catastrophize or in any way beat up just how far we’d deviated off course. However, I did need to pull over. Stop hyperventilating and work out how on earth we were going to shift the earth round and off its axis so we could approach Newcastle from a different angle. Actually, I think that should read something like turning the map around,  but I’m not good at regrouping. I had my route all planned and mapped out in bright orange. It was gouged into my neurones for eternity. I just hadn’t factored in that we could miss a major exit and all the signposts which went along with it.

Unfortunately, it took a while for our daughter to appreciate the true nature of the crisis. That she was driving with Mum not Dad, and I was in throws of having a fully fledged catastrophic meltdown. That soon there was only one direction I could drive, and that was home.

Phew! She woke up. Next, she did what every sensible teenager would do She went for the map on my phone. While this might not be as good as the street directory for giving us the bigger picture, it does have a blue dot showing where we are and talked us through where we were and where we were going. It overcame the hurdle of coming at it from a different direction as well, which isn’t done easily with your old-fangled street directory. Indeed, I might even be a convert. If we’d been using Google Maps, we would not have missed the exit. It would have been clear.

By the way, if you ever see a red Alph Romeo wandering around the road like a lost sheep, be afraid. Very afraid. Or, if you’d like to be constructive, you might just tell me where to go. I’d be most thankful!

How are you when it comes to reading maps and getting around? Do you have any epic sagas of getting lost and battling with the compass? I’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

An Australian Road Trip…All roads Don’t Lead to Wollombi.

Yesterday, I had to drive my daughter to GATS Camp at Point Wollstonecroft about an hour’s drive North of Sydney on Lake Macquarie. This was Mummy’s cue for adventure. So, I ensured our son had his key and my only specification was, that I didn’t get home before sunset.

At the same time, I also had a few ideas. I was going to start off by exploring some of the coastal beaches around Lake Macquarie, but I really had it in mind to get to Wollombi where my Great Great Grandfather, William Henry Gardiner, married his second wife, Jane Lynch. Thanks to Google, I’d already been to Wollombi online and found out it was one of those preserved country villages which had gone into a 100 year slumber thanks to a bypass. Being a lover of historic anything, I’ve been trying to get there for awhile and thanks to the mushy geographical soup in my head, had the strange idea that just because I was heading North, Wollombi would somehow be “on the way home”.

It wasn’t.

That’s how my road trip of a life time began. Well, it was actually more of a once in a lifetime road trip. That’s because when it came to travelling from Lake Macquarie to Wollombi, I bypassed the A to B route and detoured via just about every letter of the alphabet. Not that I was lost. Indeed, I knew exactly where I was and where I was going and blame whoever it was who designed the NSW road network, for my convoluted route. So, before I leave on my next great road trip, you can be sure I’ll be reciting this traditional Gaelic blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Anyway, before we leave on this road trip of a lifetime, I’d better provide some  coordinates. After all, my stats tell me that most of my readers aren’t Australian and to be quite honest with you, most Australians won’t be able to pinpoint Wollombi on the map either.That is, unless they cheat and use GPS. I’m a firm believer in using actual paper maps and when you’re travelling,those huge foldout monstrosities, which almost take up the windscreen (goodness knows how many fatal accidents they’ve caused!). Nothing else will do. No matter how lost I get, I refuse to sell out, or I’ll never find my way out of bed. My sense of direction is not allowed to get any worse!!

wollombi-map-and-directory

Wollombi is a small village in the Hunter Region of New South Wales, Australia. It is within the Cessnock City Council LGA, situated 29 kilometres (18 mi) southwest of Cessnock and 128 km (80 mi) north of Sydney. To the south is the village of Laguna, to the east, the village of Millfield and to the north, the village of Broke. To be quite honest, Wollombi is very isolated, but that’s part of its charm and how it’s become a time capsule of sorts.

However, back in the day, Wollombi was at least somewhat central. In 1836 the Great Northern Road was finished. Built by convict labour, it joined Windsor to Wollombi, and at Wollembi forked off to either Singleton or Maitland. It spanned the 200 kms from Sydney to Newcastle and took on average 9 days for a traveler to get to Newcastle. Consequently, it was mainly used as a stock route.

Anyway, we haven’t got to Wollombi yet. We’re still at Lake Macquarie.

DSC_6557

Looking North towards Swansea from Caves Beach.

It was an absolutely beautiful day, with deep blue skies and water was a dazzling diamond carpet of blue. I headed North and followed a sign to Caves Beach and pulled over. I could almost inhale the ocean and feel life’s burdens blow out to sea. The fisherman and a couple of walkers, looked like stick figures below and the windswept coastline stretched for eternity and I could truly spread my wings and soar and keep soaring. There was no ground beneath my feet.

DSC_6622

Illawarra Flame Tree at Pelican near Swansea, NSW.

I did wonder whether I should just stick to the coast, and head inland to Wollombi another time. However, the day was my own and I made no set plans.Indeed, lured down a side street by the enigmatic Illawarra Flame Trees in full bloom, I chucked a left into Pelican, which seemed to be little bigger than its sign beside the road.

I kept heading North, looking for a road to reconnect me with the Motorway. Wollombi was still on the cards and I was also looking for signs to Cessnock and the Hunter Valley. I know exactly where they are driving North. However, missed the lot heading South and found myself exiting at Morriset, turning right and going on the windiest road through Mandalong and Dooralong expecting to connect up with the inland road, which runs like a peripheral artery somewhere through here connecting up with Wollombi somehow. I knew it was there because I have been on it before. AND, I actually did consult the map before I left, not that I did a very good job of it.

 

Yet, just because you know there’s a great road system out there somewhere, doesn’t mean you’re find it.

By this stage, things were becoming DESPERATE!! Even finding a person to give me directions was hard enough, let alone find somewhere to buy food and dare I mention the unmentionable…a toilet or even a camouflaging clump of trees. There was nothing until I finally stumbled across a bonsai nursery. That seemed quite appropriate for someone going on an epic adventure. Having downloaded my troubles, I perked up as I cast myself as Gulliver on his journeys through Lilliput.

Thankfully, the guys at the nursery directed me out of my geographical quagmire over Bumble Bee Hill and then right, then right, then right. OMG!!! Although I didn’t believe in GPS, I was relieved to have my mobile phone. By this stage, I was already starting to picture the search party looking for my last known whereabouts. Indeed, I probably should’ve left my card.

Above: I stumbled across a gourmet oasis and stopped for lunch at Jerry’s Gourmet Kitchen & Cafe, Kulnurra.

At this point, I should tell you that I’m not the most confident driver and that I don’t usually go on such long road trips.Indeed, I live on a Peninsula and have what I call “Peninsularitis”. Some days, even the ten minute drive into Woy Woy is too much, and that complicated gourmet dinner, becomes chicken schnitzel out of the freezer.

Moreover, while part of me loves this whole serendipity thing of just driving with the wind without any particular destination in mind, I also get a bit edgy on unfamiliar roads, especially after doing a loop the loop through the wilderness. After all, this is Australia and the outback’s only a stone throw away. (Ssh, Australians! Don’t ruin a good story!)

It doesn’t take much once you leave an Australia city and the main roads to feel like you’re off the beaten track. I was so close to so-called civilization. Yet, I was driving through farms, and was definitely “out in the country”. Indeed, even the road signs had changed. There were now multiple wombat warning signs. Yes, I had made it into Wombat Country.

By this stage, I’ve almost made it to Wollombi and I can start to relax. Unwind. Yes! I am actually going to get there and this journey of 1000 goat-trailing miles, is finally going to end and I couldn’t understand why they didn’t have a big sign set up in my honour: “Welcome to Wollombi, Rowena”. I sure deserved it.

Stay tuned. In my next post, I’ll take you on a walking tour of town.

Have you been on any road trips recently? Please share.

xx Rowena

 

 

Are you sure we didn't miss the turn off?

Are you sure we didn’t miss the turn off?

The dogs love being able to run around at low tide when we go to Pittwater, Palm Beach. the rippled sand is pocked with soldier crab holes and as the sun sets, the place is quite a moonscape.

Bilbo (right) is striding straight ahead and while I was flicking through possible Rumi quotes, my husband suggested:

“Are you sure we didn’t miss the turn off?

I shouldn’t laugh.

My husband and I have had many explosive moments with me in the navigator’s seat. I don’t know why I always end up navigating because I get lost in the shower and even struggle to follow a map when I turn it the right way up (OK folks…I mean “upside down”.)

I know we probably should invest in one of those GPS thingies for the sake of our marriage but after experiencing the possibilities of neuroplasticity personally, I had hoped that with a bit of practice, that I’d miraculously find my way.

Moreover, I was also concerned that if I gave up, my sense of direction could even get worse. In that case, I might even need GPS to find my car parked in our own drive way.

I shouldn’t jest!!

Anyway, Bilbo looks hell bent on going straight ahead but Lady isn’t quite so sure: “Are you sure we didn’t miss the turn off? I can just see Bilbo, who is a much more introverted, serious dog grumbling back to her:

“We’re fine. I checked the map before we left. I know exactly where we are.”

Then I can see Bilbo quoting Daniel Boone:

“I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks”.

As much as I love John Lennon’s quote Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans,” sometimes, you just want to reach your destination!

Do you have any navigation dramas to share?

xx Rowena