Directionally Challenged in the Desert Southwest

What do you get when you combine two sibling who haven’t seen each other in five years and are trying to make up for lost time, a technologically-challenged navigator (that would be me), and a “smart” phone with GPS mapping directions?


See, after my conference in Las Vegas, my brother Barry flew in from Alaska and met me there. We then headed out in a rental car towards Denver where we would pick up Barry’s girlfriend Rachel and then continue on to my uncle’s place in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

So after picking me up at my hotel, Barry whipped out his phone and pulled up Google Maps where he’d entered a route from Las Vegas to Denver. It wasn’t long before we noticed something was a bit amiss. We pulled out of the hotel onto a major thoroughfare and a few miles later the sultry Google Maps voice (imagine a porn-star voice or maybe high-end call girl seductress – I don’t know as I have no experience with either, but she was definitely suggestive) instructed us to turn into a subdivision. We meandered through residential streets a bit and then turned onto a frontage road which eventually led us out of the city.

That was odd but the really strange thing was when an hour outside of the city sexy voice told us to “turn right here.”


“Turn right here.”

There was nothing but desert. No road, no path, no sign of any sort, just an instruction to turn right. Needless to say, we did not. Instead we looked at the map ourselves and found the interstate.

Later in Utah after exiting the interstate in search of food we were beckoned to turn onto what I can only imagine was once a Mormon wagon train trail. Again, we took matters into our own hands semi-following the spoken directions and somewhat using our own best guesses.

Eventually we ended up on a scenic highway through gorgeous red rock canyons. The sights were pretty amazing and for that it was worth being off the main thoroughfare, but honestly? It slowed us waaaaaay down.

If you have plenty of time, definitely check out Dixie National Forest – it’s gorgeous.
Looks like a fun place to hike next time we’re lost in Utah!
Moon over pink-striped Utah bluffs.

As we were weaving through curvy canyon country dusk began to fall. And that’s when we noticed there were a lot of free-range cattle roaming about the sides of the road. Many of which were black. That didn’t seem like a good combination in our estimation. And a few minutes later we rounded a curve to see a car stopped in our lane and a big beast of a cow down in the lane opposite. Yep, car-cow collision.

An older couple had just hit the animal minutes before. Luckily they were just fine, but their vehicle was demolished. So we called the sheriff’s office for them and waited for help to show up. Which of course took another 45 minutes of our time.

About 10 p.m. night is well upon us with an inky black sky. We see that we should expect a junction soon where we’ll turn left, so we turned off the phone to save power and went from there. Well we were deep in conversation about serial killers (Barry is an Anchorage police officer so our conversation at times ran towards the criminal and gruesome) when we noticed that maybe we should have hit that junction 30 minutes ago or so. We check our map and yes we did somehow miss the turn and were headed south towards Arizona.

Apparently we’re directionally challenged. It must be genetic and gets worse when we’re in close proximity to each other. But eventually we made it to Denver. It took twenty-two hours (plus two hours of sleep in a Colorado rest stop) instead of the thirteen that it would normally take, but I’m looking at the positives.

Barry and I had nearly twice the time to catch up with each other, of which we took full advantage. We now know how the other feels on nearly every subject including politics, religion, abortion, medically-assisted suicide, shark finning, fracking, and sasquatch.

Plus, we saw some interesting sights along the way that we would have missed if we took the boring traditional follow-the-masses route from Point A to Point B.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering what was up with Google Maps, here’s the kicker. After much discussion about what would be said in our scathing e-mails to Google (including photos of dead cows) we eventually came to realize (on the way back to Vegas no less) that we had the app set on walking directions. So I guess that explains why it kept us off major highways and told us it would take us six days to reach Denver.

Oh well. Lesson learned and we’ll be savvier next time. Maybe.


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