Driving Miss Google

I was driving across Connecticut this week for work, and following Google Maps, when I suddenly realized that I was somewhere I had never been in my tiny state. As I gawked at gorgeous homes and landscapes, it dawned on me how the advent of GPS driven technologies has changed our boldness behind the wheel.

My home is not something to gawk at…it sits on the corner of a busy street in a small Connecticut town. It is average. Commuters, school buses, and fire trucks pass by each day. I am so accustomed to the traffic that I do not hear it unless there is something in the usual pattern that catches my attention — an oversize truck or a whining engine of a speeding car. It is a fact that cars pass the house by the scores.

As I drove through narrow lanes, I felt like I was trespassing, even though I was on a public road. If not for Google, I never would have discovered the secret locations of Steep Hill Lane, Rock House Road, or Willow Tree Circle. Instead, I would have made a long arcing trip down Route 8 to Interstate 95. I would have driven the known route, the safe route, the one with nothing to see.

What must the residents of Moss Ridge Way think when an unknown car passes? Do they see me as a long-lost friend or relative visiting at the house around the corner? Do they curse Google Maps? Or, the driver bold enough to venture into their hallowed woody landscape where neighbors know one another and walk their dogs in the middle of the lane? Am I the only one who follows Google blindly off the pavement onto dirt roads for want of a half-mile shortcut and something new to look at?

Have I taken my urban adventure too far?

In the past week, I have challenged Google to find me routes that would normally require a military navigation specialist in the passenger seat. In doing so, however, I have discovered places of my home state that I never knew existed — in some cases only minutes away from my normal routes.

Photo courtesy S. Jennings.

I am excited to drive again and to glimpse rows of trees; mossy rocks bordering narrow curves; massive old homes that have seen horse drawn carriages and Google-equipped hybrids pass. I feel myself driving through history, envious of the converted barns cum luxury houses and sorry for treading through remote privacy.

What if everyone abandoned mundane expressways for the exotic routes that only Google creates?

I have heard stories of the old-time “Sunday Drive.” Of an age when people drove for the sheer enjoyment of the drive — for the sole purpose perhaps, of seeing places they had never seen that are only a few miles off the beaten path. It was a time when drivers were neighbors and not annoyances.

Thanks to Google, my every drive for work may soon be a “Sunday Drive.”

Moreover, for those of you who live quietly at the corner of Lazy Lane and Tranquility Place, forgive my intrusion. I will drive as if I live next door, obey the speed limits, be courteous, and wave when I see you walking the dog. While we may not be neighbors on the same street, thanks to Google Maps, we are all becoming neighbors on the same planet where we all share and enjoy the view.

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