Enter the GPS

This is our second week in Madison and already one difference between here and Marshfield is readiy apparent: this place takes more than 5 minutes to drive across. It’s been particularly difficult for my wife who has to drive to several different clinics across town for her resident duties, so we finally decided to buy a GPS unit in lieu of having her call me throughout the day for quick Google Maps consultations. We picked up a Garmin Nuvi 260 at WalMart (mainly because they had a no-restock-fee return policy) to evaluate and I have to admit it’s been pretty useful thus far. For her, it’s handy because it helps her get to where she needs to go, when she doesn’t know how to get there. For me, it’s let me attempt an unfamiliar route to a place I do know how to get to already. I confess to having been skeptical at first, but I can see the value-add even though I largely pride myself on my independent sense of direction. To be honest, the GPS hasn’t actually given me any new information in terms of a better route anywhere, but it was still nice to have just in case.

Garmin nüvi 360
I am planning to return the Nuvi 260 to WalMart though – for the price, we can get a much better deal on a Nuvi 360 at Amazon, which adds mp3 playback and bluetooth for hands-free dialing. I think that this will be very useful later on in the year when we take various trips such as to Indianapolis for a conference, or elsewhere. My main concern was that I don’t become dependent on it and let my own navigating skills atrophy, but now that we’ve played with the 260 a bit I can see that this won’t happen. It’s an information multiplier, not a crutch.

2 thoughts on “Enter the GPS”

  1. The real nice thing about using a GPS-enabled routing system (like the software I used that had a USB GPS unit) for car trips was that it allows me to improvise more on drives. As you say, I didn’t find it to be a crutch per say, as I could always use paper maps (or ask for directions), but the ability to know where you’re at instantly as opposed to the seconds or minutes to find where you’re at on paper, knowing what the next turns will be, and especially the ability of the software to re-route on the fly if you deviate from the original path really allows you to go “hey, that looks interesting! Let’s stop there/go by/use this road!” without having to worry about getting completely lost.

    The one thing I never do, though, is take its word as gospel. Often, when it come to specifics (like getting to a hotel), the GPS gives you impossible commands to follow (like driving down the wrong way down a one-way, for one rare example I hit), but it always gets me to the right area, and I use my eyes and head to get to where I really need to go. I do find that the GPS doesn’t help those with poor sense of direction.

    BTW, it looks like I’m currently within 3 hours drive to where you’re living, if I had a car. I’m currently in Chicago at a client’s location. Well, back to work…

  2. agreed, a healthy sense of skepticism is a must. I can see myself using it exactly as you are describing, though I am very surprised you got routed the wrong way on a one-way street, that should almost never happen since teh street direction is wired into the database.

    I can really see the bluetooth feature being handy, and also I might invest in the traffic module once we move to a bigger city later on.

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