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January 16 Weekly Open Thread

Not sure where you are? There's no shame in stopping at the Car Lust Garage to ask for directions, and after we get you re-oriented to your surroundings you can stick around for some hot cocoa and get lost in conversation on whatever topic you like.

Speaking of getting lost...

...on New Year's Day, we drove down to my sister Janie's place in southeastern Ohio for a family gathering. She lives just up the hill from the Ohio River valley. Usually, we go across to State Route 11 on the interstate, south on 11 to the river, down the river valley toward Steubenville, and then west to Janie's. I have a new-ish GPS unit, and when we got to Akron it recommended that we go south through Canton instead. I figured, why not try going this way? Maybe the GPS knows something I don't.

East of Canton, it had us going across the top of Carroll County on State Route 171, which was as fine and delightful a squiggly road as a driving enthusiast could ever ask for. That led to State Route 39, another enjoyable stretch of pavement, and eventually to a place called Salineville and a turn onto Route 164. South of Salineville, the GPS put us on County Road 55, which was the equal of the state roads.

A few miles later, the GPS, its robotic brain relentlessly seeking the absolute shortest route to Janie's house, all other considerations be damned, prompted me to turn onto Township Road 299. About a mile later, Township Road 299 ceased to be a "road" in any meaningful sense.

It was more like a cow path with unrealistic ambitions. It may have actually been paved at some point in the last hundred years, it was hard to tell. It varied between 0.95 and 1.33 lanes wide, and we would either smack into a rock wall or plunge to certain doom in the creek below if I failed to keep the Mazda precisely centered in that space. To accomplish that, I had to contend with roller-coaster grades, sharp bends, blind curves, and potholes the size of Civil War shell craters.

After about four miles of some of the most uncomfortable driving I have ever done, Township Road 299 returned us to modern civilization on the outskirts of Irondale. Outside of the first house on the left, there was an elderly gentleman taking down his Christmas lights. He looked at us as we rolled by, and you could read his thoughts by the expressions on his face:

Those people ain't from around here. They must be lost. Wait a minute! They came down that road? In a Mazda minivan? And survived? Great goglymoogly! That boy's guardian angel just earned the "Employee of the Month" award.

Needless to say, and to the great relief of wife and family, we went home that night via Route 11.

How about you? Any amusing or memorable navigational errors you'd care to admit to?

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

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Just a reminder that there's still time to get your submissions in and be a part of our next Our Cars Week. If you're interested in participating, here are some suggested steps and guidelines:

  • Choose a car (or multiple cars) with which you actually have some personal experience. Ideally, this would be a car that you personally owned, but it's possible to put together a great Our Cars post on a car that you drove regularly--like a friend's car, a company car, or a parent's car.
  • Tell the story of why you found that car interesting; the more the car interests you, the more it will likely interest the rest of us.
  • Don't feel bad if the car you'd like to write about isn't a supercar; most of us find everyday cars as interesting, or potentially even more interesting, than exotic hardware.
  • Include some pictures to help us follow the story and appreciate your car. Ideally, they would be pictures of your actual car, but representative images are fine as long as you credit the source.
  • If you're looking for some good examples, read this, this, and this. Or, simply browse through all of our Our Cars posts; the farther back you go into the archives, the more reader-submitted posts you'll see.

E-mail your contribution to the Car Lust Global Operations Center in sun-spangled Seattle.

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I don't trust those things and only marginally trust stuff like Google Maps or Mapquest, they've been very wrong so many times. Besides assuming anything marked is actually a road and the obvious lack of common sense, they often like to "interpolate" roads where they aren't. For example, I looked at a Google Map before heading to somewhere in downtown Seattle and it had a nice little street connecting to one that I was on and all I had to do was turn left onto it and, bingo!, I'd be right on the street I wanted to be on! Except that the street that I wanted actually dead-ended into a commercial property a block before it got to the street I was on.

Actually, the few times I've ever used one -- the actual navigation, that is -- we've ended up just going to a regular map (either paper or digital) and found an appropriate route ourselves.

Plus: http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2011/05/missing_canadian_couple_experts_say_always_pair_gps_with_paper_map_realize_technology_not_infallible.html

Mapquest sucks in my experience. Google Maps is light years better. Google Maps is what powers the GPS on my phone and hasn't let me down (yet). We have a Tom Tom GPS and it is about 95% accurate. Problem is it isn't auto updated and doesn't have weather and traffic data like my phone. But for a cheap GPS, it usually gets you there, or at the very least pretty darn close.

It is now snowing in Seattle and my Mustang is happily waiting the whole thing out in a nice (semi-)warm garage. It does not respond well to frozen water of any sort.

Just got back from a grocery run. There was a Chevy Volt in the store parking lot, with temp tags; first one I've seen in the wild.

I saw a Volt in San Francisco back in September, but it had dealer tags.

It'll be in an upcoming post soon. --TCG (Chuck)

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