Saturday, August 27, 2022


Some people, it seems, just can't give you a straight answer when you ask for their address.

I wrote before about information hoarders - who want to keep important information for themselves, so everyone has to ask them (and find them first!) whenever they need a key bit of information.  Folks do this for a number of reasons, mostly to feel important and the need to create the impression with management that they are essential workers.  If you have an employee like this, carefully squeeze all the information you can out of them, and then fire them.  An employee that can be replaced by a binder of information or a FAQ page isn't worth keeping.   Employees who refuse to document their work are toxic.  It may be costly to get rid of them, but it is less costly in the long-run.

When traveling, information hoarders are particularly problematic. In Vermont (and most of New England) there is the tired old trope of the local farmer, in response to a request by "flatlander" tourists for directions, to scratch his chin and say, "Well, you caaan't get there from here!"

Haw-haw.  It isn't funny.

What got me started on this was an "address" for an Army Corps park (provided with our reservation confirmation) that was listed as "Route 46, Northome, MN" which seemed kind of vague to begin with.  No street address?  Just a street?  Nevertheless, I plugged it into the GPS and it took us to Northome, and a few miles out of town, it said, "you have arrived" - but no campground was in sight.  30 miles later, we come to the intersections of Route 46 and Route 9 and there it is.  Nowhere near Northome.  Why would someone put that down as their address?  Even the post office wouldn't deliver there!  And it would be so much easier to state, if you just wanted to list a road, the road you are on.

(Note: The website provides "directions" and latitude and longitude, the latter of which cannot be entered into the Ford GPS - but you have to navigate to the "about' page on that site.  No street address provided!  And why provide the wrong address on the reservation confirmation?).

We've seen this before in a number of iterations.  In one case, the "address" for a Virginia State Park was the home address of the park ranger, in a subdivision in a nearby town, ten miles away.  Neighbors told us we weren't the first ones to come to his house, looking for a State Park.  Dead-end street, too!  No way to turn around with a trailer!  Why list the park ranger's home address on the website?  It makes no sense.

We eventually find the parks, of course, and often Google Maps has a better feel for where things are than any built-in or dashboard GPS in your car.  And that is why car GPS systems are falling from favor - they become obsolete pretty quickly as new roads are constructed.  Magellan at least, had a "free lifetime upgrade" offer on a cheap GPS that we bought for the Frontier, and that worked great until it died, five years later. The F150 is now six years out of date, and Ford sends me a letter helpfully suggesting I take it to the Ford dealer for a map update for "only" $240.  Who are they fucking kidding?

I ask a park ranger or a desk clerk at a commercial park why they don't have their address listed, but instead have "directions."  They smugly reply that "You can't find this place on GPS - GPS doesn't work here!  Hee-hee!" as if the global positioning system somehow had dead zones.  They will literally refuse to give you their street address over the phone or on their website, relying instead on a set of obtuse "directions" which are sure to get you lost.  Even when I show the clerk or ranger that I was able to navigate there by GPS using their street address they refuse to believe it. "Well, that doesn't always work for some GPS systems - they're all different, you know!"

No, I don't know.  Maybe in the early days of in-car nav systems, like the one in my 2002 X5, this may have been true.  That system was pretty primitive, had a tiny display, and made you change CDs (yes, CDs) every time you crossed a State line.  That was 20 years ago.  The database has improved since then.  But even back then, you could plug in latitude and longitude numbers, if nothing else, and find your way there.  But these same sorts of people refuse to provide even that.  I mentioned this to one park owner, and they said, "Gee, I've been meaning to put that on my website - can you provide me with those numbers?" And I did.

I'm just guessing, but maybe they are reluctant to provide latitude and longitude data, lest someone sick a Bayraker drone on them or something - a disgruntled customer, perhaps.

Now, granted, GPS isn't perfect.  In many rural areas, addresses - even correct ones - may be off by a mile or two, as the mapping system relies on "segments" and thus doesn't give a correct location within a few feet.  But, funny thing, people have address numbers on their mailboxes - and if the idiots at the campground would just give you their address in the first place, you could easily find it by reading mailbox numbers.  Funny thing that, many campground and business owners refuse to put street numbers on their mailboxes or businesses!   You'd think you'd want to attract customers, not send them away in confusion. But it seems to be the norm, particularly in those hideous areas with divided highways bordered by fast-food, muffler shops, Walmarts, and whatnot - no one has a street address on their building or mailbox.  Why?

But what is worse is the "Directions" they do give.  I learned early on that giving directions is a totally different thing than providing an address.  Someone asked me for directions to my house in Virginia, and I realized that depending on whether you were coming from the North, South, East, or West, the directions were vastly different.  I ended up printing them out - it took a full page.  Here in Minnesota, when a campground gives directions, they always assume you are coming from the twin cities area.  Hey, that's where everyone lives, right?  Why would you be coming from somewhere else?   So you have to get out a map and decode the "directions" (which never, ever, include the actual street address, but always end with, "the campground is a mile down the road, on the right" - and you're lucky if you get that last part) and find out where the damn place is and how to get there from where you are.  Sometimes, you can scroll around the GPS and find the place using the "directions" and then hit "Start" but not always.

And many times, the directions are whacked.  I recounted before the directions I once got that included, "Be sure to turn right at the barn that used to be painted green and then drive until you see some cows on your left..."  Great directions, but the barn is no longer green and they did a good job of painting it red, and the cows are being pastured somewhere else - if indeed they were not sent to slaughter.

Like I said, it is information hoarding - and I think these types of front desk workers and park rangers like to make people feel stupid for asking directions, when they could just put a fucking accurate address on their website for Chrissake!  There, I feel better, now. Information hoarders love lording over other people and pretending they are "smart" because they know a street address but they won't tell you what it is.  That's freaking pathetic, if you ask me.

Of course, it is, in part, my fault that I plugged in the wrong address.  I sensed it was wrong when there was no street address, just a road number (of a road that was 100+ miles long).  Usually when I see something like this, I double-check the address with my phone (Google Maps) and a paper map, just to be sure.  Oftentimes, on the Ford GPS, the park shows up as a green part of the map, and oftentimes even the roads to the campsites are shown on the map.  Not always - Winnie Dam campground doesn't exist, according to Ford.  But Google Maps had it nailed.

For example, we were taking a boat tour out of Voyageurs National Park from aptly named Rainy Lake Visotrs' Center.  We went kayaking there as well.  The Ford GPS found the site by name, but gave the address as the entrance to the park.  Google Maps gave the actual street address of the visitor's center, which was within 100 feet of where we wanted to be.   Between the two systems, we got where we needed to go (with a park map in hand to confirm!).

I run into a lot of people who don't bother ordering a GPS in their car, or, if they have one, rarely use it - relying on their phone instead.  Quite frankly, this seems like a better solution and many a time we use the Google Maps instead of the built-in, particularly when trying to find commercial establishments.  Google Maps can find a Trader Joe's far easier than Ford can - particularly when your database is six years out of date. But beware - Google Maps sometimes gives you audible cues as to turns and whatnot, but sometimes doesn't - until you've driven past your turn or gone miles out of your way.  You have to look a the phone to see where to turn, and that is just not an option when you are driving.  That is why I don't rely exclusively on Google Maps - or if I use it, Mr. See holds the phone and keeps track of turns as we go.

There are some, however, who just hate GPS of any sort.  I had some friends who said they never used it, hated it, and even hated it when other people used it in their own cars when they were riding with them.  They have a lot of issues.  That sounds fine and all, but going back to reading paper maps circa 1968 has its disadvantages. For example, a road map or road atlas only has so much resolution, particularly outside urban areas (which usually have enlargements on paper maps).  You want to find a store or restaurant or a post office?  Good luck with your paper map.  You have to rely on what you see as you drive by.  So instead of trying a really fine Thai restaurant that is one block off the thoroughfare, you end up eating at McDonald's because that is all you see when driving through town. Being a Luddite has its disadvantages.

But I learned my lesson. When we travel to our next park, I would double-check the address with Google Maps and also zoom in on the actual park.

But if you are a park ranger, campground owner, or designing a website for a campground or RV park, for the love of God, put down the correct street address - and maybe the latitude and longitude as well!  Make it prominent, too - on the first page, not buried!  And stop putting the office address on your confirmation e-mails!  And bear in mind that no one wants your wacky directions and sorry, but GPS does work there.