Google Maps is Crazy

I’m planning a long weekend in North Carolina’s Outer Banks for my anniversary. I decided to go to Google Maps and take a look at the possible routes from College Park, Maryland, to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. What I saw convinced me that relying on electronic maps and software to do the planning for you is an insane idea, at best. Oh, it’s a great technology, and a good starting point. But relying exclusively on the software is like expecting Microsoft Word to really understand what you’re writing and to know if you need “see” or “sea” in a particular sentence. No software can do your thinking for you.

Google Maps has me driving counter-clockwise around the Capital Beltway, and then south on Interstate 95, down to the Richmond Beltway, and then working my way east. I would certainly get caught in the Washington, D.C. metro area’s horrific traffic and spend at least an hour — and probably more — to go just about 30 miles from home, and still be in traffic. Unless, that is, I left the house at 2:00 a.m., which isn’t going to happen.

Instead, I’m planning to go clockwise around the Capital Beltway, from Route 1 to Route 50, then east and south along secondary roads. Google tells me it’s about 5 hours, 28 minutes by the software’s recommended route and about 6 hours and 10 minutes by my chosen path. But it can’t calculate for traffic tie-ups, and it doesn’t take into account “APM,” or aggravations per mile. APMs work like this: if you drive one mile and have one traffic light, that’s an APM of one. Two traffic lights and three messy merge areas or driveways in a one- mile stretch of road rates an APM of 5. We’ll see. I hope the vacation trip APM is less than my daily commute, which is about 3.8.

At any rate, an extra half hour is worthwhile if the drive is scenic, relaxing, or just not frustrating. It’s a short vacation, not another race to get to work on time. Plus, the secondary roads are populated by coffee shops and rest stops, thank you! I want to see a little bit of America as I drive on vacation, not just blow past the towns and see their names up on the interstate signs.

Look for photos of the Outer Banks to show up on Focal Plane sometime next week. Even if the weather turns out to be rainy, the ocean is still going to be there. And my rainy day photography usually turns out to be some of my favorite mood photos. See you next week!