Customize your GPS before leaving home

Friend or Foe? It's up to you.

GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) is a mixed blessing. If you aren’t fussy about your route, let it lead you to your destination. Perhaps you are like me though, and insist on driving the hypotenuse even if the roads aren’t the best. It’s mental. I get very upset driving north to go east, for instance.

Well before you leave on a trip, use the “Directions” setting on Google Maps or Mapquest. Play around with changing the route and comparing the distance versus time, plus miles per gallon in the left sidebar. When you are totally happy, print it out. Make a few copies.

Now you can load your GPS using the “via point” function. It’s tedious, but the only way to avoid the inevitable battle with “the voice” – the one that keeps saying: “Recalculating.” It’s amazing how accurate and friendly it is if you take the time to program it this way; no more taking a short cut through a bus parking lot. You can update a Garmin by going to their website and downloading the free software.

The best part of GPS is being alerted by voice a few tenths of a mile before a turn. Beware of miscommunication though. Sometimes a “turn right” is really a “bear right”, but you can avoid that if you’ve looked at the Google Map earlier. Use both tools, and add a dash of intuition.

We switched to the English voice for the heck of it. Pleasant chap, this Cavendish, but we couldn’t understand what “Artie 123” was. Light dawned: Artie = RT = route .

There are many other personalization tricks, so it’s best to look them over and choose the one fitting your type of travel. It’s all right to swear at it, hit it, turn it off, just don’t throw it out the window.

Remember your DC charger and hide the unit when leaving it in your car. Personal preference: the portable model – if the viewing light is poor (or your vision is low, like mine) you can hold it as close to your eyes as needed.

Finally – Don’t leave home without it.

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