The following article by David Strange was originally published on 24 Apr 2016.
When I was a young man in 1978, my wife and I drove down "to the country" for a meeting of a group of churches that was being held near Cave City. We had never been there but the directions seemed simple. "Go to Highway 31 and turn left at the red barn. You can't miss it."
Oh, those fateful words, "You can't miss it."
And so, we drove the 1 1/2 hour distance until reaching "31." I looked both ways. It seemed to me that as far as I could see in either direction, there was nothing but red barns. To make matters worse, there was both a Highway 31E and a 31W in close proximity. Which barn did they mean? Which road did they mean?
We never got there. Frustrated, I later heard from my friend who had given me the directions. Equally frustrated that I could not understand such simple instructions, the older man said, "Well, of course it was 31E, and everyone knows THE red barn; it's the one that was painted red before all the others."
Well, that was then and now is now. The older one gets, it seems, the more one relies on remembered directions impossible to be followed today.
For example, I might give directions to my Peaceful Valley home as, "Take the Kentucky Turnpike past the Jefferson Freeway to the Bernheim exit where the Poor Farm used to be; follow the Bernheim road past Joe Raley's place; when you see where the machine shop used to be, turn left."
Impossible directions for anyone except long-time local folks like me.
I'm really not quite that bad. But my friend, Jose Rosario, gets after me about it. "It's Interstate 65, Exit 112." he will say. There is no Bernheim Road, it's Highway 245; it's three miles to the turn; and Magnum Machine shop hasn't been there in 20 years, the Poor Farm in fifty.
In my defense, I could tell you how my wife gives directions ("left, no right, you know what I mean") but we've been married for over 44 years, would like to keep it that way, so I'll leave it at that.
And in defense of older folks, only two generations ago many roads had no signs, or names for that matter. Many a road today got its name simply because it was near a church, or a stream, or because someone created a home-made sign and stuck it on a tree. When formal mapping came along, more times than not officials just used the default name, even if misspelled. Thus we have both Lutes and Lutz Lane, Copper Run and Cooper Run.
Maintaining modern signage is costly. Our great folks at the Bullitt County Road department replace an average of 100 missing signs a year; the eight cities probably more.
Anyway, I have recently discovered a miraculous new way of giving directions.
GPS. The Global Positioning System. I knew of this, of course, but did not truly take to it until I was lost at night in a strange area while driving to my son's new home. I looked at my smartphone, meaning to click on his phone number to call for better directions. Instead, I accidentally clicked on his address. Revelation!! A bright light from Heaven! Well, actually it was the glow from the phone. Suddenly, right there in the palm of my hand, my smartphone showed where I was and a map to Nathan's home complete with unjudging verbal instructions that said nothing about any stupid red barn.
I was hooked. I hardly use a map or other directions anymore. I just type in the address, and let Google Maps do the rest. I and other volunteers even use GPS for mapping of cemeteries and other historic places for our local museum web site.
At first not very dependable (GPS directions used to say to cross the Salt River at a place where there had never been a bridge), the recent reliability and ever-present nature of GPS has entirely changed how we get from place to place.
I realized how much I had come to depend on this wonderful technology the other day when a friend asked for directions. I gave him the address and thought I was done, depending on his map program to do the rest.
"I don't have that GPS stuff." he said. "How do I get there?"
I was stunned; caught unprepared. It had been so long since I had actually given detailed directions that I had to pause. "Do you know where the Poor Farm used to be?," I asked….
Copyright 2016 by David Strange, Shepherdsville KY. All rights are reserved. No part of the content of this page may be included in any format in any place without the written permission of the copyright holder.