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I sometimes feel a bit dated when I open up a road map and chart my course the old way, like I did when I drove a truck to all corners of the U.S. -- well, at least to most of them. Nowadays, people laugh at my use of paper maps and pull out their smart phones and type in their destinations and, suddenly, turn-by-turn driving directions appear, along with a map of the "best" route to take.

Though I don't use it as my personal phone, I do have a smart phone too and sometimes use it to find places and obtain directions. Yet, I don't quite trust the map apps and programs and, when I can, I still verify things with Rand McNally on a paper map or in a map book.

Sad to say, my old trucker's map book long ago fell apart and was discarded; but last week's experience with Internet map programs has convinced me I need to visit a truck stop and buy another even if I don't drive an 18-wheeler and don't need to stop and buy a few hundred dollars' worth of diesel fuel.

On Thursday, I was using up some vacation days and arranged to meet an old friend from California who recently moved to Oklahoma. We arranged to meet at Lake Tenkiller State Park in Oklahoma and planned to look around the lake, take some photos and maybe do a little hiking (years ago in the last century, we did some backpacking together). Anyway, not having my old trucker's atlas and having not yet visited the lake, I decided to try a popular Internet map program for driving directions.

The result didn't add to my confidence in those online mapping applications and made me feel a little "lost" without my printed atlas with detailed highway maps for each state and warnings concerning restricted bridges, low underpasses, weigh stations and more.

When I entered Gentry as my starting point and Lake Tenkiller State Park as my final destination, the mapping program didn't recognize the state park even though I've seen it before on printed maps. I decided instead to enter Gore, Okla., as my destination since it was close by and on the same highway as the state park. The mapping program directed me to take U.S. 59 all the way south to Interstate 40 and then back up to Gore from Webbers Falls.

Knowing that wasn't the most direct route, I added a stop-off destination -- Cookson, Okla. -- along the highway I had already planned to take -- Oklahoma Highway 100. The added stop really didn't help. The trip which would have taken less than 90 minutes got a whole lot longer. And, I have no idea how the computer program put together the new route.

Instead of going south out of Gentry, the mapping program directed me north into Missouri and to Interstate 44. And it didn't direct me back into Oklahoma on the interstate; it directed me northeast to Springfield, Mo., and to St. Louis. From there, the directions took me further east through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and to Washington, D.C. I thought I might be directed to cross the Atlantic, Europe and Asia, the Pacific and then come into Oklahoma from the west, but the directions had me turn around in Washington, D.C., and travel through Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas and then into Oklahoma on Interstate 40 to the Webbers Falls exit, then north on Highway 100 and on to Gore and Cookson.

My hour-and-a-half trip turned into a trip of 37 hours and 40 minutes covering 2,390.8 miles. The turn-by-turn directions and map were six pages long in small print. I guess it would have been an even more scenic route to take, but it was a little long for a day trip.

Yes, I rechecked and, no, I didn't enter Washington, D.C., or anywhere close as a stopping point along the way. Why the mapping program would send me on such a mapping quest I don't know. Sad to say, there are probably some folks out there who would have just followed the directions and been gone a good week or more, especially if they returned home by the same course.

Instead, I figured I'd take my chances and go without directions. I went south to Stilwell, Okla., and turned west on Highway 100 and got to the state park in 90 minutes without a hitch. My trip turned out shorter and better than any of the routes offered to me on the Internet. I had a nice visit, toured the lake and several state parks and was home for supper.

Had I followed those digital directions, I might still be on the road. Yep, I'm going to buy a new trucker's atlas and continue to plot my own course!

Randy Moll is the managing editor of the Westside Eagle observer. He may be contacted by email at Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Editorial on 11/18/2015

Print Headline: I think I'll continue to plot my course with a printed trucker's atlas

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