Tech Fail: Technology & The Great Outdoors

A recent weekend found my girlfriend and I driving in angered silence as we attempted to find our way to a bunkhouse for a weekend away in the woods. Her in anger, myself in silence. My transgression? I had forgotten to bring along our printed directions - left in the printer tray, freshly minted but a few hours ago. It wasn't only that, but the entire weekend was filled with tech fail after tech fail. Read about our disastrous tech experiences to an otherwise fantastic weekend getaway.

We had printed directions from Google Maps directing us to our first stop - a hike on Old Rag Mountain with some friends. In two separate cars from two starting spots with the same directions, we lost cellular signal about 2 hours into the drive - with perhaps 10 minutes left. The printed directions suddenly made a bad decision through a horribly unpaved road, and we decided to turn around and go a side route which we had seen from the main road. Without cell phones, we had no way of communicating our detour (and tardiness) to our friends. Chance upon chance as we were backtracking we came right upon their car heading down the dame road. We flagged them down and we found an alternate route that wouldn't entirely kill our cars, so used to nicely paved suburb and highway roads.

Funny enough, we actually gained a signal the higher we climbed the mountain, as we received text message pings from our phones in our backpack. A group of college guys even brought along a Motorola Xoom tablet and was struggling to find a signal as well as take pictures with the enormous amount of glare. We were taking bets on whether the guy would tumble off the side of the mountain as he stared at his screen while trudging along. Was this the modern day equivalent of driving into a lake following your GPS or tripping over a curb while staring down at you cellphone?

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We decided not to partake in the tech party, as we were in the Great Outdoors enjoying ourselves. After a nice 9 mile hike and rock scramble we packed up the car and started on our way - to places unknown. Not only had I forgotten to bring the printed directions to the bunkhouse 2 hours further but we didn't have the address either! It was nicely stored on my Google Calendar, which was at this moment inaccessible. Not such a big deal one might think - we've got both a GPS as well as smartphone. The problem was we didn't have a cell phone signal, and therefore no data connection. Well the GPS still worked fine, but we didn't have the address!

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The GPS points of interest (POI) feature worked fabulously (except in finding our destination as a POI) and said the nearest gas station was northbound and quite a ways away. I vaguely recalled from looking up directions earlier in the morning that our destination was southwest. It took a lot of convincing to ensure m'lady that I (somewhat, only sort of) had a plan and knew what I was doing, and we headed south instead. We came upon a gas station after some time and asked a group of locals outside if they had heard of our destination, North Mountain Outfitters, but not one knew. Not having the address or even knowing the city was a bit of a problem trying to ask for directions. The gas attendant didn't know either, but offered up that traveling a few more minutes south on the road we were on would bring us back to cellphone range!

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Delight of delights (and to my fear of further angering the missus) we regained a signal a few miles down the road. I whipped out my iPhone and tried looking up the destination on Google Maps, but the maps weren't loading and the search results weren't coming back. I tried searching Google and pulling up the company's website but the Internet was crawling at a snail's pace at best. Google Calendar wasn't coming up either. Recalling that I had called the place earlier that morning, I searched through my call log. Unfortunately that was the same morning the HP TouchPad news had broken so my call log was filled with dozens of calls to stores along our route. After several miss-dials we finally connected through and the proprietor gave us the address which we successfully plugged into the GPS. We were headed in the right direction fortunately but quite a bit late.

"What time is dinner served," we asked, to which the gentleman said "6'o'clock." "What time does dinner end," we asked, to which the gentleman repeated "6'oclock." Well then, we were off to the races, crisply driving near the maximum speed limit. The GPS destination time kept creeping up even as we were handily besting the posted limits. As we regained data connection on our cellphones we looked up directions on Google Maps as well and the destination time was a good half hour after the GPS. The GPS ended up catching up to Google Maps as we pulled up late as can be.

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Upon arriving we were graciously greeted and provided dinner and settled in. Just when we thought it was over the host asked us for our Groupons, which I realized I had also left in the printer. Fantastic. But I had the Groupon app which I could pull up coupon with. The data connection was poor and only worked in certain areas of the house, but I finally found a spot in the corner of our bedroom where I could pull up the coupons. Sitting on my phone facing the corner of the room I felt a bit like the dunce that I was for being so forgetful and ill-prepared.

A weekend hiking, spending time in the country, and horseback riding sounds like a nice relaxing break away from technology, but a slew of inoperable technology mixed with reliance and poor preparation got us into quite a mess. Technology is a wonderful thing, but it sure is capable of failing miserably when conditions aren't right. Consider those who came before us - most seemed to do quite alright without their GPS' and smartphones. After all it only took Lewis and Clark a few years to map out their route.

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