Open Road Press

A Way Out

September 25, Day 85 of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014

Off Course

Debbie and I left our overnight accommodations this morning anticipating more hills and curves. However, we couldn’t have imagined what we were about to encounter. I mentioned to Debbie that I had been thinking yesterday about how we haven’t had any serious navigational blunders like we did on our first trip across the country. It turns out this was a poorly timed comment. It doesn’t pay to gloat.

Our turn of events, well…actually an ill-timed right turn, occurred relatively early in the day, at a four corners in Sparta. Had I studied the map, I would have seen that we should go straight through the intersection to stay on Route 467. However, I reacted to a sign pointing to the right for Dry Ridge, the town we were headed for.

Unsuspectingly, we headed south on Route 35. A few miles down the road, perhaps still shaking off morning cobwebs, I noticed that we were gradually climbing a long hill. I told Debbie, “They made another error on these bicycling maps. This hill is not shown until after Folsom, but they should have shown it here.” It never occurred to me that I was the one in error!

A few miles later, it dawned on me that we had a bit of a tailwind, and that I hadn’t seen a sign recently reading Route 467. Rather, the ones I saw read Route 35! I also noticed that the road conditions were better and there was more traffic on this stretch of road than we’d had on Route 467 before Sparta.

I decided to ask Garmin’s advice and, sure enough, we were off course. When I asked it to send me to Dry Ridge, it routed us back toward Route 467, now to our north.

What to do

After some review, I could see that we had traveled at a 45-degree angle to the correct route. We were still headed east, but southeast. We had a choice to make: reverse direction until we got back on the route, or change direction and intercept the route farther east. Reversing direction didn’t seem to make sense because we’d be backtracking. I hate backtracking.

I noticed Route 127 on the map, a major road that ran between the road we were on and the one we needed to be on. Garmin was in fact using this road to direct us to Dry Ridge. It seemed reasonable to continue the few more miles needed to hit that road, and then travel over to our originally intended route. The error may have cost us four or five extra miles, but we’d eventually be back on course.

Soon, Route 127 appeared, as expected. We turned left and headed back toward Route 467. As we approached Route 467, Garmin offered a shortcut. I told Debbie, who was riding ahead of me, to turn right following Garmin’s suggestion. We were so close to the correct route that I figured we couldn’t get too far off course.

The Scene of the CrimeWe traveled four miles down a beautiful ridge road. I could see Garmin’s mileage to Dry Ridge shrinking with every turn in the road, and there were many. So, we seemed to be in a good place. Eventually, however, we came to a steep descent—one that was so steep that it was hazardous and required constant braking to keep our heavy loads under  control. The road narrowed and showed signs of deterioration from lack of maintenance. By the time we had dropped to the bottom, the pavement had vanished, replaced by a narrow gravel path with grass growing in the middle.

With my blind faith in Garmin, we followed this path until the gravel disappeared…in favor of mud. Eventually, the road trailed off into high brush and muck. We cycled around several fields looking for an outlet that would allow us to join the traffic we could hear whizzing by just the other side of a tree stand. Somehow, I had never imagined our tour would take us onto bumpy farm paths circumventing large tobacco fields!

After several foiled attempts to find the secret passage in any direction, we realized we were hemmed in. We were at the bottom of a monster hill with no way out…except to reverse direction, get back up the hill somehow, and backtrack to get back on our route. We did just that.

My earlier error had been compounded. In total, we logged 15 unnecessary miles and lost two hours searching for a way out. If you look at this Garmin screen and enlarge it, you can see just how close we were to the correct route. Yet, there was a roadblock. A river was in the way. Someone later told us (in all seriousness) that the road does connect just like Garmin said, but you need to cross the creek…and, yes, you would get wet!

Lesson from the Road

Interesting, isn’t it? An innocent mistake, a lack of focus and awareness, and all of a sudden, we were off course. It’s easier than we might like to think to get off course as we navigate through life. Once we realize our waywardness, it’s not always clear how to get back on track.

In our case, we had to take perhaps the most difficult route, or at least the one that is the hardest to swallow, for, when you totally reverse direction, you are admitting a big mistake. You eat humble pie. Sometimes that’s good, but whoever wants a bite of it?

Other times, you are oh so close to your destination, but you have impediments blocking you. There’s always a way out, but it is not always the easy one. Sometimes mistakes can be costly, but we shouldn’t let them keep us from correcting them, and we shouldn’t let them discourage us so that we just give up.

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