so here's to google maps! and to technology, for being more fun in its accuracy. maps, paper maps, are solid friends, and they'll always have. place in my saddlebag. they bring the order of absolute place. they ask from you, but they give a lot--know where you are, and from these points, you can olace yourself as an insignificant dot in a preordained scale , granular or sweeping. maps are what ask you to be responsible, to keep track, to understand the world beyond you. they are the sure hand tht's been there before.
google maps is a little tipsy, but the best chance you've got, and is saying, come on, man. i swear there's a road here. i got an algorithm, man, and it says there's a road right here--and then points straight into the bushes. google maps asks you to fly in the face if all things reasonable or logical; it asks you to surrender the sense of relational knowledge for the benefit of instant information and direction that does not make any more sense than the information on all sides of it. when you look at the phone, you are not looking around where you are. all the information you need is the blue dot, the little shy arrow pointing in the direction you're facing. (which is utterly miraculous in my mind. to think that they know, if all things, which way your phone is pointing. ) you surrender every bit of where am i for two statements: i am here and i need to go this way.
and yet i love using my phone to navigate precisely because of how unreliable it is. google maps has sent me into marshes; into private property; once, almost into a river. twice in the south of france i followed my phone down a narrow lane that dissolved into n unpaved road, and when the fabled left turn came, i pivoted and saw pure underbrush, with the faintest tyremark through the grass.
i went anyway. i always go. getting lost is the miracle of travelling somewhere new--especially on a bike--and google maps is the perfect enabler, both incredible tool and reliable screwup. it has failed to get me to my hosts on time, accurately schedule travel, ir sanely interpret the notion of what a passable road is. but google maps has also placed me in the path of a harrier hawk flaring open its wings at sunset; has forced me into the arms of many unexpecting French bakers after a hungry fifteen-k detour; has found me perfectly paved, smooth roads at sunset, when the grass went on honeycoloured through the fields. iam not saying maps do not do this. but like the drunk friend who sometimes stumbles, as if by chance, into some miraculous place in the middle of things, it sent me somewhere i would have gone to if i had known the full context of my going.
if i had only followed my map, i would have gotten there. and reliably, too--on well-practiced roads that go through many towns, and which have existed long enough to be deemed worthy of mapping. but it would have been less surprising, and strange; and perhaps less fun. better to be lost and singing than true and silent, no?