Google Maps, Dumpsters, and Other Gripes

The park we’re staying in—for one night on our way through Iowa to Missouri—is beautiful, but we went on only one walk before a storm hit, and I left my phone in the trailer for it. The campground itself is horrendous: basically a gravel parking lot. So, no post for the mis-named Swan Lake State Park! Here’s what else is going on.

How We Plan Traveling

We’re on our way to Texas, which is significant because it’s the first time we’ve had to move our butts across the country before a specific date (lots to do in Texas!).

Here’s my travel calendar where we’ve roughed out where we want to be when, with “leg 1,” etc. filling in for where we have no plan yet.

I also reference my Google My Maps database of people and places we want to visit, plus my list of where we’ve already been.

I’m just beginning to figure out how to use this sucker, but at least I can store location data there.

Finding a Camping Spot

Because a huge hunk of Americans is also camping these days, we have to find campgrounds that a) don’t take reservations but are so remote they might have an empty site, or b) do take reservations and happen to have a site opened at the last minute.

These are some of the apps we use to search for sites, and most of the time we’re moving from one app to another to compile their data. Frankly, paper and pencil helps a lot.

Tracy recently tried a couple of all-in-one services for campsites and routing, but they all failed the “bite-me Google Maps test.”

Why Google Maps Sucks

Google, you can indeed bite me, with your “fastest-available” route default and limited choices, because we need to pick our own route. We need to avoid:

  • Dirt roads (harder than you’d think, when in Iowa)
  • Low clearances, like tunnels and under bridges
  • Tight turns, narrows roads without shoulders
  • Interstates (they are boring and dangerous)

There are guidance services that let you choose to avoid these in the settings, but no matter how carefully we plan a route, as soon as Google Maps gets its hands on it (and it always does), our route gets rerouted.

I think if we bought a separate GPS device for the truck we might be okay, but we already have two screens staring at us from the dashboard (the truck’s computer and the back-up camera) and don’t want another.

Luddite Time

So far our only recourse is to add waypoints into Google Map’s route that force it to route us where we choose. There are downsides to this, but I have complained enough.

In case we haven’t downloaded the map to one of our phones for offline use when we’re without signal or we get mixed up with whose phone has what map on it or we press the wrong screen and lose the route entirely, we jot the danged thing on a piece of paper. Plus carry atlases.

It makes me mad that with all the technology tools out there (and there are a ton; I used to work for a geospatial magazine), not a single one can give us what we want.

When Tech Can’t Help at All

Yesterday as we were pulling out of a campground along with half the campers who were rushing home after Labor Day weekend, we stopped at the dumpster to throw out our trash.

Imagine lots of extenuating circumstances here, but the climax of the story hit when we found ourselves in a curve of the road with a pointy end of the dumpster way too close to the pristine wall of the Airstream.

This all comes down to me not understanding the basic geometry of a tow vehicle’s movements. Tracy was trying to move the trailer away from the dumpster (duh), but no matter how I suggested he back this way or pull that way, the trailer and dumpster got closer and closer until I could get just two fingers between.

Seriously, they were like two very strong magnets. I was helpless in the presence of imminently ripping a hole in our home.

Seeing as how we were holding up a line of trailers behind us all trying to vie for a spot at the dump station, a bunch of guys got out of their trucks to assess the situation.

Guy 1 was flummoxed and called over Guy 2 who was already dumping his tanks. Guy 2 stood by the truck window telling Tracy which way to turn the wheels as Tracy let off the brake (not daring to press the accelerator), and Guy 1 stood with his fingers between the Airstream and the dumpster shouting if the gap was closing or opening.

With Guy 1 and 2 in place, it took just a few seconds to back the trailer at an angle to move away from the dumpster, and we were safe.

My heart was racing until then, though. Our Guy heroes work for the state DOT, and Guy 2 told me that that situation was nothing compared to some times when they have to get big RVs out of even trickier spots. They walked off as if they didn’t deserve a homemade pie or anything.

I’m telling this story in this post because

  1. no amount of camping apps could have helped us there, and
  2. I didn’t want to dedicate an entire post to ten minutes of panic, and
  3. I love having a reason to link you to my favorite dumpsters that never dared gravitate towards us.

Okay, talk to you guys when we’re in Missouri.

8 thoughts to “Google Maps, Dumpsters, and Other Gripes”

    1. Only in that I earned an A, my first (and only) good grade in any math class. I think if I had paper and pencil and sketched out the geometry of towing a trailer, that would help. So would a class in towing, which I had been thinking about taking before we left so suddenly.

      1. Well, there’s this thing called “the Internet” or “Interweb” or something like that. It has all sorts of diagrams and tutorials for towing. Not that this “grew up driving tractors on potato farms in ME” girl watches them but…you know. It seriously may be more difficult to be the person giving direction than doing the driving as it’s your job to do the math. Hell…a year from now I bet you back it up yourself with only mirrors.

        1. I would call you Smarty Pants if you hadn’t ended optimistically! I learned a bit when my mom learned to tow the horse trailer when I was a kid, and I do know the basics. But we were in a really unusual predicament this time, and with the rain and the line of RVs waiting on us, I lost any logic I started out with. I’d draw you a diagram if I could, but the trailer was turning with the dumpster inside the curve (due to us using the dumpster and cars coming the other way, if I remember right). We had to back it up so the nose of the trailer was facing the outside of the curve, but I couldn’t imagine that to think of it. I do think experience will help. Smarty Pants. <3

          1. It looked like a tricky spot fer sure. And I am a Smarty Pants! hahaahha
            Can’t wait for more dumpster posts.