The husband believes a paper map is a necessity for a road trip. You know, the kind with 64 creases that never folds back the way it was.
I believe that a fully charged cell phone and GPS are necessities for a road trip.
We are a vehicle divided. A Y in the road.
The husband says only a map gives you the big picture.
I say only GPS gives you the nearest coffee shop.
I will acknowledge that my map guy has a keen sense of direction and a sharp memory for roads and landmarks.
I have a keen sense of direction, too. When the sun rises, I am certain which way is east, and when the sun sets, I am confident which way is west.
We are driving through the lush Smoky Mountains, painted in a magnificent palette of greens, when we decide to take a small back road for the fun of it. We don’t have a local map, but we have a good idea of where we are headed and high-tech GPS.
Rounding curve after curve with secondary roads shooting off to the sides, we near the mountain top and pass a fellow leaning on his motorbike by a pond. He looks peaceful. We wave. He nods.
It is early morning, and we have the road to ourselves. In the distance, we see low fog rolling our way.
“Beautiful,” I say. “Like driving in the clouds.”
Soon, we are swallowed whole by the clouds, and so is the GPS. We drive and drive, losing all sense of direction.
We make out a figure a short distance off the road. We have circled the man leaning on his motorbike by the lake again. If he still looks peaceful, we can’t tell.
The once gentle curves have become nerve-wracking hairpin turns.
The fog momentarily lifts, and the mountainside no longer looks lovely but like an enormous head of broccoli. We are trapped in a giant vegetable drawer in a refrigerator.
The husband announces that he studied the map back at the visitors’ center and is certain where we need to go. Basically, we need to take every turn that will help us go down the mountain.
Oh, we’re going down all right.
I wonder if we will pass the man leaning on the motorcycle a third time.
I wonder if he has food and if he will be the last human I ever see.
Then a funny thing happens. Again, sealed in by fog and and no GPS, the trip becomes more engaging. Passenger seat co-pilot drowsiness disappears. We both search for markers, craning our necks to see the road in front of us, ears popping as we descend, all the while speculating on when-and if-we will intersect with the highway.
Eventually the fog burns off, the GPS returns to life, and at the next bend we meet the highway.
At our hotel that night we found an online map of where we were. The roads charted a Smoky Mountain maze. The map guy got us where we needed to go.
Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.