Thursday, September 21, 2023


I’ve had it! I’m tossing my GPS out the window!

By Barry Zander
Before the era of GPS took over from unrefoldable maps, our first encounter with the new technology was in a state park when a tiny figure looking out of the drivers-side window in a diesel-pusher high above us leaned out and yelled, “I’m throwing Nellie out the window,” only he used a slur to describe Nellie, his GPS.

Oh, the misguided advice we’ve received since we invested in one of these gizmos 15 years ago. Like on a 13% mountain descent in Canada, when we were told to turn right in 1,000 feet. Had we listened, we would have rumbled down a mountainside about 2,000 feet.

We have at least a dozen other GPS tales to tell, but I’ll start with How to train your Garmin.” We hunkered down for the winter at an RV resort just off I-10 in Arizona for a few weeks. Upon our initial arrival, the confounded GPS device told us to exit the interstate, turn left and then turn right on “O-COT-tell-lo” Street. [Say it out loud] We laughed at the pronunciation, since it wasn’t “o-ca-TI-yo,” a desert cactus. The first few times the GPS screwed up the name, we laughed.  So each time over the next three days Monique corrected her, getting more and more vehement (as if it would make any difference).

Imagine our shock when the female voice suddenly started saying it correctly! WARNING: Be careful what you say to your GPS. She may be taking notes…

A INTERESTING POINT here is the GPS can actually have a social benefit. You arrive in a campground, get set up and wander into the happy-hour soiree nearby. “Welcome,” someone says without looking up from the yellow umbrella in his Mai Tai.

“Boy,” I blurt out. “You’ll never believe what our GPS did to us today!” From that moment on, the conversation never stops. Everyone has a better story than the couple next to them.

Dirt roads to oblivion, twice around the same block, the AT&T store nowhere to be found in a labyrinth of twisting subdivision avenues, etc. (And, by the way, we supplement the GPS with real unrefoldable maps.)

How ‘bout sharing your favorites? Maybe you have one or two stories better than ours. Let us know.



  1. My Garmin has tried to send me down 4 wheel drive only roads, routed me through trailer parks, and refused to acknowledge the existence of known addresses I have entered. I am sure that in the future the GPS will include some sort of AI which will allow you to interact with it like a real navigator. Of course then they might get passive aggressive when you yell at them.

  2. Wonderful topic. Everybody has a GPS story. Ours was on Hawaii. There is actually quite a bit of countryside in Hawaii. Using a rental car we went exploring. We eventually decided it was time to look for a gas station. Everyone has a mental alarm bell for fill ups and for my wife in strange territory that’s about a quarter full. Anyway the GPS we brought along pointed us to a gas station some miles away, which turned out to be in the opposite direction of humanity. When we finally got there we sat on the side of the road, mouths open, as we looked at a lonely 1950s? fuel storage tank rusting away in a pasture. This did not help our relationship and my laughing did not help either. Luckily we made it back to humanity and I was allowed to live another day. 🙂

  3. The wife is the navigator I just turn where she says. The Irish speaking GPS lady will send us down a road but if the human navigator don’t like that they argue. I will admit the GPS lady as routed us to some “do we really want to drive this road”. Most times the Irish voice sends us to where we were heading too correctly.

  4. My favorite GPS story happened on the Skyline Drive in Virginia. I had the GPS set for a point at the end of the drive. As I was approaching a scenic turn-out she would say, make a right then left then left then right which would put us right back on the road we were on. Every scenic turn-out we came to this happened, I have no idea why she wanted us to turn in at every scenic place we came to.

  5. I’ll admit, I love my GPS. That said, they are only as accurate as the info they are fed. I use both Waze and Trimbles Co-Pilot GPS (the later is a subscription and has size adjustments for my RV). Both of them generally plan the same route – but when one is wrong, they both tend to be. The only time I’ve gotten ‘bad’ directions in my RV, was taking a shortcut from Mobile, AL to Fort Smith, AR. I was taking a two lane state route through rural Louisiana, and as we drove our 35ft Class A (towing my Jeep Liberty) through the rice and bean fields, we came to an elevated railroad crossing. it was about 30 foot across the roadway and 10 foot high. Like a huge lump in the road…

    We were lucky, our rig made it up and over fine, but the shopping cart wheels on our tow hitch did hit the roadway as we cleared the crossing. Had we been in a diesel pusher, with a full basement, we’d have certainly gotten stuck, and the road was so narrow it would have been difficult at best to turn around.

    • That’s where a Commercial Carriers Road Atlas would’ve been handy, it would’ve told you before you took that road about the railroad crossing for low riding vehicles. Lowboy trailers like the kind that haul farm equipment can’t go over a crossing like that without getting stuck, so a truck driver needs to know that when planning their route.

  6. I have used GPS for years, driving, hiking, boating. Yes, they make mistakes sometimes funny, sometimes frustrating and even worse dangerous. However I wont travel without one. Currently using a Gamin LV770. Probably the worst I have had. Lots of bad information, bridges that don’t exist, my rig is too long for a US Highway ?? Probably the most frustrating was several years ago we driving up the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi.. My older Garmin insisted I didn’t want to be on that road. Every chance it had it told me to turn off. Finally had to shut the ” {bleeped} in the Box” off. Now when we travel I have my drivers GPS, my wife has her Co-pilot GPS we both have cell phones and my wife has a US Atlas. Sometimes they all agree, other times we go with the majority and sometimes we just have to trust my innate male sense of direction.

  7. My first experience with a GPS was five years ago. I’ve always been a paper map traveler. My ex’s sister was trying to convince me that a GPS would give the best directions to a destination. She gave us hers and programmed it to get us home but that route would’ve added about 350 miles to our trip. At the time I suggested playing GPS frisbee but it’s still somewhere in my motorhome, probably dead by now. Been going by maps ever since and haven’t got lost yet.

  8. I too have been led to a ferry, asked to turn off a mountain into a ravine and directed onto a snow mobile trail. I have 2 GPS systems that I use while on the move and paper maps for all states. I recently have been using the AAA TripTik app which has excellent detail and is great for planning out the route. It has all the stuff I loved about the TripTik books my dad used to get.

    The 2 GPS often fight and I refer to them as my two wives so I probably stoke the fires by playing favorites. The GPS that came with my RV is Becker and on my phone I use Google maps. Google Earth or any satellite view is real helpful as you can get a lay of the land and a feeling of having been there once you get there. And it’s also good to have escape routes from places in the event of some disaster or silly protest.

    Paper maps are great to get an overview of the state I’m visiting or passing thru as well as other places of interest along the way. Its also good to stop at visitor centers for intell.

  9. The pronunciation on our GPS is a constant source of entertainment! It is wrong as often as it is right in pronunciation…and some are such basic words! As used to hearing the voice as we have become, we still hear “garve ahead” but at least we figured out what a “garve” was! And his left “garve” looks more like a right “garve” to me!

  10. Its not the GPS, it is the map system. I bought my first GPS (Garmin) in the late 1990’s. Just basic position. Learned how to use it with the maps. Most maps were not really up to date back then. I even sent in updates for some back (4 wheel drive) roads which even maps had as paved roads and took years before they were updated.. So now a few years ahead the maps mostly look the same as some of the routes I took back a few years ago. Go learn how they update maps and road systems to find out why they are not very accurate. GPS just provides positions and its the companies who should be update the actual maps and road systems

  11. I purchased the Garmin with the dash cam combo to eliminate one of the gadgets cluttering the dash and really like it. I update it at least every 6 months or before I leave on a trip. I tell it to avoid toll roads, ferries, highways, etc. I always plan my trips on Trip Wizard so I know where I am headed and what roads I’ll be looking for. Every night before I leave I I look at trip wizard and pick my next stopping point. The Garmin helps me find gas stations, restaurants, the next rest area, etc. But I am told that my slight southern accent makes it hard for her to understand me.

  12. I just got back from a 5-day camping trip. It should have taken me 4 to 4-1/2 hours one way. Thanks to my GPS and the dead-end dirt road to nowhere, it took me 7 hours including backing up my trailer forever with the help of my wife and a local person who came to our rescue. Not to mention that the GPS cost us more in gasoline to get where we were going than the GPS cost. Lesson I learned is to always carry a paper map, directions from Google Maps and MapQuest and be sure they all jive. Hope you all will avoid the nightmare I just went through thanks to our trusty GPS.

  13. In 2008 we were working at an RV park in Pahrump. I would go to tell people how to find us with their first reply ‘I have GPS’. I would tell them not to follow it because it would lead you to a dead end road – the road we were located on was not continuous. About 1/3 would not listen and ended up on the dead end road. I don’t have a GPS and have no plans to get one. I use maps. If I need more detail I google the area – is just as accurate as GPS in my opinion and stories I hear from others.

  14. GPS’s when used with discretion are vital tools when traveling. Like any technology it is not 100 percent reliable. In some situations, common sense must be used. I have traveled throughout the U.S. in my motorhome, using my Garmin dezi trucking GPS. In the past 7 years, only a few times has it given misleading directions. None caused me a serious problem that I could not deal with. There have been a few times when I have had to ignore the GPS and use my own judgment. Atlases or paper maps are good backups, however if you switch onto several different roads trying to remember when and where to exit can be a problem. My GPS also warns me of low bridges. If you travel extensively on unfamiliar roads, a GPS is in my opinion a necessity.

  15. I don’t know if Garmin has corrected it, but there was a time if you programmed a trip from, let’s say, Eugene, Oregon to McMinnville, Oregon your Garmin route would take you over the Willamette River. . .on a small one car ferry.

    First time I encountered that I knew better. Unfortunately, a friend with a 45 foot DP with car under tow did not. Oh, once you arrive at the ferry there is no place to turn around.

    Obviously, he finally did Get it turned around but it took over 30 minutes of slowly inching forward, back, forward, etc.

  16. I bought a Garmin nuvi a long time ago and quickly learned what wild goose chase it can put you on…like the time I was looking for a Santiago’s drive thru restaurant (my favorite mexican food chain here in the front range of Colorado) that said it was 20 minutes from my location…so I trusted it. 30 wasted minutes later I found myself in a residential area off I-25 where, just by common sense KNEW, there were no drive thru’s to be found! I thought better of tossing it out the window (littering), but it still sits today on my dash, used ONLY for monitoring my speed and my elevation! It does seem accurate in those arenas.

  17. Worst GPS I have was a Magellan RV unit. It used the MS tablet software with their overlaid map data. Learned real fast to hate this product. Very difficult to program for destination and often just flat wrong. It’s in a drawer somewhere.
    The only fault that I dislike about our family of Garmin’s (5, last count). When you put in an address to go to, it searches several states, not just the state you want, or need. Takes time and is very irritating.
    I do like my new Garmin RV7800. Big screen is very nice. I do expect that the independent GPS will disappear since the dash displays are getting so powerful and inexpensive, or included in the package.

    • Tom, I thought the same thing with the advent of “in dash navigation”. But, when you have to pay the car maker for the updates, the lifetime updates that are offered with some stand alone GPS units seem to be a better choice.

      • Yeah, I really do know who is paying 100+ dollars to upgrade their in dash units. My 2019 Jeep is missing businesses that have been around for over 10 years and includes some that have shuttered nearly 20 years ago. How up to date can that update be? The road data is no better a county road near a campground we frequent was rerouted in 2005 and we are “off-roading” when we go down that still.

  18. We always use maps in with the GPS. Using it when going places we already know route proves GPS’s can be very wrong. Also, we would rather take a longer route than a stressful one. Always use bypasses around big cities. Takes to about 1/2 point before it will recalculate. We always have the voice off! Even though we have an RV GPS with RV parks, always double check the directions given by RV park. As far as getting stuck on scary downgrades or windy roads in the mountains, have been using Mountain Directory West (also one for East) for Truckers/RV’ers to decide whether we should attempt a road. Gives detailed description of percent of grades, turns & if there are restrictions. Here is the link to Amazon. However, the price has skyrocketed so maybe search around.

  19. Very recently, we went to Hungry Mother State Park in Marion, VA. We have a Garmin GPS. There is a direct way and a non-direct way. Guess which way we ended up going? As soon as this thing started taking us through downtown Marion, that’s when we should have stopped and reassessed. But noooo. We ended up on something called Back of the Dragon and it’s as scary as it sounds. It is a very twisty curvy road that motorcyclists love. I was terrified. My husband was also terrified but didn’t show it because he was too busy keeping us on the road. I wrote to Garmin explaining in great detail where the Garmin should have taken us. The response from them was that I needed to update my Garmin. LOL!

  20. Not sharing a GPS story but sharing my surprise when I saw a GPS screen of Rimrock Drive. We actually live in the tiny little town of Rimrock Arizona right on I-10 as our home base. 😊

    • That name sounded so familiar to me when I saw the GPS screen. I wonder if we also got caught on that same GPS faux pas when we were travelling through there!?

    • That Rimrock is in Colorado National Monument, one of the first adventures on our month-long exploration of western Colorado last September. It has given us fond memories while we’re confined and chomping at the bit to take off to just get out into the world. Incidentally, there’s another Rimrock a few blocks from us in Idyllwild, CA. The road seems to stop three times, but then it picks up again up or down the next cross-street.

  21. I plan our route on Google maps and print portions of the route at various sizes depending on the complexity of the route. I make closeups of the route into and out of the campground and sometimes printing the satellite view.

    I put them in a small three ring binder by day and my wife monitors them as we travel. We also carry state maps and the Truckers Atlas.

  22. I was part of launching the original GPS satellite constellation — I’m literally a rocket scientist — so you’re right in my yard here. My first receiver only had glowing red 7-segment displays for lat/long. My first (personal) unit used that info to give you basic “that way” pointers to self-tagged waypoints. It was several generations more until you could upload an area the size of a small state and get almost-always wrong directions. The problem, almost always, was taking a right exit to go left or vice versa. The goal-seeking and solution-forking got better until seeking the best time or distance internally considered every possible turn — no more wrong turns, but now you’d use EVERY cow-path and make 15 extra turns winding through subdivisions because it saved 73 feet (costing you 30 minutes). If you think finding the best route should be simple, you have no appreciation for how easily your brain sorts complicated information and instinctively chooses “this way except…”

    • …Similar concepts apply to why Nellie can’t speak English. Pay more attention to how often college-educated folks with decades of native experience can’t pronounce basic English words correctly, much less complicated proper names.

      …and then add in strange geometries of our roads — it’s hard to get the computer to say “Turn wiggle at the 7th bend of the drunken rotary and pass under the lane-swap to go 27* before twisting left.” There are many intersections where the ONLY way I’d know where to go is looking at Google’s highlighted “satellite” photo.

      • If there was such a thing as evolution, don’t you think buzzards would’ve evolved enough to attempt to drag roadkill off the side of the road instead of eating in the middle where they have to fly out of the way of passing vehicles? I mean how many years have they been eating roadkill, probably going back to the days of Roman Chariots.

        • Now I do believe in plant adaptations, yesterday I mowed my lawn for the second time this season. The first time the dandelions were up 3” tall and I cut them all down, yesterday I noticed I wasn’t cutting them all down. Upon further investigation I found many where the flower was closer to the ground where the blades couldn’t cut them off, in a way I guess that is a form of evolution, but since evolutionist claim it takes place over thousands of years I guess the dandelion wasn’t experiencing evolution.

  23. When we got our first GPS we would use it during trips where we knew the road, for practice. We soon learned “Naggie Mae” was a bit “off” at times. From Missoula to Trout Creek it is best to turn off I-90 at St Regis & follow the Clark Fork River to highway 200. Naggie Mae wanted us to pass this up, go many miles beyond, to take a narrow, steep mountain pass. We “put her to sleep” & went the better route.

    She also was relentless in her fixation on her routes. If we deviated, or missed a turn (existing or not) she would repeat “when possible, make a legal U-turn” until we either complied or put her to sleep. She was a Magellan unit. Our Toyota 4Runner’s’s GPS unit will adjust to accommodate variations & has never (yet) bugged us to stick to her chosen route. Oh, and never choose “least use of freeways” unless you really, really mean it. But that’s another story.

  24. A GPS is a tool, just like a crescent wrench versus a box end wrench is a tool, each specific to the job needed to be done. GPS’s have vehicle specifics built into them, if the GPS in question was based on Car database, it never will work for RV. Purchase a GPS based on RV specifics. But the point is, “I realize it”, my brain is way more intelligent than the GPS’s brain. And that therein is the key, YOU need to be smarter than GPS/Tools you use. Carry a road atlas, there are two good ones, you can get them spiral bound and Large Print, which show lots of other things. I have owned both, neither is a perfect one, but mostly.
    1) FMCA’s Large Print Road Atlas
    2) Good Sam’s Road Atlas – You will need to go to Camping World.

    Oh, you need to also routinely update the databases in them.

  25. While in Mississippi, we were looking for a Wal-Mart, We were lead on a 50+ mile ride and wound-up back near the campground without finding Wal-Mart. When we got back someone was in the office so we went in and ask, turns out Wally World was just 5 miles from the campground off a large public street the Garmin said didn’t exist as it had us driving through a field. This Road had been there for many years looking at the buildings along side the road and there was very little new development room left there. This was the Toad unit we were using.

  26. I plan my route in advance using Google Maps. While traveling I have a Garmin RV GPS. In 6 years of traveling it only mislead me once in Buffalo NY and lead me to an underpass 6″ below my needed clearance; found a quick detour and all ended well. 
    As for the vocal assistant… I’ve had a Garmin in my car for at least 25 years and learned real quickly to turn the sound off. Silence is Golden.

  27. On our current trip we have decided that our GPS hates us. First of all she remained silent and was going to let us go under (rather INTO) an 11 foot overpass! As the crow flies our campground was indeed less than a mile beyond that overpass…guess she was in “hide and watch” mode.
    After we saw the low clearance sign and went the other way she then suddenly announced “take an immediate right”. So glad we are old and think for ourselves…that immediate right would have taken us straight over a cliff!
    So we have told our friends back home that if we go missing please investigate our GPS first. We didn’t name her Nellie (which is so cute) but I don’t think what we call her would be appropriate for this newsletter.

  28. A few years ago I had a Rand McNally GPS. All of the settings were correct for my vehicle)
    I was using it to navigate to Wally World (a campground in Ohio) I followed its direction until it took me up this mountain road that after a mile turned into a dirt/gravel road with heavy tree cover. It would have been perfect for a vehicle the size of a Mini Cooper. I wound up backing back down the road and heading to the nearest gas station who gave me easy directions.
    After I got set up I went online and ordered a Garmin GPS and it was waiting for me at my next destination.

  29. HAHA, you should see some of the places they lead newby semi truck drivers. i often see a smoking heap of a wreck and the driver will say ” My GPS told me to turn here” LOL


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