Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Green Goddess Meanders Toward Home

Gainsboro, Tennessee. I remember traveling through here. The biggest town on the drive, population at bit less than a thousand. (photo from online)

I was determined today to not drive urban freeway traffic. I decided to miss Nashville by plotting destinations around the city, thereby driving a more rural route north and west toward Iowa. Well, I was successful but really only marginally successful. I did achieve my goal, but my route was much more "rural" than necessary. When I chose the shortest route--boy, the navigation system didn't mess around!

From Harrison Bay State Park, looking at Google Maps, I decided to find some anchors for my route that would ensure that I would not travel through Nashville and that I'd stay off the main interstate freeway corridors. I chose two towns, Cookeville, Tennessee, and Bowling Green, Kentucky. These routed me north and west away from Nashville.

Since I am traveling alone, I couldn't take notes or photos, but I traveled along the Cumberland River, through Amish country, and along roads much of the day where the speeds were 15-40 mph. Two lanes was the standard, with no shoulder--and narrow, which was my main concern, that is, staying on my side of the road. I did that well, and that task was a lot less stressful than rush hour urban freeway traffic.

I was amazed at how long I drove on these rural roads without ever seeing another car. Also, for long stretches there was no place to pull off, just narrow road and keep on driving. It was beautiful country, wooded with leaves turning fall colors and bluffs of sedimentary stone. The road climbed and dipped, swerved through gulches and over forested mountains. I meandered along, taking my time. The entire trip, including stops, was about seven hours, which includes the time zone change.

At one point in the first of three legs, the Cookeville portion, I traveled on freeway over some long climbs and descents--steep, with 6-9 percent grades. The Nissan still performed well. However, on the steepest and longest climb, I dropped the Pathfinder out of overdrive and dropped my cruise speed to 50 mph, just to ease the strain on the engine. I could certainly tell I was climbing, but the car never bottomed out. Downhill, on the nine percent descents I stayed out of cruise mode, having to feather the brakes some, but the transmission kept the speed down and I didn't have to ride the brakes to maintain control. I kept an eye on the heat gauge and it never moved. I'm glad the Nissan came with the tow package that includes extra cooling for the engine and transmission.

Kentucky Amish photo from online. This hilly country in Kentucky and Tennessee is very rural. All the people living in this area are really tucked away in the valleys and on the mountain tops. Nature predominates.

At one point in either the second or third leg of the trip, I hit Amish country and saw about six buggies on the road. This was narrow county road. The best way to describe it is road like when you center a campground or state park--adequate if you go slow, but narrow lanes. The greatest fatigue for this part of the trip was not being able to use the cruise mode. There is a nerve or muscle in my right leg that becomes irritated if I drive for a long period of time, keeping that leg in play while braking and accelerating. I did all right, though. I feel that I have a good sense of rural Tennessee and Kentucky now. Beautiful country--not a high elevation, so the foliage is lush and diverse; streams, rivers, and lakes; and certainly three dimensions of beauty. It ain't flat!

What I've learned is that navigation systems have to be managed. Just slapping in the destination and taking off has its risks. For instance, I chose to head to Cookeville, Tennessee, because that would take me away from Nashville. However, the navigator chose the quickest route automatically, which was still through Nashville on the freeway corridor. I headed out, saw that I was routed to the freeway, saw the "Nashville" sign, and then pulled off at the next gas station to check the map. Yep, shortest time route was through Nashville. I took the shortest distance--and that included every horse-and-buggy road the navigator could find.

With more research and care in choosing my routes, and by choosing waypoints, I believe I will be able to craft better routes. Yesterday, though, I was successful in that I accomplished my main goal of by-passing the urban freeway experience. All I know is that if my route had been in Iowa, probably half my day would have been spent on gravel roads--so I've got to gain some more sophistication with the Nissan's program.

I checked Google Maps for today's route and used not only the default screen view but also the satellite view. Today's route will be on freeways, but with two lanes each way through more rural routes. I'm planning on missing St. Louis on the way home. Now I just have to make sure that my route on the Nissan system matches that on Google. I've learned how to pinch and spread the Nissan screen view to see more map details, so I'll be able to check the route with my Google Maps route. My wife has also mentioned Waze navigation, which is more real-time, but for now I want to try to accustom myself and master the in-car navigation system. I like the larger screen and the built-in monitor.

For all my meandering yesterday, though, I feel the day was successful. I saw some nice country, was generally much more relaxed, and honestly feel traveling on narrow roads is less dangerous than heavy freeway traffic. So, I'm writing this at pre-dawn, will post, and then it's down the road for another day of hopefully pleasant and safe adventure.

This is the second of three articles about gps and travel. On my way home from the Carolinas back to Iowa, I experience the highs and lows of gps navigation systems.
1. Tiny Trailer Halloween Freeway Horror Movie
2. The Green Goddess Meanders Toward Home
3. If GPS Routing Were Music, It Would Be the Blues

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  1. Lots of great things to see off the highways if time is not a big issue.

    1. My biggest insight is that there are lots of places in America where life and concerns don't go much beyond the front gate. It's apparent when driving through isolated areas (and there are even areas of cities that are isolated) how local concerns and fear of "the other" can be so influential.

  2. I try to hit backroads as often as possible. You can change the setting on Google maps to go from fastest to most scenic or least crowded.
    Enjoy the ride

    1. Thanks! I didn't know about the scenic or least crowded settings. I'll have to find out where they are to change. (Probably obvious, but I still will have to search!)

  3. GPS is interesting. I use my portable on on long trips but also my iPhone. I let them battle along the way. Lol! But I always check my route first. Long trips I plan on google maps and save or print to program each section along the way.

    1. This is what I'm seeing. Check with my computer (more visual clarity) to see if the route is what I want. Then check to see if the Nissan system agrees with me. If not, then use waypoints to create the route for the Nissan gps. I may have to get a dash holder for my iPhone for gps. That means eventually I'll have three screens on my dashboard: car gps, iPhone gps, and the camera for the rear of the trailer. That's a long way from a paper map and rearview mirrors! Thanks for commenting on your system. It helps me move in the right direction.

  4. We enjoy some rural driving but since we live in a rural area, freeway driving is ok for us. Glad you enjoyed yourself.

  5. I definitely was better and more confident at freeway driving by the time I got home!