It's really strange sitting on a soft seat, zipping along at 60+ miles an hour. It's kind of like sitting on your sofa, but you can't stretch out, and you have to stay seated for an absurd amount of time. For the past week, we've done most of our sitting in kayaks, which is a very active kind of sitting. To paddle well, you have sit up pretty straight (“the dynamic seating position”) and use your core muscles as you move through the water. Car seats somehow encourage slouching, and with it back and shoulder pain. And instead of using our muscles to power our craft, we're burning gasoline. If driving weren't necessary, we certainly wouldn't do it. The notion of a “joy ride” seems alien and unnatural.
Before we left home, we used Google Maps to generate directions for each leg of this trip. We also brought along an atlas and a set of state road maps, but we figured we'd mainly rely on the Google route. Instead we've found ourselves frustrated by the Google directions and relying on the maps. It's kind of interesting to realize why.
First, the Google directions have tunnel vision. They may provide the most direct or quickest route, but they feel strangely out of context. Looking at them, you can't answer the question, “If we pass Main Street, have we gone too far?”
Second, the Google directions are robotic. If a road changes names as it passes through a town, Google notes it as a new leg of the journey with a mileage all its own, making it hard to see how many miles you actually should travel on that road.
Third, they contain errors. Robert told us about a sign posted somewhere he'd been that said, “Google maps is wrong!” because it was leading people down a dead-end road.
And fourth, they turn a three-dimensional journey into a linear chase, denying the traveler any sense of place along the way. We've always loved gazing at maps, choosing routes, taking detours, finding surprises along the way and rediscovering why we love to travel. It's sort of like the difference between dictionary.com and a print edition. When you use the online dictionary, you can find out what a word means, but when you flip through the pages of Webster's, you see how that word connects to the words around it, stumble on a word you don't know, and rediscover your love of language.
The border crossing into Canada was fairly efficient and not particularly unpleasant, but this was the first year we were required to show our passports. There's something kind of sad about that change. Still, our eight kayaks didn't raise eyebrows and we could honestly say that we had no firearms, alcohol or live fish bait. Tonight we'll be in Cumberland, Ontario, on the Ottawa River, staying with Larry and Bonnie Kearley.