Friday, November 16, 2012

Conflicted Technophile on Board

It was just me and my friend Mike, rattling through the woods on our mountain bikes, not caring that we had no real idea of exactly where we were. No maps, no compass, just a general sense of direction and an inkling that we'd run into a road eventually. We'd see all sorts of things that we'd never see if we were paying attention to where we were going. One time, we saw a herd of five or six deer grazing contentedly. Another time it might be a muskrat or beaver in a still pond, or perhaps a red headed woodpecker or some other interesting fowl, like the time we saw the wood ducks.

Yeah, those were the days.

A few years back when I rode my scooter to Massachusetts, I had some paper maps, which are decidedly difficult to manage on a motorcycle, but no GPS and only a general idea of toward which direction I should head. Yeah, I got a little misplaced at least twice, but it was an adventure, so I really didn't mind.

The last time I headed north on my Sabre, I had a GPS, and it told me all sorts of handy stuff, and kinda spoiled the fun.

Last fall when I went to visit my family and thrash around the Berkshires, I didn't have any of that fancy stuff along. It was a bit different from my youth, since I was on actual roads, but the feeling was the same. There was nothing tying me down to a particular route. No irritating voice telling me I was going the wrong way (I'll skip the smart remark about having my wife or mother along, though I'm sorely tempted).

Now though, I'm back to having all sorts of gadgets. I have both a tablet and smartphone with GPS on each. They are handy and the maps on my smartphone are amazing, especially the satellite views. The trouble is, there's that feeling that I won't get lost. That assurance that I can figure out where I am without the adventure of finding where I left myself. The confidence that I won't end up in a seedier suburb of New York city with no certain route back to the open road.

This is a difficult dichotomy for a tech junky. On the one hand, I love tech devices (I have a degree in what could most easily be categorized as network administration after all). They do make life easier, and they are a heck of a lot of fun to fiddle around with. On the other hand, they do kinda suck the joy out of good old fashioned exploring. Wanderlust is an affliction I inherited from my dad. He'd always take "the scenic route" rather than the direct. Even after he passed away, the hearse carrying his mortal remains went the wrong way and ended up leading the funereal procession a merry chase through the wrong part of the cemetery (true story).

I often wish my dad were still living. I'm fairly certain he'd have enjoyed riding a scooter with me from time to time. He did ride a bit when he was younger from what my uncle had told me...and he didn't have a GPS. My dad never even carried a cell phone.

I suppose this is why, even though I have all these nifty devices, I often will just go exploring and won't bother to consult them. Sometimes it's nice to just be lost.


Deb said...

Smartphone, tablet, etc...I just turn them off when I go out on adventure rides.

I still carry paper maps in my car and on my scooter. Heck, I even love to just sit and look at them and plan out rides.

I hope they never go away, but I fear they might, so I am stocking up!

I loved this post...I can relate completely!

Funny story about your dad! Sort of like he went out "his way"!

Paul said...

Not being tied down to the tech sure does increase the enjoyment of the ride. It helps to have a good sense of where one is.

My dad did love to explore. When I was a kid, we'd go from Massachusetts to Missouri by car and we saw all sorts of things. we went to see all of Lincoln's childhood homes, Monticello, the Louisville Slugger factory and countless other places, not to mention trips to various locales on the New England coast. He was a fun dad to travel with. :D