Arrived in San Leon (Houston)
Dec 29, 2007
Global Positioning Devices or GPS for short, have become one of the hottest aftermarket items for cars and home use in recent years. These little bundle of joy's are used by just about everyone in one way or another for almost any use imaginable. Car navigation, hiking, hunting, geo-caching, and surveying are just a few of the best known. Airlines Pilots use them to fly across the country and land with uncanny accuracy. Many of the newer units use Bluetooth technology to make phone calls, have calculators, MP3 players and photo albums as part of their portfolio.
It began when the Department of Defense needed an up to date navigation system that they could depend on to accurately locate positions of targets and therefore a means of guiding bombs and missiles to their destinations. They then proceeded to launch satellites with high precision clocks and measuring equipment into orbit. Currently there are about 24 such satellites in orbit with more planned for replacing the older ones. At first the accuracy was downgraded by the military whenever it chose, but as this decreased the accuracy to only a couple of hundred feet or so, it was decided that if a 100 ton nuclear bomb came that close to the intended target, it really didn't make much difference. Accuracy currently is usually within 10 meters or so. (About 30 feet in American with some units as close as 10 feet). Surveying versions with long observation times are capable of measurements within a quarter of an inch. (6.35mm in Metric)(Conversion courtesy of my Garmin GPS).
The handheld or portable units are usually not much larger than a couple of decks of cards placed end to end, and some are even cell phone sized. Built in car units are a little larger, but work exactly the same way.
All receive radio signals from the satellites, and process the signals from them into information displayed on their screens and can provide Latitude, Longitude, and Vertical information. This is processed by mapping software and Viola, there you are represented by some type of symbol somewhere.
The Trekies GPS arsenal consist of two Garmin, and one Magellan units, and have become an integral part of our traveling entourage. We never leave home without them, mostly unsure we will find our way back if left behind. On our last trip, the Evans's carried an older Garmin unit which was most helpful in finding our way through the city mazes we encountered.
The Fontana's (Last year's traveling companions), became proud parents of a Garmin unit after we had headed home and were stopped in Independence MO. A four hour trip home after Church services about 20 minutes away convinced them that a GPS unit was the way to go, so Tony went to a Best Buy where it was purchased immediately.
Morticia ,as she was named, became a indispensable part of their travels, leading them where ever they may want to go, and occasionally, where they do not want to go.
The Evan's unit has been named Jack, because that is the name given to him by Garmin. We lived with Jill, his counterpart, for some time before becoming tired of her voice inflection when announcing, "Recalculating". Jack seems to be somewhat calmer if his instructions are disobeyed and easier for my poor old ears to understand.
The Pelligrini's unit has been named "The B***h by Dick, who takes her directions into consideration and then does pretty much what he thinks is right.
The Fine's unit, to my knowledge, has not been named as yet. At least not that can be printed even with asterisks..
Each GPS it seems, has it's own peculiarities and on occasions all exhibit temporarily loss of sanity while rapidly changing the displayed direction and shouting instructions. An all too common trait is instructions being given to turn, while the point to turn to is an empty field or the middle of the block. More often than not however, they do pretty much what you tell them to do and the result is a much safer and better driving experience. This results in being in the right lane for the next turn or off ramp well in advance instead of having to perform a death defying 3 lane change with 35 feet of fifth wheel, or a towed Honda Car behind you, while getting a "You're number one" gesture from somewhat irate fellow drivers.
Additionally, all of our units are equipped with a large database from which you can choose what you would like to see or where to go . These includes shopping, groceries, parks, restaurants by type, addresses, and most anything you could want. As an example, we used ours to find the nearest library and as a bonus, it gave us the phone number so we could call and check out if they were open or not. Our unit will let you avoid toll roads, low underpasses, and can be programmed to be a bus, truck, car, or bicycle with the appropriate route mapped out for you. This route can be further defined by the shortest, most scenic, fastest, or several other choices, depending on how fast you wish to travel or what you want to see along the way.
One must be careful however, with what preferences you want. As an example while we were in San Antonio at the Alamo and wanting to find the market, I programmed in bicycling as the method of travel thinking this would best approximate our walking speed. As it turned out, we didn't use the GPS to get there, but when we left for home later that night, we punched in home and Jack responded with his usual calm voice, "Calculating". Soon our map was displayed along with the first of his detailed instructions on how to get back to our RV park. It was soon evident that Jack was taking us on some of the worst back roads in San Antonio and listed our arrival time at 3 A.M. in the morning. Since it was about 9 P.M. and we were about 50 miles away, we tried it again with the same results. Luckily we noticed a sign to Interstate 10, and followed it on to the freeway and toward home, soon discovering that Jack thought we were still on a bicycle and would not let us near a freeway...Thanks again Jack......Larry