” . . . You can’t miss it.”

As I was leaving the church where I currently sing, I overheard the tail end of a rancher giving “how to get to my house” directions to the new minister. I bit the tip of my tongue to keep from chuckling aloud, because I’ve been to that ranch, and yes, you can miss it. Among other things, it should be on County Road C, except there is no County Road C, just B and E, because C and D are ranch driveways on opposite sides of the blacktop. And that’s the easy part!

Country directions, even in the era of GPS, are a challenge. Ranch access roads don’t make the map, or are washed out and a new route created, or are not where G-maps claims. Road and crossroads names change. The GPS doesn’t realize that the road doesn’t go straight there, even though it should, because of a large, deep canyon in the way. Instead, you take a county road (known locally by number, not the new-ish official name) east to a shallower part of the canyon, switch to a dirt road for a bit, cross the stream, then double back once south of the canyon and pick up the dirt-becomes-pave road, and so on.

One of my favorite sets of instructions, back in Georgia, included, ” once you’re over the bridge, come on a little ways, then turn when you get to the little church with the big cemetery. If you get to the big church with the little cemetery, you’ve gone too far.” First, you had to recognize that the bridge was, indeed, a bridge, or you went three miles past the turn you wanted. Then you had to spot the little white church, and recognize the cemetery, which was very large but not all that full yet. (I suspect someone was planning far ahead when he or she donated the land to the church.)

Then there’s “it’s the house on the acre on the acreage, off the blacktop road.” Which describes, oh, half or more of the houses in the rural parts of the Midwest. Sort of like “He’s driving a white pickup. You’ll have no trouble spotting him.”


22 thoughts on “” . . . You can’t miss it.”

  1. I used to give visitors directions from Anchorage Alaska to Fairbanks as follows: Go north, turn left. So long as you took the left onto the Parks Highway from the Glenn as directed you had no problem and arrived in Fairbanks 6-8 hours later.

  2. I still remember the time I was told, “Turn right where the old church used to be.”
    I assumed, correctly, thank God, that there would be a church of some kind there. I turned right and found my destination. The church looked old, but in The South, something that’s forty years old will often still be referred to as ‘new’. As opposed to the old thing, “which was much better!”

  3. Or the infamous “You know the gas station on County Road X? Well, don’t go there.” I used to think that was apocryphal, until I received similar directions at least three times while pastoring a small country church in Louisiana. It was an interesting introduction to the piney woods!

  4. When we would go to visit my grandparents *mumble* years ago, we’d head out of SmallTown, turn left at the SmallerTown 9 sign, and then turn right at the short stop sign…. That worked until the short stop sign was replaced by a standard one.

    And when Hubby and I went to Scotland one year, we’d stopped at a TI for ideas how to spend a few hours before we had a tasting at The Macallan Distillery. The very nice lady at the TI suggested we tour Cardhu Distillery and proceeded to give us directions, which began with, “Take this road out of town, then take the last right…”

    When I asked, “How will we know it’s the last right?” I got a momentarily blank stare before she said, “There’s a field.”

    Navigation by locals and landmarks is always fun. GRIN

  5. When first we moved here, Google Maps had our address in a rather wrong location. I got that corrected.
    Fun, though: we’re at #1969, which if I’m giving it on the phone I pronounce one-nine-six-nine. If you say nineteen-sixty-nine, it’s too easily misheard as nineteen-fifty-nine. Now, there is no #1959 on this road, but if you’re looking for one, GPS will happily point you to a long gravel driveway. We have a long gravel driveway. Difference is, our driveway leads to our house, while the other one leads to a cow pasture.
    But at least if you have the correct address, GPS will get you pretty near our driveway. There seem to be a lot of addresses around here that the maps don’t understand properly (as I noticed back when we were still shopping for real estate: very often the real-estate sites would show a clearly wrong location for a rural property, and finding the actual location was sometimes nigh impossible).

  6. I have given such instructions, but worse.

    It was in the interests of getting back to, “Could you just show me?” after they’d turned down my initial offer.
    When I could give them instructions they’d be able to follow, I did so happily.
    But when any instructions I gave would have quickly gotten them lost, I tried very hard to get them completely lost while they still knew where they were.

  7. About 15 years ago, our private road was in some, but not all the local maps. Getting the septic pumpout guy to the right road was a challenge; he told $SPOUSE that our road didn’t exist.

    The zipcode is entertaining. We’re a quarter mile from the Tiny_Town post office, but the zip boundary is a few hundred feet south of us, so our zip points to a town 24 miles further west. USPS occasionally tweaks the boundary, so it’s a crapshoot as to which code is in play. Mercifully, the GPS databases are now unscrewed and people can find us. OTOH, we decided to get our mail and most deliveries at the nearby (ish) city.

    My wife’s sister was going to visit, and after hearing the instructions, said “if I miss the turn, we’ll go to the next town and double back”. She was informed that the next town was the one 24 miles away… We came up with better verbal directions after that.

  8. Now as I think of it… I’ve heard tales of instructions involving landmarks that aren’t there anymore. “Turn left just before where the drugstore used to be, I think there’s a fast-food place there now….”
    And: this fall / next spring, we may be giving very interesting instructions to our side driveway, which is on a different road and doesn’t have an address. I suppose we could plant, say, a Carthaginian flag at the end of the driveway, and just tell the driver to look for the Carthaginian flag, ya can’t miss it. (Or, maybe, provide a marked-up aerial photo showing the entrance, the work site, and a safe route from one to the other.)

  9. After reading about those sort of directions, I need more coffee. [Crazy Grin]

  10. Where I grew up there were just loads of white, two story farmhouses and no other features. No drugstores or gas stations except on the one main road. So all the directions were “turn right at the third white farm house” and you’d start driving and just be counting houses as you drove, and if you missed one you’d end up lost with no cell service a county over. Half the white farm houses were nestled in little copses in the middle of farms, and you always had to wonder if you were supposed to count the ones that were dilapidated and abandoned or not.

  11. Between high school and college I worked as a delivery driver. Most deliveries were in town, but some were in the rural areas. Typical directions included “…it’s the white farmhouse with a white picket fence out front and a red Ford pickup parked in the yard…” Do you have any idea how many white farmhouses with white picket fences there are in rural Idaho? And yes there were also “turn right at the old Johnson place” type of directions. Note this was before cell phones, so calling for clarification wasn’t an option.

    • Sounds about right! That would be a nightmare job before cell phones/gps. Last time I went home my gps cut out when I was trying to get to my aunt’s new house, about halfway there, was lost for an hour or so. My rural navigational skills aren’t great. It’d be nice if they started at least painting the houses different colors!

  12. Conversation overheard in a Fort Worth gas station 20 or so years ago… “What’s the easiest way to get to California?” Truck driver with gimme cap and chaw of tobacco, “Welp, (pointing at the I-30 on ramp), git on there headin’ west. Go to the end, turn left. foller that road to the end, turn right. Then go straight and you’ll be right there in about two days.” He was actually correct! I-30 to I-20 to I-10!

    • I can sort of give directions like that from here to my parents’ house, nearly eleven hundred miles away. It helps that 1090 of those miles are via I-75.

          • Timing the part of the trip that goes through Atlanta is the only especially tricky part. Yes, the Cincinnati, Lexington, Knoxville*, Chattanooga, and Tampa areas do have some rush hour traffic that should be avoided if possible, but it is Atlanta that tends to be the real headache.

            * Always check on what is happening on the east side of that stretch where I-40 and I-74 are running concurrently, rush hour or not. They can often be avoided, but only if you know about them or are particularly lucky.

            • Oh yes. I left my volunteer work early one day to try to avoid the rush. I just managed it, and that was at 1600 on a Tuesday. On another day, we had to work late, and what saved us from being caught in the snarl is that most of us were headed inbound to Atlanta, Decatur, et al, instead of being parked on the outbound routes.

  13. Just to spoil the fun, there is now an effective way to give directions in these cases.

    Every 10′ rectangle in the world has a unique “Plus Code”, which many map programs can use as an address. The Plus Code has 10 characters, and a plus character. Many map programs can use these.

    For example, the grade school I went to is at 86JR69WJ+FH.

    Some map programs work just fine with no cell phone coverage. I use “Pocket Earth”.

  14. In the pre-GPS days I had to explain that “Joe Snow Road” was real and no, I was NOT making it up. Yes, it does sound made up, but if I were to make something up, wouldn’t I go for something more… believable?

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