Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ice Cream, Sandwich, and a Chorus of Voices

“I don’t think this is the fastest route to anywhere,” my husband said.

Creeping up a winding hill at 25 mph, he furrowed his brow, contemplating the latest instructions our newly-acquired Global Positioning System was dispensing.

It’s July, and somehow it just feels right to be packed solid in our Saturn Relay, headed to parts unknown. Although this year’s adventure—a camping trip to Maine—shares some commonalties with last summer’s excursion-- such as time of year and visiting new states--there are really more differences than similarities between the two trips. We’re spending time with friends and family, for one thing, rather than braving it alone in the wild. We actually know where we’re planning to sleep each night. We’ll be gone just over a week, instead of a month. And there’s a lot more people in our car.

This summer, our additional passengers include Yoda, Big John the DJ, Max the Low-Talker, and any number of generic British blokes. These voices emerge periodically from our GPS, giving instructions such as “In 800 yards, right you will turn,” or “bear left and join the Speedway.” Often, these voices offer a wealth of information and guidance. Other times—such as this morning's slow and winding route to the Speedway, or an oversight by Yoda yesterday, which dumped us unceremoniously onto random busy roadway—we just aren’t sure.

I was hoping we could count upon this cast of advisors to direct us on a detour into Vermont, based on a news item I recalled hearing last week involving some Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream which is apparently available only this month, and only in Vermont. After all, how can I show my face back in Virginia next week having gone to New England without eating exclusive New England ice cream? And with such a vast team to guide me—-finding a Ben and Jerry’s location is as simple as a typed request into the GPS device—-there really seemed no excuse.

However, unlike the objects in my rearview mirror, Vermont evidently isn’t as close as it appears, and my exclusive ice cream junket is about to be deleted from the itinerary—a fate that almost befell the last detour I requested to Cape Cod. These stalwart guides—-bent on realism—-offer frequent, shockingly accurate, and often grim time estimates on what a detour looks like from a time perspective. Once on the Cape, they really didn’t advise going beyond the seaside hamlet of Sandwich, where our hungry crew enjoyed a dinner of -–what else—-sandwiches, although we were alarmed to note that they only served them in halves that wouldn’t make much of a showing if they ever find themselves stacked against the sandwich I ate in Nags Head a couple weeks ago.

Still, I can’t complain—we ate sandwiches in Sandwich, and in the words of my son, “it doesn’t get any more sandwich than that.”

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