You can't always trust the GPS

June 30, 2013 

Everybody's gone all gaga over Nik Wallenda's high-wire walk across the Grand Canyon. But I'm here to tell that ain't nothing.

Try navigating the North Georgia mountains with an evil GPS and my wife behind the wheel. That's a combination even The Falling Wallendas would be scared to tackle.

(What's that? Oh, Flying Wallendas? Then what's the big deal about getting across the Grand Canyon? I thought those were only in Australia or New Zealand or someplace like that.)

I must admit in advance that the GPS has saved my behind from getting lost on more than one or more than one thousand occasions. Of course, I still have a few issues with them, such as their not having a Southern accent option:

"Turn right cheer. Go down yonder way a little, then turn left where the Millers used to live. Naw, your other left. Mash the brakes! Bless your heart. You're gonna need me to do some of that there recalculatin', ain't ya?"

The GPS was not kind to us last weekend as we decided to take a little getaway to Dahlonega, Georgia. In fact, I have reason to suspect that my GPS was conspiring with the NSA (Non-Smilin'-Appalachians) to get us killed. Or get us "kilt" if it spoke Southern.

I think the NSA re-programmed our GPS to send us down roads that weren't actually roads. At nighttime as we looked for vantage points to check out the so-called Supermoon, it decided that was a good time to try some shortcuts through the mountains.

We'd go along winding, hilly paved roads that appeared to head nowhere in particular and then be told to turn right. We'd look to the right, and it would be a gravel path almost big enough for a skinny squirrel and just shake our heads and try the next scary road. We weren't about to go down some unmarked path in the hills in a sedan and come upon some hillbilly whose welcome line is, "Y'all ain't from around here are ya?"

We didn't need a GPS contributing to the already scary ride. Riding when my wife drives is a lot like riding with Danica Patrick -- after Danica has had a few shots of espresso. I hold the passenger-side "oh-crap" handle even when we're just coming out the driveway.

That oh-crap handle is now embedded into the palm of my hand after she thought she was running off a cliff that turned out to be a mere steep decline on a dark mountain road. Problem was, I was looking at the moon at the time. And she kept laughing at how much she was scaring me while driving. So, when she screamed as if we were about to die, I might have tensed up a wee bit. I was already on edge from my driving when I came around a curve and had to dodge a man staggering down the yellow line in the middle of the road with a beer in his right hand and the rest of the six-pack in the other. I'm pretty sure he was an extra from "The Walking Dead" filming in Georgia. I started to stop and stick my head out the window and yell, "Cut!"

After about five different dead-end scary mountain roads and a few hundred brushes with death as my wife wound through the hills looking at animals, vineyards, Bigfoot, houses, trees and every now and then the road, we ditched the GPS and mercifully did some hiking. I was able to forget about my fear of death by car and focus on my more normal fear of heights. Of course, on my hike up to Amicalola Falls I suffered a severe case of what I'm sure was altitude sickness, although my wife didn't agree:

"We've only been 12 feet!"

"Well, that's pretty high to me!"

Between all the heights and near misses with car crashes and drunk zombies, I realized why North Georgia has embraced vineyards and become "Georgia's Wine Country."

They need it.

Chris Johnson is an independent correspondent. Connect with him at or

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