Going native in my own land: my adventures without GPS

I have divorced my smartphone. I no longer have a smartphone, the “i” is back to just me and a retro flip phone that I can barely text on, much less do anything else but talk to someone, which is just fine with me. I was much too addicted to my lovely smartphone – when I found myself checking my email and the Weather Channel at every stop and was obsessing over constant “notifications”, that’s when I called it quits.

So what I do when I go on trips, instead of having a bot talking me through every turn, is print out my Google route beforehand, and paying attention to the directions. Is this more efficient? No, as I’ve already made some detours on trips that took me way, WAY out of the way.

However, I find now that I can finally make it to the vet on my own without electronic assistance, and when traveling through the Appalachians, have learned to look more closely at my directions beforehand, flagging those directions that say, “Continue on such-and-such road”, and “go 52 miles, past a Jack’s on the right”. Now I know that “continue on…” means “don’t get off your current road, no matter what the street signs actually say”, and to keep tabs on my odometer, because there is surely more than one Jack’s on the road on the right and plenty of distractions in 52 miles that will cause you to miss the important cues. Especially, I’ve found, if you find yourself in Tennessee.

Tennessee is three-faced: the good, the bad, and the sublime. The broad, powerfully destructive / tranquilly lovely Tennessee river and other rivers therein. The Smoky Mountains. All the multi-hued green patches of TN river valley with quiet huge shiny gray pockets of industries like Nissan and FritoLay just stitched in here and there in the farmland quilt like they were pieced out to be there. A town like Gatlinburg whose downtown is totally sold out to the entertainment industry (a great place to take your kids!), but whose once-forested hills greenly and somberly showcase rows of tree skeletons after a brutal fire ravaged part of the Smoky Mountains area just a few years ago. Tawdry commercial areas border sites of natural beauty unparalleled in the South. And poverty – well, there’s that. A lot of that. And I haven’t been to Nashville yet, though I did take “Dolly Parton Boulevard” in Sevierville (Parton’s hometown) for a short ways on my quest to find Clingman’s Dome.

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