Sunday, March 7, 2010

Santee State Park, SC. Part II. The Drive Down.

Click here for the first post in this series.

Off to Santee State Park, Mobile Studio in tow, this morning at 10:30 a.m. MapQuest and GoogleMaps agreed the trip would take less than two hours. But since this was the first time to visit Santee State Park, I thought I’d allow a little extra time to find the place, if necessary. Check-in at South Carolina State Parks is 2:00 p.m. And I didn’t want to lose any daylight hours.

With the confidence of a de Soto, or of a grizzled Lewis and Clark Expedition veteran, this trip I relied almost exclusively in the Mio GPS to guide me. Recently, I’d found an obscure menu item that promised to eliminate “highways” from routes the Mio GPS proposed. And had enabled it with high expectations. The perfect thing!

Well, avoid “highways” it did. Though I should have noticed that no solid definition of the term “highway” was mentioned. This new setting turned the trip into quite an adventure.

Everything was fine for the first fifteen or twenty minutes. The Mio GPS skillfully guided me in the general direction of Route 601, which would have been fine. It eliminated those irritating demands to return immediately to Interstate I-77, or I-26, or some other “I.” Which was encouraging.

Apparently liberated by this new setting, whenever a shorter route was available, the Mio GPS Lady turned me onto it. Probably to demonstrate her detailed knowledge of the area. Also encouraging. How wise I’d been to select the Mio over more expensive brands a few years ago.

However, she did so even when the road indicated was only dirt, and barely passable. About 30 minutes into the trip, obeying one of her prompts, I drove more than 4 miles on a one-lane dirt road. Well, not really a road. Hardly more than an upwardly mobile path. Aspiring one day to become a proper road. I drove as fast as possible past hunting camps, abandoned barns, forgotten cemeteries, tall antenna towers with their surrounding buildings, and herds of bored cattle.

At any moment I expected a large and determined truck to rush down on me from the opposite direction. Demanding that I, the lesser road creature, either back up or pull over.

Either option would have been impossible. The first due to my limited driving skills. The latter because of high banks of soft, trailer-devouring earth on both sides of the road.

In the event, nobody came from the opposite direction. Drivers in the area must have learned long ago to avoid that road.

All turned out well on that 400-mile – well, really more like 4.5 mile -- strip of dirt road. It eventually fed into a beautifully paved thoroughfare.

It too boasted only a single lane. But here and there were the beginnings of what in a few years might be described at "shoulders." That is, areas where one could pull over without fear of being swallowed up for discovery centuries later by a curious graduate student in anthropology.

That wasn't the end of the "no highways" experience. Thereafter, the Mio GPS Lady guided me onto three or four additional dirt roads never intended to support automobile traffic. Let alone an elderly Town Car pulling a small travel trailer. None, however, were as exciting as the four miles of single-lane track described above. Nor, for that matter, as scenic.

One, in fact, was downright funny. About two-thirds of the way to Santee State Park, the properly paved road forked. One branch turned slightly to the left; the other slightly to the right.

It was immediately obvious that the left-turning road was the proper choice. The Mio GPS lady insisted, however, that I bear right. Trusting in the Power of Technology, I meekly obeyed, and right we went. Abandoning the obvious choice, with visions of the earlier dirt track still vivid in my mind.

Well! Within a tenth of a mile, the Mio GPS Lady instructed me to make a sharp left turn. I slowed, naturally. Always eager to please. But no road was visible. The GPS voice then snapped "route recalculation," as the GPS screen went into confusion for a second or so. Then again, with no hint of apology or regret, she barked "Make a sharp left turn!"

This time I slowed to a crawl and studied the grassy field between me and what I’d earlier recognized as the proper road. And there it was. A faint track, running directly across the thankfully flat and obstacle-free field of low-growing grasses, straight to the other fork of the road.

Now, this track wasn't a "road" in any but the most tortured sense of that term. It was just a "path" across the field. One worn down slightly by folks like me who’d taken the wrong turn back at the Y, and then had the confidence to drive across uncharted territory to return to the proper road. They too must have been listening closely to their GPS guides.

Now, how did the Mio GPS Lady know about that path, or track, or whatever it was? And why did she prefer said track to the proper road? Ah, the mysteries of travel. Were Lewis and Clark to have relied on GPS, we'd all still be huddled together east of the Mississippi!

All too soon, right after driving through a nice residential neighborhood where folks out manicuring their lawns stared suspiciously at the be-trailered intruder, the Mio GPS Lady routed me onto "State Park Road." Always a good sign when your final destination is a state park. And after a couple of miles, there it was. The Visitors Center, the cabins, the docks, and the boat ramps in all their glory. I’d made it!

Click here for the next post in this series.


  1. Now that was a post for the ages. My stomach hurts from laughing so hard. That comment about Lewis & Clark with a GPS had me crying in laughter.

  2. Oh, boy. This reminds me of traveling in Cornwall...crazy single-lane tracks with high stone hedges on either side...ah, good memories! Glad you had safe adventures on the journey, and thanks for the great post!