Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Humility Lesson - March 21, 2010

I am arrogant when it comes to maps and directions. There is always a map in my head and I am always cognizant of where I am in the world in relation to every other place I have ever visited. I began collecting maps when I was in 2nd grade - back then they were free at gas stations - and I still have a large gas station map collection. Next to my desk at work is an original map of the United States from 1855 that is over five feet long. I think I can find my way anywhere.

And I believe that people are either "Map People" or they aren't. If you aren't, you can skip this post. I won't be offended.

When my wife was pregnant with our only son, I maintained that he could and should have every one of her superior attributes. If he could have just one thing from me, it would be my sense of direction. Instead, I believe he got my lack of patience. He is generally not that interested in where he is, and has no sense of direction that I can tell. Can this be taught or is it innate? I've spent hours pondering the question.

So it is with some humility that I admit that I got us both lost on Sunday. Sitting at the ice cream place in Colleen, thinking about our bike trip along the Tye River, it occurred to me that the Tye meets the mighty James River right across the James from one of Virginia's newer state parks - the obviously named "James River State Park." I had heard about friends that camped there. It might be a good place to take the Cub Scouts for an overnight. And since we were already in the area...

Official Commonwealth of Virginia Map
I got out an older edition Official Commonwealth of Virginia State Map to check it out. It didn't look too far. And I memorized that I needed to take Rt. 655 to 626 to get to U.S. 60, then hop over the James and head north to the State Park. I knew that I couldn't count on my son to help me get there, but how hard can it be? The park seemed real nearby.

See for yourself. This is the relevant section of the Official Commonwealth of Virginia State Map, with both Colleen and the State Park circled.

My first mistake was looking at the map on the picnic table while eating my soft serve. A breeze made sure that the map collected evidence that my order was a chocolate and vanilla swirl. Probably my second mistake was not looking at the map carefully and noting that there was a more direct route (739) if I would drive south a few miles on U.S. 29. But I wanted to see Arrington and avoid as much of U.S. 60 as possible - U.S. 60 between Amherst and the James River is some of the most amazingly ugly countryside I have ever encountered. And my third mistake was not following my own route in my head - I turned off of the route at Arrington, and took a southeastern road that was in great shape and headed in the right direction. Big mistake.

We followed that road for 5 miles before it passed a cemetery and we came to the sign with the dreaded words, "End State Maintenance." We backtracked to Arrington, and looked at the map again before staying on the original route through town. We eventually made it to James River State Park, an hour and 8 minutes after leaving Colleen. And JRSP wasn't even that pretty!

I then compounded the mistake by returning to U.S. 60 and heading east. (I really hate that portion of U.S. 60 to the west!) We could have gone on 60 to Rt. 20 and gone home via Scottsville. But I've driven Rt. 20 a bunch of times and wanted something new, so I headed towards Rt. 56. I am familiar with another part Rt. 56 as it goes along the Tye River up to Crabtree Falls near the Blue Ridge Parkway, so it has to be more scenic than other local roads, and I'd never before been on this part of the road.

We eventually got to 56 after going through Mt. Rush. There really is no mountain. No town, even. But there is a laughable Virginia sign there stating that the geographic center of the state is a couple of miles away. ("Really? Is that the best you can do?")
Downtown Mt. Rush

Around 40 minutes after leaving JRSP we passed a sign telling us we could turn left and find a state park after 10 miles. Undoubtably this referred to the park we had left 30 miles ago. And we drove through the curiously named "Wingina, Virginia." This is a place that makes me wonder if residents really admit that they are from there. Or maybe they lie.

We finally rolled into the Lovingston McDonalds (just off of the wonderfully four laned U.S. 29) an hour after leaving the State Park boundaries. The kid deserved a happy meal after that drive. And I now believe that Arrington, Mt. Rush and Wingina form the Virginia equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle.

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