Google Maps Lied To Me
How many times must I drive down a road that’s not a road?
Yesterday’s road was most definitely not a road. Yet Google Maps gave me no other option to arrive at the Baja beach bar where my friends were sipping margaritas and awaiting the arrival of me and my 23-foot RV.
So, when the pavement ended from the road that connected to the highway, I drove my beast of a rig over a dune that led to something that was most definitely not a road.
I had been on dirt roads before. But this was no road.
Instantly, there was no way to turn around and there I was, driving a huge vehicle in no way meant for off-road travel. The narrow, rocky path wound around, through, and over gulches, ditches, and mounds. All I could do was drive — very, very slowly.
I passed a sporty, off-road-worthy truck, and the driver waved. Surely, he was wondering what the heck I was doing on this road that was definitely not a road. I was too. I kept going, because I had no other choice. There were no other roads on Google Maps. My friends made it, right?
Slowly down the narrowing path, I lurched my multi-ton vehicle. I thought of the older lady who sold it to me. She had never driven it from her sister’s driveway. The owners before her hooked up at fancy RV parks, likely setting up their sweet folding chairs on level concrete slabs to sip their iced tea in the gentle breeze.
These people were never tricked by Google Maps. But I sure had been.
With each passing minute, I felt my investment in this otherwise lovely recreational vehicle evaporating in front of my eyes. Branches scraped the sides. Who knows what was going on underneath with each passing boulder? I prayed my tires would hold.
Up ahead, I saw another car, a sedan. The path split, and I watched them drive down the “road” only to back out. But the other side of the path wasn’t on the map at all. It looked like it was going in the exact opposite direction. So, I held my breath as I drove over what seemed to be a cliff.
That’s when I saw why they turned around: Huge boulders blocked the path. I had wedged myself in. With no other option, I backed out just as slowly as I came in.
“Make a U-turn,” Google Maps instructed me.
At the intersection behind me, the sand had cemented. I was forced to make a nine-point turn, praying that my tires wouldn’t get stuck. I ripped part of my RV’s back end in a desperate attempt to return my humungous home-on-wheels to paved roads.
White-knuckled and sweating, I looked at my phone. There was no cell reception. I had another two kilometers to go, according to Google Maps. I’ll arrive in three minutes, it lied to me.
Two ladies in dune buggies appeared on the path to nowhere. Yes, there was a paved road about two miles up the second path. I had no other choice. I soldiered on.
At one point, I squeezed my behemoth through two cacti with a centimeter to spare. About 10 minutes later, I saw pavement! Then I saw the drainage ditch that separated it from me. As careful as my fried wits allowed, I backed up to the best spot I could find to merge on to the road. Somehow, my tires saw pavement once again.
It wasn’t the first time Google Maps was wrong, but this was horrifically wrong.
Once in Bali, Google Maps told me to drive my scooter down a gravel foot path where I ended up peeling out dangerously. I only turned around when the “road” led through a river where a man was bathing.
In South Korea, Google Maps doesn’t work at all. I was forced to use Kakao Maps. Other places, I tried Maps.me. They were alright, but not as omnipotent as Google. I’ve put my trust in Google Maps, but I’m not sure why.
I’ve even gotten into more than one fight with (ex)boyfriends who got angry when I simply said out loud the (wrong) directions that Google Maps was providing. Obviously, we weren’t supposed to turn where the sign clearly said, “Private property, keep out.” But what else can you do?
I’m so dependent on Google Maps that I don’t even ask directions anymore. I’m far from my teenage years but I sure don’t act like it as my eyes roll and zone when people tell me to turn here and turn there. Like, OK Boomer. With Google Maps, I don’t worry about a turn until I approach it.
In fact, it’s only when Google Maps is so fantastically wrong that anyone even mentions directions anymore. Unfortunately, my friends failed to mention the whole off-roading adventure Google Maps had planned for me.
Maybe you think I’m being dramatic, since I did live to tell the tale. But I was paying a highway toll just 10 minutes prior. How long had it been since Google updated its satellite image of this popular tourist destination near Cabo San Lucas? More than three years ago, it turns out.
That “road,” with a proper-sounding name of Camino Cabo Este on Google Maps, was closed three years ago after Mexico created a paved road to my destination. Locals, evidently, have tried in vain to contact Google, after so many poor saps like myself were led down a dangerous path.
Once I arrived, I burst into tears. I know I’m not the last one Google Maps will screw over, either.
“It’s a good thing you didn’t go off the cliff,” my friend said. “I wonder if that’s on the map.”