Getting directions from locals when you are new to an area can always be confusing. But when you get COUNTRY directions, it can be downright maddening.
I was taking our daughter in her pre-driving days to a new friend’s house and asked for directions. I diligently wrote them all down and took them with us when we started out. They went like this:
Them: “Turn onto the same road the high school is on.” Hello!! I’m brand new in town! I know the general area where the high school is located way out in the country, but my children didn’t go to high school yet so I never had to find it, and there are absolutely no signs pointing you that way. Thankfully I am EXCELLENT at map reading, since this was before in-car GPS!
Them: “Turn left at the 2nd left where all the cows are inside the white fence.” First of all, if you’ve ever driven through the country you know that many fields have cows in them and lots of them are fenced with white fencing! Secondly, most of the driveways look exactly like the roads you will have to turn on. So do you count every single turn? The answer is “sometimes.”
Me: “What’s the name of the road?”
Them: “Well, there’s no street sign, but turn left when you see the road turning into dirt up ahead.” It turns out that if I could see that far ahead I could be an Indian scout in the wilderness. So we went as far as the dirt, and did a u-turn.
Them: “Then it winds around and we are the house on the left without house numbers but we have a big black mailbox.”
BIG BLACK MAILBOX!! Everyone on this road has a big black mailbox! And hardly anyone has numbers or a name on their mailbox.
Another time, trying to find a house, these are the directions I got:
Them: “Turn left at Nippers farm.”
Me: “Is there a street sign that says Nippers farm?”
Them: “Well, no, it’s just the farm where the Nippers live.”
Me: “Is their name on the mailbox?”
Them: “I don’t think so. Then go about a quarter mile and we are up on the hill, the white house.”
Another thing about the country: everyone has a white house. And those “quarter miles” are not to scale. That quarter mile was more like a whole mile.
How about this one:
Them: “Go down to the fork in the road and go left.” Again, I stress this point: some driveways look like roads and some roads look like driveways. So is the fork an actual fork in the road, or just a driveway? U-turns usually happened when forks-in-the-road are discussed.
Them: “Then turn where Joe used to live.” It turns out that Joe moved away about five years ago, and I am new here, so I don’t know where Joe used to live. When I asked who lived there now, the reply was, “Well, I don’t know those people, but it’s that big house on the corner where Joe used to live.”
Or how about this one: “Go down and before you get to the fork in the road go left.” I should just write “u-turn” in parentheses when I hear the words “turn before …” I know I will reach that particular landmark, and a u-turn will be called for. If I had as much foresight as they think I do, I would be a very wealthy fortune teller, indeed!
Once I was told to turn left before the new bridge. It turns out that that new bridge was built ten years ago and it’s just the larger of three new bridges all built within a couple of years of each other. So I turned before what I thought was the first ‘new’ bridge, and then did a u-turn, backtracked, and started again. Turns out HER ‘new’ bridge that I was to turn BEFORE was the last one of those three, but I drove over all three of them. When I finally pulled up and mentioned that there are three bridges that we cross that are “new,” the direction-giver said she meant the “big” new bridge.
We have set out with a set of directions and driven through a man’s farm because his driveway looked better than the road we were actually on, so I just assumed it was the road. When we arrived at our friend’s home and I mentioned how we got there, he chuckled and said that we had indeed driven through a man’s farm! It’s a good thing that the farmer didn’t have a gun and an aversion to trespassers.
When driving to a new place in the country with directions like those that I have described, always give yourself an extra forty-five minutes to get there. Most assuredly you will have many u-turns, stops and starts, and lots of asking for directions as you pull up to someone’s yard. And that’s another thing: when you pull up to someone’s yard to ask directions, they almost always look at you like you are an escaped murderer. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I think that most escaped murderers and criminals don’t usually stop and ask for directions. But if they did out here in the country, they sure wouldn’t find what they were looking for without at least a couple of u-turns.
Maura White grew up on the Pacific Coast in a sleepy beach town and has lived all over the country and Asia. What a change it was for her to move to the country, and she uses humor to help her make the adjustment. She and her husband are working to make their homestead, Double Star Bar Farms, successful. She keeps busy with her stained glass business, which you can check out at www.southernstainedglass.com. You can read more of her stories at whitem4.wordpress.com. She keeps saying, “You can take the girl away from the ocean, but you can’t take the ocean out of the girl!”