hose of us who are from here or have moved here love our mountains. We also realize they present challenges.
One of those challenges, tricky terrain, has always been with us. But a modern twist is that this terrain can also be tricky even when it comes to the latest technology.
And so it was late last month when New Jersey truck driver Anthony Pierce was counting on his GPS to steer him and the load of plywood he was hauling to a housing development in Cullowhee.
The directions took him down Mockingbird Lane onto Rock Quarry Road, and there it was that a hard right turn turned out to be more turn than his 18-wheeler was designed for.
“I came around the curve and it was too late,’’ he told Herald news editor Dave Russell. “I couldn’t back up because I wasn’t straight enough. I almost made it. But as you can see, it didn’t happen.”
Pierce was charged with failure to maintain lane control.
It would be easy to say “oh, that would never happen to me,’’ but the fact is it happens to a lot of us, despite improvements in GPS.
GPS is a wonderful tool, and it can get us to where we’re going 99 percent of the time.
It’s the other 1 percent that’s problematic.
Jackson County and Western North Carolina have the aforementioned terrain that makes for great GPS traps. Just ask the trucker who looks at the road across Soco as an ideal shortcut.
Or the Cullasaja Gorge. Or Rock Quarry Road.
Then there are the roads that trick GPS in entirely different manners. In Haywood County you can be zipping along on the Great Smoky Mountain Expressway at Clyde, but if you take the Jones Cove Road exit you might save yourself 50 yards of pavement before it pops right back onto the Great Smoky Mountain Expressway. However, if GPS has taken you off the Expressway it surely must be for a reason, so confused motorists might end up at the old Walmart or, if they’re really confused, Hot Springs.
Another famed North Carolina GPS trap is down in Durham, where a rail bridge built more than 100 years ago offers a clearance of 11 feet, 8 inches, a good bit shorter than the standard height of a tractor trailer or many moving vans. Moving vans in particular are susceptible to the bridge, as they’re often being driven by drivers using the GPS they rely on in their automobiles.
The bridge is called “The Can Opener.’’
The point to all this is that technology is wonderful, technology is helpful, and technology can derail even the most tech-savvy driver. Rock Quarry Road is one example.
So let’s be careful out there …
… and hope all these little bugs get ironed out before we unleash fleets of autonomous vehicles.