A view of Jones Chapel Road, one of the straighter roads in our area.
I have long been convinced that one is born with a "sense of direction"--or one is not.
If even a small portion of that attribute is included in one's genes, perhaps it can be honed and enlarged.
I can only admit that I wasn't blessed with a built-in compass and I have notably failed to develop such over a lifetime.
I learned early the "dirt roads" of my rural home town. My Dad was the town's road commissioner for many years, with the job of clearing snow in winter, thawing frozen and over-flowing "sluices" in early spring; repairing sections of road washed out by heavy rain, replacing damaged or inadequate culverts, grading out the ruts and potholes that formed in "mud season" were jobs that fell within his responsibility
And responsible he was!
Many an evening in spring and summer he announced after supper that he needed to check on a particular area of road. We children and usually our Mother accompanied him. One "crossroad" led to another and it was usually dark before he turned toward home.
After thirteen years away I can still ride those roads in my mind.
I can sometimes follow carefully written directions. It helps if there are landmarks. [Turn left at the white house with the red barn at the back; watch for the water tower at the top of the hill.]
Getting myself to a destination doesn't mean that I can easily reverse the process and get myself home again!
I've not done much driving since arriving in Kentucky.
I ventured into town on my own after about two months when it suddenly "clicked" that I had figured out the four roads that jut off the one-way courthouse square--and there are ways to reach home from any of the four!
While J. was in Wyoming I was invited to the home of friends for lunch. J. and I had been there weeks ago; I had followed the same friends home from church through a maze of roads, trying to imprint on my mind some of the more unique spots along the way.
As that afternoon lengthened into early evening I expressed my intention to be home before dark.
The man of the house wrote down what he considered to be the simplest route which would take me back into known territory.
I headed out and after a few miles and a few turns allowed myself to believe I was doing well.
Then came the dilemma.
I needed to go straight onto a certain route. At the intersection roads skittered off in several directions, none of them seeming to fit the directive of going "straight."
I took the most promising one and with the sun now going down rather alarmingly, embarked upon several miles of swooping up and down terrain.
I passed an area that seemed familiar, but when the larger road I needed didn't appear I dithered.
I hadn't been watching the odometer--how can you look at a little string of numbers on the instrument panel when total concentration is needed to maneuver the loops and hairpin turns of a narrow road?
Convinced that I was on the wrong road, I turned around on the grassy verge near a ramshackle barn and driving rather too fast, chose a different spur at the intersection.
I knew almost immediately that this road wasn't taking me where I needed to go, but couldn't find a place to turn the car around. On my left walls of dark rock shone with runnels of wet from the afternoon shower, saplings which had found a toe-hold leaned over the narrow road. On the right, trees bowed inward making a dank green tunnel. The road pitched steeply down in ever tightening spirals. As I neared the bottom, shreds of mist coiled up from below. The last curve spilled me out onto a flat bit which ran between pastures grown up to goldenrod and iron weed. Ahead of me the thread of road disappeared into the tightly bunched hills.
"How can I be so stupid," I wailed aloud.
I managed a 3-point turn on the narrow road and began nosing the car back up the way I had come. Already it seemed darker.
I think that I made another wrong turn--all the while with the vague feeling that I should be able to get HOME from most any of these alternative routes if I had a few wits.
[No, I don't have a GPS and I doubt frankly if one could deal with the scramble of roads here!]
I passed several bizarre places such as Earl's Cemetery, Bryant's Wedding Chapel [located in the middle of nowhere] and finally found the route which would take me to Wal Mart, the traffic light and the familiar turn that leads home.
I put my foot down hard on the accelerator. The road was almost straight. From the corner of my eye a sign post registered: Jones Chapel Road. A short cut! A road I knew! I tore through the deserted drive of a small white church and wheeled onto the chapel road headed home with the last rays of the setting sun in my face.
You would think I had learned my way around. Yet when these kind friends, feeling I needed some socializng with J. away, invited me to lunch four days later, I found I wasn't much better off.
They had e-mailed one set of directions.
I had earnestly surveyed the possibilities using Google map features.
I wrote out the two simplest routes and set out with an hour to drive a 30 minute route.
I missed the left hand turn onto the same road that had proved to be my downfall 4 days earlier.
No matter, I thought, I'll take the alternative route.
A few miles more and the alternative hadn't materialized.
On the right was a used car sales lot.
I pulled in and entered the lobby.
No one was about but from behind a door which said "employees only" came the sound of a blaring radio, voices and the clang of tools.
Papers littered the counter which made a partial barricade, several ashtrays overflowed untidily.
While I contemplated the necessity of broaching the employee's area, the phone on the desk clamoured for attention.
A burly man with shaved head and an earing burst through the door and barked into the phone, giving me a nod of acknowledment.
Putting the phone down he asked if he could help.
I explained that I had missed my turn onto Rt 768, but that if he could direct me to Emory Chapel I could find my way.
While he pondered this, two more large men barged through the door.
"She's looking for Emory Chapel", said the first man.
A discussion ensued which involved all three men, none of whom seemed to have heard of that location.
They jabbed the air with lighted cigarettes, puffed clouds of smoke, deliberated.
I felt rather invisible.
Hesitantly I broke into the babble.
"There's an alternative route, the Breeding Loop Road and then onto Independence Ridge."
A plump-faced man with no teeth gave me a shocked look.
Turning to his companions he stated emphatically, "She don't want to go that way!"
Their discussion rumbled above my head; the air was turning blue with smoke.
I thought wryly that if I could ever be on my way I would need to drive with the windows down to blow the fug out of my hair and clothes.
The men had apparently reached a concensus regarding my route.
The genial toothless man questioned me gently.
"Did you notice a studio a ways back?"
I groped through recently recorded images. Yes--a sign for a gallery, a small pastel painted building with colorful banners.
"Go back there," said my rescuer, "take a right before the hill."
Satisfied that he had solved the problem, he reiterated to his companions, "She don't want to take that other road!"
I thanked the men, and escaped into fresh air. When I had driven over several rolling hills the little out-of-the-way gallery came into view. I could easily have missed the turning again. It wandered suddenly off the main road at a crazy angle.
Things began to look familiar: the Emory Chapel at the crossroads; the neat small farm sitting almost in the road surrounded by hilly pastures with a dozen or more goats crowding the fence. Roadway which plunged down through thick trees and lunged over a concrete slab of a bridge.
I was there!
I had used up 25 of my thirty spare minutes, but I had arrived.
I tried to explain to J. on the phone later where I thought I had been lost.
He gave up trying to decipher it.
"There's a lot of winding roads over there," he said.
Staring again tonight at the Goggle map I suspect I may have driven a tortuously winding spur called Crocus Creek Rd.
I can't say for certain how many wrong turns I made that dusky evening or even how long I drove in circles trying to hold off panic and collect my wits.
It would appear that at any point I was not too far from familiar territory.
I do know, that unless "she" has a full tank of gas, several hours of daylight and preferably a companion with a sense of direction, "she don't want to go that way" again!