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Throwback ThFriday: That Time I Learned that GPS is a Necessity

I am really bad at keeping up with series that I invent. I fully intended to write this yesterday, to keep going with the Throwback Thursday bit, but I ran out of time. But today, we woke up to that glorious automated message telling us that school had been cancelled due to snow, so it’s bloggin’ time! And how better to spend that time than to tell you an embarrassing story of my stupidity.

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This bird says he doesn’t like snow days as much as I do.

When I went off to college at the ripe old age of 18, I was not exactly world-wise. Included in my naivety was a lack of any sense of direction. This was not really a problem as a freshman, as I didn’t have a car and depended on my friends and brother for rides, so I didn’t really have to know where anything was.

As a sophomore, my teaching practicums started, so I needed a car to get from home to college to practicums. By that time, I knew my way around Fort Collins just fine, but hadn’t really ventured into any of the other front range towns.

By this time, I had also made some friends who taught me to country swing dance. I liked dancing… cute cowboys and good music? Okay! (This was pre-Jordan, obviously.) The trouble was, since I was only 19, there weren’t very many places I could go to dance. But there was a country bar in nearby Greeley that had an 18-and-up night, and my friends had been there several times. Being the responsible(ish) student that I was, I hadn’t gone, as kids-at-the-bar night was a weeknight.

Finally, one week I had a lighter homework load, so I decided to head up with my friends. This would not have been a problem, except that the friends I planned to ride with had a previous engagement on the other side of Greeley, so we decided to just meet there. Which meant I had to drive. Alone. But I was a big girl, right? I could totally handle this. My friend gave me directions that sounded simple enough. They ended with “You’ll see a bright green sign that says ‘Cactus Canyon.’ You can’t miss it.” Famous last words.

Different night, same time period, same friend. Holy cow, we were young.
Different night, same time period, same friend. Holy cow, we were young. Ans yes, that’s a case of CDs on the counter. Those used to play music, kids.

I intentionally left my apartment late, to make sure that my friends would arrive before I did. I followed the giant signs that said “Greeley” and took the right exit. So far, so good. I drove. And drove. And drove. To the edge of Greeley. I had not yet seen this alleged bright green Cactus Canyon sign, and was now faced with a fork in the road and different giant green sign, this one giving me the options of “Denver” or “Cheyenne.” “But I don’t want to go to Denver OR Cheyenne!” I cried.


I took an exit and pulled into the nearest gas station. This was the days before smartphones, which would have made my life MUCH easier, but I whipped out my flip phone and desperately called my friend. No answer. I tried again. Voicemail. I went into the gas station and asked the attendant if he knew where the Cactus Canyon was. He looked at me like I had three heads, and I walked back out to my car, trying not to cry and spoil my make-up (on the chance that I actually made it to the bar and meet some cute cowboys).

Finally, I just decided to head back to Fort Collins and make up an excuse to tell my friends later. As I drove back the exact same way I came, I saw it: the giant, glowing Cactus Canyon sign. (In my defense, it was obscured by trees from the other direction). Sighing with relief, I exited, parked, and danced my little heart out.

A few hours later, as we were leaving, I thought I’d be smart and follow my friend back to Fort Collins. Wrong again. He had to take his other friend back home. On the other side of Greeley. When I realized what was happening, I thought I could subtly turn around, head back the right direction, and go home. Nope. He totally caught me, called me, and asked me what the heck I was doing. Oops.

And that’s how my nonexistent sense of direction became a college-career-long joke.  And how I learned to never go anywhere new without a GPS.

How’s your sense of direction?

Tell me an embarrassing getting lost story.