Travel tip #52…Ask for directions

Men don’t stop to ask for directions. It’s an old stereotype with no basis in reality.

Or is it?

I have been known to drive long distances with my eye on the gas gauge, my directional certitude diminishing by the mile and my carefully planned itinerary thrown to the wind.

I remember my dad hurtling down the freeway with his Rand McNally unfolded on the steering wheel. It was an earlier version of distracted driving, and there I was standing on the hump in the back seat of the mint green LTD II. If he happened to brake hard, my mom would put up her arm to keep me safe and life was good.

We have machines that can help us with directions now.

In Thailand years ago one of my traveling companions had a new-fangled global positioning device. He spent the entire trip with that plastic brick in front of him, dropping virtual pins on his map and proclaiming loudly, “I’ll be able to come back to this exact spot in this remote village some day!”

“That’s good,” I thought. “Because you’ve been staring at your screen and haven’t seen one bit of the place on THIS trip.”

These are the moments my wife calls me a curmudgeon.

Technology has its use and I get stuck in my phone as often as the next. It’s a love / hate sort of thing.

When it comes to a real road trip, there is no replacement for pulling over, engaging the locals, and asking directions. Or advice. Odds are you’ll get where you’re going, you’ll find out where Smitty’s red barn on the left USED to be, and if you play your cards right, you just might unearth an insider’s secret in the process.

I’ve wandered into a community pie fest and left with advice on the best gravel road views in Lucas, Kansas. I’ve entered a Hungarian market in search of a guidebook recommendation and been led to the tastiest meal in town. We’ve listened to fellow backpackers in Europe and tossed a 3-month itinerary on the sixth day of the trip.

Just last week a friend caught wind of our South Dakota trip and suggested sleeping in a covered wagon on the old homestead of Laura Ingalls Wilder in DeSmet, SD. We made our reservation the very next day.

So, this intrepid band of Wide Eyed Ramblers is turning to you for guidance. We are going to crowd source this trip and we are looking to you for advice. If you’ve been to South Dakota, share your secrets. What’s your favorite place, your undiscovered gem or your must-see destination?

I’ll jeopardize my man card. I’m asking for directions. Tell me where to go. (but be nice)

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