Slightly Off Center

Slightly Off Center: Trips with Karyn

By Dennis Hinkamp

Choose your auto-navigator carefully and head out east.
by Dennis Hinkamp
The thing you immediately miss when you travel outside the West is your visual compass. Once you figure out which mountain range is west and which is east, you are pretty set for any western travel. Navigation of Utah is even easier because nearly all addresses are a combination of numbers and compass headings.

Once you get east of the Rockies, things get sort of lost in a jumble of forests, low hills and streets named after presidents and trees. Living on 643 Magnolia near the corner Jefferson may sound historic and cute but there is a drawback when it comes to actually finding that place. Locals are of little help.

“That’s easy—it’s right near where the old Walgreen’s was, just around the corner from Wal-Mart,” they say. Never mind that there is a Walgreen’s on every corner and every Wal-Mart looks the same.

My Midwest travel anxiety was cured when Karyn came into my life. Karyn has given me confidence and direction… literally. She is a small, yet forceful personality who knows how to navigate any city street or highway in the United States. So long as I keep her batteries charged and allow her a clear view of the sky, she can lead me anywhere I want to go.

Karyn is a little metallic sounding but clear and decisive. If I do take a wrong turn, there is no disgusted sigh; she just says “recalculating,” and plots another route. And no matter how many mistakes I make, she never loses her temper.

She is not without her flaws. She has a tough time with the inflection and pronunciation of some words. And, at highway speeds, she sometimes does not give me enough notice to safely make my turn.

Karyn is the Australian English voice on my GPS trip navigator. I have several voices to choose from such as Frank (standard North American English) and Janet, his female counterpart. Though my navigator does not have this option, I have heard that you can buy other such devices with celebrity voices. You could have Mr. T yell directions at you. Maybe you could get a sports announcer like John Madden to plot your turns, then hear the crowd roar when you arrive at your destination. I can think of a few sultry-voiced actresses to employ but they could easily cause me to run off the road as I imagined them in the seat next to me.

For now I will be true to Karyn. Like the perfect vacation fling, she is exotic and I don’t really have to know anything about what she is like in real life. I love my trips with Karyn.

Dennis Hinkamp and Karyn were last seen somewhere just west of Des Moines.

This article was originally published on June 29, 2009.