Home again

new way home

AKA, Pitfalls of Penelope

I found a new way home from the annual SuperBowl festivities and learned that Penelope (the Prius) is not infallible.

Google's suggested route Google's suggested route (Click map to enlarge)

The way home. According to all the mapping applications on the web and Penelope's navigation system, the route from San Jose to Palm Springs is simple and direct: US-101 to CA-152 to I-5 to I-210 to I-15 to I-10 to CA-111. According to Google, this route is "444 mi (about 7 hours 33 mins)." That may be true if you leave San Jose at 3am. If you leave at a normal departure time, say 8am, that puts you in the Los Angeles area at the start of rush hour traffic, which can extend that 7½-hour trip by two or three hours. So I'm always looking for a better way back to the desert. I have found one.

alternate route through high desert Alternate route through the high desert
(Updated Apr-06: image, PDF)

From I-5, I took CA-58 across to Bakersfield and on across the high desert through Tehachapi, across the northern side of Edwards Air Force base, to US-395, joining up with I-15 after Adelanto, "the city with limitless possibilities," as a giant billboard advises. Ironic, that, considering that to the passer-through the most prominent attractions of Adelanto are the Southern California Logistics Airport (ie, parking lot for surplus airliners) and the Federal Correctional Institution.

I-15 meets up with I-215 which meets up with CA-30 which meets up with I-10 at Redlands, which is where the stickiest traffic on I-10 ends. My trip odometer registers the total mileage from San Jose to my house as 475 miles, and I was home 8½ hours after leaving Jim's in Saratoga, including stops for sustenance and elimination.

It's a lovely drive.

high desert
Across the high desert on CA-58

Pitfalls. On this trip I became acquainted with two of Penelope's pitfalls. (I call the Prius Penelope because that seems a proper name for the tight-ass voice used by the navigation system.) First, she is no help at all in spotting CHiP motorcycles in hot pursuit of a speeding Prius. Second, at various times during the return trip she completely lost track of where she was!

normal navigation display Normal map display
normal navigation display Penelope at a loss

Just after I merged onto southbound I-5 from CA-152, Penelope's map screen went blank. Whereas the display normally shows my current route and a list of upcoming turns, it was essentially blank with the icon representing the car moving through a white wilderness. It would occasionally show intersecting side roads, roads which did not appear in reality. Has Penelope joined the Bush administration, which makes its own reality?

The same thing happened at other times, always when the skies were densely overcast. I am shocked — shocked! — and dismayed — dismayed! — to think that one of Penelope's greatest features might be unavailable when needed most.

Nevertheless, I remain enamored of the Prius. It makes it from Palm Springs to the Bay Area on one tank of gas plus a few drops more. Try that with your Hummer or SUV! However, I must also say that I am deeply disappointed in the navigation system: It is decidedly user-unfriendly and I still haven't figured out how to give it a simple trip strategy like "take CA-58 across to US-395." It can deal with multiple destinations for a trip, but each destination must have an exact street address (like I would know!). You can specify "preferred routes" as part of its trip plan, but only two of them. And, specifying a preferred route can lead to unexpected consequences, like following that preferred route too far and through too many stop signs. If you take an alternate route that you've figured out without telling Penelope, she keeps trying to get you back on her preferred route until all possibility of that has faded. You can only listen so long to "Next right, then right turn" before having to resort to the ultimate voice-command: "Shut the f* up!"