How to face new challenges from our kids and not act like a relic

Do you ever stand up for “the old ways?” Sure, our kids think we’re relics when we do, but we boomers know what we like in this brave new world … and what we don’t! That’s what BoomerCafé’s Ranter-in-Residence Carrier Slocomb writes about: Facing challenges from our kids.

And the challenge from the kids was…

“Loser buys dinner at the best seafood joint on-island! Are you game, old man?”

It was the kind of old-school versus new-school bet that our adult children are so fond of.

The rules for our upcoming eight-hour trip were simple: we’d all leave for the Outer Banks at the same time. Speed would not be a factor — get a speeding ticket and you forfeit the bet. As always, my wife and I would rely on fold-out state maps, while our sons and daughter would navigate exclusively by GPS.

iPhone-map_SnapseedThe challenge sounded like there wouldn’t be any boomers left standing when the smoke cleared. Knowing GPS efficiency, who could blame their cockiness?

Why? Because the Air Force keeps 24 GPS satellites in continuous orbit around earth. In simple terms, GPS receivers work by determining a user’s distance from these orbiting satellites. Each satellite’s assigned an imaginary sphere, and it’s where these spheres intersect that a device’s earthbound receiver locates itself … and you.

Carrier Slocomb

Carrier Slocomb

Fold-out state maps work a little differently. Okay, there’s really no comparison! Caroline looked amused by the challenge. “Not a chance, right?” she asked. “Nonsense,” said I. “The power-grid could always go down, crippling them totally.”

We left at the same time, steering into an early sun. It wasn’t long before we lost them south of DC. “Did you pick a route?” Caroline asked, opening the roads map. “Kind’a … um … no.”

For the next twenty minutes Caroline studied Virginia and North Carolina maps. She was like a coach poised at the head of her team, pensive about her tactical plan. “This town looks interesting. Let’s lunch down there.”

Her suggestion took us off all major traffic routes and onto secondary roads. The town she chose was small, with a park that had clean tables set beside a shaded creek. Lunch was in our picnic basket, and the dog was happy for new scents to hunt. We snoozed under an ancient beech tree for thirty minutes.

Next, she took us along The Great Dismal Swamp. The dog was confused by so many foreign odors, yet we found the Swamp lovely in a creepy way. Thereafter, we headed toward Edenton, a lovely little anachronism on Albemarle Sound, a place to explore smallness and breathe in clean salt air.

And each stoplight we passed under told us the power-grid hadn’t failed.

Rodanthe on Cape Hatteras.

Rodanthe on Cape Hatteras.

We made Rodanthe on Cape Hatteras at twilight. The kids were pacing on our rental’s front porch. “No contest! Pay up!”

Over fish and crabs, our children admitted they’d traveled heavy traffic routes, leaving the highway only for occasional potty stops. Because GPS only displays the most popular routes, they hadn’t learned anything about the countryside they rushed past; like zipping blind through a long tunnel, I guess.

Cape Hatteras at twilight.

Cape Hatteras at dusk.

“We crushed you! You finally gonna toss out those stupid maps?”

I looked at Caroline, gleaming like a beautiful shell beside the agitated surf, our kids. “Sure,” she said. “But only when we’re done looking around.” Yeah. Not a chance.


  1. Sadhvi, Courtney, & David: thank you for your comments and your own personal observations. You’re right in all kinds of creative ways, much further than my short piece allows. Trips can be very personal. They are what we, and those with us, make of them. Glad you went out of your way to emphasize why maps work well for you.

  2. This feels like validation for the time I got lost in a one street town. One chance to make a wrong turn and that’s the one I took.

    I’m sticking with maps. My wife loves them, which is a good reason, but seeing the route and the size of a trip on paper makes it real.

    I’ve got the same complaint about air travel where you walk into a plane, sit down, then walk out and you’re ‘there.’ Except there doesn’t seem quite real at first.

    Good post, Carrier. You brought it all the way home for this boomer.

  3. Great post! I love maps! While the GPS is convenient, I can’t escape that “big brother” feeling that I’m being manipulated into doing things a paid advertiser wants me to do. I say, “Take the unmarked path!”

  4. I really enjoyed your post because I feel the same way as you do…I guess it’s because I’m a boomer too! No seriously, I like to make my own way, and me and my husband enjoy to find the places that make our trips more leisurely and relaxing. Sure, if we get lost, we could use the iPhone thingee app, but then, I still like to ask people for directions. It’s all part of the trip!

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