Turn Left Off Cliff

Up there in the heavens someone is probably watching us.

The little hairs on my inner ear may be visible to a Pentagon screen courtesy of a sophisticated spy in the sky. The miracles of global positioning satellites have revolutionized espionage, warfare, and now road travel. In your country does anyone these days dare turn onto a turnpike without help from above? I doubt it.

But in this little country, life is different. Yes, we too have access to your wonderful technology that can pinpoint an ant in Times Square. However the civilian versions don't seem to be working too well.

So you want to get to the village of Luckington in the English county of Wiltshire. Your automobile GPS system will do a bit of electronic head-scratching and come up with a route guaranteed to soak you to the skin. Drivers who arrive in Luckington directed by their celestial computers end up in an ancient ford across the fast flowing river Avon. Nobody's drowned yet, but it is only a matter of time.

Such is the trust placed in the wizardry of satellite navigation that motorists do not seem to notice obvious signs by the roadside saying Danger in large red letters. They just roll on blithely, listening to the nice lady who calmly tells them to turn right in half a mile.

The same is true further north in the Yorkshire Dales. If you're headed for Wensleydale – home of the famous English cheese – sat-nav will instantly calculate the most direct route. But don't take it unless you're driving a Sherman tank. Because the most direct route to Wensleydale involves a mountain climb up an unmade track with unfenced 200 foot drops on both sides into a waterlogged quarry. You also have to ignore six very clear signs which say Road Closed and then force open a locked gate.

Even so dozens of vehicles are doing it daily and getting completely and memorably stuck. They will certainly never forget the experience, or the cost of being towed out, or the name of the place they were led to by your faulty American technology.

This Yorkshire mountain pass is called -- Crackpot. You have been warned.
by Ed Boyle

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