This past summer (June 2008) I paid $70 for the 2009 map update for my Garmin Nuvi 350 GPS. I would have been better off giving the $70 to a deaf mute and asking for directions. On my first trip using it, I was following its directions from Steamboat Springs, CO to a ranch address about 20 minutes south of town. It directed me down a county road that eventually became a private driveway that ended at a house. The owner came out and said that a lot of people using Garmins were ending up in his driveway, and that he had written numerous letters about it to no avail. 


Then I tried using my Garmin to find the shortest route back to my house, and twice it took me into private driveways. I've learned to not use it or rely on it in rural areas, especially if they are mountainous. In using it to get from Kremmling, Co. to Wolcott, Co., at least five times it tried to get me to take 4-wheel drive, impassible mountain roads that were dead ends. Fortunately I was familiar with the area. Later, I checked it for places to eat to see if my two favorite restaurants, where I've been eating for the last 25 years, were mentioned. The 2009 map update didn't know about them, but it did list a small, relatively new, restaurant that was out of business.  


A good friend, who is a deputy sheriff in Colorado, told me this story. Late one night in November, the sheriff's office got a call at approximately 11 PM from a family that was stuck on a snowy, high mountain road. The rescue unit couldn't reach them until the next morning. The family said they had been following their Garmin GPS directions to get from one town (Silverthone, Co.) to another (Winter Park, Co.), and it directed them over a mountain pass that was a one-lane dirt road. It is the shortest route, and perhaps the fastest route. It is also the most dangerous route, and impassable in the winter. I've driven that road a number of times in the summer in my Dodge truck, and it is poorly maintained. I don't recommend it unless you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle, and never in the winter.


Very recently I was in Warmnister, PA and decided to look for a WalMart. My Nuvi 350 directed me to 100 E. Street Road in Warminster where a large building was sitting vacant. The Garmin then said there was another WalMart location in Horsham, PA at 200 Blair Mill Road. There wasn't! I gave it another try, and ten minutes later I was in front of a large empty warehouse at 1001 S. York Road in Hatboro, PA that didn't look like it had ever been a WalMart, at least not in this decade. The fourth and final try led me to 3925 Welsh Road in Willow Grove, PA. It was a Sam's Club. No WalMart there. So much for the 2009 update.


The following day I was going visit the boarding stable where I keep my horse. I decided to see how the Garmin would tell me to go. (I had previously set the Garmin to that location while there.) The Garmin took me through a 25-year old housing development that borders the stables, and told me to turn where there was no road. I could see the stable through the woods behind the houses, but there was no road to it, and there could not have been one for decades, if ever. When I got to the stable, I asked the owner if there had ever been a road to his farm from that direction. He said, not that he had ever heard of, but he had only owned the farm for 18 years.


Recently I visited a friend in Jenkintown, PA., and we couldn't decide where to go to dinner. I said, "Let's check my Garmin." As we went down its list of eating establishments, she kept saying things like, "Oh, that place closed ages ago" or "That place hasn't been there in years." The Garmin may be good for getting you from New York City to LA, but it's also good for getting you stranded in the mountains, finding empty buildings, and having you turn where there are no roads. So don't waste your money on the 2009 map update. It is years out of date and, in many cases, just plain wrong. But then so was the previous version. Don't leave home without a good old paper map of where you are going.