Avoiding Highways

County Highway 11, Clifford, North Dakota, United States of America

Me: Hey Google, avoid highways.

Google: OK. Avoiding highways.

Me: WTF Google!?

Me… again: Google, avoid dirt roads.

Google: I do not understand that request.

Me: Mmmfph.

Rural “Highway”
County Highway 11, Clifford
North Dakota, United States of America

Taken during travels, 2023

Normally, I’d be totally down with being directed onto dirt roads.

A friend of mine is an adventure biker and talks about “explorating” on remote mountainous logging roads and electrical line service roads in British Columbia and elsewhere. On his backcountry GPS system he finds remote roads and routes he’s never been on and sees if he can traverse them and discover whatever they might reveal.

On road trips, I’ve recast that idea as “googlerating” which is the simple matter of driving into remote areas and give Google Maps a new destination with the simple instruction in Settings to “Avoid Highways”. This has lead to some great backroad and scenic byway discoveries, many of them over miles of gravel and dirt. It’s also led to numerous impassable donkey tracks and turnarounds, with miles of back tracking and lost hours of travel time. Really, though… an acceptable risk given the potential payoff of driving places few people but locals ever discover.

All that said, I’m traveling with a teardrop trailer, capable of traversing bumpy gravel roads, but only at verrrrry slow speeds. Like 20km/hr (12mph) or slower. And while I’ve been avoiding highways on this cross-country trip, I’m also trying to maintain a good pace in order to make the crossing in a small window of time to meetup with friends in Toronto for at least a day before meeting up with family in Montreal on the 13th of May.

Twenty kph was just too slow, the trailer was bouncing around like kids on a trampoline, and there were several miles of dirt to go at this point. So I turned around here and backtracked to a paved crossroad, went several miles north to the paved 2-lane state highway 18/200ALT and was underway at 100kph (60mph) once again.

Important note: “Avoid Highways” means “keep me  off interstates and multi-lane freeways”. Google hadn’t directed me to County Highway 11 because it was avoiding 18/200ALT, but simply  because County Highway 11 was took straighter line and its posted speed limit was 50mph (80kph), so it believed it would be faster. Google doesn’t take into account whether the road is paved or not, just the posted limit.