You Have Arrived at Your Destination. Where?

When moving from one place to another, there is always that moment where you have to get used to a city’s quirks. Even if you’re moving within a country. And frankly, if we’re talking about the US, we’re talking about a big variety in culture. There are probably small towns that have its own culture that no one’s discovered yet.

I think the most radical change in the US could be moving from North to South—or South to North. I’m not sure why, but I feel like those should be capitalized (just Googled the grammar rules; we’re good to go, guys. I know you were worried.). I met someone from Tennessee while studying abroad and she said that people in the South still refer to the Mason-Dixon line as a reference. So coming down from Chicago to Austin, which is still a part of Texas though it is a liberal capitol, I was a bit apprehensive. But I love where I live right now and I’ve been forced learned to love its quirks.

DCIM109GOPRO One of my favorite Texan quirks is their highway addresses.

(I know I recently wrote about horrible Austin driving habits, but here’s yet another one.) For such a large place, Texas sure doesn’t make it easy to find things; directions are taken to mean “scavenger hunt.” Although Texas pretends they operate on addresses, you’ll realize quickly, and yet not quick enough, that it’s not. It goes one of two ways:

The never-ending U-turns

Almost any hotel, store, or restaurant found lining or even remotely near a highway will have some ridiculous address. I’ll look for one right now—Target: 5621 North I-35, Austin, TX 78723. When you put this address into your smartphone to route it via trusty GPS, at some point during your drive on the highway, the smartphone will say “You have arrived at your destination”.

You see this coming, but you don’t believe it. .1 mi, 500 feet, 300 feet… You believe so hard that, while driving on the 70mph highway, you’ll suddenly find yourself careening into the Target, thinking how did I miss it? This, of course, never happens. Instead, you see the logo peeping up from below the ramp, realizing too late that you should’ve taken the previous exit and now who knows how long it was going to be before the next one where you can make the Texas built-in U-turn.

Finally, after nearly 2 miles (the next exit), you exit and drive an additional half a mile to a stoplight where you can make a U-turn. I would make illegal U-turns, but the only thing stopping me are the giant gap between the two directions the highway runs makes it absolutely impossible.

Once making the U-turn, it’s yet another 2.5 miles back to where you were supposed to exit in the first place. A second option would be to stay on the road running parallel to the highway that no one uses, but you will be lost either way. “I swear just saw the Target over here,” you’ll mutter to yourself while realizing the left lane you were in betrayed you and turned into a left-turn only lane. And again, you’ve lost sight of it.

The minute you utter, “That’s it! I’m giving up!” is usually when you happen upon it accidentally trying to find the ramp to the highway.

The “almost there”

A more welcoming alternative to this is to route you to the nearest road and at about 100 yards from what you’re looking for, the GPS will announce that you have arrived at your destination. 

Too used to this, I’ll start a process 500 feet from the destination where I’ll take my eyes off the immediate road and look at my surroundings, hoping that I’ll be able to spot any sign of what I’m looking for nearby. Chains are usually the most successful ones because they have the financial backing to brightly advertise their locations. Small, independent things are usually the hardest to find because they’ll be in a corner, tucked away in an unassuming plaza.

This is by far the easier route, however, so I’m not complaining about the “almost there” technique. Once you get used to it, you’ll start to understand how to accurately search for something. I just wonder how Southerners do it when they get up North, but we’ve made it easy for you guys. Clearly labeled streets on a grid system. Shit can’t get easier than that.

It’s hard at first, I know, you poor thing. I’ve been there far too many times. You will be confused and frustrated. You will also make an unprecedented amount of U-turns for having been directed by your GPS to that exact location. You will shout at the Texan higher-ups that thought this was a good idea, especially if lost and caught in traffic. Oof.

Thankfully, houses and apartments are still highway-address free, so I still have a little motivation to be social.

Are there any silly quirks you’ve found while traveling?

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  • Kerri

    hehehe… Driving in new unfamiliar places is always a nightmare. I was looking at addresses of things in the US on the weekend and I’m all baffled by the 1st, 2nd etc street kind of address thing you do…

    • Michelle @ Mishfish13

      I hate driving, period. Unless it’s on a long stretch of road through the desert with no one else on it. Too specific? Haha are you thinking of coming over?! Or did you look it up just for kicks?

      • Kerri

        We were thinking of doing a little trip to New York and maybe the surrounding area over Christmas :)

        • Michelle @ Mishfish13

          That’s exciting (and unfortunate it isn’t Austin ;) )!! Would it be your first time? :)

          • Kerri

            Yup! We’ve not finalised any plans yet but I do hope we get to go!

  • Madaline

    Hahha. I HATE driving in places Im not familiar with I get SO nervous! Here in Italy numbers will jump from 100 to maybe 15 to 33 and really rediculous things like that – and if you ask someone wheres XX they look at you like your an idiot when it’s across the street!

    • Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Hahah same! I feel like driving culture is one to consider when traveling as well! That’s ridiculous—I bet those are just speed traps. I have never driven in the EU so I would be HELLA confused, ahah.

  • Kelly

    I hate driving in new places! I’m glad I never had the option of driving in China – you were never safe. Small cars in the bike lanes, scooters everywhere, cars randomly stopping on the highway. . .once I was walking on the sidewalk, looking at my phone, and was about 6 inches from walking right into a taxi that was driving towards me. Why would I expect a taxi to drive on the sidewalk when there was a bike lane AND a road right there? Craziness. Also, in Korea, the address system was really messed up – to the point where business cards for restaurants and stuff always had little maps on them.

    • Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Haha, if China is ANYTHING like Taiwan, I never want to drive there. The traffic lights are always more of a suggestion and the stampede of motorscooters scare me. Oh my god, that taxi. WHAT??

      Hahaha… at least they know the struggle! I feel like Austin definitely needs one of those map business cards.

  • Rachael

    Michigan has it’s crazy Michigan lefts which are a pain and half the time I don’t see the logic of them but you gotta roll with it! Having moved to the US from the UK just the sere size of freeways and how many vehicles around is just crazy. I also really don’t understand how they work out the housing numbers, granted even and odd do make it on opposite sides of the street but the variation in how the numbers increase/decrease never make any sense haha.

    • Michelle @ Mishfish13

      I went to school in Michigan and was SO confused at all the Michigan lefts. Why. Yeah, that’s one frustrating thing I noticed after coming back from Europe… the complete lack of comprehensive public transportation. It’s really hard to get around without a car, especially if living in the suburbs!

  • Christina McCall

    I hate driving in northern states (and Mobile, Alabama) … the grid system isn’t always a ‘grid’! As for the issues you’re having, that sounds more like a gps problem as I’ve had google maps navigation and tomtom warn me of exits off interstates, here in Texas and other states.

    • Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Having grown up in the north, it’s more familiar to me than here! Haha I use Google maps all the time! And my friends all have GPS’s and still struggle, haha. And it still doesn’t explain the highway addresses ;)

  • Lani

    Every place definitely has its quirks. I hated Portland, Ore. ONE WAY streets. Oh, the joy. And streets that don’t dead end for no apparent reason. Surprise!

    Your Texas driving reminds me of a story I must tell you. When I was going to school in Colorado, my roomie and I decided to rent a car to go to Las Vegas to meet my mom. When we arrived at the rental place, we were surprised to see that we had a car with Texas plates. We looked at each other, the car and then back to each other and decided, “Alright! Now, we can drive like assholes!”

    • Michelle @ Mishfish13

      My friend from Portland was telling me about that! One-way streets were also a norm of Ann Arbor, MI, where I went to college. I would forever be making circles and not be able to find my way back to where I was supposed to go.

      HAHAH that made me laugh. It’s too true.

  • Diana

    Missing the exit is the worst!! But I guess you learn to read the signs more!

  • Sara

    Seriously, driving anywhere stresses me out, haha. I hate it. In my hometown, which is a pretty small city (like less than a million people), some streets change names like 6 times. I lived there for 23 years and I still got confused about directions and what street someone was talking about.

    • Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Haha WHILE you’re driving on them?? That would stress me out—I’d always be going to the wrong places hahaha.

  • laurenonlocation

    Hahah this just cracked me up. This reminds me a lot of New Jersey (well kind of). In NJ a lot of the roads are ‘no turning’ roads. I still don’t even really know how to explain it but- you have to exit off of the street and merge onto another then turn around just inorder to make a simple left. NO SENSE
    But hey, good that you’re looking it at it with some humor :D

    • Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Haha whaaaat? So there’s no options other than to go straight?? Haha why are there so many variations of how to drive! It’s either look at it with humor or never drive again ;)