The Bermuda Triangle of Iowa

Almost everyone, especially fans of science fiction and/or the paranormal, is familiar with The Bermuda Triangle, a region of the northwestern Atlantic Ocean in which a number of aircraft and surface vessels have disappeared and guidance tools have malfunctioned.

According to history, Christopher Columbus was the first person to document something strange in the Triangle, reporting that he and his crew observed “strange dancing lights on the horizon”, flames in the sky, and at another point he wrote in his log about bizarre compass bearings in the area.

While driving through an area of Iowa last week, I observed first hand something similar to the bizarre compass bearings that Columbus experienced in an area that, after further anecdotal history from residents, I have come to refer to as The Bermuda Triangle of Iowa.

The branch director and I were on our way to a Board of County Supervisors meeting and to get there we had to drive through an area of Iowa known as Fort Dodge. He was driving and we were using his GPS and experiencing no problems until we turned off of State Road 20 onto State Road 169. Suddenly, the GPS told us to make a right hand turn at the next road and it named the road. This seemed odd as we knew from looking at a map earlier that our ultimate destination was still 15 miles or so north on State Road 169, but we assumed the GPS was, as we had programmed it to do, taking us by the shortest route so we turned.

After a couple of miles the GPS again told us to turn right and named the road. I point out that it named the road so that you, dear reader, will know that it was not just randomly giving directions to turn, but instead that it knew exactly where we were located. Now we became concerned because at this point we were driving in the opposite direction from our destination.

Then, after a mile or so it directed us to turn right again which, after a couple of miles, brought us right back to State Road 169. We had just driven in a square as directed by the GPS.

But it gets better. The GPS then directed us to turn left onto State Road 169, which would again have us driving away from our destination. When I looked at the future trip route, it was obvious the GPS was going to take us about 2 miles back the way we had originally come and then have us drive around in a square again on the opposite side of State Road 169 and then take us back to State Road 20.

At this point I was watching to see if Rod Serling was standing on the side of this Iowa road with a cigarette in one hand and an ear of corn in the other telling us the next stop was…The Twilight Zone (cue the theme music).

Now we were in danger of being late for the meeting so we decided, of course, to ignore the GPS and proceed in the general direction of our destination and attempt to reach a contact of ours for directions. We did that and shortly before we finally arrived (right on time, thankfully) the GPS started giving out correct directions as if nothing had happened.

Later, when relating our tale to some residents and blaming it on a possible Garmin GPS malfunction, they informed us that it happens to everyone when drivers attempt to navigate using a GPS in the Fort Dodge area of those two state roads. A few days later some state officials said the same thing and a day after that a coworker of ours related a similar episode of “drive through the corn fields on dirt roads.” It seems that every GPS in the area, no matter the make and always knowing exactly where you are, will seek to return you to a point near State Road 20 and State Road 169.

Fort Dodge, Iowa…The Bermuda Triangle of Iowa.

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