Just follow the map

I’ve driven out to the Assiniboia Downs, the horse-racing tracks at the Western edge of town, once before, not paying much attention. So in service of tonight’s big errand, I looked it up on Google Maps and found two routes.

One was very direct, but through construction sites. The other involved dipping North then West again, and then, right at the edge of town, turning onto an unmarked road for a decent stretch.

I chose the unknown diversion. Google said it’d be faster, and it didn’t look all that complicated.

I made good time and decent enough fun, initially, driving down roads I’d never seen that were made even more mysterious by the limits of night vision. I guessed that I was driving next to a railroad track as I was passed by a speeding postal van that looked like it might topple over as it hugged the turns.

I found the rollicking truck route, the highway that marks the edge of town, and snuck through like a silent whisper, guiding the Echo through a majestic underpass I’d never even noticed before.

The next step was the unmarked road. Was that it, right after the Perimeter, to the left? It looked pretty unmarked and, well, road-like. And everything else ahead was pitch black and gravel.

There was a gate and a tiny shack where in regular horse-racing business hours some poor soul likely shivered away, granting admission to the stables or whatever those bold shadows were. The gate was up, there was no one there, and some lights shining boldly in the distance. My destination, maybe? I passed through the gate unceremoniously.

Every 20 feet or so, signs warned me to yield to horses. Peering over the wheel at the road, I wondered, was I following a road or a horse-trail? Or both? It was maze-like, and I kept expecting to run into a dead end, so I didn’t rush my steed, this tiny silver vehicle creeping along hesitantly.

I carefully followed that filament of road connecting a network of spaces marked by a subtle gradient of darkness, buildings whose purposes were cloaked by night.

Approaching the track, I came to a T-shaped intersection. If I turned left, in about 25 feet I’d be driving on the race track. Looking ahead, it seemed like the most direct route but I hesitated. Google’s given odd directions before, but a racetrack segment? That seemed a bit much. To the right, it looked like more stables and possibly fence, but a dead end also meant turning around to go onto the racetrack. I couldn’t lose.

I was slightly disappointed when the road/path climbed a steepish embankment, turned a corner, and landed me right at my destination. I glanced over at the track, a smooth loop, cleared of snow, bathed in floodlights.

It would have been an honest mistake, turning left onto the track. Sure I found my way, but almost wish I’d gotten just a little bit more lost instead.


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