Maybe I’m arriving a little late to this game, but apparently there’s been a game floating around Tumblr known as the “MapCrunch Airport Challenge.” Basically, you can go to mapcrunch.com, and it has the ability to drop you anywhere in the world by using Google Maps Street View. If you click the “stealth” box, you can hide your location so you don’t know where you are. What’s the point of seeing some random street in a country you’ve probably never been to? Your goal is to find your way to an airport, from which point you can find a way home. The problem is that you can’t stop and ask for directions, you can’t access every single street (only those photographed by Google Maps), and you might not understand the language of the street signs in a given country. And did I mention that it’s completely random? You could end up in the middle of nowhere. It’s almost as if you literally were dropped off, blindfolded, into a random pinpoint on the globe. Sounds slightly terrifying, doesn’t it? Well to me, the idea sounds absolutely fantastic! When are they turning this into a reality show? Because I’ll sign up in an instant!

As soon as this idea was presented to me via Pinterest, I had to try it. My first attempt I was dropped in Singapore (which I found out later, after Google searching) and I think I actually did find the airport. I found Airport Rd, and signs that warned of “low flying airplanes,” but then I couldn’t go all the way to the end of Airport Road. The Google Street View pictures ended. So I have to assume I was on the right path. How long did it take me? Approximately 3 hours.

The second time I was a bit more strategic in my approach. I also knew where I was (vaguely) from the moment I was “dropped down.” This time, I ended up in Wales. I know this because I’ve been to Wales once, and I know that the street signs are all in both Welsh and English. Welsh is a pretty distinctive language. Also, the moors, little stone walls around pastures, excessive amounts of sheep, and lack of cities also gave it away. It was distinctively part of the UK. That much I knew.

But where to? I thought for a moment. The capital of Wales is Cardiff. Cardiff is (roughly) in southern Wales. It certainly would have an airport. I was unsure if there were any other airports in Wales. Of course, there are airports in the UK that are closer to certain parts of Wales, but not knowing where I was at all, I headed south. If all else failed, I could find a coast and follow it. Not that hard, right? This is gonna be way easier than Singapore…

Wales 1

This is roughly where I started. I only thought about it after I had started on my journey that I should photo-document this one, so I backtracked to approximately the spot I began at. But this is the lovely town (*cough* village) of Llanfair Talhaiarn. As you can see, I clearly have a lot to go on at the moment.

Wales 2

I followed signs for Llansannan, because it sounded like a major city. It wasn’t. I debated turning at this street, but quickly realized that the street looped around to go back in the direction that I had just came from. So I just kept going south.

Wales 3

The road I was on came to an end, but it met with another north/south road. Again, I took the south-bound route. Still hoping to find signs for Cardiff. Or Caerdydd in Welsh. Either or, I’m not picky!

Wales 4

Llyn Brenig. That looks like it’s a major city, right? It’s highlighted in brown. It must be important. And that road also goes south bound. Time to take a left.

Wales 5

Welcome to Llyn Brenig. Still no major city. There is, however, a Visitor Centre. I could stop there to ask for directions! Except wait . . . no I can’t.

Wales 6

I bet I could ask this nice looking family for directions . . .

Wales 7

Oooh yay, a slightly bigger town! Looks promising.

Wales 8

Well, I might not have found an airport, but I found a hotel. And at that point it was actually time for me to go to bed. So if this were real life, and I had actually been travelling through Wales in real time, then this would be the perfect place to stop and sleep (and ask for directions). Guess I’ll continue my journey in the morning!

So the next day I picked up where I left off. But just beyond the hotel you can see there is a crossroads. The B4501 ends and meets with the B5105, and I had to decide to go left or right. Let’s look at what the road signs say . . .

Wales 9.1

Hmm, the nearest town is 12 miles away. The next nearest is 20. But the A5 sounds like a major motorway . . .

Wales 9.2

The next nearest town is 14 miles away. And why is one of them graffitied over? The other direction sounds more plausible. But this direction is more southerly. Hmmm…

I chose the other direction, towards the A5 motorway. In less than a minute, I came to this sign:

Wales 10

Awesome. I’m fairly certain I passed signs for Betws-y-coed a long time ago, so taking that route would probably be backtracking. Time to take a left towards Llangollen!

Wales 11

Found a cute pub!! I would totally stop there in real life. And they have cheap fish and chips! I miss real fish and chips . . .

Wales 12

Although apparently I’m in the middle of nowhere. Great . . .

But this sign made me laugh. Gotta love the UK!

Wales 13

And again, only in the UK:

Wales 14

What is a sheep dog centre anyway? And what I don’t understand is how all of these pictures seem to be taken on beautiful, bright sunny days. Like, how does that happen?? Does Wales have a different climate than the rest of the island? Or did Google Maps literally waste weeks in the UK just waiting for that one beautiful sunny day to say “Ok guys, let’s get out there today and drive as much as possible!” I mean, I’m certainly not complaining. The views are gorgeous!

And can you say precious??

Wales 15

If it wasn’t the middle of the day, I might suggest we stop here for the night.

And then whoa! What is that? Oh look, it’s the first actual traffic light that I’ve encountered in Wales!

Wales 16

And what is this?? I do believe it’s raining! Finally…

Wales 17

And also some cute tourist place that I would probably stop at in real life. They serve tea. Obviously I would have to stop there. And you can see all the cute little sheep in the pasture!!  (And hey, you know what else I could do there? Ask for directions…)
I also noticed at this point that I’ve stopped going south, and am going almost due east. That isn’t really a problem though. East will bring me closer to England. Where there are more cities, and more major roadways.

And then I find this sign…

Wales 18

This wouldn’t mean much to most people. Except that Chester is a city in England. The International Society that I was a part of in Manchester did a day trip there once, but I didn’t go with them on that trip. The problem is that the road goes back north. I feel like not only would this be backtracking, but Chester is (probably) a lot farther away than Cardiff. Although who knows at this point? So do I take the chance and go towards a city I recognize? But then again, is there more than once city named Chester? I think the one that I remember is a lot farther north in England that Wales is. That would probably be a pretty far trek. Hmmmmm…..
I think I’m gonna take my chances and continue on the A5.

Wales 19

Now I really have a decision to make though.

This road goes in a more southerly direction. It’s not as major a roadway as the A5 (although how many major roadways are in Wales to begin with?), but it comes to some towns fairly soon. And a campground, or something like that. My gut is really telling me to stay on the A5 though . . .

But then the A5 turns into Bridge Street. And then I see a sign for a “town centre.” The town must be big enough to have a centre….that’s a good sign, right?

Wales 20

I promise I won’t bore you with a bunch of pictures of this town (which I later discovered was named Corwen), but I did find a hotel, a Spar convenience store, an HSBC bank, a post office, a craft store, a few cafes, a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker (literally!), a monument to some guy named Owain Glyndwr, and then somehow I ended up on a street named London Road. Which turned into the A5 again. And then it became Holyhead Road. And just as soon as I had come upon this town, I left it behind. It was probably the most exciting part of my entire trip. I felt like jumping up and down. Oh boy, a real town!! (Am I getting too involved in this little game? I think I have a problem. Oh yeah, it’s called Wanderlust.)

I also passed about 5 Bed and Breakfasts on the Holyhead Road. I would love to actually stop at one.

And this:

Wales 21

Do you know what this means?? There’s a train station! With a tea room! I can stop for tea, and catch a train to the next major city with an airport! Except the game doesn’t quite work that way . . .
But Holyhead Road turned back into the A5, as I had hoped it would. And I continued to follow it. It brought me back south again, and then back east, and it went back and forth like that for a while. But I realized ultimately that I’ve been going east for far too long. My chances of getting to Cardiff are pretty slim at this point.

Oh hey look, an emergency phone!

Wales 22

I could totally use that! But oh wait . . .

It’s okay though. I made it to this city of Llangollen. Apparently it’s a big deal.

Wales 23

They have a steam railway AND horse drawn boats. Can I stop here? Pretty please? A little sightseeing tour? I also saw a sign for whitewater rafting back up the road a ways. Sounds like a cool place to stop!

And hey y’all, I found a hostel!

Wales 24

But as the buildings started to get farther and farther apart, I decided to turn around and go back to follow signs for the Town Centre. Maybe there would be more major roads intersecting in one place?

Wales 25

Let’s follow signs for the train station. If all else fails, I could give up at the train station. So I took the right down Castel Street, and then a left down Market Street.
Except it didn’t bring me to a train station. It brought me in a giant loop, and I ended up back on the A5. Stupid signs. Somewhere along Market street I should have turned for the train station, except someone forgot to put up a sign saying that. Dumb. Oh well. Guess I’m stuck on the A5!

After a long, boring drive, I pass these signs:

Wales 26

OH MY GOODNESS is that an airplane sign?!?!

Wales 27

*sigh* Of course not. It’s a cross. Gosh darn it.

But hmmm…

Wales 28

A marina? As in, like, a harbor? On the coast? Perhaps this is worth a detour . . .
Except at that point my computer decided to shut down and install updates. I lost this page, not to be recovered.

So what did I do? I pulled out my book of Great Britain that I had gotten before my trip to England, just to look at the map of Wales and try to figure out where I was. I thought Googling just felt too much like cheating, after all the hard work I had put into this. But guess where I was?
The whole time I was “travelling,” I was in north Wales. And I mean like, super northern tip. I was closer to Liverpool and Manchester than I was to Cardiff. And honestly, I was heading in the more in the direction of Manchester than Cardiff. Or at the very least, Birmingham.
Here’s a map:
Wales 29

If I had taken that route towards Chester, I actually would have been on a good path. It was actually the same Chester I was thinking of, and it was actually that far north. Also, it takes wayyy longer to click through a road then it does to drive it. You know how many miles I travelled? Thirty-eight. It should have taken me less than an hour to drive it in real life, whereas I spent an embarrassing amount of hours trying to play this stupid game.  It would have taken much too long to get to Cardiff at that rate. I never would have made it. Not virtually, anyway. If I had continued playing, then I would have come to a major motorway pretty soon, the A483, which I probably would have taken because the A5 ends, and the A483 goes south. If I had followed that to where it merged with the A470, I would have ended in Cardiff.

But really, if this had been real life, then I would have at the very least stopped at the nearest train station, bought a ticket to the nearest city (which probably would have been Liverpool, or Manchester), and gotten a plane from there. So I’m going to go with that, and say that I won. Because I found not one, but two train stations.

The moral of the story: this game is utterly pointless. Except, of course, if you suffer from a case of Wanderlust. In that case, then this game is just what you need to “wander” through the unfamiliar streets of a foreign land, imagine what it would be like to stop at all the touristy (or not so touristy) spots, and then be reminded that there is no place like home. Don’t be surprised if I attempt this game again. Although I may only try the “urban button.” No more of this middle-of-nowhere nonsense, even if it was wonderful to “see” the UK again.

I do miss Europe. Nothing will ever be the same. But, all the same, it’s good to be home.

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