Thursday, November 24, 2011

Indie Travel - Technology

Where would today’s travelers be without smartphones, GPS, iPods, iPads, or even the internet? Share one item of tech you can’t live without or tell us how technology has changed the way you travel.

Those following this blog will know I finally broke down and bought a GPS. I'm fine with finding my way around if I have a map, but I don't have a printer with me in the van, so I can't print out detailed maps of cities from MapQuest. Constantly consulting my laptop while driving is not a very safe driving habit. Maps from the Visitor Centers are for whole states, and while fairly detailed, do not give the depth of detail you need driving around in a town. I could buy an iPhone and have instant access to maps, the internet, people, etc, but I'm not quite there yet. Traveling for me is about the process of getting somewhere, rising to the challenge, not having all challenge wiped away by technology. 

However, the GPS has been both a boon and a bog to my sanity. Unless I have an exact address, I'm not likely to get someplace depending on the GPS. In fact, even with an exact address there have been several times the GPS could not find the location. Target in the northern part of Washington DC comes quickly to mind. The GPS could not find either of the cross streets, the transit station which was right next door, or the Target itself even though I'd called and gotten a physical address. What's up with that? Now I know why Brenda calls her GPS "Pita", for pain in the A***. 

As a westerner, I'm accustomed to having a large view of the world, big sky, generally some tallish landmark that can be seen from all over, like a mountain. But here in the east, everything is hidden by trees, and often the sky itself is covered with clouds, dim and difficult to tell south from north. And to make matters even worse, many towns were originally laid out starting with game trails that were easy to follow in the 1700s, the towns grew up on both sides of a trail. 

Towns like Siler City, NC, for instance appear to be laid out on a grid, but the grid is cock-eyed and is at a 45 degree angle to the main highway on the north side of town. To be even more difficult, it's a small town, no one has seen much of a need to put up street signs. Everybody knows where everything is, so why bother? GPS is the one thing I'm finding it hard to live without at this moment. I just wish it were a bit smarter.

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