What I Use: Road Trip 2015

Last night, I completed a cross-country road trip, driving about 2800 miles from Las Vegas, Nevada to my home in Dedham, Massachusetts over four long days. Here’s the technology I took with me and used on the road.

I may make an Office Sway about the trip, as we took some interesting photos during the drive. For now, however, I’m just going to focus on the tech.

Update: I made the Sway. Here it is…

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As you may know, I like to travel light. As I noted in What I Use: Carry-On Bag, I use Rick Steves carry-on bags and luggage—but I’ve upgraded both since that article. The carry-on bag is the same model as my previous bag, the Veloce Shoulder Bag, but the newer version is actually a bit down-market from my old one, with cheaper materials. The new luggage, however, is superior: I grabbed the Rolling Carry-On, which expands to an almost laughable degree, and I love it. I’ve used it on four trips now—Pennsylvania, San Francisco (Build), Chicago (Ignite) and the cross-country drive, and it’s a winner.


Traveling light is a lot less necessary for a drive, of course, but I had to fly to Vegas first and I don’t check bags, so these two bags—with the Rolling Carry-On non-expanded—were all I needed.

I did bring two laptop-type PCs, the Surface Pro 3 and the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon I’m currently reviewing. (And can state emphatically is the best Ultrabook I’ve ever used.) I didn’t open either one until Monday—we drove all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday—but I only used the ThinkPad, which was the case on my previous three trips as well. Fantastic.


During the drive, I took all of the photos with my Lumia 930, which you may recall I purchased back in January and still use daily. It takes the best photos of any smart phone I own—and, yes, I have an iPhone 6 Plus too, as you’ll see below—and I used this to triage email, make phone calls, send text messages, and check in on Facebook.

Early morning fog in Colorado
Early morning fog in Colorado

For navigation, we used Google Maps on my iPhone 6 Plus. The “we” here is my dad and I, at least through St. Louis, which is where I dropped him off so he could fly home, and I have a few stories about that. More on that in a moment, but Google Maps offers the best navigation, bar none, and will update with quicker route changes as you go.


So, my dad.

The reason I was making this drive in the first place was that he was selling his car, a 2007 Mercedes C280, and since I had wanted to buy it for years, I finally did so. Problem is, he moved to Las Vegas a few years back so the drive was going to be a bit longer than I had originally hoped. (He previously lived in Pennsylvania, just 5 hours from me.) Prompted by a cousin, dad has embraced Apple products though he doesn’t know how to use them, and I’ll just skip the part where I berated him for using Apple Maps and Siri (“directions to Starbucks”) and move on. I did help him make the text more legible on his iPhone and iPad, however. Free tech support is a familial right.

My current (now previous) car is a 2011 BMW 328i, which I bought used about 18 months ago. That car is newer than the MB, has half the miles, and is more up to date technologically, with Bluetooth, USB and line-in connections. Made in 2006, the MB has none of that. It has an in-dash CD player, a 6-disc CD changer and a radio. No Bluetooth, no USB, not even a line-in. I knew this going in, but I don’t drive a lot, and frankly am sort of interested in a tech-free existence in the car. But of course, I had about 19 hours of driving by myself to consider. And while my thoughts are indeed fascinating, 19 hours is 19 hours.

I considered making some audio CDs. But … eh. Instead, I used my Nokia Portable Wireless Speaker MD-12, a cute like Bluetooth-powered wonder that I always bring in my gear bag when I travel. Dad had left one of those black discs for phone mount son the top of the dash, and the MD-12 fit right on it. Since the iPhone 6 Plus was powered through a cigarette lighter, I played Audible audio books and podcast through that, and both the app audio and directional audio came through the speaker. Nice. (This wouldn’t be a great experience for music of course, since it’s mono.)


I listened to three audio books on the trip, two of which I was already part-way through:

Just After Sunset: Stories. A mixed bag of short story by horror master Stephen King, some of which are truly excellent.

Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture. Incredible story of Id Software, which make Wolfenstein 3D, DOOM and Quake (among other trend-settings games).

Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution. Fascinating story about the partnership and then competition between Apple and Google. Only slightly marred by mispronunciations of names like OS X (“oh-ess-ex”) and iOS (“eye-ose”).

For podcasts, I listened to a few episodes of How Did This Get Made?, which is my favorite podcast, though I skip most of the tragically unfunny mini-episodes, and Mohr Stories with Jay Mohr. I suspect more than one person driving by me on I-70 wondered about the laughing madman in the MB.

Looking forward, I may see about getting at least some form of line-in connection in the car. I didn’t miss having music on this trip, but I may going forward. I guess the fallback plan is to stock the CD changer with CDs. How retro.

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