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…
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.
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.