First the confession: I stole the title of this post.
Well, sort of.
See when I was writing the list of titles for this series of posts I was just kind of free writing – you know where you shift your brain into neutral and just start typing. Then when you’re done typing you edit and delete until there is something useful on the screen. Often I don’t delete enough.
When I went back to look at my list, this title caught my attention, “Travels with Google.” It had a familiar ring. It took a few days before I connected my improvised title with John Steinbeck’s 1960 travelogue, Travels with Charley, where Steinbeck chronicled his 10,000 mile road trip around America. If you haven’t read it you should.
Except for the title and a road trip, this post has nothing in common with Steinbeck’s work and will not be the vehicle that wins me that Nobel Prize for Literature. This post is more about a car, two travelers, cell phones and Google maps.
In the 60’s when my mother was planning a road trip she’d head over to the local AAA office and get a stack of maps and guide books. On the road it was up to us boys to read the maps for mother and make sure she was on the right road.
Mother had the great ability to get lost. We learned early that mother had no concept of north, south, or left, right. Tell her to turn right at the next stop light and there was only a 50% chance she’d turn right. The guide books came in handy too. Not only to find a place to camp or a motel, but also to help decide what we were going to see that day.
Today travel and travel planning is very different. When Heather and I started thinking about this trip our first stop wasn’t AAA, but rather our computer and google.com. The wealth of information there is just amazing to a boy from the 60’s. Detailed maps, hotels, motels, gas stations, National Parks, and various roadside attractions all detailed with just a press of the keys.
Before setting out in the car, I did a lot of planning, and using google maps, planned a trip that would take about a week. The idea was to take Heather to many of the places I’d see as a child and maybe one or two I hadn’t. We weren’t going to camp, so finding hotels was part of the research. By the time the planning was done I had a detailed itinerary which looked something like this:
Saturday 4/1 Home to Needles 8h
Sunday 4/2 Needles to Holbrook/Petrified Forest 4h 21m
Monday 4/3 Day in Petrified Forest
Tuesday 4/4 Travel to Taos /Petroglyph NM 5h 32m
Wednesday 4/5 Day in Taos
Thursday 4/6 Travel to Monument Valley 6h 20m
Friday 4/7 Day in Monument Valley
Saturday 4/8 Travel to Needles 5h 59m
Sunday 4/9 Needles to Home 8h
In addition to this I’d made hotel reservations for each night of the trip.
Once on the road, I was the main driver and Heather would take over on some stretches to give me a break. Heather did most of the navigation duties and using her phone and the google maps app, she’d guide us into town and our hotel. Today’s smart phone is a wonder of communications. Text messaging, phone, email, GPS, maps, search, music, solitaire …
For all the fancy things a smart phone can do for you, there is just something about a book that gives a different perspective on things. Heather checked out a travel book from the library on Arizona and one of the listings was the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff. We were passing through Flagstaff and went to the museum and really liked the exhibit on jewelry and the different designs done by various tribes in the area.
We had our lunch in Flagstaff, found the historic district and walked around. Just before it was time to hit the road for Holbrook we decided that a nice cup of tea would be in order, so Heather brought up the google map app and found a highly rated tea shop not too far away.
When we got there, it looked like a bit of a hole in the wall and the sign out front advertised it’s chi tea specialties. We were actually looking for a nice proper English afternoon tea, but faced with giving it a try or getting the cell phone again, we decided to give it a try.
The place was nice and felt like it would be at home in San Francisco or perhaps Marin. The owner greeted us and assured us of a nice cup of English tea. It was, but it’s the first time I’ve seen steamed milk used in a cup of tea. Sounds weird, but tasted just fine.
From the tea shop, google directed us to the Interstate and our next stop at Holbrook and an interesting dinner.
But that is a subject for next week as the oven beep meaning our Sunday night pizza is ready.
Till next week and the tale of, “Italian Food in the Desert.”