Our family loves technology. Cell Phones, gaming systems, nav units, dvd players, walkie talkies, ipods,cameras and video cameras, laptops and gps units. These are a few of our favorite things…
Yes, of course we looked forward to spending some quality time together, to getting back to nature, to laying on a beach and counting how many seagulls flew by. But with over a thousand miles to travel in each direction we also looked forward to getting in touch with our inner geeks. Young and old alike, we had enough bluetooth, wifi, battery operated techno gear to get Gilligan, the professor and the entire cast of Lost off their respective islands. Sort of.
Packing all that gear meant packing a lot of batteries and car/wall chargers. Fortunately we were able to leave several bulky chargers at home by packing the iGo everywhere retractable charger . This is a device that needs to be in every car. One retractable cord set works (with the use of multiple tips) to charge any of several dozen devices. And it works both in the car and in the wall! It whittled a stack of more than ten separate chargers down to a single cord set and small bag of device tips. And it worked perfectly. The retractable cord is a dream come true. No more tangle of chargers cluttering up the glove compartment. I’m officially in love with iGo and it’s staying in my car. As my new Honda only has one charge port, this device also serves a peacekeeping mission – ending the ongoing car-charger turf war between myself and my husband.
For our picture and video taking we brought along our beloved Sony Alpha and Sony Handycam HD Video Camera. Just so you know, any great shots are all them. Not my expertise. They only make me look good. One mac ibook and one PC promised to keep us connected with a little help from the widespread Boingo network. The beauty of Boingo is that it lets you get online at over 103,000 hotspots all over the world, for one monthly fee. No more signing up for a daypass here and an hour of connectivity there. It’s especially great in urban areas.
But when wifi was unavailable (the majority of the trip on the remote No.Cal and Oregon coast) we had our iPhone to keep us connected. Good thing too. On more than one occasion we found ourselves tapping into Yahoo’s powerful mobile search engine. We used Yahoo mobile to locate food, lodging, hotel and restaurant reviews and more. If you have not had occasion to explore this feature of Yahoo, take a look around before you next hit the road. It helped us find great lodging at the end of our first day, by providing reviews that our Nav units could not.
No stopping for directions:
It may sound ridiculous, but we actually hit the road with three navigation systems. Four if you count the GPS in our iphone. As copilot I tested them all, pitting them against each other to see what would happen and whether the sound of three female voices telling my husband to get left, and slow down, might be even more annoying than that of one wife. Separate reviews are in the works for the Nav-U by Sony, the Navigon 2100 Max and Honda’s onboard Navigation units but to sum up the finer points:
- The Sony Nav-u had the best lists of places to stop and turn by turn instructions to get you there. The unit was easy to program and read and saved us on more than one late night “we need a motel and we need it NOW” moment. The bluetooth cell feature makes it especially attractive for drivers in states that require hands free calling.
- The Navigon unit was a pleasure to look at. The three dimensional display made sense and when it was on, there was no looking at the built in screen. Every turn in the road displayed beautifully and complicated highway interchanges, lane changes etc were stressless. Plus this unit was the fastest at the all important “display the closest Starbucks” challenge and was able to speak street names.
- The Honda’s built in Navigation was the easiest to operate. Probably because it did not have cords that hogged the only power supply, suction cups etc and had a bigger screen. It also never lost GPS contact, and updated the fastest.
- When all else failed, we found that the GPS on our iphone, combined with data from Yahoo Mobile guided us to the more obscure places we needed to be and provided detailed reviews of those places – but not without a cell connection! It was also the easiest to use for traffic updates when in an urban environment.
Plugged in, in the back seat:
Up until recently our kids have not been big fans of handheld electronics. But for this trip they wanted their own cameras. V-tech to the rescue. Each of our kids got to take their own pictures of the trip, with Vtechs sturdy and easy to use kidizoom camera. The cameras are fun and offer all sorts of amusing templates. Consider the following pictures that my daughter took of her siblings:
These cameras don’t have the very best picture quality, but they do capture both still and video images and are so much fun to use that we found ourselves begging for the kids to hand them over and give us a chance to take pictures of each other with devil horns and angel halos.
When they got sick of taking pictures with the cameras, the kids spent many miles playing the included games that the kidizoom camera has built in.
The latter part of our first day of travel took us across the Golden Gate bridge, and into Sausalito where we had lunch. While in Sausalito we drove by the offices of Cartelligent, the awesome online brokers that negotiated a stress free deal for us on our new car lease and waved hello. Then it was on to Sonoma before dark.
Night fell as we pulled into Santa Rosa. A sleepy little town with a lot of heart, we were thrilled to find a cosy room at a historic hotel with amazing customer service. Sheer luck led us to the Hotel La Rose. Good luck! This gem is located across from a historic train depot and within walking distance of Santa Rosa’s downtown. The staff was friendly and courteous – bringing our children an unsolicited snack of fresh baked cookies, fruit and water soon after we checked in. Charming homey decor and fluffy down quilts on the beds made us feel right at home in our spacious room. Our kids marvelled at the vintage wc style toilet in our room, proving that even when travelling domestically, encountering a novel toilet is always a thrill.
A somewhat lavish continental breakfast , complete with fresh baked goods, was included in the price of the room. This inclusion makes the hotel one of the most affordable choices in the area. The staff at Hotel La Rose took good care of us weary travelling parents as well, sending up vouchers for two glasses of excellent local wine from the hotel bar. It was such a sweet pit stop that we wished we could stay longer. As we rolled out of Santa Rosa we glanced back longingly at a summer festival, complete with model trains, local artists and a puppet show. We’d have to return to Santa Rosa.
On day two we’d be cruising down the Avenue of the Giants. Many more miles and the massive silent redwoods awaited us.