We just returned from a 5,000 mile trip through 12 U.S. states. Since both of our vehicles are pick-ups that aren't the comfiest road cars, we decided to rent a car and hit the open road with little in the way of pre-planning beyond a 2-night hotel reservation in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. Our rental car turned out to be the size of a roller skate, but it was pretty comfortable and got great gas mileage. So off we went. From Northwest Montana to Nashville, Tennessee and back again, we saw beautiful mountains, cornfields, lots of windmills, the Great Platte River Road Archway, Graceland, Crystal Bridges, and the Will Rogers Museum. We met awesome people, drank fabulous craft beer, heard amazing music, and learned a ton about what's going on in the middle of our country.
You know what was one of the most notable parts of the trip? Well, sharing a hotel in Clarksville, TN with the amazing young kids who were competing in the national 6th grade basketball championships certainly ranked, but another was how easy the trip was because of a gizmo I often take for granted - my mobile phone. I travel a lot. But most of my trips are pretty planned out; I know where I'm going and have hotel reservations before I get there. Not this trip. With only a few scheduled stops and our Nashville hotel reservation, this was a seriously spontaneous road-trip.
And the bottom line is: We drove over 5,000 miles safely and pleasantly mostly because of our mobile phones (and my husband's good temperament). Along the way, in our roller skate sized car, we researched sights to see (TripAdvisor), reserved motels/hotels an hour before arriving (Booking.com), figured out where to eat or get coffee (Yelp and Open Table), listened to music and books (Itunes, Kindle), shot thousands of photos and video (our phones), mapped our drive on and off the big highways (Google Maps), did some business (texting and e-mail), caught up on social media (all the usual), monitored the weather (NOAA), and even made an on-line purchase (Amazon). It was so easy.
I haven't driven across country for almost 9 years. A lot has changed. The biggest visual change was the towering windmills that go on for hundreds of miles, as far as the eye can see, across the Midwestern states. A less visible change, but no less remarkable, was how often we used our phones and how connected we were all the time, just about everywhere. We hit a dead spot or two, but not many and not for very long. We had lots of LTE coverage and could rely on our phones to keep us informed and connected from just about everywhere.
It's awesome to see America through the windshield and to connect with so many amazing folks from Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado.
For anyone considering a long road-trip, it's not nearly as challenging as it used to be thanks to all the new mobile technologies and our increased connectivity. It's easy to take for granted, but we're so lucky to be able to check the weather, jump in our vehicles, turn on some tunes, figure out the route, see some sights, shoot some video, drive until we're little road-weary, cruise into a motel reserved just 30 minutes ago, drop off the backpacks, walk to a nearby restaurant that got great reviews for its craft beer, and then relax until hitting the road again the next day.
There's still some summer left, so if you haven't used up all your vacation time, you might want to think about some windshield time. It's a lot easier than it used to be.