Road Trip! That quintessential American adventure, experiencing the nation via automobile, is about to begin for many of us this summer, myself included.
Readers may know I'm using my smartphone to help me find a new home. That new home is thousands of miles away. My teenage son and I have decided that we will make the move on wheels. My wife, his mother, insists this is crazy. Accordingly, she has booked a flight.
Her loss. We aren't driving the Interstates, either. That's for truckers. Instead, we're taking the historic U.S. Route 50: Jump on in Ohio, drive through the plains, into Dodge City, across the Continental Divide, over the Rockies and through the stretch known as the "loneliest road in America" before arriving (almost) in San Francisco.
We intend to eat great local food, stop at unique spots along the way, take in the history, have fun, make it memorable and stay safe. To that end, apps will definitely help.
I have an iPhone. He has an Android. We share a Kindle Fire. With those platforms in hand, these are the apps we are using to help make this little adventure that much more enjoyable.
Dad Needs His Coffee
Don't Make Me Stop This Car
Let's face it, driving along an old American highway across the country, for all its sights and sounds, hour after hour, day after day, means we will almost certainly hit more than one achingly long dull patch. We will need ways to lessen our boredom while inside the car. I'm not naive.
With the miracle of technology, we have hours of video, thousands of pages and more games than we will ever need, all inside our smartphone. I recommend these, in particular:
- Amazon Instant Video (Free—iOS, Android). On both the iPhone and Kindle Fire, we have downloaded several hours of our favorite television series and movies, at reasonable prices.
- Kindle (Free—iOS, Android) We have already downloaded several books. Hint: we share a single Kindle account on both the Kindle Fire and iPhone. Bonus hint: I scored a great deal on the entire series of original James Bond novels last month.
- Card Games (Free—iOS) The smartphone is the perfect gaming console and we both already have several games on our devices. However, I find that card games are a great way for me to keep boredom at bay while still keeping enough of my brain focused on my surroundings. This app includes several card games.
On The Road
Fact is, Google's free mapping data is amazing, and the turn-by-turn directions and real-time traffic data can be a godsend. One issue keeps popping up: I have yet to figure out to tell the app that I never want to venture off Highway 50—it insists I take the Interstate highways.
Waze (Free—iOS, Android) is a community-based navigation app that I also recommend. Waze incorporates GPS data and real-time information from its 50 million users to alert drivers about current road conditions. Use it and you won't be surprised why Google spent a small fortune for it.
No, I'm just kidding. We plan to eat the greasiest, tastiest, most delicious local fare we can find, be it at a tavern, old-school drive-in, or some hidden regional gem tucked away that only the locals know about. We are relying on two apps to help with this culinary journey of discovery.
Yelp (Free—iOS, Android) is always at my side, and never more useful than when I am traveling. In fact, Yelp has probably changed how I eat. It tells me what restaurants are nearby, lets me select by food type, includes extremely useful reviews on most of the establishments - many of which I would not otherwise even know about. This is a must-have for our road trip. Never again stop at a chain restaurant.
Wish You Were Here
As I expect to have many grand thoughts while on the road, I have paid for the well-designed Voice Record Pro (Free—iOS) app to record my brilliance.
Of course, we aren't only going to document our trip in words, sounds and pictures for posterity. We plan to share our adventures in real-time with friends and family.
For check-ins, I am using Foursquare (Free—iOS, Android), linked to Facebook (Free—iOS, Android). For sharing pictures, I will post to Instagram (Free—iOS, Android), also linked to my Facebook account. I plan to create several short videos as well, using Vine (Free—iOS, Android). These will be posted to my Twitter feed.
I will also use Soundcloud (Free—iOS, Android) to record and then share the various interesting, funny or just plain odd sounds I hear. Maybe it's from an AM-radio preacher, a crowded diner or just the sound of frogs and crickets at night.
Of America's many gifts to the world—and to the future—none are so perfect as baseball. As avid baseball fans, we are using the MiLB (Free—iOS) app to guide us to every Double-A and Triple-A game along our route. This is a must.
If, inexplicably, baseball is not for you, there are numerous apps which will guide you to famous landmarks, national parks, local oddities, museums and more.
A few I recommend include:
- Best Road Trip Ever ($0.99—iOS) includes location and details on "10,000 offbeat destinations."
- History Here (Free—iOS, Android) has information on, that's right, historical sites and landmarks throughout America.
- Roadside America ($2.99—iOS) will set you back a few dollars but, like Best Road Trip Ever, contains information on all those cool things—like a giant ball of twine—that may only be found in just one place.
For both iPhone and Android, there are numerous apps to help you find just the right hotel for your needs with Hotels.com (Free—iOS, Android), or enable you to score a unique lodging experience using Airbnb (Free—iOS, Android). There are also Camp & RV ($9.99—iOS, Android) to help you find nearby campgrounds. If a bed and breakfast is what you prefer, InnTouch and others have you covered.
Since we are driving a car across country over 10 days, we will most likely spend our nights in standard roadside hotels.
Be Prepared And Organized
I am not expecting any roadside emergencies; I doubt anyone ever does. But, the free RepairPal (Free—iOS, Android) app sold me with its blurb: the "RepairPal app tells you the right price to pay for your repair, finds you a great mechanic in the area, tracks all your repairs, and gives you one-touch access to roadside assistance." Seems wrong to not have this with me.
To track expenses, including fuel, food, snacks and lodging, I have purchased the Road Trip ($4.99—iOS app.
Eyes on the Road
We are often told that people have their attention focused on their smartphone screen, missing what's happening all around them. Perhaps. In this case, however, smartphones will make our trip more fun, possibly more memorable, and offer us an opportunity to visit unique spots and meet people we might otherwise never have met.
I can't wait for the trip to start.
Image of highway courtesy of Wikimedia. Image of giant ball of twine courtesy of peachsmack, via Creative Commons license.