Digital road trips

Five and a half years ago I ventured up to Michigan's Upper Peninsula with all of my belongings packed into my Ford Escape. My most important possession that day? It wasn't my phone. It was a road atlas. You know they type: the oversized collection of maps of every state, the one that gets stuffed in the seat's back pocket or under the front seat. I had only a vague idea of where I was headed, so it was me, my map and a friend's directions scrawled on a piece of paper.

My, how times have changed.

This past weekend we drove to Traverse City, MI for hockey series. It's a seven hour drive. I no longer keep an atlas in my car, but only because I gave it to my mom the last time she drove up to visit. I guess it doesn't matter, though. I plugged our destinations (ice rink, hotel) into my smartphone and it routed me right up to the front door. The GPS capabililty showed me where I was AS I WAS DRIVING. A few years ago I would have had piles of mapquest printouts cluttering my car. Not any longer.

My mom and sister drove up from Detroit to meet us for the weekend, and they also used a GPS system (built into their car's dashboard) for directions. When I asked her which route they had taken to get here, they were cluleless. "We just followed the GPS," they said.

I've never felt the need for a dedicated GPS unit because of where I live. When you live in a small town, you don't need a computer to tell you where to go. But if I lived in a larger metropolitan area, I could see how they'd be useful.

Do you use one? Are there any other digital "road trip" devices you can't live without?

-Amy
Amy blogs over at This Northern Life.

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