December 14, 2005

Travel widgets

Here's a sentiment I fully agree with. The author doesn't want a GPS device for Christmas.

The problem, to me, is that navigation by G.P.S. changes the nature of car travel: it makes it seem all about numbers (distance to destination, time to destination) when I'm trying to preserve a sense that travel is also about something else.

Hear, hear. Since I got a drivers license my vacations most often have consisted of "land someplace, rent a car, and head off into the distance." I went to Vancouver for Expo 86, then drove to Seattle, exchanged rental cars, and drove all over the State of Washington for a week. In 1983 I spent a week driving from LA (where I'd been working) to King's Canyon and Yosemite. Several times I've driven up and down the Oregon Coast, starting from San Francisco. Most recently I landed in Phoenix and drove east, wandering all over New Mexico and southeastern Arizona.

On none of these trips did I have specific destinations in mind. I wanted to see the Oregon Coast, but I stopped when and where I wanted while driving US-101 up and down the shore. This has led to some memorable experiences. Once I was midway through a vacation and completely forgot it was the Columbus Day weekend. I was somewhere around Newport, OR (map) at about 4:30 pm on that Saturday, so I started looking for a motel. Ha. There were nothing but "no vacancy" signs all the way up the coast. I ended up driving north and then east to Longview, WA, finally finding a bed around 11:30 that night. Along that stretch US-101 (or Pacific Coast Highway) is two lanes of very twisty asphalt, not a road I really wanted to try at night. Nonetheless, there I was, a quivering mass of relieved jelly once I finally found a place to sleep.

If I'd had a GPS gadget, I'd probably not have had that experience. Instead, it would have told me to head east at Newport and drive to Corvallis some 35 miles inland. I actually started that way that afternoon, but then I got stubborn and said to myself that I'd surely find a vacancy somewhere. The gadgets may take some of the travel experience away, and I don't want that.

Posted by Linkmeister at December 14, 2005 09:44 AM | TrackBack

I drove that same stretch of PCH in the late 80s in the dark. I was trying to get from Santa Cruz to Grants Pass in one go. Somewhere on that twisty dark highway I realized I was too tired to go on and pulled into some overlook to sleep. I stopped right beneath the sign that said "No Overnight Camping." I figured if I got rousted by the cops I would have at least slept for a while. Not only are there very few hotels on there, but also very few cops checking for overnight campers.

In addition to detracting from the let's-have-a-roadtrip experience. GPS units cost entirely too much for the amount of utility you get out of a computerized map.

Posted by: Hank at December 14, 2005 01:37 PM

On of my dreams is to drive along the stretch of highway that looks like no one else is on the road. I think it might be from Nevada to California. Then I could stop along the way to have my meals at local diners, and just leisurely get to my destination.
No one seems to do anything leisurely anymore. We are all in hurry to get somewhere, and once we are there, we are in a hurry to get out of there.....

Posted by: Toxiclabrat at December 15, 2005 03:23 PM