Lessons Learned on a Recent Road Trip

We hit the road last week and drove from Austin to Denver and back, stopping many times along the way to see the sights. Being away from home, I discovered a few things I hope you’ll find useful or thought-provoking. Here are some things to consider before you hit the road:

Cell Service is not Ubiquitous

Cellular service can be spotty or non-existent while driving, and dead zones are common between cities. Then, your streaming media suddenly stops streaming. But we’re experienced travelers, so we downloaded plenty of podcasts, music, and audiobooks to our iPhones before we left and listened to our choice of audio entertainment without interruption all week, with or without cellular (or WiFi) service.

BLOC (Bring Lots of Cables)

I always travel with a bag full of cables and chargers. I first pack cables and chargers for our two iPhones, two iPads, 2 Apple Watches, and my MacBook Pro, then add any cables or adapters I think we might need, including (but not limited to) Ethernet, HDMI, and Thunderbolt, along with an assortment of adapters. Then I toss in one or two rechargeable batteries for our iDevices (just in case).

I rarely need anything except the cables and chargers we use for our devices, but this trip was the exception that reminded me why I schlep all those extra cables and adapters when I travel. When we visited my friend Barry, he lamented that the external display connected to his iMac had ceased to function. I determined that the weird proprietary cable that came with the monitor was almost certainly to blame; when I connected it with the HDMI cable in my bag of tricks, it sprung back to life.

Do You Really Need that Laptop?

I learned something new on this trip—I can leave my MacBook Pro at home unless I expect to do a lot of writing/composing/editing. I packed it for this trip but never pulled it out of my backpack. I had no trouble managing my texts, emails, and social media interactions between my iPhone and iPad. I credit the excellent Brydge keyboard on my iPad for most of this; I don’t think I could have kept up using only the iPad’s virtual keyboard or dictation.

From now on, I will probably leave my laptop behind when I travel unless I expect to have to do serious writing and editing. Even then, unless I am working on a project that demands files created by Microsoft Word for Mac or PC (such as a For Dummies book), I expect to avoid lugging a laptop on most trips.

GPS isn’t Ubiquitous, Either

One last thing: Texas is home to the second-largest canyon in the United States, so we took a short detour from our route to check out Palo Duro Canyon State Park (near Amarillo). In the park, I noticed that the Maps app had lost its GPS signal and couldn’t guide us back to our hotel. Fortunately, we knew how to get back to the main highway, where the Maps app came back to life. Next time I’m planning to drive “off the grid,” I’m going to try Google Maps, with its ability to specify and download maps in advance.

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