27 October 2010

Vacation Blessings: Day 13

The Trip

I did something really stupid last night: I stayed up all night playing Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty. I can't remember the last time I did that -- it was probably with the first Starcraft. A very addictive game, as you would expect from the folks at Blizzard. And not a quick one to beat, by any means.

Unfortunately, morning always comes at the same time, and we had to leave this morning. I realized at about 5:30 that it was getting late -- er, early -- and decided to take a quick nap on the couch. About two hours later, I ate breakfast, then we played one last game of Bohnanza and headed out.

Our drive was a good one, and after passing through the Alleghenies, we stopped for the night in Dayton, OH. This time, our comparison shopping for hotel rooms was a little more successful, thanks to our previous practice.

We had been looking forward to exploring Dayton, but by the time we got there, all we wanted was takeout and TV shows on the wifey's laptop. We were satisfied in these desires by The Royal Wok and The Office. Om nom nom and LOL, respectively.

The Blessings

The Interstate System. Like many blessings, this one is a double-edged sword. Arguably, more than anything else in our culture, Interstates have promulgated chain stores and restaurants, contributed to urban sprawl, and killed the small town. But they are also very nice, safe roads to use, and they enable travel opportunities that would have been considered the stuff of science fiction in the recent past.

I could drive from coast to coast in two days for about a week and a half's worth of salary if I really had to. Contrast that with the months of life-threatening travel by wagon or stagecoach that were the norm a century and a half ago, and then tell me whether the Interstate is a benefit or a detriment. Or think of those long, dirty, dreary train rides that would have been necessary to accomplish the same feat 100 years ago.

Say what you will about the Interstate System or Dwight D. Eisenhower, its father, we certainly enjoyed using it on this trip.

Wi-Fi. I love how ubiquitous free wi-fi has become all over the place: hotels, coffee shops... even McDonald's restaurants! No matter where we go, we never have to be off the grid for more than a few hours. Of course, like the Interstate System, this can be a double-edged sword, but as long as we use it wisely, wi-fi is a fantastic tool.

Online Map Services. Whether you prefer MapQuest, Google Maps, or some other service, these are a godsend. Where you used to have to spend hours poring over atlases and tables of city distances, you can now just plug your starting and ending addresses into the computer, and bada bing, you've got instant directions. Of course, the directions aren't any good if a highway doesn't actually exist in real life. But other than that, these are the next best thing to...

Global Positioning Systems (GPSes). In Virginia and Maryland, these are vital. Like, almost impossible to live without. Traffic volumes are so high, and construction is so frequent, that it is vital to have a GPS handy. This is especially true when you're going someplace you haven't been to very much before. Again, this is straight out of Sci-Fi. (In this case, literally! Arthur C. Clarke, author of such Sci-Fi works as 2001: A Space Odyssey, was also the originator of communications satellites, without which there would be no GPS.)

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