A Very Unparked Domain
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Visual Flight Rules

We have come to rely heavily on our BlackBerry as a navigation tool. We use Garmin GPS Navigation software and Google Maps Mobile on the BlackBerry every day. We also use the BlackBerry web browser to look up accommodations, restaurants that work with our diet restrictions, gas stations, etc. And it has been really handy for keeping track of lists like our food allergies. The BlackBerry has turned out to be a wonderful and convenient travel tool for us. And we’re about to lose it.

When we cross the border into Canada, we have to shut the BlackBerry off and take the battery out so we don’t get hit with outrageous international roaming charges.

Suddenly we’re on visual flight rules. How exciting!

I was promoted to my family’s designated navigator in elementary school, so I am perfectly happy working with a paper map. In a pinch, Neil and I have navigated on this trip using the simplified maps in travel coupon books, the zoomed out maps in hotel chain directories, and the cartoon maps on promotional placemats. We like to make the most of the tools at hand.

“Eyeballing it” works out fine for highway driving, but gets a little more exciting when we’re in traffic in the heart of a big city. We do our best to time our travel for off-peak traffic hours, and that helps to some extent.

What losing the BlackBerry means for me as the navigator, over and above losing electronic maps and voice prompts, is that I now get to front-load my work. Every night, I’ll be preparing for the next day by researching (gluten-free) restaurants, facilities, etc., on the Internet, looking up directions, etc. I do a lot of that kind of preparation even when we do use the BlackBerry, so it isn’t a big change for me. I’m all in favour of “spontaneous” and unplanned travel, in theory–it just becomes a little impractical when you are traveling with any kind of health, physical, or dietary limitations. You know what they say: a navigator’s work is never done.

Going VFR is exciting, and I know we’ll manage just fine, especially if I can stay awake long enough at night to do the next day’s prep.

It’s just that losing the BlackBerry feels just a little bit like sailing off the end of the world.

And doesn’t every traveler want to feel that way sometime?

June 12, 2009   1 Comment


I was already aware that New York and Toronto are under seige by bed bugs, but I only just discovered that Montreal is also beset by the dreaded punaises.

My understanding is that bed bugs are not snobs and do not discriminate between four-star and no-star hotels: going upscale and paying more money doesn’t guarantee you’ll avoid getting eaten alive.

I am researching and reading travel reviews much more thoroughly than normal. I really don’t want to check my parents into La Casa del Scratch.

When you’re booking your own accommodations, how do you figure out whether a hotel has bed bugs?

If anyone has good advice on how to verify in advance that a (Montreal) hotel is bug-free, I would love your help!

May 21, 2009   11 Comments

Reports of our Demise…

This is the story of a short hiatus from the blog.

To fill the time until we come back, we give you a picture of a painted flossie on a Charleston street corner at Christmastime.

We have not fallen from the face of the Earth, nor have we ended our trip. We expect a lot more of the latter (and hopefully less of the former) in the future.
Painted Flossie on a Street Corner at Christmas
Rather, we’re in Charleston.

We’re having a bit of a winter visit, as the Neil-side of the family has had a member in the hospital (things are going astonishingly well with that) and we turned the ability to live anywhere into an opportunity to live nearby for a while. After a brief stopover in Summerville, we are staying in beautiful Historic Charleston, down with all the SOBs (South of Broad Streeters, for the passers-by; the NOBs live on the other side).

We will be taking the opportunity to have a good visit with family and friends (Shaula has never lived in Charleston before, and Neil hasn’t in a decade) and taking lots of pictures. While most of you probably won’t be interested in where Neil went to school, or stopped for a car on fire, we hope to get lots of postable pictures of historic places and changes in the city.

We currently have no plans of riding the Coburg Cow.

March 9, 2009   14 Comments

Virginia is for Leavers

Virginia’s state slogan might be “Virginia is for lovers”—which certainly applies in our case—but our motto today is “Virginia is for leavers.”

Today we launch a whole new chapter of the trip: we exit Virginia (for the third time this trip) to head west for Tennessee.

As much as we love Virginia, it’s time to make like a tree and leave.

Maple leaves on the lawn of the Rockridge Virginia Court House, October 5, 2008

October 9, 2008   4 Comments


Quote of the Day

“$29 for a hotel in downtown Boston? You’d have to bring your own fleas!”

In response to my announcement that I’d found a room for $29 in Boston (which turned out to be $329).

August 24, 2008   Comments Off on B.Y.O.F.

Finding Free WiFi

Rather than sit and program in a dingy hotel room all day, it is nice to get out to libraries and cafes that offer free wireless Internet (“wifi”) to enjoy the atmosphere, chat with local people, and keep the non-programming member of the household (that would be me) out of trouble while the programming member is getting his work done. The trick, of course, is how to find free wifi.

We have just added a “Free WiFi Finders” section to our sidebar to list our favourite free wifi resources. These are all sites that we use ourselves, and we hope you find them as useful as we do.

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August 14, 2008   12 Comments

Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire: Where to Next?

We are checking out of the Sturbridge Publick House tomorrow, which means it is high time to figure out where we are going next!

The weather here in Sturbridge, Massachusetts has been unseasonably rainy, with higher temperatures predicted in the next few days. It doesn’t look like we’ll be able to remain in the northeast and escape the rain, but at least we’d like to go far enough north that we can escape the heat.

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August 13, 2008   2 Comments

Doing the laptop scuba dance

In the spin-offs from the 1970’s disaster movies (think Towering Inferno, Aiport 77, the Poseidon Adventure and their ilk) there were a disproportionate number of water rescue scenes where the rescue diver had to share the only oxygen tank with the (skinny and scantily clad) damsel he was attempting to retrieve from the watery depths. They pass the breathing mask back and forth until they make it to safety with just molecules of oxygen left in the tank. (There’s usually a presumed-to-be dying-breath smooth in there somewhere, too.)

And that’s why, when Neil and I are sitting in a public place, using two laptops, and sharing just one power cable, I think of it as the “Laptop Scuba Dance.”

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August 12, 2008   Comments Off on Doing the laptop scuba dance

48 State Postcard Project

We have come up with a new way to have fun with our road trip: The 48 State Postcard Project.

First of all, we’re going to try to hit all 48 contiguous US states on this trip.

Secondly, we’re going to send a postcard to each of our nephews from every state we visit.

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August 11, 2008   3 Comments

Leaving Syracuse, Heading to Maine

We received a sternly-worded reprimand from a friend by email this morning taking us to task for failing to tell her we were going to be in Ellicott City where she had some great recommendations for us.

Never let it be said that we are beyond correction. (At least not by anyone other than our mothers.)

While it’s a challenge on a no-plans, no-deadlines trip like ours, we’ll try to give everyone a heads up on where we are heading in advance. (Just don’t be surprised if our plans change. It’s that kind of trip.) We really appreciate all the suggestions and introductions we’ve received from friends, and we want to make sure we can receive your ideas in a timely manner.

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August 9, 2008   3 Comments