I love living in the future.

Yesterday, I took a 300-mile trip from Indianapolis to St. Charles, Missouri to spend some time with my brothers, their families, and our parents. I made the trip in the front passenger seat of a van, while my sister-in-law drove. I had my tablet propped on the dash in front of me, a Bluetooth keyboard on my lap, and my Karma Go hotspot plugged into an adapter. Hence, I was able to surf the Internet freely and hang out with my on-line friends all the way across the state. I probably should have tried to get more writing in, but it wasn’t the most conducive setting.

StCharlesMo location

Still, how amazing would it have been just a few short years ago to be able to stay online without a break while driving across two states and one city? To be able to chat with a full-sized physical keyboard interface, without needing something heavy and bulky like a laptop? When I grew up or went to college, it would have seemed like pure science fiction. But it’s the sort of thing that most dedicated digital travelers these days can take for granted.

By the same token, we can do amazing things with e-books now if we want. We can buy and download them in comfort no matter where we are and what we’re doing, whether we have a 3G-capable Kindle or not. With a decent hotspot, any device can access 3G or even 4G Internet. You would think this should account for a renaissance of reading, and maybe it would, except that we can do a lot of other things with that connectivity, too, and those things tend to be a bit more compelling.

For example, I was able to use my smartphone and an FM transmitter to play tunes from Google Music over the entire course of the drive. I could have watched streaming video if I had wanted to be antisocial (just my luck that the big weekend trip comes right when Netflix releases Jessica Jones!) or played online video games. And this serves to underscore the necessity for e-book stores to find ways to compete, not just with Amazon, but with all the other things that draw readers’ attention away,


But tablets can be turned to more useful purposes, too–such as blogging, which I’m doing right now from my other sister-in-law’s kitchen table while her two adorable kittens play nearby. I have to admit, this is a lot more portable than my old laptop was. We’ll see what else I can come up with to report this weekend.


  1. Don’t forget the apps that track gas prices and those who’ll clue you in to nearby sites worth visiting. You may be able to save enough on gas to pay for those cellular minutes.

    Interestingly, when I moved 2900 miles by Interstate in August of 2012 (Seattle to Auburn, AL), I deliberately went not just no-tech but almost no maps. My most recent map was about twelve years old and I hardly used any maps.

    Pulling a trailer that limited my speed to about 50 MPH, I didn’t want to trap people behind me on two-lane roads. I used a large map of the US Interstate system to write out a loose set of instructions: X Interstate to Y city, then Z Interstate on a 3 x 4 inch scrap of paper. That’s all. It worked quite well.

    That experience illustrates how difference Interstates have made travel. Before them, driving at an angle cross-country would have meant taking dozens of roads, many of the small and out-of-the way. Mine was a rebellion against the old complicated two-lanel travel and the new GPS-driven, no-driver-skill-required one. I deliberately made it very seat of the pants.

    When I hit Denver, I had no idea how I would transfer from a N-S Interstate to an E-W one other than knowing they had to intersect. I saw a three-digit Interstate branching to my left. Heck, I thought, most of those bypass a city, maybe this one will do that. It took it on a hunch, saving me much time during rush hour. Like I said, driving on hunch and guess proved a lot of fun. Most nights, I slept in my car at rest stops with the big semis.

    The only downside was that, encumbered by that trailer, I didn’t stop to sightsee. It was one long grind in August with no air-conditioning and highway work in the far west narrowing the road to one lane about 2-3 times a day.

    A lot of people today are happy with their GPS navigation, but they may find themselves in serious trouble if it is not available. You need to retain the ability go low-tech or no-tech.

  2. The funny thing is, today watching my brother sketch out a map for my dad to get to someone’s house, using his iPhone as a reference, it occurred to me that, as ubiquitous as smartphones are becoming, my dad’s could be the last generation that needs paper maps drawn out for it.

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