On the road

On the road, western North Dakota

On the road, western North Dakota

Like millions of other travelers, I’m celebrating the end of summer by hitting the road, bound for a windjammer festival in Camden, Maine before an extended jaunt through the Canadian Maritimes.

And with the first night and nearly 500 miles under my seatbelt, I’m also celebrating the ways technology has transformed the road trip.

The paper TripTiks I remembered from my childhood station wagon days were useful, but audible, turn-by-turn directions that incorporate detours based on realtime traffic jams are much better (and yes, Apple’s map guru even knows that “Worcester” is pronounced “Wooster”).

We could track the cheapest places to fill up via Gas Buddy, check the interstate driving forecast on Weather.com and trade paper guidebooks for TripAdvisor and Kindle.

Thanks to bidding on the fly via Priceline, we scored a last-minute, 60% discount on a Courtyard by Marriott in Lowell, Mass. and toasted our success with Mai Tais and saki at Feng Shui, a nearby Asian fusion place we’d never have known about without Yelp’s help.

Of course, high-tech does have its limits. It was getting dark by the time we pulled off I-495 for our Courtyard by Marriott, and the iPad’s erstwhile reliable map deposited us at the local Lowe’s instead. A quick call to the hotel front desk steered us in the right direction – and reminded us that humans can still trump on-the-road wizardry.

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