Traveling with Dave

Weekend, September 26-27, 2009

"After 500 feet turn left then turn right."

Are we the only ones who have at least 5 projects due before a trip, with at least 3 throwing unexpected obstacles that delay their finish? Friday was one of those days best summed up by Grandpa Mohawk's three (yes three) trips to the pharmacy to get all those medicine refills. Just when we think we've finished and are ready to pack for that escape to somewhere fun, another snafu gets in the way.

Fortunately, we're getting better with age. My suitcase layed packed on the living room floor, still holding most of my summer clothes. Grandpa Mohawk (aka GM) left his two bags ready upstairs. So all we needed to do Saturday morning was throw all those bags in the van, remembering the selection of costumes for the Halloween Party and the other 15 zillion odds and ends we always find we need. You'd think after making this trip a dozen times, we'd have it down to a science?

One thing you learn as you travel is there is always something new to experience, even in some place old. This trip, I decided it was time to invite a 3rd wheel to our trio. His name is "Dave", he's great at barking orders and fits in the palm of your hand. Yes, he's my spanking new techie toy... GPS navigator TomTom 130s running in his best computer voice "Dave" mode.

We plugged in our destination, the first leg of our journey (Springhill Suites in Florence, South Carolina) and told Dave to find us the fastest route. Right from the start we got off on the wrong foot. A quick stop for gas had Dave urging us to get back on the road pronto. When he suggested we take the Western route of the Capitol Beltway, we laughed. Silly Dave. Obviously he's never had to try driving around the I-270 spur on a busy weekend. We blithely ignored him and he spouted out another suggestion... the Parkway. Again we ignored him. Ok Dave readjusted and let us have our way over the Wilson Bridge. He passes his first test. One of our requirements of a travel companion is the ability to adapt with minimal complaint.

By the time we whizzed by the mixing bowl and were solidly Southbound on I-95, Dave settled down into our rythm quite nicely. He counted down the miles to go, pointing out sights along the way and even kept track of our ETA. Sure he dinged whenever GM dared to push the speed limit (something that required a little technical surgery to relieve Dave of his anal retentiveness) and he didn't like when we stopped for a bite to eat at that Rock-nRoll McDonalds, but he got us to our beds safely that first night.

By day 2 on the route, we were comfortable trusting Dave as sole navigator. That's usually my job, but I had other things on my mind. Sunday was football time. We gave up prime seats to watch our Baltimore Ravens play Cleveland Browns. By 2pm, as we drove through Georgia, I was dying for some football news.

Check the radio? Nothing. Dave? "After 62.5 miles stay straight." Ok you're no help.

In desperation I twitter for help. Surely someone out there will pity me with at least a score? Apparently all my friends and family are too busy watching the game. What to do, what to do?

Then I remember my cell phone has an internet data plan. It's not much, but at least maybe I can get a score. So I queue up


GM startles, assuming I just noticed that big honking truck trying to pass us in the middle off a construction zone. No, I got a gander of the score... 23 -  3, Ravens over Browns.

What's more, there's a little automatic refresh button on my screen. So I "watch" the game on my cell, play by play, counting down the score and time all the way through Georgia. In my mind, I can picture the screaming fans, knowing my brothers are proudly representing the family in the stadium.

By the time we reach the Florida Welcome Station, my friiends finally hear my tweets. One friend is on his way home from Clearwater while I'm on the way in. Even my brother notices my urgent phone please for info. He's got news of his own. Are we watching the Steelers game? No, we're on the highway, but I'd read they were winning. They were, my brother tells us. Now Cincinnati scored a last minute touchdown and there are just seconds left in the game. He does a play-by-play over the phone while we stop for gas. Pittsburg looses, Ravens are 3-0 division leaders, and the thermometer reads 86 degrees in Florida. Life is good.

I guess Dave started to feel a little left out at this point. I mean, he had led us through 800 miles, day and night, sunny and rainy. Did we forget how cool he was sitting on the dash? I guess it was time for a reminder. Dave calls out, in the midst of all the highway construction in Jacksonville:

"Ahead 500 feet then take the exit left."

Exit left takes us directly off I-95 into the heart of the city. Uh oh. Dave what are you doing?

"Stay right then left."

Dave, this is a traffic light. There are buildings, tall empty office buildings. What happened to the interstate?

"Stay straight .2 miles then turn left."

Dave, why did our ETA suddenly jump 2 hours? Surely it doesn't take 5 hours to go 100 miles.

"After left, stay straight on Francis Street."

Dave, we don't want a tour of Jacksonville. We're going to Orlando, remember? Mickey, Minnie, that cute whale named Shamu? You like Shamu, don't you?

"Stay straight .6 miles."

I'm ready to pull Dave's plug.  Clearly he's gone HAL on us, but GM insists we follow this through. After all, Lord only knows where we are or how we get back.

I guess Dave is happy with that vote of confidence for his next words are "Ahead, turn right to Interstate 95 Southbound." GM excitedly points out the sign at the corner. And there off to the right is an on-ramp.

A few more turns and we're back to familiar territory. I guess my lesson is learned. One doesn't take any tech for granted. Neglected gadgets and gizmos have a way of exacting revenge by going haywire.

All in all, Dave proved his worth enough to keep his place on the dashboard. He even pointed out a quicker route through Orlando that takes us right past the Walmart. By the time we arrived at our home for the week (Marriott's Harbour Lake Villas), we were glad to here Dave loudly announce:

"You have reached your destination."

Our night ends with a pleasant surprise of LCD TV's in every room and a quick hook up of a laptop. We unpack while watching the plaback of the Ravens vs. Browns game live via Slingbox and DVR recording from Maryland. Of course, I made sure to lovingly stroke and compliment my little hard working laptop so we could catch all the important highlights.

Tomorrow: Our first day in Disney, welcoming the Autumn season in style.

Let the magic begin...