Although we consider ourselves to be moderately ok with and slightly aware of most modern technology and gadgets, we mostly found ourselves confounded, completely frustrated and battered into submission by it all. Even proper Glenda was reduced most days to swearing like a sailor as she and Sue had to manage many devices. Here begins the litany:
This is a big one. The blog entries involved basically all the technologies and technological knowledge we had.
– 3 digital cameras
-1 flip video camera
– 2 cell phones
-1 Coleman car fridge
-1 Subaru Tribeca (seems like cars are ruled by computer these days)
-2 HP12C financial calculators
- Blog updating: with low bandwidth, unstable wifi connections and random other hazards sometimes this took HOURS to do. And then there were the few cases of the disappearing blog entry. After typing and crossing all platforms, adding pictures and captions and stuff, the entry would on occasion simply disappear into the cyber black hole. This would elicit screams of unmentionable swearing, cursing and sometimes stomping and even throwing things (ok, not really, but it was frustrating with a capital F!).
- Loading pictures onto the blog. Sometimes the pictures would simply resize themselves so that they would either be micro dots we could barely see or giant space hogs taking up pages of the blog post.
- Editing the blog. If we tried to sort the blog in some other way to make it easier for our many readers 🙂 the blog would take over and do whatever it wanted to do which, of course, wasn’t what we wanted it to do.
- A minute about the blog and its bullet points. A most frustrating situation most of the time. Those bullet points just kept on coming whether you wanted them there or not.
- Come to think of it, it’s amazing we were able to put one decent, creative post on the blog given the ISSUES!!
- GPS or as we fondly referred to her: Myrtle(naturally spoken with a hard core Jersey accent…think separating the 2 syllables in a choppy way and not pronouncing the “t”. Say it with me – “Myr – ul”. You got it!!)
- Myrtle seemed to have some trouble when she was plugged into the car. For some reason she preferred to be independent of the plug and functioned only when freed from her connective umbilical cord. This was fine and dandy and nice to have another independent female on board, but it did present issues with running out of battery charge, possibly in crucial moments.
- The GPS would also randomly take us weird ways. We would head north to go south and east to go west and sometimes literally drive in circles following her direction.
- As navigatrix, Glenda learned early how to work with Myrtle’s viapoints. But this was no easy task really. If we wanted to find a place to go or stop en route to our destination we would have to insert a viapoint . But if we were too far from the viapoint Myrtle simply wouldn’t be able to find it. She was geographically nearsighted and could only find locations within a set distance maybe 50 miles or so. And we’re not talking small insignificant viapoints. We even had the issue with The Grand Canyon!
- The viapoint issue carried onto our time and mileage determination. Myrtle seemed to be unable to calculate the trip by viapoints; she couldn’t break it down for us – just the big picture from the start to finish no interim calculation available. Thus we were faced with having to perform mathematical operations in our heads…more horrors!! Egad.
- There was an awful lot of rebooting. Whenever the car was turned off, even for a gas fill up, when we turned it back on Myrtle would have to reboot and start the day anew awaiting new instructions from Glenda. How annoying!!
- There was random rebooting sometimes in the middle of a trip and not just the momentary lost satellites type of rebooting…total breakdown in communication!
- And the best Myrtle action was traveling from Death Valley CA to Las Vegas, NV on a straight road in the middle of NOWHERE, Myrtle starts screaming “turn right! turn right! turn right!” but there was not a road on the right for miles. Her insistent nagging was getting to us so we actually pulled over and had a moment of panic that maybe the whole course of directions that day had been wrong and where were we going? A giant bus heading to Vegas came by so we got back on the road and followed it and gave Myrtle an apparently much needed rest and a reboot.
- First up – the challenge of charging 2 cellphones in the car. Consider all the other gadgets we had in the car competing for charge up time and add in that Sue lost her charger and you have a challenge. Remember, the phone is ever so important on the road for planning our destination, food and fun we had to be vigilant charger uppers.
- Coming under the hellish cell phone category we include using the phone to make reservations at hotels along the way and experiencing the CUSTOMER CALL CENTER!! Usually these call centers are located in a foreign country. We found the most frequent customer service representatives were in India or the Phillipines – far, far away from Bumbleroot, South Dakota where we were. Glenda bore the brunt of the CUSTOMER CALL CENTER interactions. The agony litany here includes: calls dropped before completing the reservation; David’s or Mary’s accent so thick and confusing we weren’t sure what we were booking; David or Mary insisting on staying on script so we couldn’t get a word in edgewise. Glenda just about lost it on several occasions after which we had to pull over and and take deep cleansing breaths and a swig of something.
- Our smart phones also presented our emails and texts. So you can imagine what it felt like when those would all of a sudden disappear from Sue’s phone. If we were traveling in an area with sketchy service the emails might show up on the phone but the content would be blank, never to be retrieved again. After a month of this Sue bit the bullet and ventured into a Verizon store to find no help there. But an hour and a half call to Verizon tech support ended up with a new program and icon on the phone for checking email. This was on day 33 or three quarters of the way through the trip. Oy.
- Also lumped in under this category was the general lack of good cell phone coverage throughout the areas we traveled. Do those short little telephone poles have anything to do with this?
- A small positive note from Debbie and Donna Downer here. The mobile hotspot wifi connection on Sue’s phone was pretty cool and worked!
- So the Ipod was meant to provide some entertainment on the rare occasion we could not entertain ourselves. We had books on tape and NPR podcasts and music on the 2 Ipods we brought. Sue had no clue how to use one so again this fell on our Chief Technical Officer, Glenda. Here were the problems we had with this gadget: volume control, the first time we used it we could barely hear it over the din of the car driving. Try and try again to adjust the volume to suit our 50-something ears and no success. This magically corrected itself somehow. The chapters of some of the books on the Ipod were not sequential. Now this was a challenge and a half!! Not only did we have to remember what chapter we might be on we had to figure out how to scroll around and find the next chapter. Brain exercises and a bit of swearing thrown in. After we listened to a few chapters we would take a break and maybe start up again the next day. The Ipod would not open up to the last page we listened to. This, of course, meant we had to remember the chapter, which we did not; remember something that happened at the end of the previous day’s chapter, which we did not initially; but after we relistened to whole chapters and realized it sounded familiar we caught on and tried again to find our startup spot. Perhaps this is why we only made it through half of 2 books. In fact, we listened to the 2 halves twice!
- Yes we had several cameras with us as we expected lots of photo ops. Each of our cell phones had a camera. Sue had an Olympus digital camera with a big zoom lens and a point and shoot Canon and a Flip video camera. Glenda had a point and shoot Canon. 6 cameras in total.
- First up each of these cameras used a different type of charger. Please see cell phone category involving charging up.
- Similarly, each camera required a different way to download the pictures onto the laptop. How crazy is that? One would only work using the card reader; one would only work connecting the camera to the laptop directly even though the reader had a space for the appropropriate card; and one would do what it wanted at any given time.
- Sue’s big camera started off with all the wrong date stamps. This presented a problem in the downloading when they would automatically download to the laptop by date: 2004 which meant although we had actually downloaded them we didn’t see them in the folder we thought they should be in. Searching…searching….searching…
- Then there was the random button pushed by accident on the big camera resulting in all of the pictures having a blue tint. We refer to this as the Blue Period (like Picasso’s Periodico Azule…we know you see a lot of similarities here). This is why Niagara Falls and some of Pennsylvania seem to have a blue cast over them. We managed to fix this somehow after hours of trying to push the other buttons. Only to have it act up again ironically in Blue Earth, Minnesota.
- There was also another incorrect button push leading to the black or dark period over Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan. At that point, before fixing it, we bailed on the big camera and focused on the point and shoots.
- Glenda’s Canon finally decided to break down about halfway through the trip in Utah. The lens would not retract or emerge; it pretty much just sat there. So Glenda goes off to Walmart and buys a new camera, a Nikon with yet a different charger and card reader preference and a whole new set of user instructions. OY!
- The Nikon performed admirably for about a week until one day its lens remained a slit. No prodding or pushing would get that damn slit to open. So another trip to a Walmart, no replacement camera to be found so we returned that poor sucker and ventured to Best Buy to find yet another camera. This time a Canon again with, yes, another charger and card reader preference and a new set of operating instructions. Glenda, to her credit, kept calm and carried on during all this photographic upheaval.
- Hotel key cards. It is hit or miss with these swiping key cards. Sometimes they don’t work if you swipe too fast, or too slow, or the strip is facing the wrong way, or any combination of the above. There is also the card that was never activated by the desk clerk. Any of these failures most often occurred when we had chosen to lug all of our bags and extras into our hotel room for the night. Thus we were bogged down with bags in every hand and on our shoulders and backs and stood at the door of our room swiping and swearing followed by one of us going all the way back down to the lobby to get new cards. Exhausting!
- Computers at retail locations. Yes this happened too. Checking into a hotel or buying something or visiting a location, you just never know when “the computer is down” will result in postponing your check in, purchase or entry. Happily, again, we both kept calm and carried on and we weren’t really in a rush anyway.
- Car. Our car had some good features we would like to have used. Namely the overdrive feature for driving up or down mountains. We are sure this would have saved the brakes but we had not learned how to use that feature and were not ready to try it for the first time in the middle of a climb up or down in Yosemite.
- Shower. When we had traveled together in Europe in 2010 we found ourselves in a B&B in Salzburg with a confounding shower arrangement. Yes we had to call maintenance to come up and turn on the shower. In Vegas we were similarly stymied with the shower but we stayed with it and figured it out ourselves! We overcame past problem technology. Yay for us!
- Lastly, our HP12C financial calculators worked, as expected, perfectly. Sue’s is over 30 years old and Glenda’s is just shy of 30 and while we did not have to calculate any present value or mortgage calculation, we had no trouble with all of our financial calculations.