Monthly Archives: January 2013

Tortured By Technology: Warning!! Warning!! Error!! Error!!

A Litany of our Technology-Induced Agony

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.

-1 laptop

– 3 digital cameras

-1 flip video camera

– 2 cell phones

-1 IPad

-2 IPods

-1 GPS

-1 Coleman car fridge

-17 chargers/plugs

-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.

And the Award Goes to…

Movies have the Oscars, Broadway has the Tonys, music has the Grammys and now we are proud to present the first cross-country trip awards, in honor of Thelma and Louise, the “Thel-ises”.

As you know, Glenda is a member of SAG-AFTRA and that union is giving its awards on Sunday, January 27. We know you join us in hoping that Glenda walks away with the trophy for “Best Performance by an Elbow in a Television Series”. Fingers crossed!!!

We’d love to have you create awards for our blog! For example, “Funniest Line in the Blog” or “Most Clever Comment by a Reader”. Please feel free to post your award here on the blog or if you are technologically challenged (please see our post “Tortured by Technology”) you can email it to us and we’ll post it for you. We love your feedback!

And the Thel-ise goes to…


  • Scariest/Hardest Drive
    • Yosemite National Park, CA – Lots of switchbacks, perilous drops and limited visibility at night. Yikes!
    • Monarch Pass, CO – Not sure which was worse, climbing or descending…
    • the flooded desert of Las Vegas, NV – We decided they don’t know how to build roads for rain in the arid desert that is Vegas; one downpour and the place is treacherous!


  • Loneliest Road
    • Yep, you guessed it, Route 50 – also known as “The Loneliest Road in America”


  • Most Expensive Gas
    • Death Valley, CA Regular: $5.99 per gallon


  • Least Expensive Gas
    • Liberty Corner, NJ Regular: $3.95 per gallon Go Jersey!!


  • Most Perilous Empty Gas Tank Situation
    • Day 1 en route to Niagara Falls, NY – We were so enthralled with actually being on the road, starting our adventure, that we utterly forgot about the gas tank and got down to fumes. Good grief!!!


  • Best Vehicle Feature of our Subaru Tribeca
    • Our personal temperature controls (very handy for non-synchronized hot flashes)
    • Down-shifting (if we had ever learned how to use it)

Food and Drink

  • Best Meal (home-cooked excluded)
    • Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ in Kansas City, KS – This eatery started as an adjunct to a gas station and still serves up fabulous ribs with a side of regular or premium gas.


  • Most Creative Use of a Fruit
    • National Lakeshore of Michigan’s everything cherry. Who knew there was such a thing as cherry salsa or cherry coffee? All at their own everything cherry store, Cherry Republic.


  • Most Surprisingly Tasty Local Delicacy
    • Fish sausage from Carlson’s of Leelanau, MI
    • Elk mignon
    • Bison burger
    • Burgoo in Lexington, KY


  • Best Use of a Vegetable
    • Corn Palace – Mitchell, SD – We were introduced to the glories of corn as a primary decorating tool by Doris Gerlach, local corn volunteer.



  • Best Local Beer
    • Elk Poop – Custer, WY
    • Colorado Red Ale – Paonia, CO



  • Best Sweet Stop


  • Best Car Snack
    • Fresh Cheese Curds – We also enjoyed the battered and deep-fried cheese curd version but, do note, they are not available as a car snack
    • Chocolate–Covered Nuts (provided by Lee, Sheron and Margie) – We ate way too many of these!


  • Most Raucous and Fun Meal
    • Joe’s Supper Club in Hotchkiss, CO – It was really Joe’s garage converted into a one-room bar/restaurant that serves homemade brick-oven pizza to one group per night. Our rowdy, happy friends alone would have made for a really fun meal but Joe’s stories and crazy antics definitely contributed to making this a raucous, memorable night!


  • Most Fun Fellow Inn-Mates
    • Hags on Nags from MN and WI at the Flying W Ranch for their friendliness and, frankly, their self-given group name
    • Pat and Jim of Denver, CO by way of TX at LeRoux Creek B&B. Pat, especially, was very friendly but insisted she really didn’t like people or talking to them.


  • Friendliest Bar Patrons
    • Charlie and Joe – dirt biker buddies we met at a bar in Death Valley. Not only did they buy us drinks but they introduced us to reader-glasses with built-in flashlights on the side. Available at your local Walgreens!


  • Cutest Couple
    • Salsa-dancing Jerseyans we met at Niagara Falls


  • Best Doctor
    • Dr. Firestone (aka Dr. Red) of Kansas City, MO – because he initiated a photo re-enactment of Glenda’s x-ray review for the blog


  • Best Waitress
    • Melissa – of Pufferbelly Restaurant in Erie, PA for her prompt service, tourist suggestions and educational tour of old fire equipment (especially the round target to jump into from a window)
    • Linda – nose-ringed breakfast waitress at Badlands National Park who was friendly even before we had coffee


  • Most Dedicated Park Ranger
    • Betty (not her real name) – at one of Yellowstone’s entrances who craned her neck to ensure the park pass photo matched the car passenger (Glenda) and interrogated her as to address information. Betty had zero tolerance for park pass fraud!!! This stood in stark contrast to Jason, a young dude Ranger, who waved us through without even a glimpse, apparently wildly unconcerned about park pass fraud.
    • Mike – a Ranger at Truman’s home was a study in contrasts. He vigorously protected the floors of the home by insisting that our feet not stray from the designated pathways yet graciously removed his hat for Glenda to have a photo opp. Surely, appearing in public without the Ranger headwear (and/or letting someone else wear said headwear) is an infraction of some section of the Ranger code!


  • Most helpful hotel/motel clerk
    • Tom (we think this was his name) – at Holiday Inn Express in Custer, SD who rang our room to let us know that a light was on inside the car we had parked in the lot. Definitely saved us a call to AAA. Thank you, Tom!!!
    • Martha (not her real name) – worked the front desk at the Hampton Inn in Fairmont, MN. She went above and beyond, giving us restaurant recommendations, menu suggestions, directions to walking paths. Just very nice.


  • Surliest hotel/motel clerk
    • Holly (n h r n) – at El Colorado in Manitou Springs, CO fit in with her surroundings – unfriendly, cold, creepy. We loved the town but the motel gets a definite 2 thumbs down.
    • Jim (n h r n) – in Jackson, WY was an aloof, uninterested, unhelpful front desk manager. Don’t think he should be in the hospitality industry!


  • Best performance in a service industry
    • Our wine hostess/retired flight attendant at Picchetti’s Winery in South Lake Tahoe, CA. She carried on even with a computer glitch and deftly conversed about politics without offending anyone. Very well done!
    • Our Jiffy Lube technician in Las Vegas, NV. He was knowledgeable about Subarus, gave great directions and was generally a pleasant guy.


  • Worst performance in a service industry
    • Our waiter, Kenneth, at the Old Faithful Inn. He was not only inefficient (we waited eons for our food and he totally forgot our wine) but was just flat-out strange.


  • Cutest Animal
    • Prairie dogs – in the Badlands – standing, jumping and squeaking


  • Location with the Best Animal Noises
    • Yellowstone – elk calls. The buck bugled away with his mating calls and the cows ignored him and talked amongst themselves.



  • Location with Best Animal Sightings
    • Grand Teton National Park – saw moose, bison, bear and evidence of beavers


  • Best All-Around Animal
    • Bison – What can we say? They were just spectacular.


  • Best Fishing Hole
    • Dan’s ranch in Hotchkiss, CO. It’s kind of hard to not catch a fish since there are ponds on the property that are fed by the neighboring trout hatchery.


  • Best Tour Experience
    • We took a tour with Monument Valley Safari and our Navajo guide was Brian. It’s a special place and Brian was fantastic! He was knowledgeable, interesting, funny and, on top of that, he drummed and sang.  Only downside was Glenda and Sue simply could not chime in and join the Navajo singing! Wow!
    • Maid of the Mist – in Niagara Falls was hokey but still the best way to get a sense of the power of the Falls. Amazing.


  • Best Accommodations
    • Our cabin at Badlands National Park, SD. It was new, designed well, fully-equipped, clean and in a beautiful place. What more could you ask for?


  • Worst Accommodations
    • El Colorado Motel in Manitou Springs, CO. It looked interesting from the outside but inside it was just skeevy. Dingy, print sheets (thread count? Maybe 5) that didn’t fit right. A scary bathroom. And even scarier fellow motel guests. We won’t go into details… Suffice it to say – avoid at all costs.


  • Best Bowling Lanes
    • The Corner Alley in Cleveland, OH. Glenda wore proper bowling attire but, regrettably, it did not help her score. Sue, sporting a dress, might have cracked 100. Who bowls in a dress?


  • Best Museum
    • Red Light Museum in Virginia City, NV. The “museum”, located in the basement of a Chinese restaurant, included displays of turn-of-the-century sex toys, condoms and brothel paraphernalia. Surprisingly entertaining and interesting!
    • Museum of Westward Expansion in St. Louis, MO located under the Arch. Anything and everything you’d want to know about Lewis & Clark’s expedition and the world events that prompted it. We didn’t have enough time here and would go back if we could!


  • Best Tourist Trap
    • Virginia City, NV. In some ways, this is an anti-Disney Disneyesque town. Home of the Bucket o’ Blood saloon, Red Light Museum, and annual Outhouse Races. It was a last minute addition to our route but well worth the stop.


  • Place Visited with the Smallest Population
    • Emblem, WY – population 10. How does a town with population 10 even get a government-provided sign on the road?


  • Place Visited with the Largest Population
    • Las Vegas, NV (city) – population 583, 756


  • Best Spa
    • Ceasar’s Palace (BTW, also the only spa!)


  • Kitschiest State
    • South Dakota – SD had so many kitschy aspects that it was an easy winner. Corn Palace, Wall Drug, many giant animal statues, billboards everywhere, bronze presidents, granite presidents, plastic dinosaurs, and more.
    • Minnesota – We loved seeing the Jolly Green Giant and Little Green Sprout and hated to miss one of the world’s largest balls of twine.


  • Best Stamportunity
    • The Badlands – Our first public stamping elicited howls of uncontrolled laughter. Who knew stamping could be so much fun?
    • Grand Canyon – We got 7, count’em 7, stamps at different locations throughout park. It was challenging but we were up to it!
    • The Bourbon Trail – Drinking and stamping are condoned and, in fact, encouraged. Yay!


  • Best Performance by a State Tourism Bureau
    • Nevada – The Welcome Center provided us with a CD with music and fun facts to amuse us as we drove through the stark Silver State. It so surpassed the typical tri-fold paper brochure. Just thinking about the jaunty music has us hitchin’ up our britches and callin’ for our ponies!


  • Best Tacky Outdoor Art
    • Steer Head – This giant head elicited gasps from both of us as we saw it in a tacky sculpture garden directly on Highway 90. Who is the artist? Why??? We figure it was for our driving pleasure. We were visually pleased.


  • Most Beautiful Outdoor Sculpture
    • The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, MO – The sun gleaming on this exquisitely simple structure is absolutely lovely. We were lucky enough to be there on a bright day. It’s mesmerizing.


  • Best Betting Results / Luckiest Venue
    • Keeneland, KY – We are happy to announce that we won enough from our betting on the horses to pay for our shots of bourbon.


  • Best Presidential Interaction
    • Glenda back-to-back with Harry S. Truman – This interaction beat out the bronze presidential statues of Rapid City, SD (2nd place), the carved faces on Mount Rushmore, the boyhood home of Abe Lincoln (which was closed), and Thomas Jefferson who was a footnote at the Museum of Westward Expansion.


  • Best Stranger Photo Shoot
    • Glenda’s portrait of “Fake Bono” at Las Vegas sushi bar over Sue’s left shoulder
    • Glenda’s portrait of “Mountain Man” at the Ritzy luncheonette over Sue’s left shoulder
    • Honorable Mention goes to the professional photographers (total strangers to us) at the Truman Presidential Library who approached and asked if they could photograph us for pictures to update their brochures and website. Of course we happily complied!


  • Best Giant Nose
    • Thomas Jefferson’s at Mount Rushmore – We both easily agreed that his were the best nostrils, too.


This was a very close race and the winner eked past the others by a giant nose.


  • Most Unusual Sign
    • The Urine Palette – A picture is worth a thousand words. See photo from Death Valley below.
Urine Palette

Urine Palette


Where does a woman check her firearm upon entering the rest room?



By the Numbers

SInce we both brought our old HP12C financial calculators on the road (you never know when you might need to do a quick present value calculation when driving across America), we felt the need to calculate something.  So for you number cruncher people, here is our trip quantified:

Number of Days on the Road: 43

Number Miles Driven:  8,590

Number of Fill-Ups: 53

Number of States Traveled In/Through: 22

Number of Hotels/B&Bs Stayed In: 27

–       11 chain hotels

–        7 non-brand hotels

–       5 National Park lodges

–       3 B&Bs

–       1 ranch

Number of Homes Stayed In: 4

Number of Medical Professionals Consulted on the Road: 4

Number of Animal Species Seen/Noted: 37 plus 2 dead horses

Number of Waking Hours Spent in Silence: 0

Number of Books on Tape Completed: 0 (but we got through 2 separate halves)

Number of State Tourism Bureau-Provided CDs: 1 but it was a good one!!!

Number of Meals Missed: 0

Number of Days without an Alcoholic Beverage: 0

Number of Stamps in our National Park Passports: 42  woooo hoooo!!

Number of National Parks/Sites/Monuments Visited: 21

Number of Photos Taken: 4,558 (9.71 Gigabytes)

Number of Strangers Photographed: 111

Highest Elevation Reached: 11,312 Feet Above Sea Level – Monarch Pass, CO

Lowest Elevation Reached:  282 Feet Below Sea Level – Death Valley, CA

Highest Legal Speed Limit: 80 MPH, UT  (Sue never exceeded the speed limit!!)

Average Number of Miles Driven per Day: 200

Total Dollars Spent on Travel (Gifts Excluded):  $8,781.82

Average Cost per Person Per Day: $102.11

Number of New Taste Sensations: 51