All hail Google Maps!

Thanks to the newest Google Maps feature, I was able to determine just how long it would take to reroute through Death Valley.

GROVELAND, Calif.--I suppose I should read what my colleague Elinor Mills writes a little more closely.

If I had, I would already have known about a ridiculously useful new feature of Google Maps that lets you see a new route between two destinations simply by dragging an existing route line through another location.

A route from Groveland, Calif., to Las Vegas Google

Instead, I had to discover it on my own. But luckily I did, and things will never be the same.

Last night, I was sitting in my hotel room in this tiny mountain town near the western entrance to Yosemite National Park, feeling fortunate simply to have found an open Wi-Fi connection. After all, Groveland has a population of only 3,663--and that's for the entire zip code, which comprises more than just this hamlet.

I was looking at Google Maps, trying to determine the route from here to Las Vegas, which is my stop tonight on Road Trip 2007, my three-week journey through the Southwest, and I noticed that the suggested roads didn't take me through Death Valley, but rather just around it.

That was no good, I thought, to be so close to such a noteworthy location, and not go through it. But I have a lot of driving to do, and didn't have any idea how long it would take to reroute through Death Valley.

Then I noticed this little square on the Google Maps route. I'd never seen it before--since I hadn't noticed Mills' blog entry of June 28--and it was a wonderful surprise.

By using a new feature, you can simply select an alternate route. Google

Suddenly I was able to simply choose a route through Death Valley, and it told me, in a little box on the route, what the new driving time would be. Halelujah!

Technology. It never ceases to amaze me.

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