This phase of the Geek's Guide to Route 66 wraps up with some praise (and a little criticism) of the gadgets that came along for the ride. Here's a sneak preview: the iPad 2 wins awards as both the best and most frustrating.
I'm back in Albuquerque at my office, just five blocks away from where Route 66 runs through the center of town. I made the journey along the Mother Road up to Chicago with a memorable side trip over to Carbondale, Ill.
A good collection of gadgets is the icing on any road trip. Some of mine performed adequately and some performed admirably. Some managed to do both. Here are my Geek's Guide to Route 66 awards.
Best (and most frustrating) gadget: 32GB iPad 2 Verizon 3G
I barely made a dent in the ambitious 3GB data plan that I bought for $35 before heading out. Running the GPS and constantly surfing for Route 66 information didn't add up to much. I was impressed with Verizon's coverage. I never found a place where it didn't work. The iPad's small size and versatile apps made it an ideal road companion.
But not all is roses in the world of iPad. The video camera coupled with iMovie is a great combination. The still-camera capabilities, however, fall short of acceptable. The image quality just isn't there (the iPad 2 provides a middling .7-megapixel resolution for still images. That's almost as retro as Route 66).
Apple's refusal to allow browser access to the file system is another sticking point. The simple act of uploading a photo through a browser becomes an obstacle. I ended up carrying a digital camera and a laptop to handle these tasks. That quickly ended my dream of slimming down my road trip tech to just a tablet.
Best app: MotionX Drive HD
The MotionX Drive GPS app for iPad costs $3 to download. It came with a complimentary month of voice directions and guided me through the twisting downtown of Tulsa, along some old alignments of Route 66, and delivered me to the very large shoes worn by the fiberglass Gemini Giant. The app occasionally got confused about which side of the road my destination was on and the computer voice turned "Wa Pella Avenue" into "Washington Pella Avenue," but it re-routed like a champ and I didn't get lost once.
Best car: Toyota Prius
Some of you gave me a hard time for taking the Prius rather than my 1956 DeSoto. Fair enough, but the Prius gets 40 more miles to the gallon than the DeSoto. I estimate that it would have cost around $1,500 in gas to take that magnificent beast of a vehicle on the trip.
The Prius held up to the high gas prices, survived a 68-pound dog in the back seat, and navigated the 60 mph winds in Texas. That deserves some respect.
Best graffiti: 'Crave' on a Cadillac
My graffiti skills are nonexistent. The magnum opus below was applied in a high wind, and neon green was the only available color. Still, I gleefully managed to get a Crave shout-out etched onto a Cadillac at the Cadillac Ranch in Texas while a pair of bemused French tourists looked on.
I'm not done with Route 66. I have a westward-ho journey in the works for next year, as well as a plans to visit a few stops I missed when going to Chicago. Next time I'm out that way, I'll hit up the Vacuum Cleaner Museum and check out the world's largest rocking chair. The Geek's Guide to Route 66 will live on.