Don’t Let Lack of Cell Service Ruin Your Roadtrip!

     The further you travel into west Texas, the more you realize that any friends who warned you about spotty cell phone coverage and lack of wifi…weren’t exaggerating.

     But that can actually be a good thing! Lack of text notifications, calls or temptations to hop online “for just a sec” aren’t an issue. And you can blissfully focus your full attention on your travel partner, family or just yourself without the distractions that take up too much of our time.

     So please take my advice, and print out any maps, hotel contact and reservation information or anything else you would normally look up on your phone before you leave.

     I keep all of my road trip info in a folder sorted in order of arrival: accommodation reservations/contact numbers/addresses, maps of routes I’ll take locally once I arrive in each town, and I pre-list out my “bucket list” of places that I want to see with some back ups in case I end up with extra time, or some of my top choices don’t work out. Then I check off items as they are visited, or fold down pages as we leave one town to visit the next. I don’t always need all of the information, but it has sure saved us on a few occasions over the years, and on a recent trip to Big Bend we relied on it pretty heavily.

     The convenience of being able to ask your phone for directions is great, but I confess that I have a weakness for old fashioned maps, and experience with them can sure come in handy. If you just can’t manage working with all the papers, take screenshots of any maps and information you’ll need. As long as you keep your phone powered, you’ll be able to pull them up for reference.

     Also, be sure to give a “heads up” to any family members who may try to contact you during travel days when your cell phone might not cooperate. Land lines DO work fine, of course, so they can always go old school and call the hotel office where you are staying to leave a message. Remember when that was the only way? No? Nevermind.

     If any of the locations you are staying in are remote or a bit out-dated, you’ll want to make sure you keep any necessary items charged whenever possible. I’ve stayed in some old hotels (which I love) and found that they might only have one outlet…being used by the only light! That’s a bit of a challenge since we’ve all become so dependent on electronics.

     On our trip to west Texas, my husband and I tried out a small power pack and were very impressed. This particular portable power station from NinjaBatt was so lightweight and worked like a charm. We used it to power our computers when we were uploading and editing photos at night, and to keep our phones charged for emergencies (on the chance we could get a signal). He also used it to power some of his portable ham radio equipment and liked how reliable and easy it was to use. I think he might end up stealing it from me. (It’s model SGR-PPS300-5 if you want to check it out.) It has enough outlets to power just about anything you’re carrying along, and even has its own light.

     With a little preparation, challenges with your electronics won’t bother you a bit. And the trade off is worth it, because oh those wide open space views!


Getting Our Kicks on Route 66

     Not every good trip takes a lot of planning, but it really pays off when you’re going on a “theme” trip with family members!

     This summer’s goal was to drive the section of Route 66 that goes through the Texas Panhandle, and I definitely did weeks of research through travel bureaus, internet, books and maps. I enjoyed the process and it really built up the anticipation for me!

     After doing a preliminary review of the sites along the way, I decided to spread the drive across six days. Now, If you’re familiar at all with this section of Route 66 or the Panhandle, you’re probably thinking I may have lost my marbles since this stretch of road is just under 200 miles long and would only take about three hours to drive straight through!

     But stay with me, here! There was so much to see!

     I decided to actually begin the drive in Tucumcari, New Mexico which is only about an hour west of the Texas border. I fell in love with photos of the old, restored motels from Route 66 that are still operating here while I was doing my research. It also helped to make sure we were going to include every inch of the Texas section of the road, which I was determined to do!

Blue Swallow Motel, Tucumcari, NM

     The route would take us across the Panhandle to Texola, Oklahoma (although we took it all the way to Oklahoma City so we could cut south and spend a few days with friends on their ranch).

     One of the challenges of planning the trip was to incorporate things that would be of special interest to everyone in my family.


   My 17-year-old daughter is interested in music, animals, and antique a
nd thrift shops. First things, first…she was in charge of the playlists for the road trip, and I’m so glad she was! She enjoys “vintage” music (like, um, from when I was in high school) as well as some of the new and alternative bands. My husband and I got to enjoy old favorites and hear some terrific new music and only once (yes, once!) asked her to skip to the next song.

Fell in “puppy love” with this 7-week old chihuahua!

     We came across plenty of animals on the trip, which was a treat, but incorporated riding horses into our “definitely do this” list. Seeing the land from horseback always seems to make exploring the outdoors more special.

     There were countless antique and resale shops along the way, so I dove in and checked out online photos and reviews to find some that might suit her particular interests.

     Special bonus: she recently got her driver’s license so she helped with the driving, too!

     My husband is a ham radio operator (AB5SS, if any of you are, too!). He has a “roving” antennae and is operating to contact every “grid” in the United States. He decided to use this opportunity to help other “hams” contact grids along Route 66 that are difficult or impossible

to cross off their wishlists…and he sure made some people happy! He has a map of where each grid is along the way, so we made a point to stop (at least once) in each grid to give him a chance to operate. He announced via his twitter account that he would be doing this so that interested hams could mark it on their calendar, and then announced prior to each broadcast where they could find him on the air. He made over 150 contacts during the trip! That’s a lot of happy ham operators.

AB5SS

     And of course I got some fun shots of him operating in unusual locations.

     Besides Texas history and travel, I love old buildings, cemeteries and photography, so let’s admit it … I was basically set for this trip! (Insert “happy dance” here!)

 

     Using Google Maps street view, I virtually “drove” any sections of the towns I was particularly interested in or not sure about. Familiarizing myself with how these places actually appear made things so much easier when we actually arrived, and circumvented some areas to cross off the list as being not as worthwhile.

   Maps and checklists in hand, and lots of road snacks loaded up, we headed out from Houston to check out this historic roadway.

     In the next few blog posts, I’ll take you along to see what we discovered and hopefully encourage you to “get your kicks on Route 66.”