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Apt Apps

Are you planning a road trip soon and want some apps to help you on your way? Here are a few I’ve found particularly useful on our travels, and you likely will, too. (Disclaimer: It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Interactive features of any apps should be used while parked or by a passenger in the vehicle. Don’t app and drive!) I use all of these apps on an iPhone, but many are available for other platforms, too.

iExit
This is a paid app, but worth every penny for long road trips on interstates. It gives you a list of amenities available at each exit on every interstate in the country. Need biofuel or diesel? You can set it to pull up just stations that offer those. Sick of fast food and want a sit-down restaurant? You can see that, too. Need somewhere to stay? This will tell you which hotels are at which exits. You can even filter by specific businesses. Kids feeling restless and need a McDonald’s with a playplace? You can set it to show those. Are YOU feeling restless and need a Frappuccino? You can set it to show Starbucks. You can view results on a map or as a list.

(Note: searching by typing in a city hasn’t been working for me lately, and I’m not sure if it’s me or the app. I worked around this by looking up the particular interstate and scrolling, which isn’t quite as convenient, but served the purpose just fine.)

On major trips, we use iExit all the time to figure out where our next stop should be. They must do a good job maintaining the database, because we’ve used it for a couple years and have always found things to be exactly where the app said they’d be.

 

Gas Buddy
Find the price of gas near you or wherever you’re going. Great for finding the cheapest fuel. People using gas buddy can input prices, and the app lets you know when individual stations were last updated, so you have a good idea how current the info is.

 

Trip Advisor
There are lots of review sites/apps out there, but for hotels especially, I really like Trip Advisor (the app also reviews restaurants and attractions, I just haven’t used it for that much). The reviews tend to be thorough and more intelligent than what you’ll find in some other places, IMO. The app came in especially handy on our recent cross-county trip in which we had no idea where we’d wind up each night. That meant not a lot of advance planning, and meant last-minute research while sitting in gas station parking lots at 7:00 at night.

Thanks in part to Trip Advisor, all of our stays were pleasant. Thanks entirely to Trip Advisor, we found what turned out to be our favorite place of the trip: A renovated Route 66 motel dating back to 1964. When I saw that the cost per night ($44 per room!) was less than half of what the major chains charged, I thought for sure it would be a flea-bag place and almost dismissed it completely. But the Trip Advisor contributors gave it rave reviews, so we gave it a try. It wound up being a great motel, and a nice change from the chains we stayed in the other nights.

 

Road Trip Weather
Enter your starting point, your ending point, and a stop along the way if you wish. Then choose what time you want to leave. This app will show you the expected weather along your route at the time you’ll be driving through. The route is color-coded to show potential weather hazards along your way. You can also click on individual cities to get more detailed weather info.

 

History Here
Looking for something educational to do at your destination or along your way? Find historical points of interest at History Here. Some locales seem better covered than others, but for a free app, it’s not bad.

 

State Lines
Not sure about the maximum speed limit in the state you’re about to enter? Is it Sunday and you want to buy a bottle of wine, but you’re not sure about liquor laws? Need to know if there are statewide leash laws? Find about about basic driving regulations, seatbelt rules, sales tax, and lots of other info with this app.

State Lines is a database compiled by full-time RVers, but it’s great for anyone who travels to new states. (It does have specific information on towing, overnight parking, and other things that might be useful to RVers.)

Update: The developers just released another update that includes even more categories, including child passenger restraint laws! Unfortunately, I noticed that the information they have for California is more than a year outdated. (I haven’t checked other states yet.) I did email them about it, and they responded right away. They made the correction immediately, and have submitted the app for approval. I love responsive app developers!

 

Food Network On the Road
Do you ever watch shows on Food Network and make mental notes of places you want to try if you ever get to Baton Rouge or St. Paul, then promptly forget? Not to fret: You can look up restaurants featured on Food Network shows geographically on this app! I just recently downloaded this one, so we haven’t actually eaten at any of the places we’ve found, but there are a lot we want to try. Downside: The app’s intro is animated and graphics-intensive, and I’ve found that it sometimes takes a while to load or freezes entirely.

 

Roadside America
This isn’t necessarily the most useful road trip app, but it’s by far my favorite. (I’ve never claimed to be normal, though.) Everyone knows about Mt. Rushmore and the Lincoln Memorial, but what about Al Capone’s silo hideout, houses shaped like UFOs, or a gas station that now marks the birthplace of Rutherford B. Hayes?

This app lists strange, quirky roadside attractions that you won’t find in every guidebook. Sure, a 45-foot tall cactus sign in Massachusetts might not be quite as awe-inspiring as the Grand Canyon, but, hey, it’s a 45-foot cactus sign in Massachusetts.

Yeah, it’s a little strange, but very fun. If you need a break anyway, why not take it at the World’s Largest Ball of Barbed Wire?

I fully anticipate that people will stop being friends with me now. That’s ok. I’ll go find new friends at the strawberry-shaped water tower in Poteet, Texas.

Funny Road Trip
This is a fun road trip game everyone in the car can play. Just plug your phone into the AUX jack and follow the directions.

I actually have a like-hate relationship with this app. On the positive side, it’s really amusing. Each instruction is a question or activity for you to do, like “Count all the buttons in the car,” or, “If you could travel to a really dangerous place knowing that nothing would happen to you, where would you go?” (My 3-year-old answered “jail.”) At one point my imitation of an angry goat almost sent my husband driving off the road.

On the downside, the app features different characters who “host” the game. The free version (and the first level of the paid version–as far as I’ve gotten so far) features “Señor Tortilla,” a sombrero-wearing man with a Mexican accent. He’s a nice guy who doesn’t convey any blatantly negative traits…just stereotypical ones. It’s very “Taco Bell Chihuahua/Speedy Gonzalez,” you know? I find it off-putting; others won’t. You’ll have to decide for yourself.

 

Auto Bingo
Another travel game, this one is totally non-offensive. An update to those old cardboard games with slidey red windows, Auto Bingo features modern photos of things you’re likely to encounter on a long trip. Play collectively on one device, or download the game onto additional devices to play against each other.

 

Waze
Waze is an interactive navigation app. The app detects your speed to let other users know when there might be traffic congestion. You can report crashes, road hazards, bad weather, and police presence to make other drivers aware. There’s a whole social aspect (that I’ve never used) where you can connect with friends and “chat” (hopefully not while driving) with other users.

Like any navigation system, it sometimes sends me on me bizarre routes to my destination, but it’s actually been pretty good, especially for a free app. My favorite part is that you can choose different icons for yourself based on your mood. Mine is permanently set at “sarcastic.” Because.

One thing that concerns me a lot about this app is that many of the features are NOT good to use while you’re driving (as in, using as the driver). You can report hazards, traffic, etc. by waving your hand over the app and speaking, but whether or not it actually works is hit-or-miss. It’s much easier to enter via the screen, which *I* do only when I’m the passenger, but I’m sure there are plenty of other people driving and tapping. Used responsibly, it’s a cool, useful app, though.

 

car-seat.org
Because you need something to read during your long journey, right?

 

 

 

Girl Rising, “I feel as though I have power…I can do anything.”

Thank you to MrsCPSDarren for a public service guest blog!

 

For all of us who love our baby daughters, who nurture them with all our hearts, keep them safe with all our being, move mountains to see them successful and happy, and know in our deepest of souls that they will quite simply one day rock this planet ….  I invite you to be part of a global movement to repair the world, by EDUCATING GIRLS.  Read on to learn how you can join in. Moms of the world – we need you.

Hi everyone. I’m inviting you to personally take part in the distribution of an exciting new film that just premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.  Girl Rising spotlights the strength of the human spirit and the power of education to change a girl – and the world. Many millions of girls face barriers to education that boys do not. We can help break those barriers by bringing global attention to the enormous benefits of educating girls. Your community is a great place to start. Girl Rising will be released in theaters on March 7th, 2013, on the eve of International Women’s Day, and we invite you to host a local screening, with global impact.

The distribution model is actually crowd-sourced. You can go online to “captain” a screening, and the company will work with you to get it to your favorite theater. To view the trailer, and learn how to bring Girl Rising to your community, please visit:  http://www.girlrising.com .

Around the world, millions of girls face barriers to education that boys do not. And, yet, when you educate a girl, you can break cycles of poverty in just one generation. Removing barriers to girls’ education – such as early and forced marriage, domestic slavery, sex trafficking, gender violence and discrimination, lack of access to healthcare, school fees – means not only a better life for girls, but a safer, healthier, and more prosperous world for all. Consider these numbers:

  • GDP Rises: When 10% more of its girls go to school, a country’s GDP increases an average of 3%. (Council on Foreign Relations)
  • Health is Improved: Educated mothers are 50% more likely to immunize their children. And when more girls are educated, a country’s malnutrition and HIV rates decline. (UNGEI, the Council on Foreign Relations)
  • Honest Governance Grows: When women take leadership roles in their community, corruption diminishes. (Center for Global Development)
  • Structures Change: When women are educated and empowered, democracy is more likely to flourish and the conditions that promote extremism are reduced. (World Politics)

Educating Girls Works.  Lives Change. Be a part of changing the world by taking action for girls. By sharing their personal journeys, the girls of Girl Rising become our teachers. Research shows that investing in girls can transform families, communities and nations.  The girls of Girl Rising show us how.

u made me sad

To whomever punched or whacked my Toyota Highlander a week ago with their luggage at the O’Hare airport daily lot in the hybrid parking spot near elevator center 2, please contact me to arrange a $400 payment.  I parked all the way at the edge of the spot to take advantage of the 4 foot buffer to the handicap spot next to it and, yeah, still some swell person still nails it and doesn’t own up to it.  rly?  thx.

 

Someone inconsiderate or angry ding your car?  Feel free to lament here.

iDrive You Crazy

With Christmas nearly upon us, it’s time to finish the holiday shopping! If you’re anything like me, you have no idea what to get for that special someone in your life. With smart phones, e-readers, and tablets more popular than ever, a techy-type gift would be great, but where to start?

Well, how about something to take that iPad or Kindle to the next level?

We all know the dangers of texting and driving. Hold the device up above the steering wheel and you obstruct your view of the road. Hold it in your lap, you risk a crick in the neck. Who wants that? If only there were a way to make texting/browsing while driving more comfortable and convenient!

Enter the iDrive! I found it at Target for the amazingly low price of $5! This steering-wheel-mounted device can hold your tablet right at hands’ level! Your eyes will barely have to leave the road while you finish that novel or play Sudoku.

Even better, the iDrive can be mounted on a motorcycle, bike, or even a jet-ski! (Be careful not to get your Nook wet, though.)

Before you have a heart attack or throw your computer/mobile device across the room in fury (or veer off the road if you’re using an iDrive): I’m sort-of kidding.

I really did buy this at Target, but it’s just an empty gift box meant to fool your loved ones. I’m planning on giving it to my husband. I’m not sure what I’ll put inside, but whatever it is, I’m sure it will be far less likely to result in a vehicular manslaughter charge than a real iDrive would.

I can’t wait until Christmas morning, when I can witness the look of horror on my husband’s face. Ah, ’tis the season!

Editor’s Note: You can buy an iDrive box at Amazon, too!

Box Hoarders Unite!

I am not a hoarder. I’ve seen the sad episodes on talk shows of people who live in homes with paths to their beds that have a tiny spot on which to sleep. My own grandma was a bit of a packrat. But I am not a hoarder, not even close. I am a collector.

If you walked into my house, you’d look around and think, nope, not even a collector. This woman and her family live a pretty sparse life (until you look in the children’s rooms—gah!). Even the dog has only 2 toys. But wait until you see the attic. Boxes upon boxes, all empty. Therein lies the collection. When my dh and I were first married, we were pretty unstable where we lived. He was in law school and we moved twice in those first 3 years, then 3 more times in the year after he graduated. By the time we moved into our current house, we had moved a grand total of 9 times in 8 years and we weren’t military. After our first move across country—and across Arkansas!—we learned to keep original boxes to keep items in good condition, hence the box collection.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to paint my dd’s room, which necessitated moving all her furniture out to give me some room. We were using the space under her captain’s bed for storage and since she’s getting older, I’ve decided to move that stuff out so her things can go under her bed. Where to put all that junk that’s under her bed? (For the record—it’s my mil’s!) Up the ladder I went to the attic and discovered my collection of carseat boxes. Heh. So many! So many for so many seats I no longer have! Really, though, I did have to keep them in case I had to ship a seat back to a manufacturer (I’ve done it) or ship a seat to a friend (yep, done that too). Have you ever tried to MacGyver a box to fit a carseat? Really tough, I tell you. It’s easier to break them down flat and store them, only I didn’t do that with the ones in the attic.  We had the luxury of a little bit of space up there, so we pitched them off to the side and forgot about them. After pulling them out of the attic, plus a few other boxes of items I knew we no longer had, it turns out I had 2 boxes for carseats I no longer have and 2 more for carseats that will be expiring soon! Plus I have at least 3 other carseat boxes stored flat in my garage.

Dh decided to continue my attic box removal and brought down perhaps 10 more. We also had 2 large boxes sitting in our living room that held dd’s new bedside tables. I so wish I had a window open when the recycling guy came by to pick up all our boxes. The amount of cardboard sitting on the curb was epic, but I do feel better recycling it rather than throwing it away like most of my neighbors. Next we’ll be getting rid of all of our ancient computers that have long been broken and sitting around the house gathering dust.  I might have to make artwork out of the hard drive platters—they’re actually quite beautiful when you take the drives apart. But that’s for another blog. Just remember, it’s not an obsession—it’s a collection.