SkyMall Monday: Electric Travel Blanket

Here at SkyMall Monday, we realize that SkyMall’s popularity is based on our desire to let technology solve all of our problems. Hungry? Cook a hot dog. Hit your child? Stop the bleeding. But what about when you’re in the car with your spouse and the air conditioning has made you uncomfortably cold? Sure, you could politely ask him to adjust the settings to warm you up but that would require you to select the proper words and tone of voice to convey your feelings in a healthy and respectful way. Why not keep your mouth shut and solve the problem by yourself? Because doesn’t it make much more sense to use the Electric Travel Blanket?

Let’s be honest. Talking is overrated. Your spouse works hard all day. He pays the bills, buys you nice things and drives you places in his temperature controlled vehicle. The last thing he needs is you yapping in his ear about how cold it is in the car. Frankly, if he wants to turn the car into a portable meat locker, that’s his prerogative. Why would he want to adjust the air conditioning settings just to make you comfortable? Geez, you’re so selfish. So solve your own problems by plugging a blanket into the car’s cigarette lighter and warm yourself.

Think I’m being over-dramatic? The good folks who write the SkyMall product descriptions agree with me and they’re geniuses. I mean, they write for SkyMall! Take a look:

For as long as cars have been air-conditioned, drivers and passengers have bickered about the “right” temperature. With this super-soft electric car blanket, the “colder” person can be comfortable, even when the A/C is on full-blast.

Yes, it truly is a story as old as time. And by putting the word “colder” in quotation marks, we understand that what they really meant to say was “whiny.” So quit your bitching about the air conditioning because your man likes his cars cold, not his women. Just save your relationship with the Electric Travel Blanket.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

Zimride Makes Ride Sharing Safe & Easy

Gas prices are rising. The economy is tanking (no pun intended). You want to share a ride somewhere to split costs. You could try Craigslist but that seems like a crap-shoot. I mean, you want to find someone to share gas and toll expenses, not a casual encounter. Well, now there’s a more reliable resource for drivers looking for hop-ons or travelers in need of a ride: Zimride.

Zimride combines the technology of Google Maps, the growing power of social networking sites like Facebook and their own matchmaking algorithm to match drivers. The site offers rideshares for one-way trips, roundtrips and even daily commutes. And the social networking aspect of the service encourages people to learn about their potential travel companions before they buckle up and hurl themselves down the asphalt together.

In fact, upon registering, Zimride immediately asks you if you have a Facebook account. If you do, it will ask you for permission to access your Facebook profile. It populates your Zimride profile with information from your Facebook account. You then have the option to edit that information and add details about your vehicle, your preferred driving speed and even your favorite travel music.

Not sure I’d go cross-country using Zimride (though the founder, John Zimmer, did just that when traveling from New York to Palo Alto, CA to prove the site’s usefulness), but it might be a better alternative to taking the bus or train for short trips. And who knows? You may also find a casual encounter out of it.

Have you shared rides? Used Zimride? Have better ideas for finding travel companions? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Great American Road Trip: More road kill woes and how to clean a car

The first mishap was when we nailed a possum in Illinois east of Chicago the first night of our road trip to Montana. The critter was lumbering across the interstate about 10:30 p.m. That was a sad moment.

Thursday, driving to and from Regent, North Dakota we had several sad moments. Honestly, there are some things that can’t be avoided.

I already posted about the two pheasants we hit. The chipmunk and the blackbird came later.

We didn’t hit them all at once, but over the course of several miles. Such is one of the realities of traveling on small two-lane highways–but this was ridiculous. Particularly when two raccoons made a mad dash in front of us as I was typing the previous sentence. The second one didn’t make it.

With each thump, I’m shouting out from the passenger seat, a strangled “Arggh!” Seriously, it was a nightmare. “That’s one way to damage a car,” I said.

“It’s not like I’m trying to hit them,” said my husband. It’s true, he wasn’t, and swerving too much is dangerous. He pointed out the deep ditch on the side of the road.

My son, the six-year-old wanted to stop for feathers and fur.

My daughter wanted to know why I’m making such an awful sound.

Turns out, I was onto something. While my husband was filling the gas tank in Miles City, Montana after dropping us off at a McDonald’s so our son could let off steam at the indoor playland, one of the pheasants was still with us. It had broken the grill a tad–just big enough to become wedged behind it.

Two truckers, noticing the predicament, exchanged their road kill tales with my husband and helped him figure out how to remove it. The windshield squeegee handle was somehow involved. I didn’t want the specific details.

When my husband showed up at the McDonald’s parking lot with the pheasant in a plastic bag with grand plans of showing it to our friend in Billings, I shouted, “Arggh!” and ran in the opposite direction. “No dead things in the car. Absolutely not,” I shouted from where I stood, still ready to flee if he stepped one foot closer. I hate dead things.

The pheasant was left in a garbage can in Miles City. There are a couple feathers in another bag behind the driver’s seat, but I’m trying not to think about them.

A woman told us, as she was sliding into her truck after hearing about our pheasant mishap, “Watch out for deer.”

The photo is of my son trailing his hand out the window for a moment to catch raindrops, one of the pleasant aspects of the day. Not pheasant–pleasant.

Gas pump woes: More than just the price

I just read in this New York Times article that the increasing gas prices in the United States are creating problems at some gas pumps–actually all gas pumps. It’s not because people are throwing themselves on the hood of their cars weeping as the total bill climbs.

I just had a flash of a movie scene. Ben Stiller in the persona of his Something About Mary character–the high school prom guy, cleaning the windshield of his car, weeping–his tears are falling in streams, mixing in with the cleaning solution from the gas station squeegee. Those weird serenaders are in the background singing a gas pump price tag lament.

No, this is not what is happening at the pump. What is happening is that some pumps have pump computers too old to handle the $4 plus a gallon amount. They are stuck at $3.99. As a temporary solution until the new computers arrive, gas station owners are charging half the dollar amount at the pump and doubling the total at the cash register. They have official permission to do so, (There is an application process.) I bet that’s a psychological jolt when someone goes to pay. If you happen to come across an old gas station pump in your travels, this is one situation you might come across.

Another interesting point the article makes is that the modern, computerized machines are breaking down more often because of the speed the pump’s mechanism needs to turn to get higher and higher numbers. The higher the numbers, the faster the numbers turn, so the faster there is a breakdown. This is my understanding.

What is the limit of the new pump computers you may wonder? Just how pricey could gas get if one uses them to project ahead? $9.99. This is like Y-2K, but this time there is a problem. It will take about five months for all the pumps to be updated because of the back log with filling orders.

More Road Trip Games

Martha recently wrote in a post about road trip games inspired by her 5 day trip across the Canadian praries.

Here is a game that we play on trips. This is a version of the alphabet game. In this version players search billboards and road signs for letters of the alphabet starting with the letter A. A sign can only be used once. Once you see the letter you need, you call out what it is and the sign where you saw it. You have to go in alphabetical order. Once a sign is used you move onto the another letter on another sign. Whoever gets to Z first wins.

And here are three road trip games you can buy. Kevin Joy, a writer for the Columbus Dispatch pulled together suggestions in an article I’ve culled from. These particular three appeal to me because they don’t require technology to play.

Conversations to GoIf you want to think of things to talk about, here’s a solution. This game doesn’t seem to have winners or losers. According to the description there are cards with questions that center on travel. If you’re creative, why not think up your own questions? On the otherhand, pulling questions from a box have a certain random appeal tha breaks down trip monotony.

Miles of Smiles: Travel Games & Quizzes to Go. This one is published by American Girl so the cover looks “girlie”. Hopefully, the games inside would interest boys as well. I like these game books because they provide many options from which to choose. When stuck in a car for the next 50 miles until there’s a highway exit, it’s great to have some control over something.

Are We There Yet? – This one looks like it might be my favorite of the bunch. It’s a card game, scavenger hunt where players are delt five cards with items on them. Whoever finds their items first wins. To speed things up (like in Wyoming it could take hours to see something new) you can put a time limit or within a mile limit on this one.