This Road Trip Is A Labor Of Love

road trip

Common road trip themes include stopping at small town parks for touch football on a sports focused journey, eating at only hole-in-the-wall barbecue places, collecting tacky souvenirs from truck stops and more. But how about a focus on love? That’s exactly what two former strangers are doing, trying to document 100 love stories as they drive from coast to coast.

Nate Bagley and Melissa Joy Kong have been traveling across the United States in a Mini Cooper hoping to “learn what makes a lasting marriage and dispel all the myths around real love,” says an ANI News report. Looking for couples involved in what might be considered a successful relationship, The Loveumentary has already produced more than two-dozen podcast interviews.

Learning the difference between real love and marriage myths, Loveumentarians Bagley and Kong want to continue their travels and document at least 54 more relationships. To do that, a Kickstarter project has been launched to help pay for future accommodations, gas and other incidentals.Want to get an idea of what The Loveumentary road trip is all about, who these people are and what they are up to? Check this video that tells us “One day consists of 86,400 seconds. This is one of them….”

Where To Sleep During A Long-Haul Road Trip: Putting A Price On Your Safety

campingAs you may have gathered from my last few posts, I spent the second half of July and first week of August living out of my car during a relocation from Seattle to Boulder. En route, I had a family vacation on the Klamath River in Northern California, and business trips to the Bay Area and North Carolina, which is why I was in limbo.

I’ve road-tripped and relocated across the West many times, and love the time alone with my thoughts and enjoying the scenery. Now that I’m in my early 40s, however, I’ve become more wary about where I choose to spend the night. I’m still on a tight budget, but this increasing awareness is a direct result of life experience, and my obsession with TV shows like “Forensic Files.”

It’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, someone who is truly fearful wouldn’t travel or drive cross-country alone. They certainly wouldn’t elect to drive Nevada’s notorious Highway 50, aka “The Loneliest Road in America,” but that’s what I did last week (anything to avoid the mind-numbing hell that is Highway 80). Allegedly, less than 200 drivers a day pass on this route, so one needs to plan accordingly.

Highway 50 is mostly high desert landscape, broken up by a handful of historic mining towns like the curiously appealing Austin. Located seven hours east of the Bay Area, this is where I chose to spend the first night of the final leg of my journey, in the rustic but comfortable Cozy Mountain Motel.

Although I was desperate to save money (my room was $60, and of the three motels in town, it had the best reviews … I also use the term “town” loosely), I didn’t feel safe camping alone in such a desolate region. It’s a shame, because the nearby primitive Bob Scott Campground, in the sagebrush and Piñon pines of the Toiyabe National Forest, is a beauty. Yet, due to its isolation and handful of sites, it wasn’t the place for an exhausted, solo female to spend the night.arches national parkThe next day, I had a grueling ten hours on the road before I hit Green River, Utah. Green River isn’t the most savory place, but it’s a popular jumping-off point to Moab/Lake Powell/Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands National Parks.

I was so wiped out when I arrived that I chose the first campground I saw: a KOA, which is the type of place I usually go to great lengths to avoid. At that point, all I cared about was a shower and rest, and because it was a glorious, hot desert night, I planned to sleep under the stars. Expediency meant more to me than dealing with setting up a tent in a less generic campground.

I walked into the office and asked the very friendly girl behind the counter for a tent site. Upon driving to the location, I discovered several things that didn’t thrill me. It abutted a vacant lot separated only by some sparse vegetation. Next to the lot was a rundown Motel 6. To my right were a few unoccupied, dusty campsites and open highway. Um, no thank you.
I scouted the mostly empty campground (which was primarily RV, and not tent, sites) and chose a location between two motorhomes, which was backed by a chain-link fence. Then I returned to the office and explained that I didn’t feel safe in my assigned site, and could I please have X or X location?

No problem. The receptionist said she understood, and proceeded to tell me a horrifying story about a recent encounter her mother had had in the town park with a drug-addled freak. She didn’t even charge me the higher RV rate.

An hour later, I was sprawled happily on my sleeping bag, reading, when the receptionist and her employer, a crotchety old man, whizzed up in a golf cart. She looked uncomfortable as he sniped at me for being in an “unauthorized site” because I was in a car. I was ordered to come to the office to rectify the situation immediately. Sigh.

Back behind the counter, the poor receptionist apologized profusely, and I shrugged it off, saying I’d rather pay more to ensure my safety. A manager was needed to get into the system and charge me accordingly, and when he showed up at the office, she explained the situation. He was clearly more interested in returning to his happy hour, so I was permitted to remain in my present location, free of extra charge.

Needless to say, I remained unmolested during the night, and although I was embarrassed by the musical campsites, the entire experience reinforced that it’s best to listen to your gut. Always insist upon putting your safety first.

[Photo credits: tent, Flickr user Pink Sherbet Photography; Arches NP, Flickr user Fikret Onal; Jason, Flickr user Stinkie Pinkie]

Dell introduces “Dell Wireless 700” location aware option for the Mini 10

Standing out in the busy netbook world is a tough call. Some companies focus only on design, others have started offering their machines with integrated 3G. Dell has done all of the above, and today they are the first to add location based services to their Mini 10.

The $69 add-on is a hybrid WiFi/GPS Mini PCI-E card/software package, and combines location based information using the Skyhook positioning system and A-GPS (when a signal can be acquired).

The package includes CoPilot for Windows, which means the Mini 10 can be turned into a full turn-by-turn navigation system, offering 2D and 3D maps.

In addition to navigation assistance, the Dell package also provides location aware information through Internet Explorer and Firefox using the Loki browser plugin. This finally brings location based information to the desktop, and allows you to access store finders and share location information on social networks.

We’ll try and dig up some more information about this new product later today, as it is obviously a fantastic add-on for travelers. The best part of this add-on? It only costs $69 – which is about the same price as a stand alone GPS receiver for your laptop.

Daily deal – Dell Inspiron Mini 9 Netbook for $199

It was less than a week ago when I posted about the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 hitting the magically low price of $249. A lot can change in just a week, because that very same machine dropped another $50, and is now available for just $199.

As part of the Dell Presidents day deals, your $199 will get you the Inspiron Mini 9 with a 1.6GHz processor, 512MB of memory and 4GB of storage. The machine runs Ubuntu Linux, which includes most of the basic applications you might need on the road.

Just to be clear – this is the lowest possible configuration Dell sells in this model, so don’t purchase it expecting to get yourself a multimedia powerhouse.

The $199 price means you can buy the machine in any color you want, as long as it is black. Different colors will cost an additional $30.

Dell Inspiron Mini 9 product page

Product review – HP Mini-note 2133 ultra portable notebook

My review for today is of the HP Mini-note 2133 “Netbook”. When I first got my hands on the Mini-note, I had pictured myself writing a review comparing it with the machine that started the whole Netbook “revolution”; the Asus Eee PC.

Most of these new mini notebooks (netbooks) are designed to be light, cute and very, very affordable. Light and affordable usually means lots of plastic, and cutting corners in the features department.

The HP mini-note is different in every possible way – it’s a normal notebook, just smaller. It even looks and feels like a normal notebook. It has a large screen, a normal size keyboard and a usable size track pad, but it still weighs under 2.7 pounds (a little over 1 kilogram). And, at just 10×6 inches, it’s the perfect size for throwing in your carry-on bag and taking it along on a trip.

The model I’m reviewing here is the “HP 2133 Mini-Note PC model FF0099AA“. It comes with Windows Vista Business, a 1.6GHz Via C7 CPU, an 8.9 inch (1280×800 pixels) display, 2Gb ram, 120Gb 7200RPM drive, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and a 6 cell Li-Ion battery. The list price is $829. Don’t let yourself get scared away by the price; this particular model of the Mini-note has every single optional extra added, from a 7200rpm drive to a larger battery. Lighter models of the machine start at just $499.

The outside

The outside of the machine instantly catches your attention. Forget cheap plastic – the HP is covered in sleek brushed aluminum on the top and bottom. This even extends around the battery.

The result is something that looks fantastic and is very durable (when talking to an HP product manager, I was told that they actually tried to scratch the thing with steel wool, but failed!).

On the outside you’ll find 2 USB ports (one with high power output, suitable for a portable optical drive), a VGA connector, audio out/in plugs, an Ethernet port, a Kensington lock port, an SD card reader and an Expresscard/54 slot.

With Expresscard, HP obviously understands that a lot of us currently travel with a wireless broadband modem, and that our modems are not always USB.

HP even put some thought into the power connector; it’s the same one used on all HP business class notebooks, which means you’ll be able to pick up tips for your universal power supply, or use an existing HP power brick you have lying around.

On the front of the machine is the power switch, a hard disk status light (with a special feature I’ll mention later) and a hardware wireless switch.

The inside

The inside is just as gorgeous as the outside. Once you open the 2133, you’ll find a (near) full size keyboard, a nice wide track pad and a spacious 8.9″ display with stereo speakers. Above the screen is a VGA webcam.

The keyboard is 92% full size, which means that the keys are spaced almost like on a desktop keyboard. There is a decent size space bar, 2 large shift keys and a row of function keys which also control things like volume, brightness, sleep mode and external display options.

The keys on the mini-note are treated with a special rub-resistant coating, which means you won’t end up with a “QRTY keyboard” after several years of use.

Once again it’s obvious that HP asked their business machines people to design the Mini-Note; they added several layers of protection in the design. Besides the already mentioned aluminum body, they also incorporated a magnesium frame which makes things strong and light. On the inside of the machine you’ll also find HP’s “advanced 3D DriveGuard protection system”.

HP has the following to say about their DriveGuard system: “A three-axis digital accelerometer senses sudden movement and instructs the system software to temporarily park the hard drive“.

3D DriveGuard isn’t just another buzzword; you can actually see it work. The front hard drive activity LED turns orange when the machine detects too much movement. An orange LED means the drive has parked itself while it waits for the Mini-Note to hit the ground, or for you to stop shaking it. DriveGuard only works on the Windows versions of the Mini-Note, so if you purchase the cheaper Linux version, you won’t benefit from it.

The display

Normally I stay away from number ratings, but if I had to rate the display on the Mini-Note, I’d have to give it a 6 out of 10. It’s clear, bright and very crisp, but it suffers from an extremely annoying glossy coating.

Any time light shines on the screen, it becomes nearly impossible to read, and you’ll find yourself fidgeting to turn it away from the light.

The resolution is a very acceptable 1280×800, which means you’ll be able to run any application you want without having to scroll around too much like on machines with a lower resolution screen. The brightness can be controlled though the power profile or by using the f3/f4 function buttons. If you suffer from poor eyesight, you might find the high resolution to be a little too much, especially on such a small screen.

Computer performance

Inside the model I’m reviewing is a VIA C7 processor. This 1.6GHz CPU is quite sufficient for most of the things you’ll do on the road. During my review, I installed all the applications I normally need;

  • Office 2007
  • Firefox
  • Skype
  • Magicjack
  • Trillian Astra (IM client)
  • Media Player Classic
  • iTunes
  • HAVA Player (for remote TV viewing).

All these applications ran fairly well, but I always had a little bit of a lag when switching between applications, or when trying to do some video playback on full screen. The 1.6GHz processor is the top of the line, cheaper versions are sold with a 1.2 or 1.0GHz chip, which in my opinion will probably be too slow for the applications I listed.

There is however one other issue I need to mention with the processor; heat. The exhaust on the side of the Mini-note blows the heat away from the processor and the motherboard. The air coming out the vent reaches almost 120F when the machine is running in full speed mode. You really need to be careful what you place around the vent, and will certainly have to be sure you don’t block it.

Battery life

As I mentioned earlier, the version I am testing is equipped with a 6 cell battery. The standard battery is a 3 cell version, so this larger version doubles the battery life. To get a fairly reliable battery test, I set Windows Vista to the “balanced” power saving mode and changed the setting to keep the display on. I then started playback of a video file (with repeat) off the hard drive. When I checked back after 2 hours, it was still running fine, and continued to do so until the 3 hour 22 minute mark, at which point, Vista turned the machine off. Three hours is not too bad for a machine like this, but it does involve a larger battery. If you purchase the smaller 3 cell battery, you’ll probably get around 2 hours which is also quite acceptable. Thankfully, many airlines are working on installing power ports for their seats.

Wireless performance

The Mini-Note is equipped with an 802.11 internal wireless card with support for A, B and G networks. While most home users won’t need the support for A, it is a fairly common system in corporate environments.

The model I’m testing also has Bluetooth, which in my opinion is a “must have” in any notebook nowadays. It enables the use of devices like a Bluetooth headset, mouse, or allows you to wirelessly connect with your mobile phone.

In my case, I’ve added my trusty MoGo mouse to the Mini-Note, and they really do feel like they are made for each other. The MoGo mouse stores neatly inside the Expresscard slot and charges when I’m not using it.

The Bluetooth adapter supports Bluetooth 2.0+EDR, which increases the range and data speeds. In real life this means you’ll be able to connect a Bluetooth headset and walk around your hotel room without your call crackling or dropping every 5 seconds.

The Wi-Fi adapter picked up plenty of access points and once connected I had a rock solid connection which never dropped, which about all you can ask of a Wi-Fi adapter.

The HP Mini-note for travelers

So, how well does the HP travel? Quite well thankfully! The machine is light enough to not bother you, and powerful enough to give you the feeling that you are carrying an full blown laptop.

The ability to use most existing HP chargers, as well as power tips on most universal power chargers means you shouldn’t run into any power issues. The webcam has a fairly low resolution, but is quite sufficient for a basic video call with your friends or family. And finally, the sturdy magnesium frame and DriveGuard protection feature mean you won’t end up with a dud if a clumsy TSA agent drops it.

Final thoughts…

This HP Mini-note is a beautiful machine. It has every feature you could possible need to do some work on the road. But all those features come at a price; $749 is almost twice as much as a low end Netbook like the Asus Eee 4G.

It’s a decision you’ll have to make based on your needs; if you need an Expresscard slot, Bluetooth and a high resolution display, then you will immediately end up in Mini-note land.

If you are just looking for something to do a little web browsing with, then a $349 Eee will probably suit you fine. That said; there are cheaper versions of the HP Mini-note. Their $499 version comes with a 1GHz C7 processor, 4GB of storage and 512MB of ram. In this model, you still get the Expresscard slot, but you lose Bluetooth. All in all, I found the HP Mini-Note 2133 to be close to perfect; the only 2 things that let me down were the slightly slow CPU and the glossy screen.