Traveling across America on a motorcycle is a fantastic way to see the country. My boyfriend and I have been doing this for twenty-seven years, and it’s been lots of fun. But, in the early years, it was sometimes a hassle. We were out of touch with family and friends until we found a pay phone, or mailed them postcards. I had to carry a disposable camera to capture photos of the places we visited, and then mail it home to have the pictures developed. And when I finally got one of the first cell phones, it and its charger were too big to carry with us. (Two people on a motorcycle, even a big one, leave little room for luxuries.)
Eventually, I got a smaller cell phone with a built-in camera. Unfortunately, the display washed out in bright daylight, and it was hard to frame the photos properly. Even worse, it was very difficult to upload the pictures from the phone. I needed a better solution.
Along came the iPhone 3G. It not only has a great camera, but it’s easy to upload photos from the device or e-mail them to your friends. The iPhone and its charger are very small and portable. Best of all, there are thousands of apps you can download to make your trip more interesting and fun. I was excited about it and couldn’t wait to take it with me on an extended, five-month, 9,500-mile, road trip.
Replacing maps and scribbled notes
As we always do, we took a Rand McNally map book with us on the trip. In the past, we’ve used its front cover as a convenient place to jot down phone numbers, addresses, and other information. Now, all that is stored on my iPhone. We carry the Rand McNally as a backup, but the iPhone’s GPS and mapping capability take care of most of our needs. In addition, I can use the iPhone to get a quick weather report about the area we’re traveling into—very important when you are on a motorcycle, and something you just can’t do with a Rand McNally map.
During our trip, we visited friends in San Angelo, Texas. It was a hot summer day, and our friends took us to lunch. They locked their keys inside the car. They had the OnStar service, but didn’t know the number. I pulled out my iPhone, goggled “OnStar,” connected to the OnStar operator, and handed my iPhone to my friend. Within five minutes, the car was open, and the missing keys found. We were heroes.
If all else fails…
We were having trouble finding a Harley Davidson dealer in North Carolina—one of the few times and iPhone app wasn’t any help. An IT friend had given me the 800 number for Google’s free business locator service, Goog411 (800-466-4411). Call the number and an automated assistant will find what you’re looking for, and send you a text message with a link to Google Maps. I searched for a Harley Davidson dealer in North Carolina. A few minutes later, I was on the phone with someone at the dealership, discussing our particular situation, and looking at a map with directions to the dealership.
There’s not much room for luxuries on a motorcycle. However, there will always be room for my iPhone!
The iPhone is a great travel aid all by itself, but some downloads from the App Store make it even better. The Facebook app for the iPhone is a quick and easy way to keep up with friends and family when you’re traveling. It lets me send updates about where we are, what we’re doing, and even share the cool pictures that I snapped along the way. I took a few the other day at the Nebraska Wildlife Safari. That evening, I used Facebook to share them. It’s like sending a postcard to multiple people—without the stamp.
Paying bills can be a bother, especially when you are away from home for an extended period of time. We use Bank of America which has a mobile banking app for the iPhone that’s easy to use, and simplifies online banking. We no longer have to find a computer at a library somewhere along the way—just a few taps on my iPhone and the bills are paid. Your bank may also have a mobile app or Web site you can use for paying bills. It’s well worth investigating.
Bank of America – Mobile Banking
YP Mobile makes it easier to find businesses and events in the area. You can search by categories (Banks, Bars & Clubs, Discount Stores), and get maps and directions to your destination. I used it to call a Harley Davidson dealer in Osceola, Iowa to ask them about the road condition in their town. If you want to know what’s really going on— talk to the locals; with an iPhone you don’t even have to be standing next to them.
I also use Yelp, a free app that provides similar information as YP Mobile, but it also allows you to post and read reviews. I keep both apps on my iPhone; if I can’t find the information I’m looking for on one of them, I check the other.
This application lets you use your iPhone’s display as a flashlight. It displays images of a variety of different bulb styles and lets you adjust the screen brightness. It is not as bright as a Maglight, but it sure comes in handy when you’re at a campground restroom, and you left your regular flashlight at the campsite.
I am an avid reader and love to open a good book when I’ve got a few minutes to spare. But with limited storage, it was hard to carry around much of a library. That changed when I discovered Kindle and Shortcovers; two iPhone apps that let me download eBooks directly to my iPhone and read them whenever I want. Some free books are available for both apps, but most will cost you $5-$10. I currently have eight eBooks on my iPhone and they are not taking up space in my saddlebag!
ICE (In Case of Emergency) lets you store all your pertinent medical and contact info on your iPhone and easily access it. The app also allows you to take a screen shot of an information summary and places it in your photo library. You can then e-mail it to a healthcare professional if necessary, or use the photo as the wallpaper on your iPhone. If, heaven forbid, someone found you unconsciousness and turned on your iPhone, they’d have your medical summary in front of them.
Personal Formulator is a simple financial calculator that allows you to quickly figure out discounts, tips, car loan payments, and more. We were visiting a friend and went to a car dealership to look at a Smartcar he wanted to buy. He needed help figuring out the total cost for two loans that had different interest rates. I taught music, not math, but had his answer quickly using Personal Formulator.