golden gate bridge at night

Okay, I’m back from my impromptu Blogcation. I didn’t actually plan to take so much time off from this blog. But it was necessary. I went to Intel in Portland Oregon for a couple of days. Then, since I was so close, I went to San Francisco for a few days to see friends and editors. And when I got home: SLAM! Work hit me hard. I am only just starting to get caught up. But I’m back now and I have a little story to tell about how technology made my vacation easier.

One of my essential travel tools is my TomTom GPS. I keep it in my purse and charge it at night with my cell phone when I’m traveling so I can find my way around strange cities whether I’m walking, taking public transportation, or renting a car. (My phone does directions, too, of course. But not audible turn-by-turn ones.)

Even though San Francisco is not strange to me, I always bring it because the place is massive and I hate getting sucked into those discussions (a fact of life there) about what is the best way to get from point A to point B. I just rely on my TomTom. I have it set to a soothing – if somewhat repressed – female English accent. And she gives me someone to argue with or discuss routing options as I drive. My daughter has named her Celeste and, “What does Celeste think?” is a common question between us when we travel together.

This time I also tucked a new (free) travel app the Inrix Traffic! (look for it in the Market for Android. Also available for iPhones) into my Android phone before I left. And it was a delight to have along.

For example, I was headed on an adventure with my pal Henry one day when we ran into traffic on Highway 25. This four-lane freeway came to a complete stop. We were on a schedule. And in the Bay Area, it is possible to be stuck for hours in these sudden slowdowns. Your life is no longer your own as you move so slowly that elderly power-walkers pass you at a clip (if they are fool enough to walk on the freeways.) The worst thing is the uncertainty. Is this just a blip or should get off at the next exit and give up on my plans? Henry was starting to panic. So I pulled out my phone, loaded up the app and got a birds-eye view of the traffic pattern in front of us.

“There is an accident at the next exit,” I told him. “And there is also some slowing beyond that because drivers are ogling a brush fire.”

He still looked panicked. Should I use my phone to cancel our appointment was the question in the air.

“It says the delay estimate is only five minutes,” I offered.

He relaxed. “If that’s true we’ll only be three minutes late,” he said. And he smiled, pleased to have this information delivered so easily and not to have to speculate with no inteligence. Relaxing is hard to do when you are looking at a seemingly endless stream of stopped cars in front of you. But we did. He turned on the radio and we talked about something else. And, just as predicted by Inrix Traffic!, the snarl cleared in a few minutes. We made our appointment -though we were three minutes late. But we didn’t bring any of that post-traffic stress with us.