When many of you heard about this trip, your first question was what we would be driving. Some expected we'd get an RV, some suspected an SUV. But, like we did in 2003, we wanted to keep it simple. So we're bringing my car, a 2007 Acura RL. So, meet our chariot.
I was going to profile the car before any of the living beings, but the day before I was going to post this, I realized I didn't have a picture of the car. And right as Joan was gearing up to take this picture, a bird apparently exploded over my car, covering it with something that was hard to identify. So after a crew at our local car wash fought valiantly to remove every trace of this mystery substance, we were able to get this photo. The car is spotless and seemingly unaware of the chaos that awaits it.
The reason we decided to bring a car that seems small for the task is flexibility: If you have an RV, you have height clearance issues and driving in cities is extremely hard. In you have an SUV, you become a scourge of the green movement. On top of that, taking a smaller car enforces some packing discipline. We can only take what fits in the car, and that forces some tough decisions, which we've been making for days.
Now, I've never been one to treat my car as a person. I don't have a name for it, I don't talk to it, I don't dress it up with bumper stickers or other stuff. It's a car, and I want it to do one thing and one thing only: Reliably get me where I want to go. And, as anyone who has an Acura knows, its cars achieve that wonderfully.
On to the key points: the toys. On the 2003 trip, our car did have a very early version of built-in navigation. While it had great detail in cities, there were other small areas -- like, say, Montana -- where it had virtually nothing except U.S. interstates and routes. Nowadays, the nav is far superior, with strong detail pretty much across the board. I recently bought an updated DVD for the nav, so we should be pretty current.
We also have Bluetooth, a great invention that allows us to talk on the phone and broadcast the conversation to the whole car without ever touching the phone. Just think about it: There was once a day where a passenger had to suffer the boredom of listening to one end of someone else's phone conversation. We've now replaced that with the excruciating experience of having to hear both ends. Ah, technology.
Another major step forward: We now have XM Radio. On the first trip, you could drive through entire states and not be able to pick up a decent radio station (unless you like religious programming). We had a CD player, of course, and used that 90 percent of the time.
But maybe the biggest improvement is the built-in iPod connector we now have. In 2003, we brought like 100 CDs, but our six-CD player was in the trunk, so changing music was very, very hard. Fast forward to today, and we'll be bringing all 10,000 of our songs on a device smaller than my wallet. Amazing.
The car also has a back-up camera, which comes in handy at home, where a beagle has sometimes been known to wander behind our cars in the driveway. This probably will have less use on this trip, but you never know.
To close the traveler profiles, let's bow our heads in memory of the car we used on the 2003 trip, which we traded in about two years after our return. Its current whereabouts are unknown, but we thank it for doing such a great job back in '03, even if Joan kept calling it my "grandpa car."