Sunday, July 20, 2008

Our Western Journey

The trip started with a rocky bump. Friday afternoon, Chris picked me up from work and took me to the airport to pick up the rental car for the trip to OKC. Alamo told me that in order to drop the car off in OKC, there would be an additional charge of $177 (above the $46 we'd already paid). Priceline refused to help work the problem out. Eventually Raine was able to get them to issue a refund, but left me stranded at Tulsa International. Budget rent a car to the rescue. For $68 total, I was able to get a Mercury Grand Marquis one way to OKC.

Saturday morning, 5am, we are on the road to the aiport. Catch the plane and Josh gets his first flight. Now he's considering becoming a pilot. Finally in Arizona an hour late after delay in Salt Lake, we meet the seller and the transfer of the truck goes smoothly. Check it over and it looks like we made a good buy. Off to the CNG station to fill up for the trip. Strike One, Strike Two, Strike Three, we're out. All of the CNG stations we found were behind security gates. So we finally head off to California burning our $76.00 worth of regular gasoline purchased in Phoenix. A few hours later, we're in Indio, CA, where we find our first public accessable CNG. We made it to Disneyland on CNG from there. Truck is still running great. By the time we got there and checked in, the guy was there with our Disney tickets, then off to bed.
Sunday morning, off to the beach in the morning for a quick swim, then off to Disney for the rest of the day. The boys loved the beach. Then we got to Disney, What an experience! The place really brings out the child in you. We had a great time, and to top it all off, we met Kerry King, one of the founding members of Slayer. I was completely blown away by how cool he was. We ended up closing the park down and were one of the last people out. I'd recommend a trip to Disney, regardless of your age.
PICS:

Monday, we hit the beach again, then made our way to Vegas. The goal was to get there after dark, so the boys first impression would be of the lights. It worked, 30 miles from town, we could see light in the sky. It looked like the sun was rising in the distance. Finally got there and found the Excalibur. Wasn't hard to get to at all, and the place was amazing! I was blown away that we got the room as cheap as we did.
PICS:
Tuesday morning, it's up and off to explore Vegas. Tried to find the CNG station, and the directions I had were horrible. I stopped at a 7-11 where I was actually given the line "You can't get there from here"... Sent me down the road a few miles, and directions from there.... so, didn't I really get there from here? Anyway, those directions were totally bogus, so stopped at another store... the guy who worked there used to drive a taxi, so he finally got me off in the right direction. Found the address, only to find it was security gated. Frustration begins... buy regular gasoline and headed back to the hotel. That night it's off to explore the strip.

Grabbed tickets for "The Duece" (doubledecker bus) and headed down the strip for downtown. The Freemont street experience is pretty cool. Its a pedestrian mall in downtown with a twist... it's got the worlds largest video screen. OVERHEAD. The sucker is HUGE... 30-40 feet wide (however wide the street is) and several blocks long. Cut a small video of it over here: Freemont Street Experience . By the time were done there, it was late and we headed back to the hotel.
PICS:
Wednesday morning, it's on the road again. Made a quick call to Haycock Petroleum (the CNG vendor) and found out that the address listed is their office, and the public pump is actually around the corner on another street. Drive back over there (it's actually only 3 miles from the hotel) and got filled up with CNG. Now, it's off to Hoover Dam. Pretty amazing feat of engineering. You can't imagine how TALL the sucker is until you actually see it. Next, on the road again, destination Grand Canyon. Drive a long time and finally get there, just a short time before sunset (perfect timing). We spent some time there and were absolutely astonished by the beauty of the place. Let me tell you that EVERYTHING you've ever heard about the canyon won't prepare you for actually standing there. It really gives you a sense of how insignificant you are in the whole scope of things. There just aren't words to describe how BIG it is. Or how amazing the colors are. I took a ton of pictures, but they really don't do it justice. If you are ever out that way, you owe it to yourself to see this amazing place. By now, the sun has set, and it's off to Flagstaff to find the hotel. A totally non-impressive hotel, but it was a place to sleep... ironically, it was our most expensive hotel room on the whole trip ($73).
PICS:
Up and at it early again, destination Meteor Crater then on to Winslow Az. and finally Santa Fe (and eventually up to Taos).
The meteor crater is very cool. It's hard to imagine, that a meteor roughly 150' in diameter (1/2 the length of a football field) made such a big crater. Really makes you think about those meteor movies. The sucker is 4100 feet across and nearly 600' deep!
Well I'm standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona
And such a fine sight to see
It's a girl, my lord, in a flatbed Ford
Slowing down to take a look at me


PICS:
Next, off to Santa Fe, then up to Taos, where we check into our vacation home rental LATE. It's after midnight by the time we find the place. Can you say disappointment? The place was nice, but there was no air conditioning. We were somewhat miserable that night, but made the best of it. Up the next morning early, and its off to Bandelier National Monument. Another amazing day spent hiking. This is home of the Ancestral Pueblo Indians. They lived in the caves in the side of the hills. We had a great day hike that culminated with a climb to the Ceremonial Cave, a 140' ascention up 4 ladders. What a view that provided!
All too soon, it was back down the trail and off to the house again. Another night in NO-AC. At least it cools off quickly in the mountains at night. With windows open and fans blowing, it wasn't too bad. If we'd had to stay there during the day though, it would have been miserable. OH well, at least it made it easy to get on the road early the next morning... Homeward bound at last. We'd had a great week, but were ready to get home or bust. Did I mention Taos > home is a LONG drive? We finally climbed into bed around 4am. Vacation done, tired and looking at one day to recoup before back to the grindstone.
PICS:
Would I do it again? You bet!, in a new york minute. Would I change anything??? Who knows, it was all so fun, but I think I might cut some out, so we didn't feel so rushed at every destination.
So long for now.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Google Maps vs Mapquest

As we are finalizing the travel arrangements for the last leg of our trip, I find myself weighing the two tools. It started with a discussion of the route we'd take home from Taos, NM. Raine kept mentioning driving through the Oklahoma panhandle. I google mapped it and sure enough, it said go back to I-40. Raine said mapquest it, so I did. Sure enough, it maps it out going up through Oklahoma panhandle. 96 miles shorter!

So now, I have to know if MQ is actually smarter than Google...

Everything in me prefers Google. The user interface is so much easier to use, from the ability to scroll in/out on the map with the scroll wheel to it's visual intuitiveness.

On the other hand, I've always hated mapquest. The visual appearance of the site makes my stomach churn. Ok, maybe not quite that bad, but it's painful to use. Some of the specific things I found and didn't like:
* No memory for autocomplete of previously used destinations.
* The over/under layout of the map vs the directions. Side by Side FTW!
* If you build a map with the routes turned off (so it doesn't show detailed driving directions), the time/mileage estimation is WAY off.
* TOO much advertising. None is much better than lots.
* The real deal killer for me is the max 10 stops on a trip. I couldn't map my entire trip out in one map. I had to split it up into 2 maps, then combine them for an overall trip plan. That's completely lame.

End Result for the entire Trip:
Google Map
2,268 miles - 1 day, 13 hours

Mapquest
2,172.39 miles - 1 day 11 hours 56 minutes.

Mapquest wins the mathmatical analysis with a savings of 96 miles and an hour.

In the frustration category, Google wins hands down. I plotted the trip out in about 5 minutes. MQ on the other hand, either map took me 10+ minutes to plot.

Other than the one 96 mile difference on Taos home, they ended up with the same travel route.

The final decision was based on economics. Take the I-40 route, and I'll be back on CNG in Elk City, most if not all the way home. Google still wins for me but I'm glad Raine will be doublechecking me on MQ. End result, I'll save money taking the low road.

u2b

Loading...