Thursday, July 5, 2007

GPS: Backcountry will never be the same

I went on an overnight canoe trip with John, Lee & Mark to celebrate Mark's final days of bachelorhood on the 3rd and 4th. We did about 30 miles of "mellow water" canoeing on the Shenandoah river and spent the night on the shore. The trip was great. Haven't done that sort of thing in ages, it seems like, and we had great weather too. Lee's going to post pictures soon so I won't duplicate his effort. It is so nice to check out of life for a couple days and just enjoy the simple things. Or maybe not so much... which brings me to the subject of this post.

I recently signed up for Verizon's GPS navigator service on my cell phone. Very cool - brings a full featured navigation system to my cell phone, which is handier than one built into the car for any number of reasons. It's portable to any vehicle so I only pay one service charge; it's good for navigation on foot too in the city; you can look up restaurants and shops by category or by name in any area; and apparently it also has some value for being OFF the road.

I fired the thing up in the middle of the river on the first day and lo and behold, it was able to give me a basic map of the river, which I could easily match against our paper map to figure out exactly where we were on the route.

Pretty cool huh? Well, maybe more gimmicky than useful for a 2-day river float, in which we had to remove a crossbar from the canoe in order to fit our giant beer cooler. But nonetheless valuable, since we were able to figure out later in the day how much farther we had to go before our campsite. I suppose in the old days, you could actually stay sober enough to pay attention to which bend in the river you were passing, but this was a lot easier.

It also gives such incredibly useful information as direction and speed. Did you know that a full-bore paddle in a canoe heavily laden with beer is about 6 mph? I bet you didn't.

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