“Wandering alongside the Woods” column by Jacki Wood
Unlike any road trip I’ve planned before, this summer’s adventure to Washington DC involved implementing as many technological goodies as I could get my hands on.
We would’ve been lost, literally, without our iPhones and Google Maps, which provide step-by-step instructions to your destination, no GPS device needed, and a map view that follows your location automatically.
There are so many apps available. And so easy to download new ones along the way, like a SmartGuide for the National Mall and another for the US Capitol.
For several years now, one of my most used tools has been Gas Buddy, where you can find the most recent gas prices in a particular location. My favorite feature is the gas price heat map, which allows you to see prices on a map of the entire country or specific region. I use it to figure out where to stop along a 300-mile stretch of the interstate, not just the most inexpensive place in town.
A new app I downloaded this year was Best Parking which helps you find the cheapest and most convenient parking near you or a certain location.
Road Trip Tweet: Just used the Best Parking app for the first time. Found a great place to park. Very easy, too. Highly recommend.
I also used my iPhone to tweet about our road trip, update my Facebook status, check the weather on the Weather Channel’s app and take photos. We didn’t even take a camera, just used our phones and the iPad, which took beautiful pictures. I also used Instagram, which real photographers say they hate, but I loved being able to play with how the photos looked.
Another app that got a lot of use was foursquare which helps you make the most of where you are by checking in at a certain location. You can receive discounts at restaurants and shops and also read tips from others. This was helpful at the Tomb of the Unknowns during the Changing of the Guard. After checking in, I read a tip that suggested standing in a certain location for the best view of the ceremony. And it was right.
At the Flight 93 Memorial, I used my QR Code Scanner to listen to informative messages that enhanced the displays at the site. It enabled us to learn more of the stories about those involved.
During my planning, I also used Pinterest to get a few new ideas. I mentioned the snack boxes in a previous column. They were a huge hit. I also created travel books that included games, paper for journaling and drawing and maps of our route. I broke these down into 1-2 hour segments so the kids could follow along. You can find these and other ideas on my Pinterest “road trips” board at pinterest.com/nnlreporter.
One last app I want to mention, released just two weeks ago, is the Food Network on the Road app. We love visiting places featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and this app contains restaurants from it and other Food Network shows. You can search by location, chef or show. I can’t wait to use it on our next trip.
And speaking of food, we were treated to some great finds.
As recommended in a DC travel guide, we hit Ben’s Chili Bowl. Described as a Washington landmark, it’s served a multitude of celebrities including Bill Cosby, who now has a menu item named after him: Bill Cosby’s Original Chili Half-Smoke. It was heavenly. The place was crazy busy and was a cultural must-see for me.
Two Triple D restaurants were also planned. The Tortilla Cafe, serving Salvadoran food like pupusas, was a disappointment for us, especially since we can get really great pupusas at La Paz in Marshall. However, Tune Inn Restaurant was wickedly (read: unhealthy) delicious. The mozzarella sticks were the size of my hand and the french fries were perfect and crispy. The deep-fried burger (yes, I did say this was an unhealthy stop along the way) was amazing. And we topped it off with fried cheesecake.
We usually order a few things and then everyone shares. It may not be proper etiquette to pass around dishes but we feel it’s more important to experience the food.
We also ate at Gadsby’s Tavern in Old Town Alexandria with Larry’s nephew and family. Serving Colonial food since 1770, the tavern was frequented by presidents like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison and James Monroe.
Road Trip Tweet: Gadsby’s, old town Alexandria: food was good (not great) but experience was phenomenal & “John Wall” was delightfully entertaining.
It was a fun atmosphere which included a roaming Colonial character named John Wall whose extensive vocabulary required a dictionary to understand his humor. I ate “George Washington’s favorite meal” of duck, scalloped potatoes, corn pudding and rhotekraut (a cabbage, current and apple dish), Larry had the prime rib and Yorkshire pudding and the kids had fish and chips.
There were a few familial bumps along the road, but this summer’s trip was indeed monumental. And tons of fun.
Our next family trip is just around the corner. We’re driving to South Bend, IN, in October to watch BYU play at Notre Dame. Experience of a lifetime for me. I can’t wait. Go Cougars!