Saturday, December 30, 2006

21st Century Road Trip

This past week we have been driving up and down the South-East coast of Australia. Melbourne to Canberra to the Blue Mountains to Sydney and back to Melbourne. The trips have ranged from 2 to 11 hours.

When I was a child, these trips were miserable. I got car sick from reading and so there was nothing more to do than look out the window. The highlight of the trip was when my father -- for reasons inexplicable to my mother -- would always wait until the last minute to get petrol. So there was a good hour of tension in seeing whether we would make it to the next town. We did but usually at a slow pace to conserve fuel.

The trip is still long (too long to have enough nouns for I-spy) but thanks to in-car DVDs (that take care of the kids) and podcasts (that take care of adults) it is far easier on everyone. In terms of podcasts, we concentrated on This American Life which is a US public radio show out of Chicago that documents unusual things that have happened in American lives. My favourite of the trip was on fiascos. It documented various incidents where someone had grand ambitions and then it all fell flat. It was simply wonderful.

But a big thanks has to go out to the single best innovation for highway retailing since McDonald's put in clean toilets. Again, it is from McDonald's and it is the Australian invention of McCafe. Almost every McDonald's on the road had one -- an outlet inside McDonald's that was just like a Starbucks or Gloria Jeans. So there was no problem stocking up on caramel lattes. It made the trip a dream.