Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Nuvi Newbie

All my life, business trips and rental cars always have me doing the same thing for preparations. I go to Map Quest and print out directions to my destination and then do some surfing for some interesting sites or things to do in the surrounding area in case I get some time off to explore. This is the first trip in which I didn't do the first part of printing out driving directions and after it is all over with, I'm glad. How anyone Iowan leaving from LaGuardia during rush hour could make it to the end of Long Island navigating with just a printed off piece of paper could make it in a reasonably amount of time, is beyond me.

As soon as we were out of the airport, the roads just kind of looped around and ramped from one to another on either side of the road, which was completely full of traffic going 80 mph. We had to make a half dozen road changes in the first mile alone and there was very little time for thinking or verifying. I would have had to stop several times to catch my breath and make sure I was heading the right way or figuring out how to get back to the turn I just missed. Fortunately I didn't have to experience this thanks to a handy little device called a Nuvi.

My coworker had just purchased a Garmin Nuvi 200 GPS unit and had brought it along on this trip to give it a workout. I have experience with GPS units and even own a Garmin handheld one but obviously things have come a long ways since. Once in our rental Mercury Grand Marquis and our laughter was dying down, he mounted the unit to the windshield with rubber suction cups, typed in the address where we were heading and within seconds, the computer was telling us which was to turn and giving us heads up as we were approaching turns. It was wonderful.

A few times we missed turns because we ended up on the wrong side of six lanes of traffic as the exit but the unit would instantly recalculate our route and within seconds be issuing new commands. All we had to do was sit back and occasionally look at the screen to see the name of the road we were looking for. Since the trip, I have learned that if you go up to the Nuvi 260 GPS, it will actually tell you the name of the road to turn on instead of just telling you to take exit or turn right.

If all that wasn't enough, there was still plenty more that surprised me. When we got hungry, we could access menus that would search for restaurants nearby or close to where we were heading. If we wanted to eat Korean food, we just searched for Korean restaurants nearby and after selecting one would get step-by-step directions on how to get there. Once with a couple hours to kill, we looked up bookstores and soon found ourselves at a huge bookstore. The GPS also held the names of popular landmarks like the U.S.S. Intrepid, which we headed out to see on our last partial day in New York. It took us across the middle of Manhattan right up to the empty dock and large sign that says the Intrepid will return this fall. One would of thought that after being in the same place for thirty years the odds would have been good for us to see it but we just weren't that lucky. So we just drove around Manhattan killing time until we had to return to the airport.

The Nuvi came in very handy one last time after we were stranded at Chicago O'Hare airport trying to find a rental car with no booths or agents stationed there. The Nuvi brought up a list of every rental car agency nearby along with their address and most importantly, phone number. No more looking for a phone booth that had a yellow pages hanging on a wire only to find out that the rental car and hotel listing had been ripped out.

I just loved the Nuvi 200 and would like to buy one before my next big road trip though I think I would upgrade to the 260 that actually speaks the road names. It certainly saved us lots of time and allowed us to relax and take in our surroundings rather than trying to read maps while steering through six lanes of traffic with your knees.

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