It is 9 pm, central time, and I am still an hour east of Memphis, Tennessee. We’ve been on the road since eight that morning, Eastern time. We had crossed the Appalachian Mountains and nearly avoided a storm front that generated tornadoes throughout the South. The night sky is moonless with the highway traffic light. I am settling in to the driver seat after having been forced to stop for an hour in the middle of the highway while a semi burned up ahead. Beside me my wife, Donna, has her eyes glued to the iPhone as she searches for a decent place to stop for the night. A FaceBook friend of hers had commented on my posted image of our traffic predicament and informed us to reconsider staying in West Memphis.
Throughout the past six days on the road, we put her iPhone and today’s technology to the test. In Louisiana she found a small creole type restaurant that served crawfish by the pound; in Mississippi it was a hotel; in Alabama she applied for a dozen jobs, even having a phone interview; in Florida she helped navigate through some back roads to avoid an accident which shut down Interstate 95; and in Georgia she found the most important thing — Chick-Fil-A. I’ve used my phone to determine different routes back west, kept up with the Twitter universe, posted FaceBook pictures at South of the Border, and the next morning find a Starbucks in Little Rock.
Another exit passed by and I reminisced on road trips from my past. I recalled hitchhiking thirty-five miles in the middle of the desert because of a blown engine. I remember the heat of the Alabama summer while I helped my dad rig the brakes on my grandmother’s Cadillac to get us, and my broken down Impala, back to New York. In the nineties there was the night of three exits and five hotels trying to find one with vacancies. And how could I forget the hundreds of roadside gas stations with the unsanitary bathrooms and raunchy food. Our trip had none of these. The stress and trials of road trips seem to be a thing of the past.
Donna asks if we should stay on the Tennessee side of the River. I think of the Monday morning rush hour and consider it would be safer to be out of the city. Forrest City, she says, is just west of Memphis and a Holiday Inn Express lies right off the highway. She switches to another app and pulls up ratings. There are few reviews, but it is probably because the hotel is new. She calls and reserves a room while I stretch the tension from my back and shuffle in the seat to ease the pain settling in my posterior. Donna pulls up the address and inputs the address into the car’s navigation computer. In seconds a route is calculated and shows me that a bed is now just an hour away.
Tonight there will be no guessing. We won’t have the fear of leaving our car in a parking lot. Best of all the shower will be clean and the toilet will flush, not over flow. I kiss my wife’s hand. Her work as navigator and companion has made our impromptu trip enjoyable. And the technology in her phone has made it bearable. Once more long road trips can be considered without dread and derision. I can foresee more road trips in our future as we explore the beautiful country we live in. So long as we keep our smart-phones charged.