US Road Trip Travelog: Preflight

There have been quite a few things to sort out in the last few weeks before flying out. I've decided to go to Chicago and am flying out 7th February and returning April 14th (burglars please note).

Car

Nope, still no idea what to go for. The one thing I have had to accept is that if I can't find a decent Corvette or Riviera at the right price then I may have to look at a different model. I could complain but, gosh, it's terrible to be a kid in a sweet shop with all your birthday money ...

Route

The first week will be in a hire car around Illinois, hopefully sorting out a car to buy and all that that will entail.

After that, head down Highway 61 (alongside the Mississippi River), via Memphis and Nashville, to the south and New Orleans. No more planning than that needed. I'll be heading back to Chicago and St Louis for the flight home, so I'll revisit them when the weather's better (plus I'm bound to be early getting back, so I'm likely to have plenty of time).

Practicalities

A few things you'd expect:

Laptop

As if that wasn't interesting enough, I'm now going to talk about computers. Feel free to skip this bit if not interested.

For a few years now I've had a Sony Vaio laptop. No I'm not made of money, it was an insurance company's replacement for a Fujitsu P2020 laptop that expired in dramatic fashion when a glass of wine went over the keyboard. The Sony is a lovely little machine - light, powerful enough, great battery life. So a month or so I moved all my website management, email etc. on to it with a view to using it in anger before taking it with me to the US.

Which is where the achilles heel was found. Like so many laptops the keyboard is fine for occasional use but useless for real typing. I've used other makes (Toshiba, Dell) and had the same problem. In my experience the only one with a decent keyboard is an IBM ThinkPad. I've had three over the years, work and personal, and they've all been brilliant to use. And now I've got a fourth, a secondhand ThinkPad X20 for 250 from SterlingXS (with memory upgrade). A few difficulties setting it up, especially blue screens of death, eventually - I hope - traced to the Draytek wireless PCMCIA card I was using. I had a spare Cisco card bought off eBay a few years ago for some project or other that never happened, and it seems to be fine with this.

There are two main problems with the ThinkPad. The first is the battery life, which is rubbish. If I'd had more time I would have bought a backup battery but this change was all very last minute. The second problem is that it has no CD-ROM. I used a USB CD-RW at home to set it up, but that's far too bulky to take with me. If I need one I'll have to buy one in the US. I can forgive it both of those, however, for the keyboard, which is a delight to use and so well laid out that you're not hunting around all the time for the commonly-used keys. As far as reliability, well we'll just have to see - I'll only have had it a week by the time I fly out.

US Road Trip Travelog: 7th February 2005 >

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