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Geek Roadtrips Through the Heartland 276

Posted by chrisd
from the wireless-goodness dept.
While researching a roadtrip which I'll be taking from St. Paul, Minnesota to Placerville, Ca I did what any geek would do, I checked out the t-mobile hotspots along the route (some), did various searching on wi-finder (some) and other sites and have been doing some googling around on the topic. I know that there must be some 802.11b access points along and inside the towns along I-80, but for the life of me I'm finding it difficult for me to find any of them. I of course have various wireless sniffing apps, but that is hardly an efficient way to find access. I don't mind paying a small fee, so....with that in mind, if you were to take a trip across the country, where would you stop for access? For specifics, Read More...
If you live along I-80, what are your favorite haunts with wireless? Specifically, I plan on stopping for meals or sleep in Des Moines, Lexington, Cheyanne, Rock Springs or thereabouts, Salt Lake City and maybe Reno and points along the long, bleak road between Reno and Salt Lake. But it's clear that the net needs a good reference for places to check your email through out middle america, so post here even if you want to talk about a great unknown spot in Oklahoma or something away from my route. If you own such an establishment, let us know!

On a side note, the futility of my search seems soemwhat silly, as there are clearly people who use the internet in these towns. Anyhow, I really look forward to seeing your responses! Also, any high quality, unique dining reccomendations would be really appreciated. Also, funny roadside attractions or must see geek spots are welcome, as I intend on blogging my cross country trip as it happens and would like to have something to talk about other than the state lines I cross and the number of retreads I dodge.

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Geek Roadtrips Through the Heartland

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  • Trips (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dknj (441802) on Sunday March 09, 2003 @07:31PM (#5473343) Journal
    Don't take any computers if you can, you enjoy the world better when it has your complete attention.

    I'm driving to Florida this week and told everyone they won't be able to reach me until I get back.

    -dk
    • Re:Trips (Score:4, Funny)

      by conner_bw (120497) on Sunday March 09, 2003 @07:42PM (#5473405) Homepage Journal
      No way!

      I'm taking a cross country trip for the sole puprose of enjoying the many wi-fi enabled Starbucks along the way.

      I plan on uploading pictures of these interesting starbucks to my website, commenting on the cultural and rural differences I find in each.

      Thank god for technology!
      • Re:Trips (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Sunday March 09, 2003 @07:55PM (#5473472) Homepage
        You know, ubiquitous presence is cool and everything (although not nearly as cool as it would have been, say, 5 years ago) but really, the world is not waiting with baited breath for real-time updates of your trip across the states. I mean, not that it wouldn't be nice or anything, but it *can wait till you get home.* The whole "wow" factor of getting a stupid IP address at any given spot is gone. It's done. It's about as exciting as "woo hoo! I can make a phone call!" or "yow! Flush toilets all the way!"
    • Re:Trips (Score:5, Insightful)

      by germinatoras (465782) on Sunday March 09, 2003 @07:47PM (#5473436) Homepage

      I couldn't agree more. I just spent a few hours in one of our state's great parks. While I live in a fairly developed area (and getting more developed all the time), it's good to get away from it all for a while.

      Taking a peaceful walk in the woods, or going for a long, straight drive down a quiet highway with the radio turned off and the laptop hundreds of miles away...it's very relaxing.

    • Re:Trips (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mstrjon32 (542309)
      Amen. I hate my cellular phone. There are days I just want to throw it out the window on the freeway. When I am out, off work, I don't want other people interfering with what my life. It's a horrible electronic leash. When I broke my laptop last year, I was very upset for a few weeks, but I never replaced it and I couldn't be happier. Leave the internet and all the connectivity at home. You will be a happier person. I guarantee it.
      • by dknj (441802)
        My cell phone was turned off a month ago (my father forgot to pay the bill and i 'forgot' to remind him to pay for it) and its been the most peaceful month ever. I can totally afford to front the bill myself, but I'm doing fine without the electronic leash.

        -dk
    • Re:Trips (Score:4, Funny)

      by foxtrot (14140) on Sunday March 09, 2003 @07:58PM (#5473493)
      Don't take any computers if you can, you enjoy the world better when it has your complete attention.

      But if you don't take any computers, what do you wire into the car stereo to play your mp3s?

      Real geeks can't afford iPods anymore, you know. :)

      -JDF
    • Re:Trips (Score:5, Insightful)

      by riqnevala (624343) on Sunday March 09, 2003 @08:09PM (#5473543) Journal
      Don't take any money, 'cause it's capitalist crap.
      Don't take any clothes, you will enjoy the highway better in the nude.
      Don't take any gas, as it is polluting the earth.
      Don't take the car, you need the walk anyway.
      Don't take this seriously, as this is sarcasm.

      I can't understand why do people take such stress with computers, that they cannot relax if it is nearby. It is a tool, for fun and work altogether! I could manage my life without the computer, but I simly will not.

      --
      Forget humor to see the insightfulness.
    • Re:Trips (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Megs (75547)
      Hey, who are you to judge? I like carrying my computer around with me and chilling on the internet from time to time. It's an ideal way to recharge my batteries (like about 25% percent of the population, I'm an introvert) so that I can "enjoy the world with my complete attention."


      Although I do feel compelled to tell a lot of people on this thread to get the hell away from their computers and stop reading slashdot and whatever else is making you so damned unhappy. Maybe you need to keep an email address that you only give to people you care about hearing. Maybe you should do the same with a mobile, if you can afford it. No doubt you should tell your boss and your annoying ex-girlfriend or whoever that they won't be able to reach you until you get back from the vacation you so desperately need.

    • by Nessak (9218)
      Over last summer I took a road trip from New Jersey to Vancouver, B.C. I took my laptop and barrowed a freinds GPS. I had the time of my life. No, I didn't play games and the only music I played over it was 3-hour radio archives.

      What the Laptop/GPS allowed me to do is really plan my route and not worry about having a ton of maps. I could zoom in on my location or see myself in perspective. I know some people might say "Get a handheld GPS" but honstly a laptop with CDs of Maps and good software was what was needed. A small GPS screen and limited storage just won't do.

      So I would say I enjoyed my trip much better with the laptop, GPS, and ability to go on back roads and not get lost. I would have stayed on I-80 had I not had it....
    • Re:Trips (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mdlc (654049)
      I can't say that I agree with that sentiment. I work on a ship that thankfully is (un?)wired for internet access (I'm writing this from somewhere between Huahine and Raiatea) and have had a great time sending back pictures in real time from places like Antarctica, Rio de Janeiro, Easter Island, and the like. It becomes a real tool to share experiences with those close to you despite any real distance.
  • From Saint Paul (Score:4, Informative)

    by thoolie (442789) on Sunday March 09, 2003 @07:32PM (#5473345) Homepage
    Well, if you are in St. Paul, if you get on to 35W through Minneapolis or hit I-94 through downtonw st. paul, i can gurantee you that you will find some net access, if anything esle, you can always hit up down town cyber cafe'. St. Paul/ Mineapolis is a really great place to play with some of the new technology (it is the birth place of Best Buy, after all). But if you need anything from the twin cities, feel free to ask!
    • i can gurantee you that you will find some net access, if anything esle, you can always hit up down town cyber cafe'

      Either cyber cafes or (simpler) a modem both came to mind. This seems far easier. If I needed 'Net access, I'd probably have a laptop, slap a modem and get an account with a national ISP, and be happy as a clam. This guy isn't going to be downloading movies onto his laptop during the road trip (I would imagine), so I can't see any reason this wouldn't work. There are phones *everywhere* in the US.
    • Not sure if it's only Twin Cities or what, but Dunn Brother's coffee shops are offering wireless internet for free.

      They're less evil than Starbucks... :)

      • Dunn Brothers on Wabasha in downtown St. Paul used to be my old bandwidth feed trough before I moved far, far away. Also, the MSP airport has Wi-Fi access, but I think its 'doze only and you have to pay for it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 09, 2003 @07:33PM (#5473354)
    When you come the the Des Moines area, there is Prairieinet.net. They are a rural ISP that uses wifi. I don't know how open their sites are, but it is worth a try. http://www.prairieinet.net. and see a list of their sites.
  • We got the O-face (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 09, 2003 @07:34PM (#5473359)
    Skip the stop in Des Moines and just keep on trucking into Omaha. I know our downtown area is rife with wireless networks. And if you don't want to run the risks of tapping into a local business's WLAN, there are several hotels in the area which have free wireless setup right in the hotel. and have fun making that drive.....iowa through to denver is about the flatest, boringest drive in the entire world.
    • Re:We got the O-face (Score:3, Informative)

      by Ldir (411548)
      iowa through to denver is about the flatest, boringest drive in the entire world.

      Actually, western Iowa is somewhat hilly. It doesn't get really flat until Nebraska. In western Nebraska, you can lock the steering wheel straight and take a nap. Seems like a couple hundred miles of straight, flat four-lane.

      Assuming you're coming down I-35 and heading west on I-80, there are at least two restaurants with public Wi-Fi access near the I-35/I-80 junction on the west side of Des Moines. They are Legends American Grille and Autographs Bar & Grill. The Valley West Mall is also nearby, reportedly has Wi-Fi access in the Food Court area. All three require a free ID that you can get from I-Spot Networks [posaccess.net]. I haven't tried any of them yet.

      Good luck with the weather. March is unpredictable in this area, you can get anything from sunny and 70's to ice storms to heavy blizzards. Don't trust any forecast more than a couple of days in advance.

    • Re:We got the O-face (Score:3, Informative)

      by anto (41846)
      You dont know booring until you have driven in Australia. We have roads here that you can pretty much drive along all day without too much turning & hardly anything that would constitute a hill. Luckily our governmont thinks that internet access is a luxery so you will have plenty of time to think & be thankful you don't live in some of the places that you will be over-nighting in...
      • But doesn't the excitement come from the roaming futuristic biker gangs?

        Sorry, couldn't help it...
        • Seemingly local governments & tourist operators have sought a solution to the problem of tourists being boored on long trips - its called 'lets get a tourist killed' the fun part of the game is to do it in a way that avoids prosceution. For the amatures playing at home "I did not realise there were croc's in there" has already been taken.

          Seriousy there is tones of great amazing places to visit in Australia - most of which have a way lower chance of death than your local 7-11 :) We just have loads of open space as well..
        • or just the plain brown snakes that cross the road, or just sunbake in the middle.

          Not to mention the roos, when it is drought and there is more grass along the road sides and grain from passing trucks. Galahs and Cockatoos are fun windscreen smashers too.

          And just when you think you can set and forget the cruise control and tie the steering wheel up, you come across herds of cattle or sheep using the road as a stock route or long grass paddock.

          That's the Hay plains (NSW Sydney to Adelaide). And then there is the nullabour (Adelaide to Perth), where a passenger can go to sleep for five hours (550km), wake up and wonder if we've moved at all.

          And not a wi-fi or even a mobile phone signal the whole way. But our capital city CBDs are full of free unprotected wi-fi. Just no good for road trips. If you don't count Canberra, the closest they get together is 800km (500miles).
  • I know! (Score:2, Funny)

    by mschoolbus (627182)
    Archive all your webpages you ussually look at on to a CD and bring it with you, that way you can read everything you normally would! =P
  • I don't get it... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800)
    You said you're willing to pay, right?

    So, there's net access all over the place -- libraries, Internet cafes, any remotely modern hotel or motel. What's with the insistence on wireless access?

    • Actually, hotels with wireless aren't as plentiful in many areas as you would expect.

      Starved in Richmond, VA.
    • The difference between checking a web-based email account (hotmail.com) and using your own, either business-related or ISP (nycap.rr.net, in my case) is rather large. Perhaps someone either doesn't want an @hotmail.com name for fear of shame in front of fellow computer-users (geeks - I mean, who else?) or just uses the one ISP provided or other sortof non-browser adaptable email. I can relate to this.

      Using public computer terminals is fine and dandy if you want something done quickly, and aren't worried about leaving your information on that machine, perhaps, then sure! But if you want your own system to work from, with your own mailbox, your own controls, your own preferences, a wireless-enabled laptop is the way to go. Plus, it's better than being constrained to just a desk and a library, or something.
      • I agree with all you say here, but why do you have to have wireless? It's a whole lot easier to plug into a phone jack, dial up, and do your thing. If you're lucky, your ISP provides a web-based interface like TWIG [screwdriver.net]. If not, you can always SSH in (you *do* get a shell account from your ISP, right?)
  • by stonebeat.org (562495) on Sunday March 09, 2003 @07:38PM (#5473376) Homepage
    i go on long bike rides. i used to take my handheld PC with me, but soon i figured it is hard to find a wi-fi spot. So i bought a conector for my nextel phone (approx $45) to my IPAQ and I enjoy connectivity whenever and wherever i want.
    • i go on long bike rides. i used to take my handheld PC with me, but soon i figured it is hard to find a wi-fi spot. So i bought a conector for my nextel phone (approx $45) to my IPAQ and I enjoy connectivity whenever and wherever i want.

      I'm really interested in trying to do the same think with my laptop and my Nokia phone, but finding information on how to do it seems to be insanely hard. My suspicion is that the wireless phone co's really don't want you using their network this way (or would like to charge you more for it).

      Any tips? What kind of connector do you use between your IPAQ and Nextel phone? Anyone know if there's a USB connector for the Nokia 5190? Do you need special software, or can you just treat it like a standard serial modem on the USB port?

      (I have a Mac Powerbook G3, and suspect that if special software is needed I might be in trouble)
      • If you get a T68i with Bluetooth, and a Bluetooth adaptor for your Powerbook, you can get online that way (no wires at all!) You don't even have to take your phone out of your pocket, since Bluetooth reaches up to 30 feet or so. Once you have all the PPP settings set up, just hit "Connect" from OS X's Internet Connect to get connected, it's pretty slick.

        Kinda pricey, though, they start charging by the K after 8MB/month (IIRC), and not the biggest speed demon at 19.2 max, but better than nothing.
  • Lincoln Neb. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ender81b (520454) <[billd] [at] [inebraska.com]> on Sunday March 09, 2003 @07:41PM (#5473400) Homepage Journal
    Well since you are on I-80 you will be driving through Lincoln, Nebraska. I have a couple of suggestions. One, you can try driving through campus (university of nebraska-lincoln) to pick up some internet.

    Also, you could drive by my house - I leave a WAP open to all (well bandwith capped at 256/256 for non-fixedlease DHCP address's). Heh, I decided to do this right after I went on vacation and relied on other people's WAP's for internet. I would suggest driving around campus and the college areas, kids always leave open WAP's and the university has a number of WAP's open to all that you can pick up. Downtown also has a ton of WAP's.
  • by n3rd (111397) on Sunday March 09, 2003 @07:41PM (#5473401)
    Another editor starts the same journey in a few days and doesn't realize it's already being done until they both stumble across each other at 11:00 PM at a Motel 6.

    at Slashdot editor's problem with dupes
  • My trip... (Score:5, Informative)

    by PhaseBurn (44685) <PhaseBurn@PhaseBurn.net> on Sunday March 09, 2003 @07:43PM (#5473413) Homepage
    I live in Gold River, CA (not that far from Placerville) and basically did your trip in reverse... A co-worker of mine had to move back to Philly, PA, and we decided to road-trip it... Reno, believe it or not, doesn't provide an abundance of internet access at all... They want everybody to gamble instead... I think I found 1 cafe that provided internet access while up there (And it was for a LAN party months prior, not on this trip), and, it wasn't even wireless... was your standard RJ-45 jack, but it worked... There was nothing between there and Salt Lake City, at least on I-80... I didn't even see many signs of civilization, let along, technology...

    Salt Lake City has a few internet cafe's, though I don't remember any of their names... I know they were relativly close to the highway... We only passed through Salt Lake, so I didn't get to patron any of them, nor do I know if they're wireless or not...

    We then went out to Cheyenne and didn't find a hotel with access, or any establishments either... Over all, it was pretty dull... Nebraska was the same way... I did find a nice location out in Indiana that had wireless access advertized, but it was closed when we drove by... The only internet access I got my entire trip was in Chicago, when we stayed at a friend's house... He let me plug my laptop into his cable modem for a few to check my mail and what not... That's about the extent of my trip... We didn't look that hard, so I probably am missing a whole hell of a lot... but I hope it helps...

    Best of luck, Chris, safe trip!
    • Re:My trip... (Score:3, Informative)

      by sweetooth (21075)
      Reno has a cafe with Internet access? Where?

      Anyway, I seriously doubt you will find wireless access anywhere in Reno that doesn't require using someone elses connection covertly. Or swing by my place I don't care if you use my access point.

      Although, the proximity of Reno and Placerville makes me wonder why one would even want to stop except to get gas. I'd just pass right through town without thinking twice.

      Also, beware the trip through Reno, there is currently road construction on I-80. Starting monday the west bound lane will be reduced to one lane and several exits/entrances will be closed through September.
    • Your right about the casino's.

      Did you know in Las Vegas they install cell phone disrupters in the casinos?

      My brother came to Vegas this christmass at Treasure Island and could not get his cell phone to work. An employee told him to walk outside because the casino bans all cell phones. Within 20 feet outside the casino his cell phone worked. Unbelievable!

      Same is true for internet access.

      Anyway if your going on this trip I recommend that you enjoy the scenary around you. You can go on the internet anytime but not see the beauty of the rockies and desert.

      • Did you know in Las Vegas they install cell phone disrupters in the casinos?

        Where can I get one of those? I need a portable one I can set up in restaurants and movie theaters, not to mention the really high power one for my car...

  • consider a plug (Score:5, Informative)

    by mlknowle (175506) on Sunday March 09, 2003 @07:44PM (#5473423) Homepage Journal
    First, I'm sure a lot of people are going to suggest that you forgo the interenet altogether. There is something to be said for this; it sounds like you trip is, at least in part, designed to be an adventure, and being 'offline' might enhance it.

    That said, if you do decide to go online, for blogging or e-mail, pick up a prepaid phone card, enter the 800#, your pin, and a juno access number into the PPP settings, and then every phone jack you see on your way will be a 'net access point. Wireless is fun, but if you just need to transmit text, the phone connection is easiest, redily availible, and certinly powerfull enough.

    PS - it sounds like a lot of fun. Enjoy yourself.
    • Yeah, I've got my list of dial-up numbers for my provider, I actually wouldn't mind not logging in, but I want to keep tabs on what's going on at my company and slashdot and stuff.

      But thanks.

      Chris

  • by urbazewski (554143) on Sunday March 09, 2003 @07:50PM (#5473452) Homepage Journal
    Looks like you'll be passing some of america's finest roadside attractions as well, like the Mitchell Corn Palace [roadsideamerica.com], Bedrock City [roadsideamerica.com], and the statue of Crazy Horse [crazyhorse.org] under construction in South Dakota. After that it's straight into Jackalope territory ...

    • How could you leave out Wall Drug [walldrug.com]? Really, the place ain't much, but you can't fail to go there after seeing about nine billion billboards for it on I-80 through Montana.
    • Some of those places are along a faster route than via Des Moines etc.

      I've done proof-of-concept driving on this route on numerous trips to The Cities, and one to Burning Man. (For us easterners that means driving I-80 to Wadsworth NV, which is almost "all the way to Reno.")

      1) US-169 to St James MN. Until Mankato this is a national scenic byway and correspondingly nicer than I-35.
      2) MN-4 to I-90
      3) I-90 thru Sioux Falls (www.getyourgameon.net) and Mitchell (the aforementioned Corn Palace, www.travelsd.com).

      4a) Speed route: US-83 Murdo SD -> North Platte NE, where you take I-80. The Sand Hills mean no cops but also no net access. Some find this area boring; others find it aesthetically pleasing. Good prep for upcoming desert driving.

      4b) Scenic route: continue on I-90 to the Black Hills, home of tourist stuff like Mt Rushmore, Wind Cave national park, Crazy Horse (Motto: "Hey, let's sculpt an entire mountain!"), and the for-kids-only (boring to adults) Bedrock City. From there, getting to I-80 is your problem; I've only ever taken the speed route. I-90 -> I-25 -> WY-220 -> US-287 looks promising... Teapot Dome, Independance Rock etc.

      5) I-80 takes forever. The semi trailers thin out after Salt Lake but never go away; it's their road and we just drive on it.

      In Wyoming, I recomend the Ft Bridger state historic site (remember the Oregon Trail games?) and/or a detour on US-30 to Fossil Butte national monument. Many old fish imprints there. Como Bluff (E of Medicine Bow) might also be cool.

      Nevada is an cycle of coaxing your overheating car over the mountain, drop into the valley at 90+ mph, and spend two hours crossing the sagebrush valley to the next line of mountains. Repeat. Repeat. You'll pass like two or three federal prisons and almost nothing else. The Pyramid Lake is over-rated as a photo site - skip it. Forget net access... you'll only have either 0 or 1 radio stations.

      Should take three days plus stop-and-look-around time. Enjoy.

      - Eric
      • ... remind yourself of our nuclear prowess!

        http://www.ci.kimball.ne.us/gotte_park.htm

        (I've visited both this park and Carhenge. Terrific pit stops for travellers and storm chasers. ;) They give us storm chasers something to remember if we don't see anything significant during that day's chase.)

        -Jellisky
    • The Corn Palace in Mitchel, SD, is worthless. It's simply a building covered with corn, and it's widely commercialized for tourism. Crazy Horse is similar - you can't get close to it unless you throw out nearly $100 for a helicopter ride to get closer.

      However, if you're going to be driving through the Black Hills, I strongly suggest you take a look at some of the better tourist spots: the natural ones. Devil's Tower in Wyoming is fantastic, as is Needles Highway in the Black Hills. Mount Rushmore is also a nice spot to visit, if you've never been there before, and the trails leading up to it are quite nice.

      If you're going through Montana, there's Glacier National Park in the NW, as well as Glacier Lake, which is breathtaking. They're not really tourist places, unless you really like the outdoors. Glacier Lake also has fantastic trout fishing, if you go out for that kind of thing.

      As far was Wall Drug, SD, there are signs advertising it all over the world. There are some in Europe, some in S. Africa, etc. My parents saw several signs for Wall Drug when they were younger, growing up in New York. If anything, it'll make a decent spot to stop and take a piss on your way to the other places in the Black Hills. Additionally, there's a large ISP based in Wall called Golden West Companies, which supplies dialup, cable, and (I'm not sure baout this) possibly WiFi service.

      Overall, you'll find mostly worthless tourist traps in the MidWest, and all the good tourist spots are still relatively unmolested by man, fairly off the main road. That is, all the good tourist areas are natural.
    • my roadside picks are, pointed out, on I-90.

      But I-80 has the barbed wire buffalo in Gothenburg, Nebraska (& the sod house museum & pony express station)....

    • Everybody in the car. Boat leaves in two minutes... or perhaps you *don't* want to see the second largest ball of twine on the face of the earth, which is only four short hours away!

      My apologies to Clark W. Griswold....
  • by foxtrot (14140) on Sunday March 09, 2003 @07:54PM (#5473468)
    I took a road trip across the southern US. I loaded up my pickup truck with a tent and a laptop in Atlanta and wound up in Alamogordo, NM before I turned around and headed home.

    Every KOA campground (er, "kampground") I stayed at had a phone jack for plugging your laptop into in one of the public areas, usually the rec room (though in one it was the laundry facility.) Dialup may not be sufficient for, say, uploading the day's digital pictures to your webswerver, but it's enough to check email and at least do the text portion of a 'blog.

    I dunno where you're planning on overnighting on your trip, but if campgrounds have phone lines, I'd guess darned near any hotel does, too. And if you're not crashing at a hotel or a campground, please, find somewhere to take a shower. :)
  • by malraid (592373) on Sunday March 09, 2003 @07:58PM (#5473494)
    Look, if you want to enjoy your trip, leave all your gear home. I enjoy technology, but it has to have limits. Shortly before year's end I took a trip with my friends to the beach. There was no cell reception, and it was great!!! I work as a freelance sysadmin/computer geek for hire, and generally have to stay in touch. I limited myself to check my voice mail a couple of times. In the only voicemail I got from a client, he was just calling to wish me a happy new year. Hell didn't break loose while I was "out of touch." I love techonoly (I currently have 5 computers setup in my room, but should drop to 3/2 soon) but there are times when everyone needs to unplug (or get away from wi-fi access or whatever) Do you really think you need to be hooked up? I'm pretty sure you don't, try it and you'll see.
    • I should also point out that when I was a kid, we crossed the country somethign like 2 tiems a year to go see family. I intend on checking things out, but I do have some work to keep up with and wireless will make it possible to do it quicker than with dialup, so I have more time to chill.

      I totally appreciate the sentiment though.

      Chris

  • I've got a list of (albeit mainly Berkeley and some SF) Wi-Fi hotspots, but lemme know if you find any more:

    http://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~cfarivar/warchalking [berkeley.edu]

  • by EvilCabbage (589836) on Sunday March 09, 2003 @08:00PM (#5473501) Homepage
    ... a pretty bad one.

    Why not try doing the "stupid tourist thing" and avoid computers for a while? See the sights, appreciate some wilderness, pick apples, etc..etc... just something that may give you a new outlook, and perhaps distance you a bit from the day to day life we all try and avoid when we go on a holiday.
  • If you must (Score:3, Insightful)

    by djupedal (584558) on Sunday March 09, 2003 @08:04PM (#5473520)
    Blogging across country? Please....

    But if you must, pick up a GSM cell phone and simply dial in to Juno, etc. Otherwise you'll spend all your time looking for access, and not smelling the roses.

    I mean what are you going to do...stop at every StarBucks just to tell the world you've stopped at every StarBucks?

    Hey!!! Cool!!! I'm calling you from the airplane/highway/truckstop/motel!!!
    • Re:If you must (Score:4, Insightful)

      by saihung (19097) on Sunday March 09, 2003 @09:30PM (#5473845)
      This is what I'll be doing. Using a GSM phone and my Zaurus with zgps (assuming they ever get the maps feature working, *crosses fingers). Other than basic functions and maybe email at the end of the day, again with the Zaurus and cell phone, I'm not bringing anything. The point of this trip is to cruise across the USA in my car, not, as many have said, to display geekitude that is SO 3 years ago. Na'mean? A full tank of gas and the horizon is what you need for a good road trip. Everything else is bunk.
  • on i380 (Score:3, Informative)

    by crablouie (7844) on Sunday March 09, 2003 @08:06PM (#5473525) Homepage
    the hawthorne inn in cedar rapids (25 miles north of 80) has wifi access that blocks http but is open to ssh and pop3 last I checked.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Find the local public library. You might have to register and show ID to get a machine with a fast connection but you'll see locals and get a chance to talk to real people.

    Use the restroom, wash your hands, interact.
  • by wirefarm (18470) <jim@@@mmdc...net> on Sunday March 09, 2003 @08:11PM (#5473553) Homepage

    AOL. ;-)
    Cheers,
    Jim
  • by Hao Wu (652581) on Sunday March 09, 2003 @08:16PM (#5473561) Homepage
    Hao wants to host the first wet DeCSS t-shirt contest in history! Set me up with Natalie Portman please.
  • You're starting out in St. Louis and have an end objective of Placerville? That's like leaving hell to go ...somewhere even worse.
  • In Twin cities area (Score:4, Informative)

    by dieman (4814) on Sunday March 09, 2003 @08:21PM (#5473579) Homepage
    www.surfthing.com -- free wifi.
  • St. Paul Wireless (Score:4, Informative)

    by SuperQ (431) on Sunday March 09, 2003 @08:22PM (#5473582) Homepage
    Hopefully, you're aware of the Twin Cities Wireless User Group.

    http://www.tcwug.org

    We have a map system of available access points, and other fun stuff
  • What, exactly, is so great about unplugging for a while?

    I take my laptop and cell phone on every trip. I dont use them to work, I use them to play. I like to stay in touch, to be able to talk to people, and to do all the fun things I do with them when I'm not at work.

    Plus, on the off chance that some emergency should come up (it's happened), I CAN be reached.

    As far as people griping about the whole wireless thing, I think it's pretty cool that he's looking for wi-fi hotspots. Ok, so the world may not all be wireless yet, but we're trying, and what's the point of implementing this cool new tech if nobody's gonna use it? Sure, when I go places with my laptop, I fully expect to have either no net access, or dialup, but I bring a LAN cable and my wireless card anyway, just in case I luck out, and when that happens, I am one happy camper.

    There's just something about being able to lie on the beach, work on my tan, and be playing starcraft with my friends back home that appeals to me ;)

    Remember folks, for some of us, technology makes our lives BETTER. I dont think I've ever thought of tech as a burden, and before I get all those angry comments asking if I've ever stepped outside and appreciated nature, yes, I have. I thoroughly enjoy rock climbing, ice skating, roller blading, and a variety of other non-tech outdoor activities. I've been to italy, greece, turkey, and about half of the 50 states. I've seen the world, and you know what? With a few exceptions (greece was seriously bad ass), it was pretty boring, and some good tech would have made it much more fun for me.
    • by simpl3x (238301)
      once i took a trip to the boundary waters on the canadian border with my ten year old son. as it rained on our heads while we were on the river, drenching ourselves in deet (i know...) to avoid the continual hum of mosquitos, i discovered that the cell phone actually worked in the wilderness! $40 phone calls to my girlfriend. being connected is nice, but wishing wi-fi upon the world isn't going to make it happen soon. i use a cell phone card which gets up to 144k (more like 90k) in areas with coverage and 19k elsewhere. loading /. in 5 seconds has turned out to be just fine! bandwidth can be overrated. connection matters. no strings on me!
    • We are taking a road trip next week for spring break, and I will bring my cell/camera/laptop...

      the thing is, these items SUPPORT having a good time on the road. I agree with you completely.

      I plug in the laptop (DON'T FORGET, people, to lock that thing to the desk when you leave the room) at night and jack in to upload the day's pictures off the digital camera. (god bless my parents' AOL account)

      I use the web to find restaurants in our area, attractions to see, and driving directions to our next stop.

      The cell is an obvious one, so I can be contacted by either my friends in other cars when we caravan or by others who will have no other way to reach me (of course, in an emergency).
    • Every time I see a post telling somebody to unplug their laptop and interact with people, smell the roses, and enjoy the scenery; I want to gag. While we all admire those poster's 1337 aestheticism, they need to realize that they're not quite so brillant and revolutionary as they might imagine. As though we didn't know that intense computer usage tends to make people antisocial.

      That said; I have found some definite up-sides to being away from the computer. I've been living in Belize since September, and until Christmas I didn't have any real computer access. I was able to use an old 386 to send e-mail to my friends and family back in the states, but nothing else. During that time I realized that I simply thought more. With less access to other people's thoughts I found that I had to create my own. Since acquiring a laptop for Christmas I've found that while it's nice to have access to more information, I form weaker opinions and don't explore the limits of my mind as often as I did before.

      I still gag every time I see another "smell the roses" post, but I do believe that there is something to be said for the occasional intentional separation from computers.
    • The point is that for a lot of us, technology has become invasive. It's not like I oppose technology or progress - in fact, I actively encourage it through my own high-tech consumer spending. But technology really does carry with it some kind of psychological burden that needs to be lifted periodically. People drive technology, but technology also drives people. I find that I need to completely separate myself from it every now and then.

      For example, I don't understand why you would enjoy playing Starcraft on the beach more than just kicking back, relaxing, listening to the sound of the waves breaking against the sand, feeling a cool breeze float by, and just lay there doing absolutely nothing but soaking up the environment. I mean, it's kinda cool for the "gee whiz" factor, but after you've done it once, what's the point? Most people go to the beach to escape that.

  • I'd see some geocaches [geocaching.com] along the trip. Not only are they fun, they often bring you to cool places to see that only locals would know about.
  • by Jon Abbott (723) on Sunday March 09, 2003 @09:00PM (#5473708) Homepage
    My girlfriend and I are planning a road trip for this May (our planned route is listed below), and I came across some books that you may want to look into. While they don't deal with wireless hotspots or technology in general, they do deal with things that are essential for any cross-country trip: weird stuff and good food.

    The first book is called Eccentric America [amazon.com] by Jan Friedman... It highlights many interesting, different, and just plain weird places to visit. For example, there's a guy in Washington state who is building and plans to fly a hydrogen peroxide-fueled rocket, not unlike what John Carmack [armadilloaerospace.com] is currently doing. The book is also useful to find out what is weird/eccentric/etc. in your own city or town.

    The second book is called Roadfood [amazon.com] , by Michael and Jane Stern. It is a compendium of restaurants, ice cream parlors, highway diners and so on across the country. I haven't read in too much detail, but it should come in handy.

    For those of you who are interested, my girlfriend and I are planning the following waypoints for our roadtrip: Tallahassee, FL -> New Orleans, LA -> Austin, TX -> Roswell, NM -> Albuquerque, NM -> Grand Canyon -> Las Vegas, NV -> San Francisco, CA -> somewhere near the CA/OR border -> Eugene, OR -> Portland, OR -> elsewhere on the way back home. The trip back will wind through Helena, MT and Denver, CO to visit some relatives, with everywhere else just being nightly waypoints. Am I bringing my laptop? Probably not... Am I bringing a digital camera? You bet!
    • Well, I can tell you from experience that you might as well just pack up the cell phones, wi-fi, and even the car radio, for that matter, as soon as you leave Austin, and get ready to enjoy a few hundred miles of absolute...nothing. And when I say nothing, I mean *nothing*, until you get close to El Paso.

      A bit of friendly advice for anyone driving that stretch of I-10 for the first time: start looking for a gas station as soon as the tank reaches half full. Trust me, unless you are driving a Honda Insight, you will need it.
  • Do not stop at Reno. The stripers there call it drano and half the hotels and casino's are goind under and are very junky. Stop near lake Tahoe if you can find room instead. Its georgeous country.

    I also recommend you stop not at Salt Lake City but the Uitina Mountains about a few hours outside of salt like city. They are really georgous. If you have extra time visit the Desert peak just west of salt lake city assuming the road to the top is still open. Its so cool to see desert in the valley below, shrubs in hills surrounding them and forests and snow where you are at the tops of the mountains.

    Just beware that snow is very very bad at the high elevations at route 80 this time of year. Its not just cooler higher up but snow and rain come down harder because the combination of the cooler air condensing the moisture out of the clouds, and mountian block. It may only snow 4 inches in Salt lake city but the mountains can get up to a foot! Plan ahead and check the weather before you leave! If the weather forcasts call for snow prepare alot of extra time or find an alternative lower elevation route.

    I would never visit these mountains in the winter for this reason. But I do visit them in the summer.

  • Why in the hell do you need wireless? Is a phone cable too heavy to carry? Get a free trial with a national ISP, and most have local dialup numbers everywhere.
  • I intend on blogging my cross country trip as it happens and would like to have something to talk about other than the state lines I cross and the number of retreads I dodge.


    Who will be driving? Or will you be using Voice to Text?

  • by RestiffBard (110729) on Sunday March 09, 2003 @10:02PM (#5473975) Homepage
    last year I took a trip to the states local to Virginia. Never logged into anything till I got to Ohio and used a friend's link to acces my webmail to hook up with a friend I was going to drop in on in NC. Then we used the cell phone when we were close to Charlotte to get precise directions. But, dude, when you're in a bar you would look a little odd carrying along a laptop.
  • by Moses Lawn (201138) on Sunday March 09, 2003 @10:04PM (#5473982)
    My suggestion would be to hit every college and university you can. I drove across the country and back 2 years ago, and imagined I'd find lots of wireless too. School computer labs or plain old dialup was *much* more realistic.

    Along your route, I stopped at University of Utah (Salt Lake City), which has a big lab in the library, with wireless. However, you have to be a student to get access. I just used a floppy (remember floppies?) to move stuff from the laptop to a lab machine and did the FTP from there. Or, try unplugging an ether cable from a lab machine and plugging yours in. Might work - it does at University of Vermont (heh heh).

    While on campus, try wandering around outside the dorms. I imagine you'll pick up a few access points there.

    As for stuff to see, if you're not in a huge rush, take the scenic route across North Dakota and drive through the Teddy Roosevelt National Park, then go south and see Mt. Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial (crazyhorse.org [crazyhorse.org], thanks to a previous poster). I cannot say enough about this one - it's about the most awesome sight I've seen. I hit it before Mt. Rushmore (they're about 35 or so miles apart) and it made Rushmore look small and insignificant.

    When in Green River, Wyoming, don't forgt to see the Greater Green River Intergalactic Spaceport (along the road to the Flaming Gorge Dam and Recreational Area). Then again, don't bother - it looks like this [sonic.net]. The Bonneville Salt Flats are mightily impressive.

    One other thing - you will not get a decent cup of coffee until you get to California. When I was in Cheyenne, I drove half an hour out of my way to find a Starbucks. Get a french press (you can get them in plastic - reccomended) and grind up some beans before you leave.

    One other other thing - never eat, or even stop, at Stuckeys. Trust me on this.


    Other than that, have a great trip, and like others here have said, don't let the tech get in the way of enjoying it.

    • As for stuff to see, if you're not in a huge rush, take the scenic route across North Dakota

      HAHAHAHAHA ... scenic route across North Dakota ... HAHAHAHAHA ..

      Awww man ... never laughed so hard ... :)

      Seriously ... I live here ... there's NOTHING scenic about the route across North Dakota ... (I-94) ... unless you like counting grain silos.
      Sure ... after Bismarck it gets a little more interesting with the badlands ... and the drive south (after Dickinson) to hit South Dakota is the longest without ANY reststops/gas stations in ND.

      Though, you do drive past the highest point in ND, and make sure you see the "open range" ... literally ... its a range without a front on it, and a sign by it telling the people who don't get it what it is ... (its really for the Montanians)

      Heh ... ND scenery ... heheheh ...

  • by K-Man (4117) on Sunday March 09, 2003 @10:04PM (#5473991)
    Wireless access points are easy to find along the highway; just look for the skidmarks and wreckage left by previous users.
  • by iphayd (170761) on Sunday March 09, 2003 @10:36PM (#5474135) Homepage Journal
    http://www.i-spotaccess.com/

    They limit you per month, but have several access points including a mall, a jazz bar (Doc's), and other sites.
  • Truckstops (Score:2, Informative)

    by inyercells (626695)
    Truckstops such as Flying J and TravelCenters of America offer dialup as well as 802.11b access. Most of the drivers I know would be lost without their laptops.
  • I took a roadtrip across the state recently and brought my Treo 300, laptop, and serial cable. Using Sprint's PCS Vision service and the phone as an external modem, I had a wireless 56k connection the whole way. My Vision service is unlimited, so I was streaming audio, AIM, reading Slashdot, etc.

    I used WirelessModem [notifymail.com], a shareware PalmOS app that bridges the Treo's serial port and built-in wireless modem. Yes, it works in Linux, MacOS, and Windows. Supposedly, the USB cable even works in Linux and MacOS.

    Be aware that Sprint's transparent proxy re-compresses Web images, similarly to AOL. The maximum theoretical rate is 144kbps, but I haven't yet achieved that due to weirdness in Windows's modem drivers.

  • If you get a good (7.5 Db or better) antenna, you can wardrive across country. There will be gaps but more than a few open APs. I was picking up APs on the strangest points along I-80...

    Beyond that, Sprint PCS with unlimited Vision should work if you are going to stay on the freeways (or Verizon's equivalent or others).
  • AOL. No, really. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JamesOfTheDesert (188356) on Sunday March 09, 2003 @11:10PM (#5474269) Journal

    I just drove cross-country, and wanted some sort of Net access. I bit the bullet and installed AOL from one of those "1K free hours" CDs.

    So kill me.

    The result was that, at all but one hotel, I had free local calls and I could relax on the Net whilst sitting in my underwear watching CNN.

    Yeah, it was slow, but not the end of the world. I could read E-mail, check somw sites, update my blog with travel news, and snarf porn.

    Six days later, end of trip, call to AOl, cancel account.

  • Taking a computer along on a road trip is just plain wrong. Shit, man, I'm a geek if I ever saw one, but when I go out in nature or when I take a road trip across country, both of which I do as OFTEN as possible, I don't take along a cell phone. I don't take along a computer. I just take along a backpack containing a bunch of clothes and lots of food. It's like when I went to Sequoia last year during the winter. I was in the lodge for breakfast and I saw someone on the other end of the lodge on his laptop and I thought, "What a loser... Giant trees, clean air, lots of snow, possibilities for skiing, snoe shoeing, sledding, hiking, etc. and he's wasting away on his computer. Blah."

    Try living in the desert for a week or so. Personally, I like to go in the winter, when it's cold, because I don't like heat. There is no running water, no electricity. I sleep in a tent if it's wet or under the stars if it's a clear night, and believe me, it gets COLD. But the best part? Being able, in the complete darkness, to see every single star in the universe and just imagine the grandness of everything. The last thing I want crossing my mind is how life revolves around computers nowadays.

  • There is one of two cold water geysers in Green River, Utah. The other is somewhere in Switzerland (so I hear). I was last there about 5 years ago when you could stand next to the geyser and lean into the stream while errupting. Pretty cool if you're into natural phenomenon.

    Crystal Geyser [utah.com]

  • Small towns (Score:2, Informative)

    by Quixotic137 (26461)
    Your primary concern is wi-fi internet access, so I'll address that first. Seriously consider researching which small towns along the way have broadband internet access. Perhaps unsurprisingly, small town people like high speed internet. They also dislike running cables. Therefore, they buy a cheap router/access point from Best Buy, plug it in, and never look at it again. I'm from a town of about 2500 people. I went wardriving one day just for fun and found 10 access points without even trying very hard.

    Secondly, why are you stopping in cities anyway? Why not get some of the local "culture" along the way? Diners tend to be as cheap as fast food, and depending on the time of day, faster. Not to mention you don't have to deal with going through the city to get to a restaurant.

Parkinson's Law: Work expands to fill the time alloted it.

Working...