State by State

Apparently there is an entire country between Boston and San Francisco.


by Natalia

Next step in a preparation for the trip is to make sure we can play our painstakingly put together selection of music 24/7. Because once you get used to carrying your entire music library with you there is no going back to playing CD or, heaven forbid, searching for a station that doesn’t play country. And since we will be living out of our truck for a foreseeable future (or so is Damian telling me) we need to be able to connect it to our iPod. The factory radio was lacking that capability; or rather it was reserved to people on the West Coast - the only Nissan Frontier with short cab, V6 engine and iPod connection was in Washington state. Now you know why we want to go there.

Armed with 3 instruction sets, including one from Crutchfield dedicated to our truck, we replaced the radio and in the process we discovered that one actually does need all those fancy screwdriver bits, which come with every screwdriver, but always get lost because nobody uses them. Utterly untrue! Whoever designed Nissan factory radio found use for Philips and Torx screws and 2 sizes of it to boot. As always I am impressed by those hardware guys: why use one type of screw where 3 would do?

The manual said to remove CD before disconnecting battery: the step that we conveniently skipped just to realize that no amount of shaking will bring the CD out afterwards.Once we put the new radio in, after gaining hazy understanding of a difference between DIN front sleeve and ISO side bracket, we’ve got to use our new radio.

And I thought the era of horrible user interface epitomized by the impossibility to program a VCR was over. It turns out I was simply deluding myself, lured into complacency by software isolating me from the ugliness of hardware. I didn’t realize how much I had lived in the Apple bubble - mistaking its devices’ UI for a new standard: easy, self-explanatory, obvious. All that pleasant illusion shattered when I found out that I cannot even turn my new radio on without thorough study of its user’s manual. I probably should have been forewarned by a terminology: for some reason car radios are called head units and the fact that a toilet on a boat is called head can’t be a coincidence.

The radio is called DEH-P610BT - another ignored warning: if you don’t know or care about how it differs from DEH-P4200UB you probably shouldn’t have bought it in the first place.

The manual promises that This unit has a number of sophisticated functions […] designed for the easiest possible use but many are not self explanatory. We recommend that you read through the manual before you begin using this unit. How true. All 67 pages of it, I may add. And this is just English. On the off chance that a person living in US may prefer some other language, yet be incapable of downloading that language version of the Internet, countless trees had to die. Of course if you can’t read Français or Español you are screwed anyway, even if you do know how to download. But then again, maybe you are better off without this radio and its sophisticated functions.

So now, that I have it installed, and know how to turn it on, I can connect my iPod and listen to my music. And I better be in the mood for the song it plays, because I still haven’t read the section on a skip button.

books and nooks

When we planned our trip we resigned ourselves to getting by without some of the perks of civilization (regular meals, hot showers, morning coffee or morning commute). There are however things on which I simply refuse to compromise. One of them is the access to printed word. I am very much so a Gutenberg junkie. In an hour of despair I have been known to plunge for a fix into a flowery language of washing detergents’ blurbs. Which, for uninitiated, is quite similar to Ewan McGregor’s plunge in Trainspotting. Let’s just say it’s not mentioned in polite society.


We were just getting used to how our truck makes us feel: all manly and rugged, passing for real Vermonters lacking nothing but a dog (and a cow, and a farm, and a cute name for our own brand of goat cheese). However, the thought of carrying anything of value on the truck bed was more than we could bear. The vision of flying suitcases, of our bikes magically unchaining and suicidally throwing themselves into the following traffic, made us act. We decided to cap our irrational fears once and for all.