State by State

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

plan

by Natalia

It is a beautiful morning, you get up, look around and decide to hit the road. And just like that you are off heading toward endless string of adventures, one of a kind attractions, magnificent vistas, local restaurants serving tasty food, and comfortable motels offering clean sheets. A dream road trip, where you can be your spontaneous self yet every minute of it is fun, every road interesting, every place unique.

And there is another kind of a road trip when unbounded spontaneity turns into unmitigated disaster: roads are jammed, motels crawl with roaches, views consist of particularly enticing trash dumps, and local dives serve unappetizing bricks of protein ineptly disguised as food. Trips after which you feel lucky if the worst that happens is a drunken bar brawl.

The reality of travelling falls usually somewhere in between. Which does not stop me from attempting to increase my chances of ending up on the happy side of the spectrum. To that end I used to surround myself with guidebooks, fire up Google maps in one window, my favorite hotel booking service in another and proceed to figure out how to see all the attractions in always too short amount of time.

While providing excellent directions Google maps are not very helpful in estimating how long one is going to travel from, say, Boston to San Francisco. It will tell you the total driving time (2 days and 2 hours) and will dutifully warn you the route has tolls. But it won't tell you which day you'll be watching sunset on Fisherman Wharf if you leave Long Wharf this morning. It won't because it doesn't know what you want see along the way.

The booking service will happily reserve hotels for you, but won't help with figuring out for when exactly you need those reservations. Trying to find out how much time you can spend looking for this perfect lunch place and still arrive to the picturesque canyon before the sunset should not require logistic skills of the package delivery service.

We knew there has to be a better way and we tried various services, but we could not settle for one that would do exactly what we wanted. And one day we just started to write our own. It grew and changed and evolved with our experiences during trips and, while we plan to add more features to it, we feel it deserves to be tried out by others.

So this is how I plan my trips nowadays: I still stack all my guidebooks around me, I go to furkot and I click on the map for every place I like to see while furkot recalculates the driving times, suggests stops for the night and warns when I am trying to see too much for the intended duration of the trip. It let's me decide how much time I want to spend at any given site and calculates arrivals and departures accordingly.

Furkot shows me hotels around any given point and when I am ready to book, it gives me a choice of different services I can use. But regardless which one I click on, it leads me to a page that has my dates and location filled in. I don't have to worry anymore about booking on the wrong day, or in a town hundreds of miles away just because it has the same name but is in a different state.

It displays information that we've found useful to know when travelling: the time of sunrise and sunset, day and night temperatures, reminders that the weekend is coming and reservations should to be made in advance.

For Google Chrome users we've made it available from the chrome web store. And for owners of smart phones there is a mobile version to use on the road that connects to phone's navigation app.

Furkot is free to use, so check it out: plan your next trip, book hotels. And, most importantly, email us or give us feedback to let us know what you think.

And hopefully tilt the scales toward a perfect road trip.

vortex

Did they believe in vortexes as we do? asks 8-years old boy. We don't know, USFS volunteer who shows us around the Palatki site patiently answers. This is a typical answer when it comes to ancient ruins and their builders in the American Southwest. The question however is only typical to Sedona where New Age belief in psychic influence of red phallic protrusions reins supreme. At least boy's grandfather looks vaguely embarrassed.

oasis

Spending every afternoon in a swimming pool gives one a poor vantage point to criticize use of water, but Palm Springs' 540 gallons per person per day is truly impressive. Despite its desert location this is a green place. Not green because of its environmental credentials. While over 3000 turbines of San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm are an inspiring and a bit scary sight, Palm Springs is green in the original meaning of the word: green as trees, grass, golf courses and - obviously - palms. Which are no longer confined to occasional oases fed by natural springs.