Well, in my case, it wasn’t a utility belt it was a utility car. I recently drove across the country from Cambridge, MA to San Jose, CA, and I couldn’t have done it without my carload of toys.
The first and most obvious gadget was the car itself, an “Aquarius Blue” Volkswagen New Beetle convertible. I bought it because it matches my iPod mini.
The second and most useful gadget was a Garmin eTrex Legend C handheld GPS unit. The GPS was a gift from two of my brothers for Christmas. It was a direct response to the family naysayers laying wagers on whether I ended up in Canada or Mexico, never seeing California.
If you have considered that GPS units seem clearly in the realm of gadget excess, more in the realm of toy than tool, I offer my cross-country move as counter argument. At night in a motel room, I programmed in waypoints off the main highways or detours from conventional routes, such as trucking straight through Amish Country in Ohio just out of curiosity, while still steering a straight course and being able to gauge both the added distance and time.
I couldn’t have found my way in and out of the rural county roads leading to Abe Lincoln’s log cabin without it. And no ranger was needed to recover my lost self, when I decided to switchback through the forest bordering the Grand Canyon rather than hike back along the southern rim. Better yet, that GPS-guided stroll in the woods put me directly in path with a herd of foraging deer.
Upon arrival in the strange new world of California, my GPS has been my lifeline in allowing me to explore my new surroundings. It helps with even the little things, like finding the nearest Costco or Target to set up my new place. Most importantly, for every job interview I’ve had while settling in here, there has been a bit less stress. No more scraps of paper with hastily outlined directions from an HR rep or a printout of an inaccurate Mapquest. Seriously, this gadget has become so integrated into my routine I can’t remember life before it.
My cross-country utility belt also included a variety of iPods: a third gen, 30GB was my backup song library and file repository, the Mini mostly stayed in the car playing non-stop selections of music and audiobooks and the new Shuffle lulled me to sleep in many strange motel rooms. A good selection of audio, including books, is vital to long-distance driving. Besides, lonely in the dark on an empty highway with Stephen King reading Stephen King is indescribable.
Completing the pocket-sized portable collections were my cell phone, a Motorola V551 that has so far become my favorite phone, and my Palm Zire 72, both of which were used to check email and stay in touch with friends, family and the waiting boyfriend on the West Coast, while cruise-controlling the Bug at mostly legal speeds.
Keeping all of these gadgets synced up and powered were two laptops, an I-don’t-car-if-it’s-stolen-but-it-works WinXP Winbooks bargain and my Titanium Powerbook holding the backup of most of my digital life. Keeping the laptops powered was a cigarette-lighter DC to AC converter. (If you’re thinking about such a power source, walk away from computer stores and computer aisles. Go to the automotive section of a department store. Same thing, different packaging and demographics and a good $5-10 shift in price.)
Now if only I could figure out what to buy next.