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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Parking, Part 2

I have talked before about Google Earth and what a great resource for planning it is. But today as I still try and figure out parking for two cars for a month in Skagway something occurred to me. I thought, wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to walk the streets of Skagway looking for a good safe place to park for a month. To see what it looks like. To look at businesses and see what their parking lot is like. Then it occurred to me, I could. I used Google street view to 'walk' the streets of a town 3500 miles away. I now know the airport is really small. And there doesn't appear to be long term parking at the ferry terminal. While I am still looking for a place to park, I now can see where I am going to be. It really is an amazing thing. As I 'drove' from the airport to the ferry terminal, I thought, in a few months I will be driving this for real. The way technology has changed the process of planning an expedition is incredible. Google earth was a game changer. The ability to email the Skagway Chamber of Commerce and the Visitors Bureau is awesome. That as we paddle through certain locations we will have cell phone service making it a little easier to contact our families and tell them that we are doing fine will take a mental weight off of us, and our loved ones.

You can debate the intrusion of technology into the outdoors. It does make for more rescues as people perceive it as a safety net, and so therefore take greater risks. But for the people who actually need it and use it responsibly it is an absolute - and literal - life saver. I carry a VHF radio for emergency communication and weather reports. 30 years ago was this viewed as technology intruding into the outdoors? How soon until I have live, up to the minute satellite weather maps on my phone or other device making the weather radio obsolete? I bet it's not that far off.

SPOT has just announced a device that pairs with your smart phone to send text messages via satellite from just about anywhere on earth. How soon until this technology is two way? How soon until Personal Locator Beacons are the size of an Army Dog tag to be worn around your neck. Press a button on it and the cavalry is alerted.

For now I will continue planning our trip, using what ever tools I have at my disposal. Which means paper charts, digital maps, GPS and compass. At the end of the day they are all just tools, and each has it's place.

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