Road Trip Essentials

So you’ve decided to incarcerate yourself in a small metal object with one more other humans for hours on end, great, you’re in for a good time. But let’s say you’re trying to get from point A to point B as quickly as “legally” possible. In that case, you’re going to need some additional equipment.

 

(Disclaimer: Guys don’t speed. Don’t go on a Cannonball Run. Don’t watch the movie The Gumball Rally. It’s illegal, it’s dangerous, it’s irresponsible.)

Radar Detector

First things first, you’re going to need a radar detector. Radar detectors are a perfect example of “you get what you pay for”. A big box store Belltronic’s or Cobra unit is just never going to compete with a high-end Escort or Valentine unit. Depending on how fast you catapulting down the highway, if it saves you from one ticket than it has already paid for itself. More modern units use directional arrows to tell you where a threat is coming from and use a GPS to show what the speed limit is on the road you are currently on. Additionally, both Valentine and Escort have iOS / Android apps that transmit speed limits, speed traps, false alarms and more.

iPad Mini

Something I never thought I would recommend until I actually used one, an iPad Mini. One of these with a data connection is an invaluable tool on a road trip. With a proper mount, it makes a perfect GPS as its larger screen is easier to glance. Traffic apps like Waze are amplified on the iPad too as you’ll be able to see obstacles and threats even farther ahead. Finally, the iPad can interact with the radar detector to really paint a picture of what is waiting a few miles up the road. Speeding may not be advised but, it helps to be prepared.

Sunglasses

Part of feeling good is looking good….and it might help when / if you get pulled over.

Power Inverter

It’s easy enough to charge a cellphone or power your radar detector off of a 12v cigarette outlet but when you’re carrying laptops, cameras, iPads and other larger devices you are going to need more power. A small power adaptor will allow you to charge bigger battery pack and devices. A 400w unit should be sufficient but be realistic with your needs. A 400w will charge most devices but, you’re not going to run an air mattress pump off of it.

12v Splitters

A cigarette lighter splitter is a cheap way to keep everyone happy. If everyone can charge their phones simultaneously than you can run a GPS and let your passengers be on Instagram when you’re sick and tired of talking to each other.

EZ-Pass, Fast Pass, Sun Pass, Etc.

Depending on which states you’re traveling through you’re going to want a highway toll pass. They save time and allow you to forget how much you’re paying the state to swerve around their potholes. The North East primarily uses EZ Pass which is linked to a transponder whereas Florida uses a tag that is linked to your license plate. These can typically be picked up ahead of time online or at highway rest stops. Check out local laws. It’s worth noting that on a cross country drive, tolls only become an issue when you get to the East.

DSLR or Film Camera

Your iPhone 7 may have dual lenses but it’s never going to compete with a dedicated camera. If you’re going somewhere worth making an epic drive for that you should make sure you some photos of the entire experience. If you have a laptop or iPad with you than you can even edit the photos to kill time on the highway. Arguably the most important reasons to bring a camera are that better photos get more traffic and if there isn’t evidence on social media, did it actually happen?

Turo – A Better Way to Rent a Car

In the past year I’ve done stints in Baltimore, LA and Salt Lake City. Unfortunately, all three of these have required a rental car at one time or another and being a dedicated car guy at my core, nothing depresses me quite like a wheezy Toyota Camry or equivalent. Lucky for us there is an app out there that can bring salvation to those of us who like a bit more passion and style in the rides.

Turo is a recent addition to the app world and is essentially AirBNB for cars. People can list their personal vehicles on Turo for rent and then app takes care of the rest. Turo provides insurance, protects both parties and makes for an amicable experience. Like AirBNB, some hosts are more accommodating than others and Turo helps you find those that are willing to meet you at the airport for pick up and drop off. The best part is that not only do people list some fantastic cars but they do so at a reasonable price. These are just two of the Turo cars that I’ve used in the past year:

BMW 328i Convertible

Since I was in LA for a week a drop top was an absolute necessity. I rented this awesome 328i convertible and was able to enjoy California that much more when I wasn’t stuck at work. The owner was extremely easy to work with. He dropped the car off to me outside of baggage claim and met me at the terminal to take it back before my flight. Total cost for 7 days: $470 or $67 per day. As BMW fanboy I was pretty satisfied.

Porsche Boxster S

Baltimore’s close proximity to DC means that sometimes I’m required to go between them. A few weeks back my Tacoma was down for repair and my 325i was still waiting on parts leaving me with no car. Since trains end up being ~$70 one way, I knew there had to be a better option. There was. And for $150 I had a 6 speed Boxster S to play with for three days. In this case I took an Uber about 6 miles outside of the city to pick the car up and when I arrived the owner pulled it out of the garage, tossed me the keys said “please don’t wreck it”
and went inside. He didn’t even check to see if knew how a clutch worked.

In conclusion if you need a rental car and want a bit more thrill for not a lot more money, give Turo a shot. If you’re really trying to make it interesting, combine Turo with AirBNB for business for a very unique traveling experience.

Three Kick-Ass Ways to Stay in Shape on the Road

One of my favorite things about consulting is the food. Traveling opens up innumerable opportunities to try new foods and see what a fresh city has to offer. Plus, it doesn’t hurt if you’ve got a client that’s willing to pick the tab… So when faced with the chance to really find out which place in the city has the best fried chicken how do you keep your waistline in check when faced with an underwhelming hotel gym and tight rooms? Despite my love of food, here’s what’s been working for me:

  1. Ground Pounders. Ground and body weight exercises are an excellent and underrated form of exercise. With today’s modern exercise machines available, people forget that push-ups, planks and squats are an easy and effective method. If you’re in the hotel room, make a little bit of space and do a simple circuit of 25 push-ups, 1 minute planks, and 15 squats. I like to do this routine 3-4 times in the morning and 1-2 times at night. If are able to fight off the desert at dinner, this could increase muscle mass as well. Over time, you’ll find that these specific exercises get repetitive and easy so move on to more advanced versions as you progress. Diamond push-ups, elevated leg push-ups, side planks, etc. are all extremely effective variations. Not only are these body weight exercise easy to do but this three exercise circuit hardly takes anytime at all!
  2. The Gripmasters and Hand Exercisers. While not a calorie torch, basic hand exercise machines are a compact way to get some exercise in. You can use these on the plane, in an Uber or even at your desk. (Assuming you’re lucky enough to get one…) Beyond their ability to toughen up your handshake I have found that hand exercisers are a great mental boost. If you’re getting exercise throughout the day it can help increase your motivation to work out in the morning or at night.
  3. Forget about elevators. As office workers at least 70% of your day is spent sitting in a chair. Whether you’re in meetings, at your desk or out to eat you are not moving. When it comes to moving around the building, getting in and out of your apartment building or hotel or even commuting try to do as much of it as you can physically. Take the stairs every chance you get. (Bonus points if you request a high floor at your hotel) Walk to the office if you’re close enough and the weather permits it. If you’re walking, you may even find a new place to eat!

In conclusion, it’s easier than you think to keep yourself in check when eating out every meal. These tips won’t get you into weight lifting completion but they will at least prevent you from getting into a larger suit!

Travel Internationally? Buy an Unlocked Phone.

Traveling internationally can be frustrating if you’re tied to a conventional carrier like AT&T or Verizon. The process of calling them up, waiting on hold, selecting and international plan, paying what equates to a second mortgage, arriving at your destination and still not being able to make calls is at its best extremely frustrating. The simple solution to this is to pick up an unlocked phone.

An unlocked cell phone is a device that is not tied to any specific carrier. This means that you can get a sim card from any corner store or airport and have it function in your device. This can be extremely useful and is also a much cheaper alternative to international plans with the typical carriers.

When typically talking about unlocked phones the first thing that comes to mind is a high price tag. Unfortunately, this isn’t inaccurate but there are ways around it. Personally I’ve been using a Google Nexus 5X for the past year and half and have loved it. I picked up from the Google Play Store for $399 and have used it across several different countries. Google’s newest phone, the Pixel is substantially more expensive with a starting price of $649 for a base, unlocked model. If you’re working on more of a budget or don’t need your everyday device to be unlocked, used phones and cheap unlocked phones are a great alternative.

A two-minute search on Amazon produces a myriad of cheap unlocked devices. The BLU R1 HD is a 16gb phone running Android is costs a whopping $59.99 if you have Amazon Prime. Many of these cheaper phones have thousands of positive reviews so don’t let the cheap price scare you away. With a $59.99 buy in for the phone and a $30 sim card, you can have a phone with access to the internet and maps for under $100.

If you’re looking for a higher end option or for an unlocked phone to use every day, some really nice phones can be picked up second hand on eBay. An unlocked 64GB iPhone 6S goes for ~$350 and an unlocked 32GB Galaxy S7 is roughly the same price.

Airbnb – Hotels Get Redundant

One of the top reasons people choose the consulting lifestyle is for the travel. In fact, one of my colleagues ended up working for our company by simply typing “jobs that travel” into Google. However, one of the disadvantages to traveling for work is living out of a hotel room. Sure the points are good but how many single serving soaps can you deal with over the course of a year?

Enter Airbnb for Business. Airbnb has now extended their offerings to accommodate business travelers. If you’re tired of the same old hotel spaces try renting out someone’s apartment, room or house. It may be a little farther from the client site, but if you’re in this for the experiences than it is a great chance to see how people live in your assigned city. Moreover, you can find some really cool places to stay and find yourself in a more relaxed, homey environment.

Airbnb for Business now links to your company’s expense software, provides itinerary updates and guarantees that each listing is outfitted with internet, a work space and other amenities so that you can stay productive even in an interesting location. I’ve also found that staying in the same locations over time builds a relationship with the Airbnb host and they can be more flexible and accommodate more unique requirements. Not to mention, an Airbnb can be substantially cheaper than equivalent hotel stays. This is a great negotiating point if you have to go through a different department when booking or seeking reimbursements.

Given the choice, I’d check out a downtown apartment over last week’s Marriott, anytime.

Il Palio – Sienna’s Superbowl

During my short stay in Italy, I visited Sienna twice. More of a large, populated town than a city, it was quite unique from the rest of the country. While in Rome a common thought for me was “Where did they dig up all this fucking marble?” In Sienna the thought was “How did they carve all these stones?” The streets, houses, shops, piazzas, steps, churches: all square stones about a foot in length. It was quite charming to set foot in a city where some unspoken small stereotypes played out. Older Italian women leaning their head out of their window for fresh air and sun, smiling small business owners beckoning tourists into their shops, children playing soccer, teenagers smoking cigarettes, fashionable hip, and seemingly in love. The food was to die for, expectedly, and the locals were hospitable. This was first trip to the city. My second beckons an entirely new story to tell.

Palio di Siena (known locally as Il Palio) is a horse race with medieval origins, making it one of the oldest in the world, and therefore, one of the most famous. The event marks as a culmination of ancient rivalries between the city’s 17 neighborhoods, each of which has an impassioned sense of pride that is gloriously expressed for the 24 hours leading up the climax. Each neighborhood sports colors and patterns unique from the others. In flamboyantly stylish medieval outfits, they parade through the stone streets, all singing and chanting—hundreds of years worth of neighborhood pride commencing each year in a rigorous, minutes-long race that demands nothing short of perfection.

Walking through the streets during the pre-race festivities with two friends, tourists from around the world crowded around and gaped in awe at the bombastic displays of pride. We were among them. Expert flag twirlers boasted their skills, men and women decked out in costume following behind chanting, singing all in impressive unison, men on horseback following in a quiet, poised strut. I’ve never been more camera-happy in my life. Distant rumbles of rival neighborhoods’ parades echoed in the background, seeming to raise the bravado of the parade in front of you.

That night, the distant echoes never died out.

 

Waking up early, my group of three were amongst those who came without the intention of paying for a ticket. Pizza del Campo is Sienna’s central square where the horses race along the outer most points. We were admitted to stand, shoulder to shoulder, in the middle of the race along with everyone else who either missed their chance for seated tickets or came without the purpose of paying. Standing at 5’9′ I missed the entire thing. For three minutes I tried jumping to catch a view, holding my camera up, arm fully stretched, to where I thought the horses might be, bewildered by the gasps of the crowd that seemed to occur every few seconds, but to no avail.

That night the neighborhood that won celebrated the loudest but the rest of the city celebrated nonetheless. The square remained open to the public

This is Sienna’s Superbowl. The difference being it wasn’t a nationally identifying event. It was their city’s identity being gaped at by tourists from around the world, their neighborhood’s identity; a much more intimate event than the grandness, corporate culmination of American championships. An event about the sport and the expression of pride around your player. There’s a purity in something this famous that isn’t penetrated by corporate interest. Money doesn’t play a factor on a grand and obvious scale like it does in American sporting events. What did play a factor was pride and history. I wondered if the people of Sienna were responsible for keeping money out of it, for keeping it pure, for keeping it about the sport and the people and not letting it be tainted by modern advertising capabilities and marketing technology capable of reaching millions.

There’s a purity in this event and there’s a purity in the core of this city.

The McLobster – McDonalds Goes Cape Cod

For what it is, taste isn’t everything.

Any harbor town on the East Coast of the United States is going to have a few restaurants that offer up lobster rolls on their menu. More than a few will even go as far as to claim that they are the area’s best and despite the cost of entry, the low ingredient count and simple concept allow almost anyone to have an entry. But what happens when lobster rolls slide down into the fast food bracket? Not as much damage as you would think.

Despite the simplicity, lobster rolls are still a bourgeois treat. It is not uncommon to see them reach $25.00 to $30.00 on a high end menu. So with lobster rolls commanding these price premiums, it’s not surprising that an $8.99 version from McDonald’s drew some attention. The McDonalds lobster roll was available in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and Albany, New York this past summer. It was available at more locations in 2015 and I believe we can expect its return in the spring of 2017.

So how does it taste? Better than you would expect. In order to really appreciate the McDonald’s lobster roll you have to take it for what it is. Comparing it to a $25.00 roll at a high end seafood restaurant will just leave you disappointed. But for $9.00, it’s not half bad. Yes, the lobster is frozen. Yes, the bun isn’t as soft and buttery as it could be but it is a fraction of the normal price.

The real beauty of the McDonald’s lobster roll is its accessibility. A family of four would have to pay $100.00 for four rolls whereas the Golden Arches will do the same for less than $40.00. For people balling on a budget this is a way to have the lobster roll experience without the lobster roll price since not everyone can justify spending $25.00 on a seafood stuffed hot dog bun.

Long story short, go try it. It won’t kill you and if you end up hating it, at least you can say you gave it a shot. No matter what in the end it will just let you appreciate a traditional lobster roll that much more.