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We just returned home after spending the last several weeks on the road. This was our annual summer vacation and as is customary, this outing was another cross-country road trip.

From July 6 to August 3 (that’s 4 weeks), we traveled by auto from our home in Grand Rapids, Michigan to the west coast and southwest to explore many of the scenic areas and to attend several family events.

From our starting point in Michigan (latitude 42.9633° N longitude 85.6681° W), we drove in a wide loop around several of the western states (exactly 17 states).

We followed the Interstate highways (I-196, I-94, I-294, I-90, I-84, I-5, I-15, I-70, I-76, I-80) for about 75% of our route. Twenty percent of the route was over excellent US highways (US 2 and US 34) and only a small portion (5% or so) on horrible, unimproved roads (CA 58, for example).

Our vehicle was a Honda mini-van for three adults (my wife, her sister and myself) and two of our grandchildren (ages 7 and 8).

There was plenty of room for the five of us when we snapped this tongue-in-cheek photo of the rear luggage area (38 cu ft). The remaining front passenger area actually had lots of room (172 cu ft).

As an avid fan of our National Park system, I was armed with my Senior Pass. Those of us who are 62-years and older can purchase a lifetime pass for only $10. This is a substantial discount from the $75 annual or $20 per entry pass for younger visitors (61-years and below).

We visited six National Parks on this roadtrip and the two grandkids earned several Junior Ranger badges by completing the requirements during these stays.


I used a pad to keep track of the fuel usage. Here’s some of the travel statistics –

Duration: 28 days
Lodging: Madison, WI; Bismarck, ND; Shelby, MT; Kalispell, MT; Oregon City, OR; Reno, NV; Sonora, CA; Coarsegold, CA; San Luis Obispo, CA; Las Vegas, NV; Moab, UT; Glenwood Springs, CO; Sterling, CO;
Distance traveled: 7040 miles
Fuel consumed: 285 gallons
Fuel efficiency: 24.6 mpg
Ave price of fuel: $3.75/gal
Highest price of fuel: $4.19/gal
Lowest price of fuel: $3.34/gal
Total cost of fuel: $1070.00
National Parks visited: 6 – Theodore Roosevelt NP; Glacier NP; Crater Lake NP; Yosemite NP; Arches NP; Rocky Mountain NP


 
 
 

Another statistic pertains to photography. With six National Parks under our belts and the many other places that we visited along the way, I kept busy shooting pictures. In all I recorded more than 1500 keepers.

I used two cameras – a Sony NEX7 with 18-200mm lens and a Canon 6D with 8-15mm fisheye and 100-400mm telephoto lenses.

The Sony NEX7 has a built-in panorama feature which I used frequently. I also enjoyed working with an Eye-Fi SD card in the Sony NEX7. The Eye-Fi card transmits images from the Sony NEX7 directly to my iPhone automatically. This let me review the photos at my convenience. And while the Canon 6D has built-in Wi-Fi capability, I did not use it on this roadtrip.

Below are my picks from each one of the National Parks.



Theodore Roosevelt NP

Glacier NP

Crater Lake NP


Yosemite NP

Arches NP

Rocky Mountain NP

 

Of course, these boring statistics hide the real roadtrip.

Our vacation was not only about spending time together in the vehicle (we clocked roughly 140 hours driving) as we visited with family in Oregon City and Reno (which are 530 miles apart). Reno is nearby our favorite Lake Tahoe (an easy 50 mile drive) where we spent 2 days swimming its crystal clear waters (albeit a little chilly at 65 degrees). Also in Reno we invested a cool $120 at the arcade in Circus Circus to bring home 27 stuffed animals – what a deal! In Yosemite we hiked the Merced Grove trail to pay our respect to the 2000+ year old Sequoias that reach more than 250 ft towards the heavens. A two-day jaunt to Moro Bay on the Pacific coast gave the grandkids the opportunity to collect rocks and sea shells (120 of them weighing twelve pounds). Then onto a family reunion (would you believe 90+ relatives) in Las Vegas. Believe me when I say that July is not most opportune time to be in Las Vegas (the temperature was 106 degrees). As if the heat there wasn’t enough, we stopped at a hot springs in Colorado to bask in its healthy but soothing waters (104-degree pool). And in a moment of driving indecision we backtracked (more than 200 miles) to visit our last National Park. There we climbed the tundra at the top of Trail Ridge Pass which is 11,800 ft above sea level. Anxious to get home, we made the final leg home from Sterling, CO to Grand Rapids (1050 miles in 17 hours).

While I’d like to share the other 1494 photos with you, these will have to wait for another article.

Roadtrip! There’s still several more weeks to enjoy the summer vacations. I hope you can get out there to enjoy our fabulous country. Did I hear roadtrip?
 
 
Written by Arnie Lee
 
 
 


 
 
 

Eye-Fi Card – wow!

23rd April 2011

Innovative New Feature Makes the Eye-Fi Even More Valuable

 

A few months ago, I ran into Ziv Gillat, one of the co-founders of Eye-Fi at a photography trade show. His company developed a set of SD-cards that can send images directly from your digital camera to your personal computer by way of a local wi-fi network.

For background information about these cards, you can read the original review of the Eye-Fi from a few weeks ago here.

Anyway, Ziv was excited to tell me about a new feature that the company was developing. Finally last week, Eye-Fi unveiled a fascinating new capability for any of their X2 series cards.

With this free update, the Eye-Fi can now send images directly to a mobile device – either an iPhone, iPad or Android. By itself, this provides an automated way to backup your images.

On the mobile device, you’ll need to download and install either an iPhone/iPad app or an Android app. These free mobile apps (also provided by Eye-Fi) receive the images from the Eye-Fi card.

The apps provide another very useful feature – they let you resend the images to other online sites. And since they use cellular to upload, the mobile devices replace the personal computer.

To use the new capability which the company calls Direct Mode, I downloaded and installed an update to the included Eye-Fi Center software that is used to configure the SD-card. Using one of the dialogs, I added my iPhone and Android device to my list of supported wi-fi networks. Next I installed the Eye-Fi iPhone app from the iTunes website (and later the Android app from Market) and I was ready to give Direct Mode a try.
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The Eye-Fi SD Card

A few months ago I had read about this product – an SD card with wi-fi capabilities. You could say that I’ve been “eyeing” it for a while. Anyway, I made it a point to stop by their booth at CES in early January to learn more about the Eye-Fi card. There I spoke with Berend Ozceri, one of the founders of the Eye-Fi Company.

After he explained its features and capabilities, I was sold on the Eye-Fi and decided to review this interesting product. When I returned home, I visited a local computer store and picked up a 4GB model on sale for $39. It’s slightly more expensive than a plain vanilla SD-card so I was curious to see if the extra features were worth the price.
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Upcoming Reviews

29th January 2011

I made it a point to attend several trade shows recently – Photokina in Cologne (September), PhotoPlus in NYC (October) and CES in Las Vegas (January). I spent a lot of time walking up and down the aisles at the shows and was able to get hands-on demos of many new pieces of photo equipment and accessories.

Several readers have asked about our plans for reviews of some of these items, so I thought I’d drop a few lines to let you know that we’ve already started reviewing the following items and are putting them through the paces. Additionally, we’ve added another tablet computer to our inventory and are just now logging a few dozen hours studying how it might come in handy for photographers.
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Neat Stuff at the CES

13th January 2011

The 2011 Consumer Electronics Show

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You might think that after more than twenty-five years of attending the Consumer Electronics Show, I’d grow weary of the annual (CES used to take place twice a year) trek.

Showhow, there’s always lots of excitement in getting your hands on some of the new gadgets that will soon be making their way to the market.