The other side of the country is pretty amazing, especially if it's your first time there. I just got back from a week hanging out in Washington state, and I gotta say, those mountains have the Berkshires beat. I was lucky enough to encounter only lovely bright-blue skies and warm temperatures on the Olympic Peninsula.
But I won't brag too much here. Instead, I want to compare some digital interest points I encountered while traveling.
I've been on a plane twice in my life: Going to Tennessee and coming back from Tennessee. I was in seventh grade, flying alone to visit my best friend from middle school. We were going to Myrtle Beach with her family. In any case, that was the first time I noticed people using cellphones on a plane. I had a rinky-dink Nokia with a pink lightning-bolted face plate. (I know, I know. Super cool.) The most I could do on that thing was text and call people. Big whoop compared to what I saw on my flights to and from SeaTac.
Laptops, iPhones, iPads, smartphones, mp3 players, e-books and whatever else you can think of were on those flights. Packed in like sardines in business class, the OK was given to turn devices on, and in the early morning, while the plane was still dark, a strange combination of illuminations arose around faces of the young and old.
I couldn't help but think "You're all crazy. Go to sleep. It's 6 a.m.!" But I found myself checking my iPad a few times, just to see how our Berkshire Eagle app was doing while I was a few thousand feet in the air. Why not?
Flying is terrifying to me. It's a culture I'm not too familiar with. On the ground, images of "Final Destination" wouldn't stop popping up in my head, and I closed my eyes only to find the plane taking off and that it was pretty astounding how fast we climbed into the atmosphere. Once up in the air, I found comfort in a book I finally finished while vacationing. And I suppose those people on their mobile devices somehow found comfort, too, while in the winged, potential death-craft. It's a way to keep your mind occupied. Or you can end up doing what I did and sleep on a stuffed dolphin pillow and "time travel" to the next airport.
While on the peninsula, I thought I would be deprived of cellphone use for some reason. Probably because I was doing a lot of camping in the Olympic National Parks. But I was so wrong. I had a pretty decent signal everywhere except on one part of Highway 101. In Port Angeles, they had a Wi-Fi cafe, a concept I thought had long ago died. Even in the Hoh Rainforest, I had service.
It wasn't until I went backcountry camping at Shi Shi Beach, located on a stretch of Olympic National Park land accessed by hiking through a part of the Makah Indian Reservation, that I lost full signal ... well, data
Because the reservation at Neah Bay is not owned by the United States government, I was technically in another country. My phone beeped and asked if I wanted to accept international data charges. What? No, but thanks! I thought it was pretty cool, because now I can say I've been in another country ... sort of.
There weren't huge differences in Internet access out in Washington. And if there were any I missed, it was because I took a break from the digital news world and enjoyed a brand new place that has stolen my heart. The most I did was access GPS so I didn't get lost. I read the local paper, the Peninsula Daily News, a few times, but other than that, my vacation consisted of amazing food (some cooked in a can over a fire on a beach), wonderfully nice people who live in a marina, and a chance to bond with many natives and non-natives alike.