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...and that has made all the difference


Above: One of the best photos I've ever taken in my life, taken today. Finding where to take the photo (Roseland Park in Connecticut) was courtesy of my GPS telling me where to go.


Who in their right mind would go out driving just for the sake of driving with gas prices as high as they are? I would, that's who. Why? Hmph. The question should be why not?

It was time to put the GPS to the test and do some real driving with it. One of the i3's features is to pick recreational destinations with one of them being parks. Sounded like a good idea. I haven't been to a state park in some time now, much less more than one in the same day. So off I went.

I came to a realization as I was driving around today.

I thought I knew where I lived, but I don't. I hardly know anything outside of my own town.

A sobering thought.

In addition to the realization, driving around in new places made me think about two things more than anything else. The first one was that I felt really, really small in the big world we live in - and make no mistake, it's huge. The second one was that there is so much to see out there, even right around where you live. I've lived in Northeastern Connecticut all my life, and I witnessed stuff today that I had never ever seen before in my life. What I saw wasn't anything spectacular by any means, but it was just interesting.

Thoughts going through my head were:

I wonder where that road goes... I think I'll take it.

I missed a turn? No big deal.

Wow. I never knew that was there before.

...and so on. I went on at least twenty different roads I'd never been on.

For the first time I drove around in completely unfamiliar territory with no worries whatsoever. I was living the definition of Hukuna Matata.

This all happened within a twenty-five mile radius of where I live. Just imagine how much cool stuff I'll see when I go beyond that. (grin)

***Guitar deals & steals? Where? Right here. Price drops, B-stock and tons more.

In the home stretch (boo me for awful pun)

Had to write my i3 review first before I could get on to house things. A lot of stuff happened, and here's what we got:

Day One

The drive up North with Pop this time around was about, oh, a million times better compared to last time. There was no rain. The skies were sunny. I was awake and alert (the last time I wasn't). The drive was much faster than before. We were able to completely avoid the Worcester Massachusetts morning corporate cattle drive (that's people going to werk) and there wasn't any highway construction on Interstate 95.

There really isn't too much to mention about the journey itself. We stopped at the Welcome Center for New Hampshire and also stopped at a few rest areas to stretch out. I think we ate once. Anyone who drives long distances knows that after a while your legs start to go numb and/or you get a severe case of swamp ass, so you gotta stop every now and zen.

Pop and I arrived at our destination and checked into the motel around 10am. I relaxed for a small while in my hotel room while he relaxed in his. My mood was surprisingly good considering I just drove for five hours. I broke out my laptop and played Diablo II for a few hours to kill some time. After that we headed to the realtor's office.

Some notes before continuing: The itinerary included seeing two realtors. The first day was for the first one who would show us five houses. The second day was for the second one who would show us two houses.

We arrive at the realtor's office. It was very close to the motel which was good, because the last time it was really far away. We waited in the sitting area for the realtor to come see us. Hillary the realtor arrives. She commented on how we were early (we had left early to go see her because we were just sick of waiting), but didn't complain - she agreed to show us the houses we came to see. I was impressed.

House #1: Garbage. Crappy roof, weird baseboard heat layout, and the grand finale... in the attic you could see sunlight where the chimney met the roof. Yes this means sunlight was coming through the roof. Uh... no.

House #2: Absolutely perfect, for me (more on that in a sec). Right near the border of Skowhegan. 1.14 acres. Huge first floor with big rooms and a full bathroom. Huge second floor with a full bathroom (YES!) and two huge rooms. Full basement with polished floor and a pool table. Full deck in the back. An above-ground pool. A workshop area attached to the right of the house. Close to all the stuff to live, like stores and shops and whatnot. Positively perfect. Pop hated the fact it didn't have that much property. I hounded him like crazy on this one and said he's not going to find any better - I was right (keep reading)...

House #3: Realtor couldn't find the house. Could not find home #94 on the street where the house was supposed to be. Gave up on this.

House #4: Really tiny. You could see the front door from the window of the back door. Landscape sucked. Blah.

House #5: Big house, but ancient (built somewhere in the early 1900's). Weird-ass layout for a big home. Upstairs bedrooms were tiny. Downstairs rooms were also small. Basement was downright scary. Field stone everywhere and I had to duck to walk around most of it (I'm 5'9"). Garage was two-bay with electric doors and worked well. Property was nice, too, but the house just had too much weirdness to it. It was also kinda creepy that it was next to a small cemetery, and even more creepy that a black cat was spotted in the yard. It was a friendly cat, but think about it... it just happened to be there and there's a cemetery nearby? Hm... Layout was too weird anyway, so thumbs down.

Back to the motel. Pop and I are having serious discussions now. They're friendly discussions, but serious. I want house #2. He has reservations about it and I know that in the back of his mind he's thinking "I hope we don't have to take it" because he really wants a larger property with more acreage - but needs a house to suit. I know that he's not gonna find it for his price range.

A short while later we head to a cheesy cheap-ass Chinese restaurant a short way from the motel. The food is so-so but it fills the tummy. Afterwards we head back to the motel. We end the day on a good note. Pop goes to his room and I go to mine. Later on I hop on to the laptop and use a dial-up account (BLAH) to check my e-mail. Then I showered, watched a few hours of Masterminds on CourtTV then went to bed.

I slept, but Pop didn't sleep that well. I found out later Pop was pacing around at 2am because he was as nervous as a cat on a ferris wheel. He seems okay with the house, he just really doesn't like the fact it doesn't have a lot of land to it. I, on the other hand, think it's just fine.

Day two

I was already sold on the house #2. It was so solid it was unbelievable. The price was very right. The floors were solid (no creaks/squeaks). It was clean. It had all the room in the world (2400+ square feet). It's just.. awesome. What more can I say.

Anyway, yeah, day two. We go see Realtor #2. She's a hot MILF. Ice blue eyes, hot blonde. You could definitely tell she was a cheerleader or one of those popular/beautiful people in high school. She had that slightly nasal cutey voice and dressed in professional-wear like she was straight out of the 80's (in a good way), except the hair was modern - a plus. Hey, I'm a guy, I think about sex a lot and she was hot, okay? Okay. Let's move on.

House #6: An unfinished nightmare. The house had potential to be a really nice big house but needed way, way too much. It felt and looked like you were walking on to a construction site, which in all essence is what it was. The guy who was building it originally just ran out of money, plain and simple.

House #7: Another tiny house. Awesome landscape. The realtor warned us that the owner's dog wizzed on the 2nd floor and it smelled like wizz. She was right - it did, but that's not the funny part. The funny part is that she stated the owners refused to pay to clean it in case the house didn't sell. Well, they may have something there, because the house won't sell if it smells like wizz! Got out of there fast.

Some more things about realtor #2: My father is a Korean War vet, so she started talking to Pop about her husband and how he's serving in the military at present. She only gets to see him maybe three to four months out of the year. She also said that she's "very independent" (to all girls: that's a death phrase, don't ever say that) and rarely accepts help from most people even when they offer it nicely. Basically speaking, she spends a lot of time alone with her six-year-old son or at least gives off the impression she does. My personal impression? Even though her husband is serving his country, which is very honorable, she misses him to death and you could feel the longing for the guy she married coming out of her... or at least I could. It just goes to show that sometimes the decisions you make for the "greater good" do not necessarily translate to your good, as in your wants and needs. Maybe I'm dead wrong on what I felt from her, maybe not. I don't know.

See? I don't think about sex all the time.

One more thing I know I definitely felt from her: Disappointment and a small tinge of anger. Pop and I didn't want either of the houses she showed us. As she was leaving after we gave her the "thanks but no thanks" (said nicely of course), I knew she was ticked off - because she had given a super 10,000% effort with e-mailing my Pop constantly with updates and trying really really hard to sell Pop a house. Seriously, she was awesome at the customer service thing - no qualms about it, except one: The houses didn't fit the bill, and as they say, you can't polish a turd. It doesn't matter how nice you are. A product speaks for itself in the end.

Pop and I head back at the motel and are having serious discussions again. He asks if I'm 100% sure about the Madison house. Without hesitation, I say "yes". We head back to Hillary's office.

Papers are signed. Pop is noticably nervous and for good reason because buying a house is just plain scary. Truly. There's just so much crap involved and it can really run you in circles both physically and emotionally, but, Pop bites the bullet and does his thing.

We start on our trek back home. The trip is uneventful. It wasn't as good as the trip up (there was some rain), but it was overall tolerable.

Back at home I found my i3 had been delivered as I wrote in my previous post. Happy day!

Pop and I have discussions again. I ask him plainly if he likes what he's done. He says the house is great, he doesn't like the property, but he can live with it. I know in my soul that this place will grow on him very quickly. It's simply an awesome house, period.

If the closing of this existing house we're in goes through, then it's 100% confirmed - I'm moving up North.

This is the last mile. I just have to play the waiting game for a short time and then it's go-time.

Garmin StreetPilot i3 Review!

Okay kids, here's the moment you've all been waiting for - The Garmin StreetPilot i3 review! (insert 2001: A Space Odyssey tympanis here: bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum!)

Before I get into that:

I just arrived home from up North. I did not expect the i3 to be here. said there was a signature required on delivery. Box was left at my house anyway - WHICH IS GOOD because I didn't have to drive to Bozrah for a failed delivery attempt.

Okay, here's the review, ahem...

The i3 came in a little box. It's just over two pounds shipped. This box was in a bigger box surrounded by a massive amount of packing material (that's a good thing, not a bad thing).


Garmin i3 in the hand. Is it small? Yes. Too small? That's for you to decide. I personally think it could be just a tiny bit bigger.


All the stuff that comes with the i3 (quite a bit actually) shown on top of pizza box. 😉

Seen in photo: Maps DVD, manual, i3 itself, car charger, USB cable, Quick guide, mounting bracket, mounting plate.


I have to say something before showing the next volley of photos here:

FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS GIVEN TO THE LETTER. DO NOT, repeat, DO NOT get ahead of yourself. Take your TIME and it will load up and work FLAWLESSLY.

Okay, that being said:

Per instructions, I loaded in two AA batteries. You get a nastygram on first startup:


Now this is interesting for several reasons. It appears that you absolutely MUST HAVE a computer with a DVD drive and USB capability in order to get this thing to work. You absolutely CANNOT get anywhere until you load the map data from a computer FIRST. I pressed the buttons to see if I could get off this screen - I couldn't. This is NOT a flaw with the unit - that's the way it's designed.

Here's a shot loading the software:


Now comes the cool part - picking what you want loaded into the unit. It is nothing short of awesome. You choose exactly what states you want. A bar on the right side shows how much space for data is left if you want to add more. I put in all of New England, New York, Pennsylvania and a few other areas to squeeze as much data I could on to the 128MB TransFlash card (which comes standard).

Loading the unit did take a while - about five minutes.


I turned the unit on and ta-daaaa.. a map showed up almost instantly. There was no fuss, no muss. This thing is stupidly easy to use (yet again another good thing).

Before continuing: I did not need to calibrate the unit for direction (North, South, East, West) like you have to do with the Rino 130. It does this itself - NICE.

On to the next part - mounting the unit.

You have a few options here. You can opt to suction mount this thing on the windshield or directly to the dash (or other flat surface) using the plate. Here's a picture of the plate. And yes the red circle DOES come off revealing sticky stuff to mount it. I mounted it on the dashboard of my 2005 GMC Canyon SLE. It does stick and sticks well.


A few more notes on the bracket:

The ball part of the mounting bracket snaps right into the i3. You do have to press it a bit, but it does snap in. I was also able to "unsnap" it "re-snap" it back without a problem. No, you don't have to keep doing this to mount and unmount. You should use the small lip and lever release to "un-suck" it from whereever it's mounted. I removed it just to see if it could be done and reattached for the same reason - and I could.

The suction mount really does have a good amount of suction to it - it's not cheesy!

The mounting bracket is sturdy. It's been purposely designed to be stiff so it stays put. It can be tilted to your preference. Once you position it, it stays there. Nice job.

This is a pic of the unit mounted on the dash of my truck with the car charger plugged into the side. Car charger is not required. This thing is said to run for six hours on two AA batteries. I was able to use the car charger with the batteries in it and the i3 didn't complain about that at all.


Now on to the important stuff. I'll do this in question/answer style:

Q: Does it get a signal easily?

A: Yes. It grabs a signal better than the Rino 130 did - and I live "in the sticks" of Northeastern Connecticut. Signal wasn't a problem.

Q: Is it readable?

A: Yes. It may be small but you can read it.

Q: Is it readable in sunlight?

A: I drove it around and purposely drove on a road so the sun was directly hitting it. I could read everything easily.

Q: Is there brightness control?

A: Yes (thank God).

Q: How does the voice sound?

A: Shockingly, the voice (as in "Turn left in 300 feet" when it gives you directions) is a nice and very human-sounding female voice. It is crisp and clear. Volume can be adjusted. The top volume does distort a little bit. When the windows are down when driving on the highway it's hard to hear it - but what can you expect from something this small.

Q: Is it accurate?

A: Very accurate. The zoom levels are astonishing. It knows every road anywhere you travel.

Q: Does the "recalculate" work if you miss a turn?

A: Absolutely. Works almost instantly the moment you miss a turn and will recalculate to get you back on course fast.

Q: Is it easy to find stuff?

A: Very easy. You can map by entering an address or simply picking what you want like "lodging" or "fuel".

Q: What's better? 3D or 2D?

A: I prefer 3D, but for those who like the traditional GPS displays, the 2D is really nice, too. I'd say mix and match and pick what you like best.

Q: How's the menu system?

A: Well designed. Can be used from novice to expert. I learned it in less than two minutes without reading the manual.

Q: What's your favorite feature (so far)?

A: The "Go Home" feature. You put in your address and set it as home. From whereever you are, you tell it you want to "Go home" and it tells you exactly how to get there - and says when you'll most likely arrive.

I'll be writing more on the i3 later after I use it a little bit more. My initial reaction: FRICKIN' AWESOME. The price is good. The unit is solid. It's EASY. Good job, Garmin!

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