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Going on a Google Vacation

I'm a teacher and a track coach, so I haven't taken a vacation in the spring for about a decade.  This year, my wife, who is also a track coach, and I decided we needed to get out of the cold winter grip of Wisconsin and go somewhere.  After a bit of geometry and help from +Google Maps  we determined that St. Louis would be within driving distance for the 4 day trip that we had in mind.  From the moment we left and until we got back, +Google services were not only helpful, but key in our having a successful, exciting, and fun trip.

People who know me understand that I love Google and it's services. Admittedly, I'm a Google Geek, but I also love technology in general.  I believe that all technology is important and has it's place.  I use and own several Apple products and they are fantastic.  However, as of late, I have been swayed the most by Google's offerings.  I own a Galaxy Nexus on Verizon and a Nexus 7.  My wife currently owns a Galaxy S3 and she loves it.  These devices became the focal point for making this vacation better, capturing some great memories, and allowing us to share them with each other and our friends and family.  It truly was a Google Vacation.

We began our trip by using Google Maps Navigation to get us to St. Louis. However, on the way down from Wisconsin, my wife needed to pick up some coaching jackets from Scheels Sports that the Appleton store didn't have in stock.  So we used Google Now to find and Navigate to a huge Scheels in Springfield, IL.  That led us to our first picture of the trip and success in finding the jackets she was looking for!
Making Sure George Didn't Forget Something Important.

As we continued our journey to St. Louis, unfortunately, my Nexus overheated and started having some issues.  We switched the navigation duties over to the S3 and we arrived at our hotel without further issue.  That night, I decided we should try using Events in Google+ to put all of the pictures we were going to take into one album for each day.  So I created an event that lasted all day and invited my wife to it.  She accepted and using Party Mode, we were able to take lots of pictures with our phones (the only devices we brought for capturing our memories) and have them all in one place.  It worked great, kept the album private to just the two of us, and allowed us to share it with whoever we chose after the trip.  I have used this for track meets and it worked great then too!

The next morning we used Navigation again to help us get down to the Gateway Arch about a 1.5 mile walk.  Looking back, I wish we had used the Google Service  Field Trip to help us explore our surroundings.  I have used it before and discovered tons of new places and history about our current hometown, Green Bay.  On the way to the Arch, we stopped and saw the Old Court House where the Dred Scott Case took place and soaked up some history as well as took some great photos including some panoramas and another cool Google feature a Photo Sphere of the awesome architecture.

This the Photo Sphere, when viewed on Google+ it is a 360 picture of the Old Courthouse.  
We then went on to the Gateway Arch and here we had a little additional fun using Google's alternative reality game called +Ingress  and we hacked the Arch, destroyed the Resistance resonator (we are Enlightened) and took possession of the Gateway Arch.  That was just a bit of extra fun.  After taking a tour of the Arch museum, my wife decided to go to the top of the Arch, but I'm very afraid of heights so I stayed nice and safe on the ground.  I really wanted to be there with her though and Google came through again as we used Hangouts and I was able to see what it was like and communicate with my wife all from the safety of the ground.  This was definitely something we could not have done without our smartphones and Google services.

After spending time at the Arch we decided to check out another area of St. Louis and headed to the Delmar Loop, a shopping area with lots of shops, food, and art.  We once again used Navigation, but this time, it helped us take the Metro.  It not only guided us to the tram station, but gave us the times that the next train would arrive, and then told us how many stops until we got off and reminded us to get off on the correct stop.  This was awesome and it performed very well the entire trip.  Navigation allowed us to save time, money, and hassle by not having to drive to see things and we were able to walk about 20 miles in two days which was great exercise.  We used +Google Maps  several more times to get to Forest Park and see some of the great free things St. Louis has to offer such as the Zoo and Art Museum.  Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to visit the Science Center and the History Museum, but that just gives us a great reason to return to St. Louis again.  
Pappy's Smokehouse- The Ribs are worth the trip to St. Louis alone!

Another excellent reason to return to St. Louis is the food.  All the while we were roaming, we used Google Now as our central hub to find places to eat, get directions to where we needed to go, get weather updates, and find new things to check out.  It's great how easily all of Google's services integrate together.  Finding places to eat when in an unfamiliar city is really important.  When we travel, we like to find great food at places that are local and we can't just go to back home.  Google Now and Zagat helped us to find a few great places to eat and experience some St Louis culture with ribs, blues, and local feel.  If you get to St. Louis, seek out Pappy's Smokehouse, Rooster, and BB's Jazz, Blues, and Soups.  They all have something very cool to offer and were exceptional to visit and eat at.  We also checked out Flying Cow Frozen Yogurt, Maggie O'Brien's Irish Pub (Awesome Beer Cheese Soup), Cisero's, and Fro Yo (We really like frozen yogurt) and all are great places to eat.  There were so many other places to choose from, but Google Now always let us know what was nearby and the Zagat reviews helped us to figure out what was best suited for our tastes.

Would we still have had a great time in St. Louis without using Google?  I'm sure we would have, but I believe that Google's plethora of services, ability to know where we are and what we like, trustworthy cloud services, sharing capabilities, and access to huge amounts of accurate data greatly enhanced our trip.  One thing I'm looking forward to and wish I had been able to take on this trip was Google Glass.  Luckily, I've been chosen to be part of  +Project Glass by being in their Glass Explorers program and I hope I'm able to use them on the next trip we take.  I will have access to all of that great Google information, and I'll never have to be looking down at my smartphone so I'll see more and be able to take better pictures and video!  Next time you are going on a trip where you want to explore someplace new, make it a Googlecation (Did I just coin a new phrase?) instead of just a vacation!

Written by:
Ben Hommerding
Team Teacher

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