This web page describes how several important Information Age Technologies can be very useful and helpful to enrich your life greatly and to make your sightseeing driving tour (自駕觀光旅遊) much more enjoyable, safe, with more freedom, more flexibility and less stressful. The technologies include smartphone, tablet, smarter GPS navigator in smartphone, smarter car with new EyeSight safety system, BlueTooth wireless communication feature in smarter car, in smartphone, and in tablet, new stereo sound system with more advanced technologies providing much greater capacity for huge number of music files, and smarter cloud storage system with auto sync. The great benefits and how to use such technologies to enrich your life are described in details in the following.
1. My Typical 2-Week Sightseeing Trip:
In my typical 2-week sightseeing and photography trips, usually I drive my own car or a rental car through a long loop of thousands of miles to tour many Points of Interest (POIs) along the long loop. I seldom stay in the same motel for more than one night in such 2-week driving tour (自駕觀光旅遊). I just follow GPS navigator to go from one POI to the next POI along the long loop. One example of such long sightseeing loop in Nevada, Utah and Arizona is described near the end of my web page at:
1.1. Reasons to Do My own Driving in Sightseeing and Photography Trips
There are several important reasons such that I prefer doing my own driving in sightseeing, wildlife watching and photography trips. These reasons are described in Appendix A.
2. Old Method with Rigid Itinerary:
In old days, I used to make very detailed planning and make motel reservations on all the motels along such 2- week driving loop. Then I had to follow the pre-planned rigid schedule and itinerary precisely so that I reach a pre-planned motel at the end of each sightseeing day. The schedule and the itinerary are rigid, fixed with no freedom and no flexibility to deviate from the plan.
3. New Method with Flexible Itinerary Enabled by Information Age Technologies
Now with availability of portable GPS navigator and smartphone, the schedule and the itinerary of my newer 2- week driving sightseeing trips in recent 2 or 3 years have become more flexible with a lot of freedom. I do not make any motel reservations before the trips anymore. With no motel reservations, I am not under any pressure or stress to rush to reach a certain motel at certain location on certain date. (不用趕時間。）
3.1. Getting Motel Rooms with no Prior Motel Reservations
I just drive following GPS navigator and have fun enjoying sightseeing and photography of interesting places according to my own relaxed leisure pace. At the end of a sightseeing day, I park my car at a parking lot of a shopping center. Both my portable GPS navigator and my smartphone know my current location at this parking lot in certain town. Both of my GPS navigators and my smartphone can show me the information of many motels near my current location for me to look and choose what I want.
3.2. Use Smartphone To Get a Hotel Room For The Night Efficiently and Easily
There are many free hotel Apps available for smartphone to help users to get a hotel room for the night easily. I am using Expedia App on my Android smartphone. It is free and can be downloaded and installed on a smartphone easily. It is an efficient way to get a hotel room for the night easily without prior hotel reservation. I have been doing it this way in my recent sightseeing trips in California, Oregon and Washington State. More details of using Expedia App on my smartphone are described in the following:
I tap the Expedia icon on my smartphone screen to open the Expedia App, then tap on Hotels. The next screen will ask me for the destination, with my current location as an option. I just tap the option of My Current Location (or I can type in the name of the town I am in.) The next screen is a calender with current date highlighted for me to choose a date that I need a hotel room. I tap on the current date followed by tapping on Done. The next screen lists my current location, my current date and 1 guest. If I have more than one guests, I increase the number of guests to the correct number. Then I tap "Search" at the bottom of the screen for Expedia to search and to show me information of all the hotels near my current location.
All the nearby hotels that are already sold out for the night are grayed out on the screen so that I do not have to waste my energy on those unavailable hotels. I just pay attention on those hotels that still have rooms available for the night.
The initial information includes name and picture of the hotel, the room price per night and the quality rating of the hotel. If I tap on a hotel of interest to me with quality rating meeting my requirement, it will show me more information such as location of the hotel on the Google map and text description of the hotel location. It also shows various available rooms (such as 2 queen beds, one king bed, or one queen bed) with their prices per night for me to choose. I select a suitable available room and tap on "Book" to make a reservation of the room for the night by using my credit card. (My credit card number had already been provided and stored in Expedia such that I do not have to enter my credit card number each time while I am traveling.)
Once the hotel reservation is done, the Google Map GPS navigator in the smartphone uses the location of that nearby hotel and my current location to guide my driving for a short distance to reach the hotel for me to check in. By the time I arrived at the hotel within a few minutes after the completion of my reservation, the hotel front desk has all my reservation information in their computer ready for me to check in. It is very efficient and convenient.
The advantages of using free and smart GPS navigator on Google Map in a smartphone are described on my web page at:
I just follow the GPS navigator to tour from one POI to the next POI according to my leisure pace and interest for fun and photography. I enjoyed very much such freedom and flexibility to tour many different and interesting places with no constraints of a rigid itinerary or rigid set of prior motel reservations.
The value and the benefits of such freedom and flexibility in tour itinerary can be illustrated by the following three examples
3.3.1. Tour of Castle Rocks National Wildlife Refuge
When we arrived to tour the Castle Rocks National Wildlife Refuge near Crescent City in California, it was unfortunately a very cloudy day with poor light such that we could not see well and could not take good pictures of hundreds of thousands of seabirds nesting on the off-shore Castle Rocks which are about one mile away from the shore. We also could not see well and could not take good pictures of the whale activities on the ocean in that area.
However, on the following morning during breakfast time in the hotel in Crescent City, we noticed that it was a bright sunny day with blue sky and was an ideal day to tour Castle Rocks National Wildlife Refuge. So, we changed our itinerary and stayed one more day to tour the Castle Rocks National Wildlife Refuge again to see those interesting wildlife activities much more clearly and to take much better pictures. We were able to make such change in our tour itinerary because we did not have prior hotel reservations and our tour is NOT dictated by the inflexible schedule of hotel reservations.
3.3.2. Tour of Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
We did not see all the important features in the 50-mile long Columbia River Gorge National Scenic area by the end of our planned day for such tour. We under-estimated the needed time. So, we changed the itinerary and stayed half more day to complete our tour of this beautiful area. Again, we were able to modify our tour itinerary because we did not have prior hotel reservations to dictate our tour itinerary. We can change it easily according to the real world condition and situation to maximize our enjoyment of the tour.
3.3.3. Tour of Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint
From the information on Internet, Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint on Oregon Coast also has hundreds of thousands of seabirds nesting plus many other interesting wildlife on or near the off-shore bird island near the lighthouse and would be as interesting as Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. So, Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint was the first major Point of Interest (POI) on Oregon Coast on our itinerary. However, when we drove within a few miles of reaching that POI, there were big warning signs of Road Closure due to active land slide in that area. There were no other people or other cars on that road. We felt lonely and not safe. So, we turned back, skip that POI and drove south to the next POI on Oregon Coast.
Originally we were planning to spend several hour to tour that first POI. Without a prior hotel reservation near the first POI to tie us down in that area for that day, we were free to skip the first POI and to drive south to the next POI. We can change our tour itinerary easily to respond to the local conditions and situations to maximize our enjoyment of the tour.
3.4. What if All Hotel Rooms in a Town Are All Sold Out?
Some people asked what if all the hotel rooms in a town are all sold out for that night because there is a special big event going on in that particular town? Based on my several years of experience, such problem does not happen that often. If that happens, we just drive 20 or 30 minutes to another town to get a hotel room. It is not much of an issue as long as we have a car to drive.
4. New Smarter Car Makes Driving Tour Easier, Less Stressful and Safer
4.1.Collision Avoidance System
My new car has a new safety feature known as EyeSight. The car has two forward looking color cameras supported by a computer in the car. The computer is also networked with the car’s braking system and electronic throttle control. If the distance between the car ahead and my car is shrinking too fast, the EyeSight system will sound an alarm and flash red warning light on the dash board to prompt the driver to take suitable safety action. EyeSight detects not only the distance of the car ahead but also the brake red tail lights of the cars ahead, red traffic lights, or other obstacles or pedestrians ahead. The detection of brake red lights helps EyeSight safety system to take the necessary safety actions faster. If there is an imminent danger of collision with the car or obstacle ahead, the EyeSight system will pull back the electronic throttle and apply the brake to prevent the collision. (The total price of my new car is less than $30,000. It is not an expensive luxury car.)
4.2. Lane Departure Warning
If my car crossed the traffic lane markers or lines, or if the car begins to wander outside the intended lane without a turn signal being used, or begins to sway within the travel lane, the EyeSight system will sound an alarm and flash an yellow warning light on the dash board to keep the driver awake and the car stay in the lane properly to avoid possible accidents such as crashing into the roadside tree, pole or ditch or head-on collision with a car on the opposite direction.
4.3. Adaptive Cruise Control
The EyeSight system is also integrated with the cruise control system to make it smarter and highly adaptive. After I turned on the cruise control and set the speed of my car at say 65 miles per hour to cruise on the highway, if the car ahead slows down, the EyeSight system detects it and will slow down the speed of my car accordingly. If the car ahead speeds up, the EyeSight system will also speed up my car accordingly up to the speed limit that I set initially. Adaptive Cruise Control can also assists the driver in “stop and go” traffic by maintaining distance from the vehicle ahead. This feature is very helpful to reduce a lot of stress in long distance driving or in stop and go traffic.
With EyeSight, you get an extra pair of eyes, an extra foot and extra brain to help to protect you, especially when you are tired and become sleepy in long distance driving.
4.4. Wide Angle Rear View Camera
Furthermore, my new car also has a backward looking wide angle camera. When I am backing up my car, the backward view of the camera shows up on a screen on the dash board so that I can see everything behind my car on the dash board screen when my car is going backward.
These features of EyeSight safety system makes the long driving tour much easier, less stressful and safer.
4.5. Blue Tooth Hand-Free Mobile Phone Call
For safety reason, I do not use the mobile phone call while driving. But this new car and its stereo sound system can communicate with my smartphone through the Blue Tooth wireless communication system in the car such that it has a feature to allow the driver to answer an incoming mobile phone call hand free. The spoke of steering wheel has two buttons for mobile phone call. One button with off-hook icon is to accept an incoming mobile phone call. When the smartphone rings, the driver press this button on the spoke of the steering wheel to accept the incoming mobile phone call and just talk without touching the smartphone. The off-hook button and on-hook button are positioned on the spokes of the steering wheel such that the driver can press these buttons without taking his/her hands off the steering wheel. The driver's both hands are still on the steering wheel and both eyes are still on the road ahead while the driver is talking. The caller's voice comes in through the stereo sound system in the car loud and clear. There is a microphone somewhere in the car for the voice of the driver to go through Blue Tooth and the smartphone to reach the caller. For the driver, the hand-free mobile phone call is almost like talking to a passenger in the car with extra protection by the EyeSight safety system.
The second button with on-hook icon is to terminate the mobile phone call.
My thinking about this feature is that if the incoming mobile phone call is important and can be finished in a short conversation, then I may use it. But if the nature of the incoming call requires a lengthy conversation, then I will tell the caller that I am driving and ask him/her to wait. I will exit the highway into a side road or side street, and find a suitable nearby parking lot to park my car. Then I will call him back to continue the lengthy conversation.
This hand-free mobile phone feature on this car also has capability to initiate hand-free mobile phone call with pre-set phone numbers or the driver can give the phone number by talking. But I do not intend to use it and have not paid any attention to the details on how to use it.
5. Endless High Quality Music To Enjoy in Long Driving Tour
The CD player in my previous car can take 6 music CDs to play music for long time in my long driving tour. But the CD player in my new car can take only one CD. Instead of playing music from old fashioned CDs, the new car is using more advanced technologies and can play music from several different sources with much larger capacity as described in the following:
5.1. Music Stored on USB Flash Memory Stick (Drive)
This new car has a central console between the driver and the front passenger. This central console has a USB port, an additional cigarette lighter power plug in addition to the standard cigarette lighter plug for charging one or more devices, and an Auxiliary(AUX) input jack with a stereo mini pin plug.
I loaded 5.2 GB of my favored music files into my small USB flash memory stick with 85 music folders (equivalent to 85 CDs) and each music folder can contain up to 255 songs or pieces of music. The new capacity for music is indeed vary large as compared to the capacity of 6 music CDs in my previous car.
The user plug the small flash memory stick into the USB port in this central console. The stereo sound system in this car can play the music files stored in this USB flash memory stick. To the music player in this car, each music file folder appears as an equivalent CD with up to 255 music files on such equivalent CD. The maximum allowed number of music files in the USB flash memory stick is 130,560 music files! The maximum allowed capacity of the flash memory stick is 16 GB.
The stereo system in the car can either play the music in the USB flash memory stick sequentially or the user can use and set several control buttons on the radio/music/CD dash board to tell the player how to play the music files, such as skipping from one music file to another music file in a music file folder, or skipping from one music folder to another music file folder, or Repeating playing a music file, or Repeating playing all music files in one music folder, or playing all the stored music files in random order, etc.
It is obvious that the maximum capacity of 130,560 music files in this new system is much much larger than that of old fashioned six CDs in my previous car and yet the physical size of the USB flash memory stick is much smaller than that of old fashioned six CDs. With such huge capacity, the new system enables me to load all my music playlists containing all my favored music files into the USB flash memory stick without worrying about running out of capacity. (If one is worrying about running out of limit of 130,560 music files on a USB flash memory stick, one can carry two or more USB flash memory sticks.)
In my 2015 winter birding tour of Texas Gulf Coast, I got a rental car from the airport. The rental car also has a USB port near the cigarette lighter plug. I inserted my music USB flash memory stick into that USB port in the rental car and the music system in the rental car can play music from my music USB flash memory stick.
5.2. Play Music from My Smartphone
The car and its stereo music system are equipped with Blue Tooth wireless system to communicate with my smartphone. The smartphone can play many music playlists of my favored music files automatically. The playlists consist of my favored and selected music files that I enjoy. The music player in the smartphone also has very flexible playing features such as playing all music files sequentially, or playing the music files in random order, etc.
My new smartphone has 16 GB of internal memory. By opening the back cover, this new smartphone has a micro-slot which allowed user to insert a Micro-SD memory card to increase the storage capacity further. So I increased the total memory capacity by inserting a 32-GB Micro-SD memory card into this micro-slot. For example, the size of a typical song music file is about 5 MB (i.e., 0.005 GB), and the size of a typical Microsoft Word file containing my traveling information of a Point-Of-Interest (POI, such as a national park) with text, pictures and maps is also about 4 MB to 10 MB (i.e., 0.004 to 0.01 GB). Therefore, 48 GB of memory capacity in my smartphone can store huge number of music files, POI information files, other data files and APP programs useful in my sightseeing trips.
Furthermore, my smartphone can also stream many kinds of nice music from Pandora or other music streaming services.
I am happily surprised to find that the sound quality of such music system in the car with smartphone or USB flash memory stick is much better than that of FM radio. Such system with either USB flash memory stick or smartphone enables the driver to enjoy endless high quality music while on a long sightseeing tour.
5.3. Play Music from iPod
The user can plug an iPod into the USB port in the central console for the stereo system in the car to play the music from the iPod. But I have no iPod. So, I have not tried this option.
5.4. Play Music from Other Portable Music Players
The AUX input jack in the central console is for connecting a portable audio player. But I have not tried this option yet.
So, this car can play music files from several different sources, with practically unlimited capacity for the driver to enjoy endless nice music during a long drive.
6. Lots of Important Tour Information in Smartphone for my Driving Tour
Usually couple months before my typical 2-week sightseeing driving tour, I spend sometime on my desktop PC and Google Internet Search to collect lots of relevant and important information related to each Point of Interest (POI, such as a national park or a national wildlife Refuge) in my tour loop. For each POI, I usually copy and paste all the important information collected from Internet onto a Microsoft Word file, including text, pictures and maps.
In the old days, I printed out these Word files on papers in black-and-white. Then I carry a big and heavy stack of papers with such information in my 2-week driving tour of many POIs.
Now all these Word files are stored neatly in my smartphone so that I do not have to carry the big and heavy stack of papers anymore. The 48 GB of memory capacity in my smartphone can store huge number (many thousands) of such POI information Word files in addition to APP programs. I Go Paperless!
Furthermore, the Word files stored in the smartphone are in color which is much more useful than the black- and-white paper copies. For example, some key information in the Word text file are highlighted in red color and are more easily visible in color. In black-and-white paper printout, such colored highlights are all lost.
On the maps in electronic Word file, I can zoom in for detailed view of a certain area or zoom out for bird-eye view of larger area. But on the black-and-white paper printout, I do not have such zoom in or zoom out capability and flexibility.
6.1. Loading These Files into Smartphone and Tablet by Auto Sync of DropBox
I have DropBox cloud storage program installed in all my computing devices, including my desktop PC, laptop PC, smartphone, and Google Nexus-10 tablet. These Word files with POI information were originally created on my desktop PC at home. I drag and drop all these Word files with POI information into the Travel-folder in DropBox in my desktop PC. With the DropBox wireless auto sync function, all these Word files will show up in all DropBox folders in all my other computing devices automatically. There is no need to use any physical device (such as USB Flash Memory stick) or cable connection between these computing devices to transfer these Word files from one device to another device. Furthermore, any addition or update in a Word file in the DropBox folder in any of my computing device, the addition or update will show up in all DropBox folders in all my computing devices automatically because of the wireless auto sync function of DropBox.
This is how I load all these Word files from my desktop PC into my smartphone and my Nexus-10 tablet automatically and wirelessly.
6.2. Backup Protection for These Files
I also carry the Google Nexus-10 tablet as a backup in my driving tour so that I can read these Word files either on my smart phone or on the 10-inch screen of the Nexus-10 tablet.
Since these Word files of sightseeing information are also stored on DropBox Cloud Storage, the cloud storage serves as additional back up protection. The files in DropBox cloud storage are accessible anytime and anywhere as long as there is an Internet Access.
6.2.1. Faster Access of Word Files Stored in Smartphone or Tablet
When I use the DropBox Wireless AutoSync to load the Microsoft Word files from my desktop PC into my smartphone and tablet automatically and wirelessly, it seems that only the directory is loaded into the smartphone and tablet. When I double-click on the name of a Word file in my smartphone or tablet to try to open the Word file to read it, the smartphone or tablet has to do wireless Internet access and to download the actual Word file stored in the DropBox cloud storage into the smartphone or the tablet in order to display the Word file on the screen. Such Internet access and download from cloud storage may be very slow if the wireless network is busy or highly congested or if I am in a 3G mobile phone coverage area instead of 4G network coverage area.
There is a way to force the smartphone and/or tablet to download and to store the Word files inside the local internal memory space of the smartphone or the tablet so that the Word file is available instantly without having to download from cloud storage each time I want to read the Word file. The method to force the smartphone or the tablet to download and to store the Word files in the internal memory space in smartphone or tablet is the following. When I click on the directory of these Word files in the DropBox folder in the smartphone (or the tablet) and see the list of those Word files, there is a down arrow on the right side of the name of each Word file. Click on this down arrow associated with a Word file will bring up a list of options for me to treat that particular Word file. One of the options is a STAR icon to make it into my favored file. By clicking on this favored STAR icon, the smartphone (or the tablet) will then download this particular Word file from the cloud storage and store the file inside the local internal memory space in the smartphone (or the tablet). In this way, this favored particular Word file is available instantly if I double click on the file name. It is available instantly even if the smartphone (or the tablet) is outside of the coverage area of wireless mobile phone network.
It is better to use this method when Wi-Fi Internet access is available (such as at home with home wireless router or in a hotel) so that Internet access and download of all these files are much faster to get all these files stored in the internal memory space in the smartphone or tablet.
6.3. Taking Panoramic Pictures in Sightseeing Trips
Another important reason that I carry the Nexus-10 tablet in my sightseeing and photography trip is its nice feature of highly automated way to take panoramic pictures of spectacular scenery (氣勢磅礴的魅力，真 是壯觀！). All Android based smartphones and tablets running Android OS Version 4.2 or newer have this nice capability of highly automated way to take panoramic pictures easily. (Newer versions of iPhones and iPads also have similar feature for highly automated way to take panoramic pictures easily.) Some sample spectacular panoramic pictures from Grand Canyon National Park taken by this Nexus-10 tablet are shown on my web page at:
(My old smartphone was too old, was stuck in Android 2.0 OS and did not have built-in feature for taking panoramic pictures. But my new smartphone has the newest version of Android OS and has the built-in feature to take panoramic pictures plus many other nice features. Sprint upgraded my smartphone to the newest one with a cost of $5 per month of leasing cost.)
6.4. E-Mail and Internet Access During Sightseeing Trips
Both the smartphone and the Nexus 10 tablet enable me to access e-mail and Internet during such 2-week sightseeing trips. Therefore, I do not have to carry the larger and heavier laptop PC and the big and heavy stack of papers in such sightseeing trips.
Many newer cars have multiple cigarette lighter plugs inside the car to plug in GPS navigator, smartphone and tablet to keep them charged and operational while driving. In case if an older car has only one cigarette lighter plug, one can buy special plug that has cigarette lighter plug on one end and two USB connectors on the other end so that one can plug two devices to keep two devices charged and operational while driving.
My Google Nexus-10 tablet has only Wi-Fi wireless access but no mobile phone wireless access. Most motels have free Wi-Fi service for customers. So, I can use the Nexus-10 tablet for Internet access when I am in a motel.
Furthermore, my smartphone has HotSpot feature to serve as a local wireless router serving up to 8 wireless access devices. By using this HotSpot feature of my smartphone, both my smartphone and my Nexus-10 tablet can access Internet simultaneously anywhere and anytime as long as there is mobile phone service coverage. The cost of using HotSpot service on my smartphone is about one dollar per day from my smartphone service provider (Sprint).
6.5. Removing These Files from Smartphone and Tablet
After I finish a 2-week sightseeing trip and come home, I drag and drop the POI Word files from the DropBox folder in my desktop PC into other file folder in my desktop PC. Then all these POI Word files will disappear in my smartphone, Nexus tablet and laptop PC automatically because of the wireless auto sync function of DropBox. This is how I free up the memory space in my smartphone and tablet after a sightseeing trip is finished and there is no need for these POI files to stay in the smartphone and the tablet anymore.
Only one set of such POI files remains in a separate file folder outside of DropBox folder in my desktop PC.
6.6. Cloud Storage Services
So far, I have been using DropBox in my sightseeing driving tours. Other cloud storage services such as Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, etc., probably all have roughly similar capabilities and features that are useful for sightseeing driving tours.
7. How to Use Additional Storage Capacity in a Micro SD Card
Many smartphones have a slot to allow the user to insert a micro SD card to increase the storage capacity of the smartphone greatly such as 32 GB, 64 GB, or 128 GB. After the micro SD card is installed in the smartphone, the user may set the micro SD card as the default storage or may move a lot of stored information from the smartphone built-in memory into the micro SD card. Such move can free up more built-in memory for other important functions such as installing more useful App programs. For example, for Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone, the procedures to use the large storage capacity of inserted micro SD card are described in the following two websites:
How do I set my photos and videos to always save to my micro SD card instead of to device memory?
The availability of Information Age Technologies in portable GPS navigator, smartphone, tablet, smarter car with endless high quality music plus reliable and convenient cloud storage with auto sync has changed the style of my sightseeing driving tour dramatically. Lots of information important to the sightseeing driving tour are now under my finger tip anytime and anywhere. They provide great flexibility and freedom in the schedule and the itinerary of the trip and eliminate lots of stress of old style driving tour under rigid and inflexible itinerary. In this way, they enable me to enjoy the sightseeing driving tour even more according to my relaxed and leisure pace.
Appendix A - Reasons to Do My own Driving in Sightseeing and Photography Trips
There are several reasons such that I prefer to do my own driving instead of joining a tour group in sightseeing, wildlife watching and photography trips as described in the following:
A1 - Problems for Serious Photographers
A friend who is a serious photographer told us about his bad experience of joining a regular sightseeing tour group for his photography trip. Their tour group was on a tour bus touring the beautiful Canadian Rockies. At an area the scenery was so beautiful that he had a strong urge to take beautiful pictures there. He asked the tour guide to stop the bus there so that he could get off the bus to take beautiful pictures. But the tour guide said that that area was not on their tour itinerary such that the tour guide did not want to stop the tour bus there. So, this serious photographer begged the tour guide to do him a special favor to stop the bus for him. The tour guide reluctantly stop the bus and gave him 5 minutes to take pictures. This friend is not a regular photographer and did not take the pictures near the bus. He carried a heavy backpack of a whole set of professional DSLR photo equipment plus a tripod. He left the bus and went down hill to find the best spot to take the most beautiful shots. Then he ran out of the alloted 5 minute time limit. So he had to rush to pack up all his professional photo equipment, carried the heavy backpack and the tripod and ran up hill to get back into the tour bus. He was practically out of breath when he got back into the tour bus.
His said that this is not a good way for serious photographer to take beautiful and artistic pictures. He swore that he would never join a regular sightseeing tour group again for serious photography. Serious photographer needs to do his/her own driving in their important photography trips.
I had a similar bad experience with a regular sightseeing tour group in touring the beautiful Luray Caverns in Virginia. My photos from that trip in Luray Caverns are on my web page at:
The lighting in the cavern is dim such that I had to use my monopod and longer exposure time in order to get decent pictures under dim light condition. I was enjoying taking beautiful pictures in the gorgeous Luray Caverns （放慢腳步細細領略拍照）. But the tour guide was rushing me saying that all tour group members had gone way ahead finishing up their tour while I was the only SLOW guy lagging way behind in the cavern taking pictures. The tour guy kept on urging me to hurry up to keep up with the faster pace of the tour group going through the caverns （跟團遊只能匆匆拍個照就離開或蜻蜓點水行過，實在可惜）. My experience is the same as that of my friend of serious photographer. Joining a regular sightseeing tour group is NOT a good way for a serious photographer to take beautiful pictures. I, therefore, also will not join a regular sightseeing tour group if I intend to do serious photography in my sightseeing and wildlife watching trip. I will do my own driving in my sightseeing, wildlife watching and photography trips （自在悠閒慢游拍照， 是多大的享受）.
Furthermore, the tour group bus may not take me to the special locations important for serious photographers. For example, for the tour of the spectacular Antelope Canyon near Page in Arizona. There are two nearby fantastic slot canyons: the Upper Antelope Canyon and the Lower Antelope Canyon. Most tour buses take the tour groups only to the Upper Antelope Canyon and skip the Lower Antelope Canyon. The Upper Antelope Canyon is level and easier for the tour group to walk through whereas the Lower Antelope Canyon has narrower walk path on steeper slopes and is more challenging to hike through. However, the Lower Antelope Canyon has wider slot at the top of the slot canyon resulting in more light in the canyon and is easier to take fantastic pictures of the spectacular Lower Antelope Canyon. On the other hand, the Upper Antelope Canyon has narrower slot with substantially less light in the canyon. It is much more challenging to take good pictures with such dim light in the Upper Antelope Canyon, especially with so many tourists walking and moving in the canyon making it very difficult to use longer exposure time to try to take good pictures in such dim light situation. Therefore, many tourists in tour groups came home with very poor pictures or no picture at all from the tour of the Upper Antelope Canyon.
When I drive my rental car, I control my trip itinerary and have plenty of time to tour and to take pictures in both the Upper Antelope Canyon and the Lower Antelope Canyon. In this way, I am very happy that I get many excellent pictures from the Lower Antelope Canyon as shown on my web page at:
If I had joined a tour group for the tour of the Antelope Canyon, I would have missed the opportunity to get all those fantastic pictures from the Lower Antelope Canyon.
A2 - Special Physical Needs of Senior People
Two other friends told us of their similar bad experience of their 2-week group sightseeing tours. Everyday of the 2-week trip is packed with many Points-Of-Interest (POIs). The tour guide call and wake up each member of the tour group in early morning, such as 6 AM, everyday so that the group would have enough time to cover all the POIs for the day. My friend told me that they felt that they did not have enough sleep everyday in the 2- week trip. At the beginning of the tour, couple group members were coughing, but by the end of the first week, many more group members were coughing and were sick. By the end of such 2-week high stress busy trip, some group members were so sick that on their return trip they got off the airplane and went straight to the hospital.
Furthermore, at our senior age, many retirees have various kinds of health problems such that some retirees have to go to toilet room much more often then the regular healthy people. It is almost like a torture for such retirees if they cannot go to toilet room as often as they need to because of the constraints of the tour group itinerary. It would be very stressful on me if the tour bus has to stop for me and a whole bus load of tourists have to sit in the bus waiting for me, the old retiree, to go to a toilet room.
But if I am doing my own sightseeing driving, I can stop and go to a toilet room as often as I need without the constraints of the whole tour group. With the help of a GPS navigator and/or a smartphone, I can easily find a nearby MacDonald or Burger King or Wendy or supermarket or Sears or Target department stores or Home Depot, etc. so that I can stop and go to the toilet room.
With my own driving in my sightseeing trips, I do not use alarm clock and do not use any wake up call in the morning. I just sleep until I wake up naturally so that I get enough sleep every day in the trip. Then I do the wash up and eat the breakfast according to my own retiree leisure pace. Then, when I am ready, I start driving to start my day of sightseeing and wildlife watching. It is a more relaxed style with leisure pace for sightseeing, wildlife watching and photography for retirees.
By not being squeezed in a tour bus with 50 other tourists for 2 weeks, plus sleeping well every day, I also minimize the possibility of contracting an infectious disease, such as a flu or cold, from other members of a tour group if I do my own driving in my sightseeing tours.