Road trip news, rants, and ruminations by the Editors of RoadsideAmerica.com
January 18, 2010
In a recent shared nightmare, a huge purple devil head with glowing red eyes chased the RoadsideAmerica.com Team, shrieking: “The App is not a web site — it’s a focused tool designed to take advantage of the small screen, network availability, smart phone interactive capabilities and geo-location awareness.” When we awoke, everything the head said turned out to be true, but no less frightening.
We designed the Roadside America App for iPhone with three basic activities in mind:
Explore … Find/Visit … Share
This post is about Explore, which we use in the laziest virtual sense.
The app is easy to wander through and check out places, info, stories, tips, photos — whether you’re actually traveling, or sitting at home. Enjoy just reading about and looking at sights, or start imagining road trips to fake Stonehenges and UFO landing sites.
Random displays a list of attractions (the default shows sights with 3 to 5 star ratings). The list will refresh on its own occasionally. But you can get a new list of places just by shaking the phone briskly, or hitting the reload button. We found “Random” to be a great way for a new user to see the crazy range of possibilities, or a road trip vet to stumble onto something interesting to read about…
We’ve categorized attractions in interesting ways ever since we wrote the Roadside America books, and later, on RoadsideAmerica.com. For the mobile app we wanted to provide a simple structure for users to get to all the attractions we’ve designated into special Themes. So you’ll find Themes — from the straightforward “Animals” to the more cerebral “Zombie Army.” There are about 70 Themes (depending on whether you have 1-region or the entire US access). We may add more in the future.
A tap on the Cities tab displays a list of the US states available. Each state lists any town or city where there is a mapped roadside attraction. Each city also lists attractions in nearby towns. So this is a great way to see what’s around a destination you intend to visit.
Search might be the best way to find a place where you don’t recall the city or state or exact name. As you type words into the search field (pink elephant, shoe tree, cannibal), you’ll see matching attraction names appear as hints below. You can tap on one of those, or hit the Search button.
Note: In the Cities and Themes lists, you can drag a hidden search field out from under the title bar. By tapping on it, you’ll see a way to filter to only search text in: Name, Description, or Directions. For example, in South Dakota you could filter using “Directions” on the text “I-90,” and get all attractions that mention I-90 in their directions.
Another aspect of Explore is that if you’re like us, you’ll start to accumulate a lifetime of memories about odd places you’ve already visited. As you move around through the app and see a place you visited as a kid or in college or last summer, tap the Been There! checkbox on that attraction’s Detail view. Do this for any attraction listed that you’ve visited. Go to More and tap Been There! to see your list of personal conquests (we plan more capabilities around this feature in a future release).
Now here comes the purple devil head again, crashing through a brightly lit billboard emblazoned with the word: SAVE. Remember to Save any attraction you might want to refer to while on the road, in case the network is unavailable. Go to More and tap Saved to see your accumulation of saved attractions.
More on the Roadside America App for iPhone
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