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Dial-a-map — Those who wore born severely directionally impaired were delighted by the advent of online mapping systems, such as mapblast.com, mapquest.com and maps.yahoo.com. Also worth a look is randmcnally.com. The renowned atlas-makers have shifted to the online world, and provide a detailed guide for planning a road trip, including up-to-date information on construction and road closings.

But unless you’ve got a laptop in the backseat, online mapping sites are of little use to you when you’re cruising through the middle of nowhere with no idea of your bearings.

Not everyone can afford their own GPS system, but now the ever-inventive Google has come up with a solution: a mapping system that you can download into your mobile phone: google.com/glm. And it’s free! Gee whiz, Wally! The program is actually a compact version of Google’s own mapping system, Google Local: local.google.com. You phone must be Java-enabled to download the program which, for now, works for the United States only. It even works like a mini-phone book; if you’re looking for a pizzeria in Detroit, simply send a text message that says “pizza detroit mi” and the program will send you back a listing of businesses. Ain’t technology grand? But just remember — you might want to pull over before you start typing away into your phone. Friends don’t let friends text message and drive.

Know of an interesting, bizarre or educational Web site you’d like to see featured here? Send it to backslash@metrotimes.com

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