SAN FRANCISCO--It's hard for me to believe, but in only three days, I'll be hopping on a plane and heading east for the beginning of Road Trip 2008, my journey through the American South to write about and photograph many of the region's most interesting destinations.
One of the very first stops will be Disney World, in Orlando, Fla., and over the last few days, I've noticed that there are at least a couple of new applications that can help people like me get ready for the total immersion experience that is a visit to Florida's home of the Mouse.
The first is one that was unveiled Thursday. It's the result of a partnership between Disney and Google, and it's a 3D overlay of Disney World for Google Earth.
The idea, as written about by my colleague Josh Lowensohn, is to give Disney World fans, as well as those who are getting ready to visit the Manhattan-sized collection of theme parks, a way to peer deep down into them without having to put on sunscreen or pay the daily ticket price.
And it's quite useful, too, for seeing just how big Disney World really is, where things are in relation to each other, and to get a feel for the (digital) space.
It's certainly not anything like a real visit, but it's a good way to get a sense of what you're in for, or to realize that maybe two days isn't quite enough and that you'd better plan and budget for a whole week. Or something along those lines.
Another interesting tool for discovering what's going on at Disney World is Twisney, a user-generated site that allows park-goers to e-mail or Twitter from their mobile devices what they're doing at that moment.
This is useful, it seems to me, because the more people who use it, the better you can see what the real-life conditions at the park are, in real time.
So, for example, if a popular ride is suddenly closed, there's a chance someone will post that to Twisney.com. And if you're paying attention, you can know to avoid going in that direction.
Similarly, it can be useful if a Twisney poster has alerted readers to the fact that there are shorter than usual lines at a ride, or if something particularly interesting is going on somewhere.
For me, this is all a big learning process, as I've never been to Disney World, and I must admit I'm a bit intimidated by my visit there next week because I'm not just going to play. I'm going to report on some of the more interesting, tech-centric angles at the park, and so there's a whole lot of potential ground to cover and not that much time to do it in.
But with the above-mentioned tools, plus a slew of good tips I got from readers after pleading for help on this blog a few days ago, I think I'm better prepared than I'd expected to be at this point.