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Where BlackBerrys cannot follow

Ends of the Earth

Where BlackBerrys cannot follow

Where BlackBerrys cannot follow

Getting away from the infernal BlackBerry – cellphones too – can be daunting. It takes willpower to unplug. You can connect from just about anywhere, it seems. Even cruise ships are no longer safe.

So, where to go to get away from the wireless ties that bind you to work?

Bay Street would seem like one of the last places on Earth to find refuge from portables, yet even here there is a safe harbour. The National Club, at 303 Bay St., is an exclusive private club that asks all who enter to shut their devices off.

“Anyone expecting an important call,” the club’s Web site says, “should inform a staff member or the front-desk personnel, who will advise of any incoming calls.”

The sanctuary comes at a price. Membership runs between $2,500 and $8,500, dependent on age, plus annual dues. However, the 25,000-bottle wine cellar and well-stocked humidor will keep members from desiring the cold comfort of wireless connectivity.

To truly unplug, look to Fort McPherson, in the Northwest Territories, 10 hours north of Whitehorse, above the Arctic Circle. For the BlackBerry-addicted workaholic, driving the Dempster Highway (the only one in the Western world to cross the Arctic Circle) may be the best form of detox.

“The highway coming into town is a dirt highway,” says Rhonda Ransome, office administrator at the Tetlit Service Coop, which operates the Peel River Inn. “By the time they get up here they realize that there’s no way there’s going to be cellphone service. They’ve accepted it by then.”

According to Ms. Ransome, the closest cellular connection is two hours north in Inuvik, meaning the $185 rate at the inn is worth every penny for anyone hoping to unplug.

Then there is the opposite extreme – California’s Death Valley. This is where BlackBerrys go to die, or at least their signals do. Death Valley is a 14,000-square kilometre cellular dead spot. A room at the Panamint Springs Resort, on the western edge of Death Valley National Park, runs between US$79 and US$149 per night. Greater luxury can be found at Furnace Creek Inn & Ranch Resort, which boasts the world’s lowest golf course at 64 metres below sea level. Rooms cost between US$116 and US$405.

Should golf be your preferred therapy for your BlackBerry addiction, the Scottish Highlands are notorious for bad cell reception. “It’s because of the mountains,” says Angela Orriss of the Macdonald Aviemore Highland Resort in Aviemore, Inverness-shire. “There’s a drive up from the road between Perth and Inverness that we are on. There are patches where you can’t get reception at all.” The resort offers the choice of staying in one of 18 lodges or four hotels, the perfect base from which to discover the true nature of the Loch Ness Monster, or to find the bottom of a bottle of fine whisky.

If you simply can’t trust yourself to keep your thumbs from tapping out that next e-mail or text message, try North Korea. Seriously. In an ironic twist, the Hermit Kingdom may be the best place to find freedom – from your mobile communications gadget. Cellular devices are routinely confiscated at the border and returned on departure.

Of course, there may be no need to go as far afield as North Korea to find freedom. Sounding like she may have been channelling William Wallace, Ms. Orriss offers a simple solution: “Take the battery out of your phone.”

National Post  
Saturday, May 19, 2007  
Page: FW3 
Section: FP Weekend 
Byline: Philip Alves