Some of My Favorite Things

I set up the tent in the backyard yesterday.  Although we find our summer home quite comfortable, we chose instead to sleep in our beds.  I also heated up some baked beans on our propane stove and later roasted marshmallows with some neighbors and friends.  All of this felt like practice for our coming summer road trip and is helping me  mentally prepare for the adventure.  So on that note, I would like to share with you some of my favorite road trip things (I ain’t Oprah by the way so do not expect me to be giving away any of these treats for free).

  1. The kitchen.  Having a stove, silverware, plates, and a few pots and pans allows us an amazing amount of culinary freedom.  Our plan is always to eat out when we want to and not because we have to.  To accomplish this, we pack wisely and include almost everything but the kitchen sink.  Our propane stove packs into a small, flat rectangle that takes up almost no room.  Everything else is stored in a stackable plastic drawer unit that allows us, in theory, access to what we need without tearing up the vehicle.  For overspill (the contents of our car often swell and compact like an accordion as we grocery shop and consume across the land) we use a small extra cooler.  A larger stainless steel cooler (covered in travel stickers and originally a wedding shower gift) serves as our fridge.  Together it wedges nicely into the back and does not obscure our rear view mirror.
  2. Coffee maker.  This could have been included above but I think it deserves special mention.  Our maker is a simple percolator that I heat up on the stove.  Corey and Henna like to sleep in, so many a morning it is just me and my friend Mr. Joe hanging out by a morning fire.  Sometimes I see really cool stuff that disappears immediately after dragging the two ladies out of the tent (examples include a turkey family, bison, and weird neighbors in odd morning garb walking to the bathroom).  When Corey does finally wake I just place Mr. Joe over the fire to heat up.  Nothing better.
  3. Charcoal.  Again, could be included above but for me charcoal is more than just a grill necessity.  Charcoal is also an excellent fire starter.  This took me a few years to nail down, but this is what you do.  Cook in fire pit over charcoal (easy to do when there is a grill over pit).  After meat or veggies are done, immediately flip-up grill and place wood over coals.  Wood burns quickly and you are good for the night.
  4. Cheap camping chairs.  More freedom.  Pull up to a pretty view; take out chairs, let kid play in nature.  Repeat as often as possible.     
  5. Bathing suit.  This is kind of a no brainer, but keep your suit close by and a quick picnic turns into a road trip highlight.
  6. Small food stands by the side of the road.  Get off the highway and live like a king.  I close my eyes, think of a state, and remember meals gone by.  Washington….. cherries the size of a babies fist.  Michigan, more cherries, strawberries, and blueberries.  Illinois, a lot of corn if you know where to look.   The Maritime Provinces are all about the sea and I love those scallops (to be honest I don’t mind the mussels either).   Honestly, wherever you travel in this good continent, the opportunity to eat well is always a possibility.
  7. Trails that start in a city or town and end up in wilderness.  Juneau has to be the best example of this.  We parked in the city, walked a little bit to get lunch, walked some more to burn off that lunch and ended up on a trail with joggers.  Same trail narrowed a bit and it was not long before we found ourselves almost alone in an alpine meadow with a rougher trail extending further into the horizon.  I was still full from lunch. 
  8. Cool neighbors.  We are lucky that home has plenty of these.  On the road we have had some luck with this too.  Recently in Waterton we met a very cool family that introduced us to ginger wine, collapsible kayaks, and Canadian friendliness (that last one we actually knew well before meeting them).  From new friends, Corey and I have learned no less than three card games (including Cribbage in a hut on top of Mount Jefferson in the White Mountains), supervised several play dates, talked politics and religion, and found out more about the many different ways to live your life than would ever be possible staying at a hotel.  Of course we have also had barking dogs (we have that at home too) and inconsiderate parties nearby.  But those experiences have been much fewer than the good ones.
  9. Good, local wine.  Drink well sleep cheap.  Camping in Humbolt Redwood State Park.  $25.  Blue Jay Pinot Noir, $40.  Much better than a $100+ hotel room and a cheaper bottle of wine. 
  10. My tent.  We have gone through a few tents before our current 4 person backpacking tent.  All the tents have felt like home and all them have allowed us to live, ever so briefly, in some of the most amazingly beautiful places in the world.
  11. This blog.  It was Corey’s idea and I was not immediately thrilled by the idea.  But it has been a lot of fun sharing with you our adventures.  We hope that this site continues to evolve and becomes a true travel resource.