I Need a Suggestion Box

Well my friends, the days are slowly getting longer, it isn’t quite as cold, and I have more fur on my floor which means it’s almost time for Road Trip Season!

I have a few trips already (kind of) planned out but I’m looking for your suggestions.  It could be an awesome town, a great cafe, or the must-do hike.  Anything and everything you have I want to know but with one condition: it has to be in the contiguous United States and Canada.  As good as my little Corolla is, it doesn’t handle water crossings well.

If we visit a place you suggest, I’ll make sure you get a shout out.  Now if it’s a secret that you don’t want broadcast (and I get why that would be), send me an e-mail (3adventuredawgs@gmail.com).  We can go and keep the location on the down low.

I have been waiting to hit the road since last year and I cannot wait to see what suggestions you have for what is out there.

Cheers all.

P.S.  I couldn’t resist sharing some pictures of our trips over the past two seasons.

Thank You

In a very short time span, I was notified that I had received 1000 likes, 100 follows, and it was the one year anniversary of starting this blog.  I.  Am.  STOKED.

I mean I had this crazy idea that I’d “get discovered” and someone would pay me to travel the world with my critters and eat all over the place and spend my days wandering the countryside.  But then reality set in.

It took me a little bit to think about what it is that I’m doing here.  I would look at the counter of people following along (side note: I don’t like the term followers) and wonder why it wasn’t growing.  Then I realized that I had to actually network which has never been my strong suit.

I thought that my success was measured by the little number on the side that showed how many people were having my little stories pop up on their readers.  For a bit, I thought about shutting it down because that number wasn’t really growing.

Then I actually looked a little bit deeper.  Even though I don’t have a ton of people who clicked that “follow” button, I saw that I have a very high proportion of people that I actually engage with and have dialogue with and interact with.  I may not be able to go to a company and say “Hey I have thousands of people who read what I write so give me something” but I feel that I have a much more meaningful relationship with the people who take the time out of their busy lives to read about what a woman from Ontario is going with her three dogs.  And that’s much more valuable and special than the people who mindlessly click in the “Like” button.

A sincere thank you to each and every one of you who reads about our adventures and I hope that you continue to travel with us as we explore the world…one road at a time.

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Piper’s all smiles.

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I think this is the look of pure bliss.

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Leo trying (and failing) to be coy.

Liebster Award

Untitled 2Imagine my surprise when I saw that I had been nominated for the Liebster Award by Matthew Wakelee.  His recent series of posts about his favourite National Parks certainly bumped a few higher up on my “have to visit” list.

The Liebster Award was created in 2011 to encourage bloggers to discover and promote new and emerging blogs.  So, a huge THANK YOU to Matthew: first for following along and secondly for the nomination.  It’s really appreciated.

If you are nominated to receive this award and if you accept you must write a post following the rules below:

•Post about the award on your blog

•Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog

•Answer their questions about yourself, feel free to add photos

•Nominate 5 – 10 people with fewer than 1000 followers, inform them via social media

•Write your own set of questions for your nominees

•Feel good about yourself for winning an award and passing it on

My responses to Matthew’s Questions

  1. Why did you start blogging?

I started blogging because I had this crazy idea that folks might want to read about the trips that we have taken and the places that we had found.

2. What is your favorite place you’ve ever visited?

This is a really hard one.  I think if I had to pick a place, it would be Montana.  I’m itching to get back there again.  I’ve spent a lot of time in North Carolina and loved it.  And going to The Bahamas for my brother’s wedding was incredible.

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A spot I will never forget in Montana.

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A stop to hike in the mountains in North Carolina.

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The standard steps in the sand photo in The Bahamas.

3.  What place is atop your bucket list?

Ireland but that one will have to be without the dogs.  I want to take them to Newfoundland just because I’ve never been.

4.  What is your dream job?

Getting paid to blog about travelling with my dogs of course 🙂

5.  What is your favorite book?

River Monsters by Jeremy Wade and Feasting on Asphalt: the River Run by Alton Brown are tied for first.

6.  What are your favorite things to do when you’re not blogging?

I run and hike with the dogs.  And I bake for humans and dogs.

7.  Do you travel with children?

I don’t have kids so that’s an easy one.

My nominees are:

  1.  Tails Around the Ranch
  2. Being Breanna
  3. Nuggets Drooling
  4. Traveling Flea Circus
  5. Marking Our Territory
  6. Handstands Around the World

 

My questions to the above nominees are:

  1. What is the best accidental discovery you’ve ever made?
  2. If money were no object, what would you do?
  3. Mountain or plain?
  4. What is your favourite drink?
  5. What is the mode of transportation that you prefer?
  6. Where is one place you’d that you’d recommend we visit?

 

To my nominees, if you want to participate I can’t wait to read your answers.  If not, it’s all good.

Cheers everyone.

Sunshine Blogger Award

So after many days of spotty internet service, I was finally able to catch up and to my shock I learned that I had been nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award by Diana at Handstands Around the World.  She has got a great blog and some outstanding photos.  Definitely a must read for sure.

The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to bloggers by other bloggers who are creative, positive, and inspiring in the blogosphere.  I am so honoured that people read about our little adventures and then to be nominated for our first blogging award is just awesome.  I’m not going to lie: I had to keep checking to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me.  So without further delay:

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Rules of the Sunshine Blogger Award:

•Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog

•Answer the eleven questions set by the person who nominated you

•Nominate eleven other blogs and give them eleven questions to answer

•Notify your nominees

•List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post

THANK YOU DIANA!!!!

My answers to Diana’s Questions:

  1. What is/are your travel goal(s) for 2017?

To take more time!  I pick places that are far away and then don’t have enough time to do side trips or to explore the place that we drove all that time to get to.

2. What is your favorite holiday and why?

I know it’s not really a holiday but I love Hallowe’en.  When I was a kid it was for the candy (of course) but I love the dressing up part, although I’m a little dismayed at the almost X-rated costumes for women that I see every single year.

3. Most unique travel destination you’ve visited?

I would have to say that The Bahamas was the most different from what I’m used to.  Everything from the land to the “no stress” attitude.

4. What is one off the beaten path location that you recommend for me to visit?

Well now that’s a tough one.  Yoho National Park which abuts Banff National Park was amazing and doesn’t seem to draw the same crowds as Banff.  The Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia is stunning.

5. Share your favorite photo from your travels:

This is one of my favourite photos of the dogs.

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Monument Valley

6. What is your advice for those trying to get into the world of blogging?

Yikes.  I guess to write about what you know and love.  Don’t pretend to be something that you’re not.

7. What is your favorite song?

It changes on my mood but right now “Let’s Get Back” by Matt Anderson is getting a lot of play.

8. Worst travel experience ever?

Basically any time I travelled with my family.  It was always high-stress.

9. What is the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten while traveling?

I had conch in The Bahamas.  Most of the weird stuff that I have eaten, I’ve had at home (chicken feet, sea urchin, tripe) but I want to have gator, rattlesnake, and brain sandwiches.  Hopefully I can do that this year.

10. Where are you from, and what is the most common stereotype or misconception about your home town/state/country?

I’m from Ontario, Canada.  I think that most people I talk to ask about the snow; even places that get snow want to know about how bad it gets back home.

11. So…what is one important lesson you’ve learned in your travels?

Be flexible and as a part of that, don’t look at things that happen as a negative.  It’s all part of the trip.

My Nominees:

  1. tandemtrekking
  2. petitelouloueverydayadventures
  3. leggypeggy
  4. brianandlily
  5. Rapetti Review
  6. Tails Around the Ranch
  7. Marking Our Territory
  8. doingbeingbecoming
  9. Nomadic Adventurer
  10. FACE Foundation
  11. Nugget’s Drooling

Questions to my Nominees:

  1. Do you prefer solo (or partner) travel or as part of a group?
  2. What is the one thing you cannot travel without (not including passports and such)?
  3. What is one place that, in your opinion, everyone just HAS to visit at least once?
  4. What was your most memorable meal and why?
  5. What is your preferred method of travel?
  6. Where is a place close to where you live or that you are from that you would recommend people visit?
  7. Have you ever felt regret about a place you went to?
  8. Do you plan out your trips or take a more freestyle approach?
  9. Is there anywhere that you want to revisit?  (where and why)
  10. What has been your biggest breach of travel etiquette?
  11. Do you have a travelling mantra?

If Everyone Else is Doing it…

I guess it’s that time to look back at the past year and reflect, and blah blah blah.  You won’t see any resolutions here my friends since I think they are a waste of time.  But just for a laugh, let’s take a boo at what we’ve done this year.  OK I’ll admit that it’s a chance to share some of my favourite pics of the pups.

It’s been almost a year since I started this blog.  Wow.

I had the chance to go to The Bahamas for my brother’s wedding (Click here for the story).  That was pretty spectacular and I definitely want to go back again.  A longer visit and more cash to really explore the islands.  If anyone has any suggestions for places to go that are off the beaten path (or beach), I’d love to hear them.

After The Bahamas, the dogs and I drove the North Carolina Historic Barbecue Trail.  This was our second trip through North Carolina and an exercise in gluttony.  I mean from the first stop at the Skylight Inn in Ayden to the last stop around 500 miles away in Murphy at Herb’s Pit Bar-B-Que I ate only at the 23 restaurants listed on the trail.  Breakfast, second breakfast, brunch, lunch, mid-afternoon lunch, dinner; every day was fuelled by chop pork, coleslaw, hush puppies, some french fries, and even a banana pudding.  I had the opportunity to experience Southern Hospitality and the beauty that is North Carolina.  That’s part of the reason why I love reading coach4aday .  There are so many things that I have learned that I would not have even thought about before (state dirt anyone?).  We had the chance to drive the Tail of the Dragon in Tennessee which isn’t as impressive in a Corolla as I imagine it would be on a bike. (Want to catch up on the trip that I called The Road to Q-Demption?  Click here: Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7Day 8)

As if the pig out (haha get it?) wasn’t enough, after that we destroyed a ton of butter tarts, that most totally Canadian of all desserts, at Ontario’s Best Butter Tart Festival in Midland, Ontario.  I ate a lot.  They did too so it was a good day. (Get our scoop on the day here: Ontario’s Best Butter Tart Festival)

Then there was a little drama with Piper (of course).  See she’s not the healthiest dog in the world.  In fact, I call her my million-dollar baby because I’m pretty sure that she alone is putting my vet’s kids through college.  I had come home one morning after working a midnight shift and found her all messed up.  Turns out, she appears to have had something like the doggy version of a stroke.  I was so worried about her and that she would never recover.  Not so much physically but that she would be all depressed.  After a few days she was just like normal and now you’d barely notice anything is amiss.  Well she does have a slight head tilt to the right and her eye doesn’t open fully but at least she’s not doing that weird “shark bite” thing anymore.  And when people comment about “Ah how cute with her titled head”, if I’m in a shit-disturbing mood, which is usually with people who irritate me, I just look at them and deadpan “she had a stroke” then try not to laugh at the reactions.  Maybe some people would think that’s mean but I have then had very good conversations about people that want to know more and it becomes an educational experience, especially when they see that a dog can have something like that happen and still live a full and happy life.  Piper will let me know when she’s not happy and until that day comes, we’re going to keep doing what we do.  (Poor Piper:  A Sick Dog and a Missed Trip)

It just so happened that I had some time off around Canada Day and with Piper somewhat back to normal, I decided to take a small trip to see how she would handle travelling again.  We stayed close in case it was too much for her so we ended up in Georgian Bay and then wandered around the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario.  I had what still stands as the best burger I think I have ever had at a restaurant in the literal middle of nowhere, we had fish and chips from a stand that gets their fish from the lake that’s a stone’s throw away (how’s that for fresh), and we hung out at a cidery.  (If you want to check out our Georgian Bay trip, click here: Day 1Day 2Day 3)

Unfortunately I did lose one of my cats, Martini.  I intercepted her and Toby as they were en route to a shelter a few years ago.  She was a sweetheart of a cat and because her heart was so big, it eventually gave out.  I stayed with her at the vet’s because as hard as it is for me, I just can’t imagine leaving them there alone.  This was really the first time I mentioned it and I hardly told any of my friends about it.  Considering that’s really been my only loss of the year, I think we came through pretty good.

Then there was our trip to Prince Edward County.  It is a gorgeous and rugged part of southern Ontario that is exploding as a food and wine centre with amazing restaurants and wineries popping up all the time.  We spent a few days just aimlessly wandering The County and even visited with some old friends that had retired there.  (Links to our Trip to the County are here: Day 1Day 2Day 3)

And then there was the big trip.  I take one big trip out west to see my grandparents but I usually take the scenic route.  This year the scenic route was via Arizona and Nevada by way of Colorado.  Ahem a very scenic route indeed.  I think this trip covered the most diverse scenery in one single expedition: from prairies to mountains to desert, we saw it all.  It was truly an amazing experience to have had.  And if you want to see for yourself, the links are here: Time For One Last TripThrough Michigan and BeyondIn Search of the Yellow Brick RoadOut of the PlainsRocky Mountain HighIs There Life on Mars?Watching for Lights in the SkyLeaving NevadaWell Hello IdahoCrossing North DakotaBack into CanadaHeading Home, and Last Day on the Road.

As I sit on my couch with a fire roaring away and snow falling outside, I realize that this has been a good year for me.  I’ve stayed healthy, my dogs are snoring around me as I type this and all of them are in relatively good health (I’m looking at you Piper), I have a roof over my head, food on my table, and gas in the car.

Goodbye 2016.  Not too sad to see you go but hey 2017, you don’t have to do much to be a better year.  Just leave Ryan Reynolds and Channing Tatum alone.  Thanks a bunch in advance.

Your friends,

AdventureDawgs

This Post is For the Dogs

So your car has been checked over and is good to go.  You’ve gathered the generic stuff for the car.  Now let’s look at some of the things you’ll want for your four-legged travelling companions.

Food:

I feed my dogs kibble which makes travelling much easier since I don’t have to worry about cans or keeping raw food cold.  I know some raw foods are dehydrated and if I was going to make the switch, that is probably what I would use.  The most important thing is to make sure you bring enough food to last the entire trip and then some extra.  Even if you use a nation-wide chain brand, there will be places where you cannot find a store or they could even be sold out.  So why risk it?

I pack kibble into large zip top bags and keep those in one of the bins.  That way, I can grab a bag and transport from the car to the room if we’re staying in a hotel or pour it out into the bowls if we’re camping or stopped for a snack.  It’s another way to prevent water from destroying all the food and I can carry a bag easier than trying to lug a bin or having to move things to get at the bin several times a day.

If you want to take it one step further and your dog is on a fixed portion size, you can even pre-measure each meal; that way all you have to do is open and pour it out.

Bowls:

I love collapsible bowls and have two different models which gives me three sizes.  I have a large fabric bowl which I only use for water, two larger plastic ones, and two smaller plastic ones.  The plastic ones collapse flat meaning they take up very little space.  The fabric one came in a handy carrying case that I could run my belt through if I were so inclined.  The big one I use strictly for water.  The dogs don’t really like it so I usually only use it when we’ve set up camp for the night.  I use the large ones for water during rest stops and when we’re done for the night, one gets used for Piper’s food.  The other I use for water if we’re in a hotel.  The two little ones are for Jack and Leo’s food.

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Collect the whole set.

Water bottles:

I keep two large Nalgene water bottles with me for water.  That is the minimum although I usually have two additional steel water bottles.  It lets me give them fresh and clean water anywhere.  I like the large mouth on the Nalgene bottles and is easier the negotiate with more tap systems.  Or if you pour from a pitcher of ice water, it keep the mess down a bit.  When we were heading south into Arizona and Nevada, I also brought a gallon jug of water; just in case.

Leashes and Collars:

They wear their collars at all times and I keep their main leashes in the front seat with me.  I also have spare leashes and collars that I keep with the ropes and bungee cords.

Tie-Out:

I have a plastic-coated wire tie-out.  It’s basically a clothes line with clips on either end that allows me to use it in various ways: I can put it through the handles of the dogs leashes then run it between two fixed objects like trees or around an object and clip it to itself.  I’ve even wrapped it around one of my car tires when there aren’t any trees or other things to fasten it to.  It gives me a chance to set up camp without having to worry about the mischief they’ll get into and every campground I have ever been in requires that dogs be kept on leash.  They usually get the leashes tangled up a little but for the most part they just sit down and watch me.  I’ve considered putting them all on a separate tie-out but then they would take up so much space that I would basically have to keep them on such a short line that it would almost be cruel and counter productive.tie

Clips:

I have a bunch a carabiner-style clips that I bring.  I pretty much always have one clipped to one of the belt loops on my pants so I can attach the handles of their leashes and go hands-free.  They are also helpful for attaching their leashes to the tie-out so I don’t have to unsnap it to take them for a walk.  That’s more for convenience but at least one for walking is a must.  They don’t have to be climber-grade clips but I have had some cheap ones that broke just from light use.  Another great thing with the clip is that I can use it to attach their leashes to something before running into a store or washroom.  I just snap it to the leash handles, wrap it around, and snap onto the leashes.  Quick, easy, and secure.

Harness or crate:

I like keeping the dogs in harnesses when we travel because…well let’s face it: I only have so much space in my car and crates just won’t fit.  There are two main styles that I have seen: Piper wears one that has a strap that clips into the child seat attachment.  It usually stays attached because it’s bit of a pain to unsnap it every time we get out.  That’s why Piper is often seen naked while Jack and Leo are wearing their harnesses.  Jack and Leo’s harnesses have a loop that you run the seat through and secure.  The loop has a a clip and that snaps onto a ring on their harness.

Some people think that strapping their dog down is cruel but I think it’s crueler to let your dog become a missile if there’s a collision.  Also, the dogs can interfere with your concentration if their moving around or decide they haven’t told you that they loved you enough and decide to stick their nose in your ear or slobber all over your face.

On a side note, I’m going to be doing some research into harnesses and road safety since I understand that there are actual crash tests being done into their safety.  Stay tuned for that.

I was going to get them harnessed up for a photo shoot but I had nowhere to take them and they get SO excited when the harnesses come out it felt like it would be a tease.  So here are a few pics from the vault.

 

Documents:

If you plan on crossing the Canada/United States border, you’ll have to have copies of vaccination records, especially rabies.  I keep copies of their vaccination records in a plastic envelope in the glovebox with their information taped to the front and I also keep a copy in my backpack.  The weights are there just in case I need to administer any kind of medications.  I believe that any time I can reduce thinking should we find ourselves in a panic situation, it will help things go smoother.  It also helps if I have someone else with me or if we have to rush into a vet’s office.  In reality, a vet will weigh them anyway but this makes me feel more secure that I have all the information handy.  Peace of mind and all that.envelope.jpg

Medications:

If your dog takes any kind of medications, make sure that you have more than enough to last the trip.  I know it sounds like I’m harping on carrying more, but you’d hate to run short because you spilled some.  If it’s a liquid, then bring some extra syringes so you don’t have to worry about losing one.  Of course, you could always keep one tucked away in your first aid kit.

Blankets:

I have several thick and warm blankets that I keep in the backseat along with a few towels.  I also have a down comforter that comes with a stuff sack so it packs into a small space yet is quite warm.  And I have an old sheet that goes into the backseat that I use as a base layer in the tent.

Poo bags:

Always stoop and scoop.  They also work as garbage bags or if you have a container that suddenly springs a leak.  Heck, I’ve used one to tie up a piece of plastic that came loose from the bottom of my car.

Clothes

If you’re going somewhere cold, does your dog have coats that they wear?   If you normally put a rain coat on them, make sure you bring that.  What about booties or paw protector cream for snowy trips?  If you plan on hiking on sharp rocks then you’ll definitely want to protect delicate tootsies.  They don’t have to cost a fortune since there are plenty of patterns online to make your own boots if you’re so inclined.

Have I forgot any dog gear that you like to carry?

Next is up is gear for people.  There are a few other posts that have popped into my head from our travels.  It’s funny but once you start actually thinking this stuff through, what at first seemed like it would be a quick post explodes into a whole series.  I’d love to hear any ideas you may have as well.

 

You’ve Got Your Wheels…

Now what?

Now comes the fun part: GEAR!  I’ll break this down into three posts: gear in general, gear for dogs, and gear for people.

Safety gear: 

Flashlight or headlamp, flares, sign, blanket, candle, gas can, bungee cords, rope, zip ties, booster cables, multi-tool

No one ever wants to need to use this stuff but I’d rather have it than not.  And besides, if it makes you feel better you can be carrying it for someone who was not as well prepared.  I’ve never had to boost my own car but I’ve had plenty of people ask to borrow my cables.

In fact I would say that if you have nothing else, have booster cables and flares.  Scratch that: FLARES.  If you break down in a place of low visibility, it doesn’t matter if you can boost a car when another one plows into the back of yours.  So make yourself visible.

Every place that sells automotive equipment that I have ever been to sells assembled safety kits that will contain most of the items I’ve listed above so if you’re not sure what you should have, it can take out the guesswork to just go buy one.  And they come in a handy case to keep everything neat and tidy.

When it comes to a flashlight, I keep a large D cell in the front of the car.  It can be a bit cumbersome but I find it easier to manipulate a larger flashlight than a smaller one.  A headlamp is also very useful since you can just put it on and go.  Whatever light-making device you have, check the batteries routinely and especially before you leave.  Give yourself enough time to get batteries if the ones in your light are dead.

I keep most of the bungees, rope, and zip ties in a small cloth bag that I pack next to my safety kit.  I also keep a few more bungees and tie-down straps in with the spare tire so they stay contained but accessible.

Music:

This is important.  One of my Standard Road Trip Rules is to listen to the radio but there are times when you can watch the radio cycle through again and again and you get nothing so back-up tunes are important.  Maybe download an album and wait until you’re on the road to listen to it.  If you’re travelling with kids, get them to make a playlist.  Yes you may end up listening to the same song that you’ve already had burned into your brain but it’s a great way to get them engaged and excited about the trip.  And who doesn’t remember being younger and belting out the tunes with your friends?  It’s fun to sing along even if you’re by yourself and it can help keep you awake.  A small confession: I dance in the car too.  Next time you’re stuck in traffic and a great song comes on just car dance, then look to the cars on either side.  Guaranteed to brighten your day.

First Aid kit

Here are some photos of the kit I put together:

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The kit from the outside.


contents

Clockwise from top left: rubbing alcohol/tape, gauze, safety pins/sterile gauze pads/cotton balls/cotton swabs/nitrile gloves/antibiotic ointment/self-adhesive bandage/syringe/scissors/needle-nose pliers/tweezers/bandages/antihistamine.


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Dosages for antihistamines.

There’s a few little things about it that you may immediately notice.  It’s in a hard plastic case.  That keeps everything intact from all the stuff banging around in the trunk.

It’s got a bear bell on the handle.  That is so I can hear it moving if it gets knocked aside in the dark.  It’s also a good place to keep a bear bell if we go hiking somewhere where a bell is a good idea.

The Icy Cool Towel gets cold when you wet it.  I’ve never used it but I’ve heard that they work really well so I keep one handy in case someone,   human or canine, needs to have their temperature lowered in a hurry.

On lid, I have all the dog’s information including names, descriptions, breed, age, weight, and medical conditions.  I have done this in case I am ever incapacitated or if someone is trying to help me in an emergency.  I have the same information with their documents which I’ll get into in a later post.

On the side, I have dosages for antihistamines.  I spoke with one of the technicians at my vet and she wrote it out for me (which is great because her writing is so much nicer).  I then calculated how much each dog would get and taped that onto a bottle of antihistamine so that if I need to deal with an allergic reaction, I don’t have to bother trying to do math in a hurry.

Everything is kept in separate zip top bags.  I do that to keep everything neat and contained and to prevent contamination from elements or dirt or blood.

I could have done the easy thing and bought a perfectly acceptable and functional kit but I thought there were things that there wasn’t enough of or other things that I wouldn’t use so I used the contents listed for one and built my own.

Map:

Yes there are places in the world with no cell reception.  Granted some apps will function with no signal, you can’t alter your destination or look at anything in the area around you.  So if you’re talking to locals and they’re trying to give you directions to something really cool, you might be missing out if you can’t figure out how to get there.

Pen and Paper:

I know I’m old school to suggest this.  I like keeping a notebook with me because I find that I can scribble a thought down in the time it takes me to unlock my phone.  I also like to write things down because I find that I remember details better than I do if I type it out.

Camera:

If you’re a bit of a photo nerd like I am, you’ll bring a camera to record the trip along with the pen and paper.  See…it’s all coming together.  If you do bring a camera then you’ll want to  make sure you bring all the cables and chargers and maybe an extra memory card and battery to last the entire trip and a good case or bag to keep it safe.  I also pack a zip top bag big enough to hold the camera just in case of rain.  At least with bluetooth technology, you can download photos to your phone and not have to lug a laptop with you if you want to reduce the chance of losing photos if your memory card craps out.  Which mine did.  In the Bahamas.  After my brothers wedding.  After swimming with pigs and visiting an island of iguanas.

Change:

I keep a small collection in the car for parking expenses and such.  It’s usually funded when I go through drive-thrus and I toss all my quarters and loonies ($1.00 coins) in there.  I keep a baggie of American coins in the door pocket for toll roads and parking meters when I’m planning on crossing the border.   And both are concealed if I’m out of the car although let’s face it: if someone is going to break into your car, they’re going to break into your car whether they see $5.00 in change or not.

Spare key:

No one ever wants to lock their keys in the car but imagine doing it on a hot day when you have dogs in the car?  I’ve been lucky to have never done that but if it does happen you better believe that that window is coming out as soon as I find something to smash it with.  I make a point of using the keyless lock function to lock the car.  It’s habit.  And if it’s habit, I’m not likely to accidentally lock myself out.  But if I do, I keep a spare key in my pocket.  NOT HIDDEN ON THE CAR.  I know there are all kinds of gadgets to secure a spare key but I don’t use them for the same reason I don’t leave a spare key hidden around my house: someone can find them.  Another reason to keep a spare is just in case I lose or damage my main key.

Cooler:

You can buy coolers that run on 12 v that you can plug into your car.  They come in all sizes which means you can find one if you just want to keep a few snacks and drinks cool or enough to feed everyone for days.  And you can also set it up to keep things warm as well.  Some have an adaptor so that you can plug it into a wall which is great for when you are done driving for the day and don’t want to risk draining your battery.  But hey then you can use those booster cables!  I bought a mid-size Koolatron which I put on the floor behind the front passenger seat.  This spot allows me to reach it from the front and also keeps the fan from getting blocked by anything.

Bins:

I bought several water- and air-tight bins that I use for  carrying my food supplies.  I like these because they are small enough to stack two high in my trunk but still hold enough supplies to keep things organized.  I spent a little extra for ones that were water tight so that it would reduce the chance of any accidental moisture damage to my food.  OK let’s be honest: I mostly buy my food but I was more concerned with the dog’s food since Piper is on a special diet.

bins

Clear plastic bins with snap closures and gaskets to keep out air and water and my Koolatron cooler.

Gas can:

Just.  In.  Case.

Seat Covers:

I have covers on all of my seats and I supplement the dog cover with several blankets for their comfort.  It keeps my upholstery cleaner, reduces the funky wet dog stink, and is a heck of a lot easier to clean.  It also minimizes the hair ,and dirt, and change that sneaks it’s way into the crease in the seats in the front.  And since I create enough stink when I go out hiking in the summer or during long trail runs, it helps my seats too.

Cold Weather Specific:

Are you going to an area with a lot of snow?  Then you’ll definitely want to have the ubiquitous bag of non-clumping cat litter for traction, salt, a small or collapsible shovel, a snow brush, and (if they’re allowed) snow chains.

So that is my list of general gear for the car.  Can you think of anything I forgot or that you just “got to have” in the car when you travel?

Up next: gear for the dogs.

Have Car Will Travel

As the winter approaches and the colder temperatures arrive, I’ve turned my thoughts to the upcoming road trip season.  I’ve slowly, oh so slowly, started making plans so I thought it might be fun to do a series of posts about planning for and preparing for road trips, either with or without a dog (or three).  Now I’m far from an expert but hopefully I can give a few tips and tricks to help you with a future trip.  And I would love to hear any ideas that you may have.

First things first, you’ve to have wheels if you’re going hit the road.  So with that in mind, the first of my road trip series will be focussing on the car. Below are some things that you may want to keep in mind if you’re looking to wander the roadways:

Size, mileage, and road fitness  

People are shocked that I do the kinds of trips that I do with three dogs in my little car.  All of the dogs sit in the back seat and each have their places that they have claimed.  For me, the car is a good size for my purposes; meaning it has just enough space, is good on fuel, and is reliable.

Could I use a bit more space?  Absolutely.  Am I complaining?  Not at all.  A larger vehicle invites more things to carry.  More things to carry means more weight.  More weight means less fuel efficiency.

I drive a 2009 Corolla that has (by now) over 400 000 km and I have kept a regular maintenance schedule since the day I bought it.  Besides oil changes and expected wear and tear it has not needed any other work done to it.  How’s that for reliability?

Mechanics are worth their weight in gold to a road tripper.  I have a great relationship with the guys at my shop.  I trust them not to jerk me around with repairs and let me know when things are going to have to be addressed.  When I’m planning on going on a road trip, I make sure I tell them at my second to last oil change.  That way, they can go over the car and make note of anything that will need to be addressed at the oil change before I leave.  Giving them a heads up means that if they need to order parts they’ll be ready the next time that I come in and there’s less chances of being surprised with an unexpected repair as the clock is ticking to leave.

I know that some people will rent a vehicle rather than put high mileage onto their own car.  Or if you’re looking at driving with more people than you want to squeeze in with or you have concerns about your car making it to the corner store never mind the next province or if you’re heading somewhere with lots of snow and your usual ride handles like a toboggan, then it might be worth looking at renting.

There are plenty of companies out there that allow dogs in their rentals and some won’t even charge for it.  As in so many things though, make sure you check the fine print.  Few things ruin the good vibes more than getting hit with unexpected fees when you’re coming back from a trip.

So you’ve decided on the vehicle, now what?

Get it checked over: 

Make sure the spare tire is inflated and if you don’t know how to change a tire, get someone to show you.  Have your mechanic go over all the belts, filters, and oil.  They should be doing that anyway but insist that they really take a good look.  Mine actually call it a “L.O.A.F. and C.O.” (Lube Oil And Filter and Check Over)  Just think about how much strain you could put on your car if you’re driving 500 kilometres and up every day for two weeks.  And the last thing you want is for something small to leave you stranded on the side of the road with no cell reception.  In the rain.  At night.

If you’re renting then you would hope that it would be well maintained and would not break down.  Having said that, make sure you know where the documents for the vehicle are kept, where the spare tire and jack are (and how to use them), and where all the cup holders, charger plugs, and storage spaces are.  It sucks having to unpack the entire trunk to get at the tire if you could have packed a little differently or missed a storage compartment.

If you’re towing a trailer, give that a once over too.  And it’s been a while since you’ve hooked it up, it may not be a bad idea to find a wide open parking lot and spend some time re-aquainting yourself with handling the additional size and weight.  Or if you have a secondary driver, put them through their paces and make sure that the first time they’re hauling a trailer is on a freeway as you’re trying to scramble to your stop for the night.  That could be a really good way to add a bit more excitement that you may not want to have to deal with.

Assistance programs:

Are you a member of C.A.A or A.A.A?  If not, have you considered it?  Are there any other loyalty programs that offer roadside assistance that you already belong to?

I personally am not enrolled in any of these programs so I cannot offer any feedback.  But I know plenty of people who are and for them, it provides peace of mind.  If you do enrol, make sure you know what they offer and any fees for use of service.

On a side note, I know some programs offer their members benefits like deals on hotel rooms.  Very nice for the road weary traveller.

 

Clean out the car:

Make space by removing extra gear. Like I mentioned above: extra weight affects fuel efficiency.  On top of that, if you have limited space, you’d rather use it for things you need or for souvenirs that you’re bringing back.

I like to start by taking out all the gas receipts and other random pieces of paper that somehow manage to collect all over the place.  Then I give the entire car a good wipe down and vacuum.  It feels so much nicer to be spending long hours in a clean car (and it smells better too).  It doesn’t have to be too crazy: just a wipe down of the dash, steering wheel, and especially the cup holders.  They always seem to get a little splash of coffee no matter how careful I am.  I’m baffled at how many rocks will accumulate on the floor under the pedals.  I mean how does that happen?  You’d think I’d notice mini boulders in my shoes yet somehow there they are.  And inevitably I find change under the seat which I happily tuck away for later.

I pull the seat cover out of the back and give it a good shake and let it hang to air out.  Dogs track a lot of dirt into the car and I make a point of spending some time cleaning their area out really well.  If I have the time and the weather is agreeable, I’ll shampoo the upholstery and leave the windows open to dry.  If not, at the very least I clean the nose prints off the windows and mud off the doors before a quick deodorizing spray.  I know they work hard to create their works of art, but they always manage to create more.

Documents:

Make sure you know where your ownership and insurance are and make sure it’s current.  I’m willing to bet that if you went into most cars out there, you’ll find that they do not have their most up-to-date insurance card.  They might have a stack from the day they bought the car but not the current one.

Check that your ownership and validation sticker are current and will stay current for the duration of your trip.  And while you’re at it, and if you’re from Ontario, do you have the sticker for your validation tag on the back of your ownership?  I didn’t realize that not having that teeny tiny sticker on the ownership is actually offence.

It’s also a good idea to keep copies of your documents.  This could just be a photo on your phone or actual photocopies.  Or both.  If you do take copies, make sure that you have front and back.

I think should do it for the car.  Can you think of anything else as far as the car goes?  Feel free to share ideas in the comments below.

And once that it’s all ready, the next step is to start packing.  Fun!!