Everything is Peachy

Given how late we were up the night before, we were up fairly early.  I took the dogs for a short walk around the neighbourhood but even at that hour, the humidity was starting to make itself felt.  I quickly had the car packed up and we left our Airbnb, still without having met our host.  We stopped at Way Station Coffee Co. on the way out of Savannah.  It’s a really neat set-up with lots of space inside and a gazebo where I was able to sit with the dogs and enjoy a mocha, breakfast sandwich (bacon, eggs and cheese on an english muffin), and a raspberry-white chocolate scone.  The only downside is that the gazebo does not have any good scenery since it’s right next to the parking lot and a busy road but if that’s the worst thing about it, well that’s pretty good overall.waystation

We weren’t on the highway long before we saw signs for Georgia Peach World.  Well of course I had to stop and investigate.  There was a stand out front with plenty of fresh produce, with almost half of the stand holding baskets of peaches.  I went inside and was promptly handed a sample of a peach slushie.  I told the gentleman he was my new best friend as I finished the small cup in one swift gulp.  They had shelves and shelves of products for sale and everything could be sampled.  After a short course of sampling and nibbling and questioning them about the bestsellers, I left with a jar of peach salsa, praline pecan honey butter, and peach cider.  And the man behind the counter explained how he will take some of the cider, add a bit of vodka or gin, and pour it into a freezer bag to get to slushie consistency.  I felt my eyes go wide.  Yes!  I had never thought of using a freezer bag but that is brilliant.  I then stopped at the stand outside and bought a quart of peaches and ate almost half a dozen as I sat with the dogs outside while they had a drink and some photos before climbing back in the car.

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That’s some peach!

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Bandannas courtesy of HOGdogSwag

We were driving down the highway when I saw a sign for a beach.  I wanted to give the dogs a chance to swim since it was getting really hot so I guided us into historic St. Mary’s and stopped at the visitors centre.  Well the woman working there told me there was no beach close by and that I would want to avoid letting the dogs swim anywhere nearby anyway because of alligators.  I had thought that the beach would be on the ocean so no concern for gators but evidently I was wrong.  But she did tell me that there was plenty of dog-friendly patios nearby and oh there is a dog park.  Yay dog park.  Turns out the park was very close to the welcome centre and I was able to find it even though there were no signs and it’s at the end of an unnamed dirt road.

The dog park was fenced with a smaller section on one side and an absolutely huge main section.  The smaller part was completely treed and very shady while the main section had trees in half.  The rest of it was open to the sun and had some agility equipment for the dogs to play on.  Piper tackled the elevated walk with no problem.  Leo needed a bit of coaxing to get on the walk but once he figured it out, he seemed to wonder what the big deal was.  Jack just looked at me with that “You’re kidding, right?” expression.  After one lap in the heat, the dogs stopped running around and found shady places to sit; or in Leo’s case, a place to roll.  I tried to get them interested in playing but gave up after the second lap.  My only complaint about this park (and it’s a minor complaint) was that there was only one place for the dogs to drink and it had a thick rubber bowl.  It was made of the same rubber as those heavy black rubber horse buckets that tend to get a funky stink.  But since the dogs didn’t want any water out of their own bowl they couldn’t have been too thirsty.  And back on the road.

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What a park!

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Like this is difficult?

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Pfft no problems here. You can just see the fence at the parking lot in the back.

But not for long as we soon crossed into Florida and just had to get a photo to commemorate the occasion.  Not long after it was time to start looking for a place to eat.  A quick consult with Bringfido.com sent me to Wells Brothers Bar and Grill in Tallahassee.  Sure enough, dogs are allowed on the patio in the back and I quickly retrieved my darlings and we got ourselves settled.  Our server brought out a big bowl of water for the dogs and gave them some loving as I faced off with an impressive menu complete with a selection of craft beers.  There were several items on the menu that I thought were intriguing (The Lip Smacker burger with peanut butter and jelly…) but I decided on The Ad Burger with a side of sweet potato fries.  Hands down, this is one of the best specialty burgers I have ever eaten.  Ever.  Why specialty?  For starters, it’s served on toasted sourdough and topped with a fried egg, pepper jack cheese, black bean mix, and cajun mayo.  Even the sweet potato fries were outstanding: crispy with salt, sugar, and cinnamon.  It says something when the dogs don’t get any samples.  Yes that’s right.  I ate it all.

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Part of the back patio.

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The Ad Burger with sweet potato fries. YUM.

Pleasantly stuffed, we headed back out and started to look for a place to spend the night.  We went to check one campground but all of the sites were taken.  No problem, I saw there were primitive sites so went that way.  The only problem with that plan was that you have to register with the office before going to the primitive sites.  And no one was in the office.  Crud.  OK there was another campground further down the road.  And by the time I got there, the gates were closed.  Florida parks close at sundown.  Who knew?

I was driving towards Pensacola hoping to find either a private campground or a hotel that wouldn’t cost a kidney to stay at when I suddenly started getting the sleepies.  I guess a belly full of meat and dark highways can have that effect on me.  I pulled off into the next rest stop intending to put my head back for a few minutes before continuing.  I walked the dogs around the lot and offered them their dinner and water which they promptly ignored.  I tipped my seat back and soon had Leo on my lap, Jack in the passenger seat with his blanket, and Piper stretched out in the back seat.  Even though they were sleeping the entire time the car was moving, they were soon snoring around me.  I pulled one of the blankets up over me and closed my eyes.

Side note:  the bandannas the dogs are wearing were courtesy of HOGdogSwag

No Denying the Mothman

Starting Mileage: 2403.6

It was downright cold when I woke up the next morning.  Rather, it was cold outside; inside it was so warm under the blankets that it took me a while to get out of bed.  But the need to get on the road, and a boxer nose that kept making those exasperated snorts in my face, made me drag my butt out from the warmth.  I took the dogs for a walk around the grassy area but after they had quickly done their business, they were pulling me back towards the hotel.  I got the hint.

After I poured out their breakfast, I made my way to the lobby for mine.  I found the offerings to be consistent if nothing else.  I guess I can’t expect much for free and in short order I was back in my room with a waffle and some yogurt.  I was eager to get going and wolfed the food down before we were back on the highway.  I had been debating whether to take my time or push to get back home that night and figured I would let the road decide: if there was something fun worth exploring then we would explore and we would get home when we got home.

Knowing that we were entering Jefferson National Park, I had my eyes peeled for any sign indicating where we would have to go for a hike.  After I emerged from a tunnel that ran through a mountain, I finally saw a sign.  The sign told me that we were leaving Jefferson National Park.  Huh.  I thought about turning around to try and find our way back in there but I was soon gratefully that we were not in the trails when a sudden snow storm descended on us.  It cleared quickly and I decided to stop for a coffee and made my way towards Bluefield West Virginia.  Some parts of the drive were beautiful and had lovely views that I was able to sneak a peak at as we wound through narrow hilly roads.

When I stopped at the Corner Coffee Espresso Bar and Bistro, I saw some of the biggest cinnamon buns being frosted by the woman at the counter.  I debated getting one as I asked her where some good places to hike were.  She told me about Pinnacle Rock then suggested going to Pipestem Resort State Park.  I ordered a latte and passed on the cinnamon bun (I know! I’m shocked too!) and began to backtrack to the highway.  The latte was nice and warming on such a chilly day and I had planned to stop at a scenic overlook that we had driven past.  Unfortunately it wasn’t so scenic because the snow had began to fall thick and heavy in the swirling hypnotic mess that blows through hill country.

By the time we made it to Pipestem Resort State Park, the snow had stopped and the wind had died down a bit.  I drove through the gate and was surprised to see that there was no one working.  I guess it was an off-season and admission was free.  Wahoo.  I drove all the way though the park until finally stopping near the visitor centre on the way back out.  Seeing as how there was no one around us I had briefly toyed with the idea of letting them run off-leash, especially since there was a trail that headed into the trees near the lot.  But as soon as the dogs got into the forest, both Piper and Jack were on their toes.  They obviously knew that there was something out there and they were determined to find it.  For all his mismatched and unathletic-looking build, Jack is surprisingly good at tracking and has that single-minded puggy stubbornness that will keep him with his nose to the ground as he tries to pull my arm out of the socket.  Piper is also a very good tracker but where Jack is like a fish on the end of the line, she just wants to go.   Leo on the other hand was oblivious.   He just wanted to pee on everything.

I was really glad that I had kept them on leash when not one but two deer went bounding through the forest.  Thankfully it didn’t take long for their attention to be drawn back to the trail we were hiking as it was covered with slippery leaf cover and some steep climbs.  By the time we got back t the car, I think they were ready to take a break.  I never did find out where the name Pipestem Resort came from.

Now when we left the park and were back on our route, I noticed that we were going to drive by Beckley.  I was tempted to stop for a mothman but no.  I just had a coffee-based drink.  I don’t need to stop so soon.  Why would I go back to Beckley?  Hey how the heck did I end up in Backley?  At the Chocolate Moose of all places.  Well since I was there it would be a waste not to support a local business.  I had remembered the owner telling me about the New River Gorge National River when I passed through the last time and I had just finished my mothman (which was as good as I remembered it) when we arrived at one of the trailheads.

I hadn’t done any research (of course), so I just drove around until I started to see signs for trails and randomly picked one.  This time the dogs gave no indication of there being any wildlife nearby which was great because the footing was a bit slick from the recent snow.  The trail is an easy one to follow and I soon realized why they call it Long Point Trail: at a small off-shoot you can look over the gorge and see the bridge that spans it.  A fog had started to roll in and partially obstructed the view, which I think made it look even more dramatic.  And then the snow started to fall again and I decided to go back to the car instead of finishing the trail.  I wasn’t sure if the weather would get better or worse and I didn’t want to risk navigating tricky trails when I’m not familiar with the area.  And we would have to get back on the road unless I wanted to spend another night in a hotel.  Of course, by the time we got back to the car, the snow had stopped and the sun was actually shining.  Oh well.  The dogs jumped into the car and were curled up before we got too far down the road so obviously they weren’t upset that their hike had been cut short.

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Leo stretching his legs.

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Checking out the scents.

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Do we have to pose again?

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Piper surveying her domain.

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Always up for a hike.

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Jack has no problem with heights.

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A first look across the Gorge.

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New River Gorge Bridge.

I was driving along the bridge when I looked to my right and saw the very point that we had been standing on.  I had known that it was high but I had no idea just how high and for some reason that short glimpse of this jutting outcrop of rock that stood in stark contrast to the dark green trees that framed it, well it just got to me.  I would have pulled over if there had been a safe place to do so for a picture.  I can’t quite explain why it had such an impact on me; it just did.

The rest of the drive north was incredibly uneventful.  We stopped at some rest stops, I finished the leftover pizza, and we drove some more.

And then we got to the border.  You know there’s a story with me crossing the border.  First I picked the slowest line.  Of course.  When I pull up to the booth, there’s a woman sitting there and she starts with the “Where were you?”  South Carolina.  “How long were you gone?”  I left on Monday.  “Where did you stay?”  Red Roof Inn.  “Is that a condo?”  I’ll admit that one threw me for a bit of a loop when I replied that it was a hotel…er motel. “Did you meet anyone down there?”  Now this is the second time I’ve heard that question although the stunning guy from the crossing south was a lot more fun to answer.  No I didn’t.  “Do you have any firearms or weapons?”  No I don’t.  “Did the dogs go down with you?”  Yes I answer and offer their paperwork which she takes and shuffles through.  When she hands them back she again asks if I had any firearms and weapons.  I tried not to laugh and I probably sounded like I was choking because all I thought to myself was do you think that asking me the same question twice will trip me up?  Like I’d go yes…Oh wait ya got me.  If it sounds like I’m harping on her I’m not.  I have a lot of respect for the the border personnel and it’s not a job that I’d want to do.

So once that was all squared away, back on the road we went.  I was going to stop at duty free but I was just so tired and it was so close to home that I didn’t want to delay being in my own bed.  I stopped just once to fill up the gas tank and with it being well after rush hour, I made good time across the top of Toronto.

And at 1:41 am, I turned off the car and brought my weary pack inside.  I was so tired that I left most of my things in the car and barely pulled on my pajamas before falling into bed with three dogs and two cats curled up around me.

Finishing Mileage: 3585.7 km

The Season Begins

The weather may not be good for a road trip in Canada, but there is plenty of sun if you drive far enough south.  So with my first week of vacation this year that is exactly what I did.  For some reason, I did not prepare as much as I have in the past.  OK I’ll be honest: I think I was feeling a bit burned out and exhausted from work and just wanted to GO.  So while I packed my tent and sleeping bag, I did not have much in the way of food reserves.  I had also left my inflatable sleeping pad and stuffable pillow in my locker at work soooooooo that put a bit of damper on things.

And even though I went to bed late and completely beat, I woke up around 3:00 am.  I dozed off and on and then finally was tired of not sleeping so climbed out of bed at 4:45 am.  A leisurely breakfast of left over banana fritters (not my best work but it was a new recipe) and we were out the door at 6:00 almost on the dot.  Everything was going well until we hit traffic north of Toronto.   It really says something about infrastructure when you’re crawling along before 7:00 am.

Big shout out to Matthew Wakelee who had posted about Eternal Flame Falls (https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/44878580/posts/1318698544) and with south in our sights, it seemed like a good place to start.  But to start, we had to get there.  For some reason, when I entered Eternal Flame Falls, my phone tried to send me to Europe.  After almost throwing the stupid phone out the window, I did a bit more digging and found that the falls are in Chestnut Ridge Park.  OK so now I have a starting point.

Now anyone who has read my posts knows that I seem to have issues with getting across the border.  Don’t know why I turn into a babbling fool but this time was no exception.  I pull up to the booth and there is this gorgeous man staring back at me.  Imagine a Spanish version of Jason Statham.  On a side note, I wonder if they intentionally put the good looking staff at the border to trip you up.  So anyway, I’m trying not to humiliate myself more than I do on a regular basis as I hand over my passport.  He asks where I’m going and what I’m doing and is it just the four of you?  I almost melted when he made my dogs sound like little people.  Then “are you meeting anyone down there?” The outside voice said “no” but the inside voice added “want to change that?”  Fortunately it stayed the inside voice and soon we were through the border.

Less than 30 minutes later, I pulled into Chestnut Ridge County Park.  I put leashes on everyone then we set out looking for a map.  Hmmmm there was no map and no signs for these falls.  Finally I met a couple out walking their dog and it turns out I was at the wrong end of the park and I had to go to Seefort Road.  So back in the car and we continue on.  The next road we saw didn’t have a sign so I figured this was Seefort Road.  I drove into the park and there were signs for all kinds of things but nothing for a waterfall.  I get the dogs out of the car and head towards trees and finally I found a map.  And Seufert (not Seefort) Road is the next one down.  So back in the car we go.  Finally I see a sign for Eternal Flame Falls and I park the car.  The dogs looked at me with the “Are you sure this time?” look as I opened the door for them.  Can’t blame them for that I suppose.

The warning signs at the trailhead were encouraging (sarcasm).  The trail is an out and back that is only 0.56 miles each way.  I had read reviews about it being a tricky hike and not well marked.  At first it was muddy and rooty, just the kind of trails that we hike at home.  I found that the trail was extremely well marked with little numbered flame placards but they looked as though they were fairly new.  The trail leads down a ravine, then back up, then cuts back and down long the river.  You have to cross the river a few times which would be no big deal in the summer but in the winter, the water had frozen on the rocks leaving a slick sheet of ice on everything.  I’ll admit that I almost went down a few times and trying to navigate with the dogs on their leashes was a bit tricky.

We were picking our way over some fallen trees when we rounded a corner and there it was.  I had seen photos but actually being there left me speechless and standing awestruck.bigfallblurgroup

I stayed for a while taking photos (of course).  I loved the fact that we were the only ones there.  It is such a magical place that I wanted to imagine that we were the only ones that knew about it.  But I’m glad that we left when we did because we passed a woman and her dog who were going to the falls.  I was a little irritated that she didn’t put her dog on a leash meaning I had to pick by her across slick rocks but I was in too good a mood to be bothered much.

After that, I was in need of a cup of coffee so after a quick Yelp consult, we made our way to Bean Coffee House in North East Pennsylvania.  Yes the town is called North East.  I ordered an americano and then decided on a roasted red pepper hummus sandwich with cucumber and black olives.  The sandwich came with kettle chips and a pickle.  I was looking for some place to park and was dismayed to see parking meters everywhere.  A shame because the park would have been a nice to sit.  I had my eyes peeled for a parking lot when out of the corner of my eye I saw “Little Shop of Donuts” as I drove by.  I almost slammed my brakes right there but the car riding my rear bumper would have put an end to the trip fast.  So I drove the block wondering if my eyes had deceived me but no…there it was.  I was so excited I ended up missing the parking spots in the front and drove around the building before I launched myself at the front door.

Here’s the scoop: they have vanilla and chocolate donuts and put toppings on them to order.  I felt a tear form at the corner of my eye as I examined the menu.  A donut shop with a menu.  I decided to get two donuts and both were going to be chocolate: a Peanut Butter Cup and a Happy Camper.  One donut was covered with chocolate and peanut butter and the other got a smear of marshmallow, some chocolate, and graham crackers. Yes I know it’s selfish to get chocolate because the dogs couldn’t have any but I think the unopened pack of treats in the front seat would buy me out of any guilt they may throw at me.donutparking

I was so fixated on donuts, that I didn’t think to eat my lunch there and continued on down the road.  Or maybe I didn’t want them to watch me as I laughed maniacally while I shoved chocolate and peanut butter and marshmallow into my mouth.  After a short drive to the outskirts of town, I found an empty church lot and parked there to have my food.  The sandwich was kind of disappointing.  I really wanted to like it but the bread had that almost-toasted or slightly-stale feel to it and the toppings were pretty much piled in the centre of the bread so the edges of the sandwich were just bread.  The best part about it was the pickle.  The americano was excellent however.  I had the Happy Camper donut first.  The donut was good: light and cakey and not overwhelmed by the toppings.  I was going to save the other one for later in the day but later turned out to be less than an hour.  So it wouldn’t get stale…yeah that’s it.

Because I was limited for time, I spent longer on the interstate than I normally like to which meant that we visited a few rest stops.  For the record, Montana still has the best rest stop pet areas.  By far.  We stopped at one in West Virginia that was so thick with poop that the dogs didn’t even want to walk there.  Although I did notice that the silhouette they use for dogs is a boxer.  Strike a pose Piper.

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Not quite the same stance on the sign.

I booked a room at the Travelodge in Beckley, West Virginia.  I’ll admit that the room was cleaner than I had expected it.  Not a big fan of carpet but it’ll do.  My room was on the ground floor at the end of a hallway with a door to the lot.  The door opened to a rather secluded and concealed area that was surrounded by trees and next to a cemetery.  All of that was no big deal but the fact that the door didn’t lock was a bit concerning to me.

After a quick check on Yelp, I noticed there was a Mexican restaurant close by; just a few blocks away and on the other side of the street.  Rather than wait for the lights to cross the street, I stayed on the hotel side on what appeared to be a wide grassy strip in lieu of a sidewalk.  Well soon the grassy strip started to slope.  Next thing I know, we’re picking our way across a grade of more than 45 degrees.  So I guess I can turn a walk around the block into a hike.

By the time I walked into Campestre, I was hungry.  The kind of hungry where you don’t want to talk, you just want someone to put food in front of you.  After some quick questions, I ordered the Tapatio.  I had to wait another ten minutes so I took the dogs and we continued walking.  And then I saw something.  A sign emerging from the pools of light cast by the streetlights and passing headlights and the glow of nearby stores:  Chocolate Moose Coffee.  I was tempted.  Really tempted but decided that would be a visit best saved for the morning.

We went and picked up my food and decided that we had had enough hiking for one day so we stayed on the sidewalk and crossed at the lights at the hotel.  I sat on the bed and after toasting the days safe travels with the Road Trip bottle (Jack Daniels Honey), I opened the container to reveal chicken and ribeye steak and mushrooms and cheese and beans with flour tortillas and salsa and a sour cream with some kind of spice and fresh tortilla chips.  It was so good I barely stopped to breathe.  I would definitely go back there again.  For some reason I found the sour cream to be intriguing; perhaps because I could not quite identify the flavour.

Sleepy and satisfied, I squeezed myself between the dogs and drifted off to sleep.

Maybe Tomorrow…Until Tomorrow

You couldn’t have grown up in Canada without having heard of “The Littlest Hobo”, a show that has been on the air since October 1979.  I don’t remember it for the somewhat nebulous plot of an extremely intelligent dog that wanders from town to town to help those in need;  I remember the theme song.  I can’t tell you how many times I catch myself singing it, especially when I’m itching to get on the road.  Right now I can’t get it out of my head.

There’s a voice that keeps on calling me
Down the road, that’s where I’ll always be.
Every stop I make, I make a new friend,
Can’t stay for long, just turn around and I’m gone again

Maybe tomorrow, I’ll want to settle down,
Until tomorrow, I’ll just keep moving on.

Down this road that never seems to end,
Where new adventure lies just around the bend.
So if you want to join me for a while,
Just grab your hat, we’ll travel light, that’s hobo style.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll want to settle down,
Until tomorrow, the whole world is my home.

So if you want to join me for a while,
Just grab your hat, we’ll travel light, that’s hobo style

Maybe tomorrow, I’ll want to settle down,
Until tomorrow, the whole world is my home.

There’s a world that’s waiting to unfold,
A brand new tale no-one has ever told.
We’ve journeyed far but you know it wont be long;
We’re almost there, we’ve paid our fare with a hobo song.

Maybe tomorrow, I’ll find what I call home,
Until tomorrow, you know I’m free to roam.

So if you want to join me for a while,
Just grab your hat, we’ll travel light, that’s hobo style.

Maybe tomorrow, I’ll want to settle down,
Until tomorrow, I’ll just keep moving on.

Until tomorrow, the whole world is my home.

  • Terry Bush (Maybe Tomorrow)
  • Lyrics by John Crossen

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.

Happy People Packing

And now for gear for the human part of the equation.  There are a ton of things that you can bring, but this is the stuff that I bring for road trips.  While it is tempting to pack your entire house in your car, you’ll want to focus on the things you’re most likely to use.

Clothes:

The name of the game is layers.  Even if the weather is fairly consistent, there will still be cold days and warm days or you may end up at the top of a mountain or driving into a storm.  Besides the standard underwear and socks, here are some of my “must have items”:

  • Sports bras – so there’s no need to worry about straps or underwires and they can pass as a swimming top if the need arises.
  • Pants – I love convertible cargo pants because they go from pants to shorts with a simple zipper and the side pockets are roomy enough that I can carry all kinds of stuff.  Most of the pockets close with velcro or zippers for added security.  I also bring capris with cargo pockets (sensing a theme here?).  They can be rolled up or left down depending on the temperature or the terrain if we’re hiking.
  • Shirts – a selection of T-shirts and tank tops.  I’m not a big fan of long-sleeved shirts and usually end up with the sleeves pushed up so I don’t bother bringing any.
  • Jackets – I have a waterproof shell with a hood, a long-sleeved merino wool zip-up (soooo warm), and a zip-up hoody.  If it were to get really cold, I can put the merino wool zip-up on, then the hoody, and lastly my shell.  That configuration is almost as warm as a winter coat and gives me tons of options depending on the weather.  I don’t pack these and leave them draped over the front passenger seat so I have easy access and can leave them on top of anything in the front that I want to leave covered.
  • Hat – I rarely leave my house without a cap on.  It’s great for shading my eyes from the sun and helping to keep rain out of my face.
  • Sleeping clothes – If there’s the chance that we’ll be camping, I’ll bring warm clothes to sleep in.  If I get overheated, I can always kick out of the sleeping bag but few things are as uncomfortable as being cold in a tent.
  • Bathing suit – optional unless you plan on swimming in public.  In more secluded areas, just undies are often sufficient for a quick cool down.  Then you can toss them in the trunk to dry if need be.
  • Shoes/sandals: I wear my shoes for the most part but keep sandals handy, especially for wet weather.  And if you’re travelling in the winter, you’ll want at least one pair of boots, possibly a second depending on what you’re doing.

Documents:

You aren’t going to get far without them.  Obviously a driver’s license is a must and a passport or enhanced driver’s license if you’re crossing the border.  If you have traveler’s insurance make sure you bring any paperwork for that.  And since people like to get paid, credit and debit cards are a must.  It’s good to have cash as well but I like having that plastic in case of emergencies and it reduces the amount of cash I have to carry.

Make sure you’ve got copies of every document you have and the numbers to call if any of them get lost or are stolen.  Yes if you call Visa they will have your account number, but if you want to report your stuff lost to the local police, having the information handy means that it gets input into their system that much faster.  Which means that if someone tries to use your card, whether they stole it or found it, it can act as an additional safeguard to you losing your money and increases the chances of the person being caught.

Another document that you may want to consider drawing up is one that is totally up to you.  If you or members of your travelling party have any kind of medical issues, are on prescriptions, or even have certain fears or phobias, it may be handy to write all those up for each person to carry in their own pocket.  It doesn’t have to be in depth but in a worst case scenario where everyone is incapacitated, it can help to have that information available for first responders and later for the hospital.  And if you have a Medic-Alert bracelet or necklace, I’m assuming you would be wearing it.

Why would I suggest making note of fears or phobias?  Because first responders are typically very good at dealing with people in crisis and if they know that there’s something else going on besides just dealing with the stress of a crash, they will often take steps to help minimize the trauma as long as it doesn’t interfere with life-saving measures.

Or if for whatever reason a person is non-verbal or deaf, the first responders can stop shouting at them and try to find other means of communication.  Think about what you would want people to know if they had to deal with all of your travelling companions or what you would want them to know if you were unable to communicate.

It’s also a good idea to carry next of kin or emergency contact information and list someone that is not travelling with you.  I know it’s not the sort of thing that people want to think about but there are so many crashes every single day and while most of them are minor, there’s always that chance that one won’t be.  I wear a bracelet from a company called Road ID that has my name and my emergency contact infromation.  I bought it for running since I’m often gone for long periods and don’t want to bring my wallet but I also wear it for road trips.  A “just in case” step for me.

Medications:

If you have prescriptions, make sure you bring them in the original packaging.  That way there is no doubt about what meds you’re bringing with you.  Or if there’s a medical emergency, first responders will know exactly what you are taking and the correct dosage.

Food:

Snacks are definitely a necessity.  They can help keep you from gorging on the aisles of stuff at the many gas stations and are a great way to help keep you alert and your mind occupied.  It doesn’t have to be anything complicated: some trail mix or veggies will do the trick.  Or if you’re lucky enough to pass by some farmer’s stands, well does it get any better than that?

I usually end up packing some bins with an assortment of foods that I hardly end up touching because I usually find food to eat on the road.  But when I do find myself far from restaurants, I’m grateful for the food I brought.  Here are some of the things I make sure I have:

  • instant pancake mix
  • instant rice
  • ramen noodles
  • dried fruits and berries
  • nuts
  • dehydrated chicken
  • beef jerky
  • dried mushrooms
  • instant noodle packages
  • potato flakes
  • skim milk powder
  • pouches of instant oatmeal
  • peanut butter
  • coconut oil
  • tea bags and instant coffee
  • salt/pepper/spices (cayenne pepper, cinnamon, chili powder, garlic powder)

It may sound like a lot, but what I do is remove most of it from the packaging and put everything into zip top bags.  Then I write out preparation instructions onto a piece of tape and put that on the side of the bag.  Most of the food can be prepared just by adding water and a little milk powder if I want to enrich the flavour.  These come in handy whether I’m eating out of my car, a tent, or a hotel room (yes I’ll get into that later).

I just received a collapsible coffee filter cone so I’ll be able to make coffee on the road next year.  I’m so excited to try it out.

Travel mug/water bottle:

Obviously it helps to reduce waste but having an insulated travel mug will keep your steaming cup of morning joe or tea hot way down the road and keep you steadily caffeinated.  It acts as my primary drinking vessel although I do sometimes bring a steel mug as well.  I have two stainless steel water bottles that I fill every chance I get.  Partly for me but it also acts as emergency back-up water for the dogs if they’re particularly thirsty.

Road Trip 2015-spring edition 466

The only souvenirs I bought for myself from Shenandoah. Great for road hydration.

Packs:

I have my main backpack that I use to carry my stuff.  It’s a 30 L pack so there’s tons of space and it even has a side pouch where I carry the Road Trip Bottle.  That does seem to get me a few stares I think.

I also have a smaller pack that I call my “adventure bag” and I break it out whenever the dogs and I go places.  Until recently it was a shoulder bag from Mountain Equipment Co-op which was really handy because it had a clip so I could take it off and put it on with ease.  That bag had to be re-purposed so now I use a small backpack.  It just has to be big enough to carry a water bottle, at least one collapsible bowl, some snacks, and whatever small items I want to carry.   It’s also handy for bringing the dog stuff to a hotel room.  I’m all about as few trips as possible.

180

My weight stack one night in Spokane, Washington. I made it as heavy I could with full water bottles.

Bug Spray/sunblock:

I pretty much keep that handy all summer long and keep it in a ziptop bag to reduce the chances of a leak or puncture.  If you’re travelling in the winter, make sure you keep your sunblock in the passenger compartment to keep it from freezing.

Spare sunglasses:

Don’t leave home without them.

Other things:

Now I’m assuming your phone is basically permanently attached to you so check your data plan.  Will you need to get an additional plan if you’re heading across the border?  Are your talk minutes nationwide?  Don’t forget to check the roaming feature in your settings.  What I usually do is wait until I have my route started on the map and then switch it to airplane mode.  I still have my route on the map but will be in a nice little cocoon from the rest of the world.

There are three apps that I use a lot: Expedia, Yelp, and Gas Buddy.  The few times that I have had to use Expedia customer service, they have been just ridiculously helpful even if they could’t help me (if that makes any sense).  Yelp is good for finding places to eat.  And for a road traveller, Gas Buddy is fantastic for finding cheap gas.

I’m going to be looking for a mapping app and in particular one that will show me where I’ve been but that doesn’t need to be constantly connected to a network.  If anyone knows something like that, I’d love to check it out.

Do you know if there are any additional fees for using your debit or credit cards if you travel to a different country?  More than just the exchange rate of course.

Are you bringing a camera and extra batteries and memory card?  What about a laptop?  Do you have the cords and cables and chargers for all of your electronics?  Do you have an adaptor to plug things into your car or will you charge elsewhere?

So that’s it for people gear.  I decided to write a separate post for camping stuff, which will be the next post.

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:

firstaid

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.


meds

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!!