The Seven P’s

My time spent back in Texas was dominated by trying to replace my electronic arsenal, piece by piece. This was even more frustrating considering that when it comes to electronics, the old adage “They just don’t make ‘em like they used to” seems to ring true in every case. The new laptop has a less optimal screen and cheaper plastic. The new iphones are gigantic, weighting down my pants pocket. And the ipod, once a phenomenal music storage workhorse designed to fit in the tiniest of places now exists primarily as a full phone-sized gaming device. One by one, I tried to replace my tried and true tools, only to learn “new and improved” is in the eyes of the beholder. Why can’t they leave well enough alone? Well, one reason is because we live in a disposable culture brainwashed by marketing.

But slowly but surely, as I watched daily for the big brown truck coming down the driveway, I got assimilated back into a life driven by technology. As I replaced my items, I did so with the plan for more travel in mind. A smaller, lighter weight, less expensive laptop. An unlocked iphone that is GSM ready. And I had to take to ebay for a used model of the smaller ipod.

I also took this opportunity to revamp my current travel kit. My old duffle bag on wheels was starting to split. My oversized laptop bag was heavy and bulky. And I needed some way to keep my valuables at hand without having to wear my backpack backwards.

I am returning to my backpacking roots. While the current trend seems to be leaning more toward hard sided, four wheeled, upright rolling luggage (i.e. the “Away” brand,) for me, a backpack is more practical. I tend to stay in less expensive guest houses or pensions without an elevator. I use public transportation almost exclusively, which typically involves multiple levels of stairs. And I tend to go places with less than ideal sidewalks. But also, since I travel solo, I feel more secure with my bags as close as possible. I have only two hands, so the back and shoulders need to help with the load. Besides, it’s not really any different than going to the Main Street Gym and leg pressing a hundred lbs. 😉

My chosen pack, an Osprey Fairview 40, as recommended by my friend Maureen. She even altered me of the REI sale! She also helped me find my iphone replacement. Maureen is my personal shopper. 😉

I also replaced the old bulky, three level backpack bag with a more streamlined, slimmer model with a built-in padded laptop sleeve. And added a cross-body bag just big enough to hold my walk-about essentials, money, keys, camera, phone, and a small bottle of water. It goes across the shoulder, keeping valuables in front. Not only is this version more secure, but many museums now require the bag to be worn in front, so this is more comfortable.

Crossbody bag keeps items like money, Metro ticket, and camera close at hand.

I am also going 100% packing cubes this trip. To show that bad situations can have a positive outcome, last fall during my “No Zen in Sedona” stay, I met youtubers Tim and Fin while boondocked in the cul de sac. They fund their travels through their TRIPPED Amazon store. They gifted me a set of compression cubes; two large, two small, a shoe bag, and a laundry bag. I tried a hybrid solution when I went to Ecuador, and it seemed to work well, so this next trip, I’m going all cubed. I like having everything compartmentalized and color coordinated so I know which cube to reach for when I need a certain item. They also double as good pillows for additional support when those in the guesthouse or hostel are lacking. I managed to compress six short sleeved shirts, two long sleeved shirts, two pair of pants, two pair of shorts, nine pairs of underwear, four pairs of socks, a swimsuit, sarong, a pair of Chacos, flipflops, two bandanas, a hat, and toiletries into a 40cu carry-on. Not bad.

My TRIPPED packing compression cubes. What a nice gift! Thanks, Tim and Allison!

And they all fit!

While I said I was not going to keep talking about the theft that happened to me in Quito, fact is, there is rarely a day that some aspect of that traumatic event doesn’t cross my mind. So my plan in replacing my gear and planning my next trip has been to do everything I can think of to be prepared….then forget about it. The hope is that securing my items and being more cautious will become a habit of “good hygiene,” rather than fear-based thinking. I will follow what’s known in the military as “The Seven P’s: Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.”

Here is the laptop cable I purchased. I like this one because it doesn’t “dead end” into the laptop. The butterfly clasp in the upper right corner inserts into the laptop Kensington lock slot. Then, you can use the cable as a loop to secure other items as well. (Orange combination lock is for backpack. It only has to be as strong as the zipper. Again, a deterrent, not Fort Knox.)

Here are my “Seven P’s of Travel Planning”

1.) Placement — Place “emergency cash” in several diversified locations. A Ziploc baggie ducttaped beneath the suitcase lining is one I have used in the past. Or beneath the inner soles of my shoes. Or inside a pair of socks. The key is not to have too much in one location. Spread it around!
2.) Photocopy, Produce PDF, and Print – Photocopy your passport and credit cards, front and back. It’s not enough to keep on your hard drive, as the laptop can be the victim. Scan and leave a copy with loved ones. (Also helpful to have the non-toll free number listed on the back of credit cards to phone collect in case of loss or theft.) Keep a printed copy of your passport as ID inside your luggage.
3.) Phone – Call your bank and your credit card companies to place a “Travel Alert” on your ATM card and accounts with destination country and dates of travel.
4.) Padlock – Add one or two padlocks to your gear bag. Yes, I know it would take mere seconds to cut through these small locks. Best one can hope for is to slow them down. Most criminals are opportunistic, so the idea here is to make your own valuables less of an opportunity than the next target.
5.) Password Protect – Place passcode and add tracking tools to cell phones. Yes, I know these can be hacked, but again, the idea is to slow them down until you can change the passwords on your accounts.
6.) Purge vs Preserve – Remove all emails from your inbox that could potentially lead to secure information, or location of accounts, stored passwords, etc. Make sure you back up all documents, music, photos, etc. onto an external hard drive before you leave. (While I thought I had done a full back up of files, I lost a lot of documents I had saved to the desktop.)
7.) And my final “P” is for Portugal! Next stop, Lisbon!

Here’s my pack load. Carry-on. 😉

It’s a Bloody Mary Morning in the DFW Airport.

Blue Interlude

Back to Texas after four months away, and the Winnie was like I never left it. Central Texas had an unusually cold winter with single digit temps, so it’s always a relief to hear the water pump roar to life while filling the lines, then stop once it’s done its job, not to be heard from until summoned for duty once again.

Those who know me know that I am not a big fan of my native state. I always felt like I was the oddball in one of those “Which one is not like the others” games. It took leaving Continue reading

Time to Think

By the time I reach Virgin, Utah from Bryce National Park, it’s late afternoon with only an hour left before nightfall. I don’t typically like to arrive so late, especially when I don’t have a “Plan B” in mind. But I am headed to my favorite boondocking spot which I have had all to myself the past three out of four Novembers (I didn’t go last year, as I was back east.) I am hopeful that it will be no different this year, particularly since I am a few days later into the month than I have been in previous years. It’s a lovely spot with Continue reading

Bryce Canyon: Lighting the Candles at Both Ends

My stay in Kodachrome Basin State Park has me located just 30 miles outside of Bryce Canyon. I’d like to make a stop, but I have a deadline to meet. I am trying to make it to the Plein Air Invitational event scheduled in Zion National Park in time to attend the demo by my favorite artist. If I want to visit Bryce Canyon National Park, I’ve only got one night to do it. Continue reading

Kodachrome: “Where All the World’s a Sunny Day”

Traveling south along the scenic Hwy 12, my next stop is Kodachrome Basin State Park. It’s another one of those places that I feel every blogging RVer has visited but me. I don’t typically go out of my way to visit state parks, but with a name like “Kodachrome,” how could I resist those “nice bright colors?” Continue reading

The Canyons of Escalante

I’ve heard many fellow RVers sing the praises of Escalante before….“boondocking near Escalante, hiking in Escalante, conferring with the Interagency Visitor Center in Escalante.” But I was never sure exactly where in Escalante all this recreating was taking place. Was it the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and if so, where? At over a million acres, that’s a huge monument to attempt to explore.  But once Continue reading

Just Gut Up and Drive!

This was my fourth autumn to meander down through southern Utah in the Winnie. With each trip, I would stare longingly at the map, wishing I had the nerve to drive Utah’s National Scenic By-way, Hwy 12. Considered one of our nation’s most scenic by-ways, Hwy 12 has achieved the status of being named an “All American Road,” a distinction reserved for roads having unique attributes to stand alone as tourist destinations.

This 124 mile stretch of highway begins near Torrey just outside of Capitol Reef, and Continue reading

Leave While You’re a Little in Love…

I have this behavioral quirk (okay, one of many) that I have come to recognize about myself.  Whenever I arrive at a destination, particularly one that is short on amenities or creature comforts, (in this case, contact to the outside world) I am overcome with the urge to bolt.  Whether it be a beach hut in Bali or a shipboard cabin in Seward, I spend the entire first day figuring out an escape route, and the last day crying because I have to leave.  It took me some time to recognize this pattern and learn to just settle down and give it a day or two before I blow up my original plan.  In keeping with my usual M.O., such was the case with Capitol Reef. Continue reading

I May Have a New Favorite…

No offense to Lower Spring Canyon, but I may have a new favorite hike in Capitol Reef, the Navajo Knobs trail. The author of my favorite Utah hikes reference book, Hiking from Here to Wow, describes most of canyon country as “down and in,” whereas Navajo Knobs is “up and out.” The author states the most desirable hike in the park is a tossup between Spring Canyon and Navajo Knobs, depending on whether you want “depth versus altitude.”

Navajo Knobs is a long hike at 9.5 miles round trip with a 2,500 ft elevation gain. But I Continue reading

The Golden Path to the Golden Throne

I carefully timed my visit to Capitol Reef to hit the cottonwood season. Sure, there is the perfect, crisp cool fall days. And the promise of lighter traffic once school is back in session. But the main reason I was really longing to return was to try to ride the golden wave of autumn. There is something about the brilliance of those giant cottonwood trees that just mesmerizes me. And if my timing is right, I can ride that golden wave all the way down to Zion. Continue reading