Updated: Feb 18
Springtime has again arrived 6 weeks early here in the North Country, as it is wont to do in our new and unimproved climate. And in the words of Lord Tennyson: in the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. Simultaneously, an old guy's fancy ploddingly turns to upcoming golf tournaments, the NHL playoffs, and travel. Lord Tennyson did not write that second part, but tis true nonetheless.
In other words, it's time to ramble.
As we prepare for Grand Tour III (we use Roman numerals, like the Super Bowl, to lend it gravitas) I thought I would share a little bit about this part of the experience (the preparation part) in contrast to the dispatches from the journey itself. Making ready for the road is much more than just loading our camping gear back into Stanley and Buck.
The first thing we have to do is decide if we’re going at all. This unfolds over morning coffee conversations usually. We agonize about leaving wee Sophie, the resident Siamese, who is usually sitting on our laps during these conversations (as she is as I write these words) as a means of trying to influence the decision in her favor. We talk about missing Zach, who lives in town. And we weigh the glorious summertime pleasures of Vermont and Lake Champlain that we will have FOMO over (pray for rain).
These debates are complemented by a parallel set of conversations about where to go. Sometimes the desire to experience a new place can tip the scales toward a decision. So, after innumerable cups of coffee debating this plan and that plan and no plan, an agreement is finally forged. Then, a few days later, we change it.
This year, I had a detailed, day-by-day itinerary from Key West to Alaska built into my planning spreadsheet. Then we changed our minds. Following that, we changed them again.
Ultimately, we rejected trip Preparations A – G and are now sitting comfortably on Preparation H. And it feels good to have a plan. On the whole.
Meanwhile, Chief Packing & Supply Officer (CPSO) Lori has a whole different set of responsibilities from mine. Our spare bedroom begins filling up right away (months before departure) with the flotsam and jetsam of the continental wanderer: piles of clothing (not all going, this is a multi-step, iterative staging process she employs), medical supplies, glasses, sunglasses, hats, books, knickknacks, games, and stuff I can’t honestly identify but that probably have something to do with being a woman. And there are shoes. Lots and lots of shoes.
The Princess and the Pea
All this provisioning involves a fair bit of shopping. We have to replace some worn out items or acquire new must-have items (I am eyeing a bumper-mount laser beam to alert drivers that they have offended me, rather than troubling to tap on the horn). Footwear appears to be the most elusive category for Lori. She seems to be perpetually looking for a mythical shoe classification that I’m not sure even exists, but which she very much insists does exist (she gives me this disgusted look when I question her about it that seems to say “everyone knows this.”) Only, she can’t find them. Like anywhere. And believe me, she has looked everywhere, which I think at least bolsters my argument somewhat?
This cagey category, as she describes it, is: not hiking, not walking, not running, not light hiking, not levitating: but a magical blend of all of those rolled into one shoe. The official name for this category is also unknown to her, so that makes it difficult to ask for it in stores. So determined she is to locate a pair that she has even resorted to online shopping (usually more my domain). The other day I came downstairs to find a delivery outside with four, yes four, pairs of shoes in it. And all four went right back whence they came, apparently not meeting the exacting specs of this category, that is not a category.
The search continues. Stay tuned.
If it sounds as though I am teasing the CPSO, well I am a bit, but trust me that I respect her even more. Because while I, generally, know where we are and where we are going, I haven't the faintest idea where anything is. Every tissue box, vitamin bottle, or spare set of readers would require a stem-to-stern search of both trailer and truck. The CPSO always knows. It's a magical power.
She also buys a lot of shorts for me. I don’t really know why because the shorts she brings home for me seem a lot like the shorts I already have in my 10-high short stack. She says that I don’t have any good shorts. I worry this says more about the short wearer than the shorts themselves, but I keep this thought to myself.
My pre-trip focus is naturally on far more mission critical items such as trailer tire wear, windshield wiper fluid top offs, and Stanley’s bar. On the past two tours, the bar, if so lofty a title even applies here, has been a wooden box with bottles in it that is forever underfoot or rattling around in the truck. Certainly not a bar worthy of an internationally known travel blogger (I have 3 Canadian subscribers) and general man’s man. Imagine my embarrassment when my fellow campers drop by the trailer for Manhattans! Mortifying.
So, while Lori cruises the web for obscure footwear, I am working my tail off texting my neighbor Jamie, who doubles as Stanley’s master craftsman, about sorting this out for me. Jamie is now on the job. He is replacing the magazine rack – remember magazines?, that weren’t on your phone? I almost want to keep it as a quaint reminder of a more innocent time, almost – with a 4-bottle, 2-martini glass, 1-cocktail shaker bar; making Stanley into a Bar Car for you train buffs out there. We’re still in concept mode, but we will do a full Instagram portfolio of the finished product during the black-tie unveiling ceremony.
StarNet – To go where no trillionaire has gone before
Credit Big Tech for very quickly making something really interesting and hopefully beneficial to mankind into something that you can’t live without, even if you want to. Seriously, you can’t go analog out there anymore, it's not allowed, even if you are living off the grid in an RV. You can’t work, pay your bills, make a camping reservation or shop for shoes. I can still read a map, but I mean, what’s the point?, no one is even impressed anymore.
In the past, we cobbled our comms together with disparate cell towers and highly inconvenient WIFI spots (imagine 30 or so campers all huddled next to the entrance of a tiny ranger station in a digital cage match over whatever scraps of bandwidth we can wrangle out of the ether). Well, no more. As Chief Technology Officer, I am authorizing ludicrous speed.
Thanks to social media pariah and Dr. Evil impersonator Elon Musk (which is also the name of his Scent for Men that I use) we are getting Starlink. I’ll spare you the technical details, but it’s a bunch of low earth orbit "lasers," that look like little space Teslas, each containing an entire copy of the Internet, the Encyclopedia Britannica, and Twitter on their hard drives. That might not be precisely right, but the tech is even more complex than NFL's "what is a catch" rule. We were actually camping in Utah two years ago when Elon did a big satellite launch out of Las Vegas. I truly thought that we were being invaded by space zombies until my brother found the real reason (on the internet) that there were brightly lit space craft marching across the night sky, from horizon to horizon, in a perfectly synchronized conga line, like a Rihanna half time show. Freaked us out, I'll tell you, that half time show.
Now, for the low low price of $650, and $135/month, plus a $1000 solar-powered battery pack, and a bunch of expensive accessories I'll want, it’s possible, in the right latitudes, when there is no tree cover, to talk to the Interweb. Maybe. I will believe it when I connect to it. But I feel like I’m a part of the space age now. Maybe we’ll even land on the moon someday. Who knows?
Regardless, it will give me lots to drone on about with my campground buddies over our Manhattans.
Next Month: Florida – Where the going gets weird and the weird get going
Anyone out there getting ready to ramble?
Write to us here at Ramble On and let us know where your road is taking you.