Published: July 25th 2009July 25th 2009 Saturday, July 25th, 2009: Getting physically (and mentally) ready to leave!
Trip orgin self-portrait
The physical representation of my mental state!
Now that the 1.5 hours “statement of purpose” is finally done, I’m prepared to write a bit about the trip and the packing proceedures.
The trip starts today…I’m sitting in my dining room, in a condo in Bronzeville, Chicago, Il., staring at a large pile of possible materials to take on the 5 week-long driving trip, traveling from Chicago, Illinois to Salt Lake City, Utah.
and back again. My “hetrosexual life partner” (the fancy word for “long-term” girlfriend) has never been to Utah, so she had the idea to meet me in Salt Lake City for a week’s worth of camping and hiking in the Uinta National Wilderness Area, located approx. 50 miles east of Salt Lake City. My plan is to leave today, Saturday, July 25, 2009, and meander my way west in my pick-up truck, meeting Jennifer on August 14th at the airport in Salt Lake City, then meander my way back to Chicago.
As always, preparing for a trip, including the weeks leading up to it, tend to be stressful. Since I’m in a pick-up truck with a camper top shell,
I've got to see it to organize it.
luckily, I have room to pack a lot of things. The stress comes from those oh-so-tough questions of what to take (and what to leave). I’m a visual learner, often producing stacks of material/items around the house (and my desk at work, etc.). For the past week, I’ve laid out items that may, or may not make the cut. I’m trying out a new “bin system,” having bought a variety of plastic bins from Wal-Mart (I know, I know…). This system may allow me to easily organize and move the materials around the back of the truck (It always seems like the materials/objects needed are at the far end of access, meaning all other bins/materials must be moved to get the item needed
). The most bulky item will be my Cannondale bike, a mountain bike purchased from the Chicago Police Auction (they sell 100 bikes each month 10 times a year). Usually, the bike lies flat and camping material is carelessly tossed on top, but I think that if I remove the front wheel, the bike will store vertically and will allow enough room for the bins to support it.
Speaking of the bike and truck, I got
Various books from the library
Great Resource: This Land: A Guide to Western National Forests by Robert Mohlenbrock
both worked on this week (this, of course, took 3-4 days instead of one). The truck is tuned up, oxygen sensors replaced (extinguishing the much-dreaded “check engine” light), and the bike had a back ‘gear wheel’ replaced. Total cost: $1000! I do go to the dealer for the truck, as a musician friend is the Service Manager there, and generally gives me a discount. The truck, although used for all of my own traveling trips for musical purposes and camping trips, has always performed well, and only has 104,000 miles on it, even though it’s 12 years old. Although the most “bootleg” vehicle in my condo’s parking lot, it’s by default the “least likely vehicle to be stolen” in the mean streets of the city I’ve lived in for 15 years—Chicago. Salt Lake City is 1,600 miles from Chicago, so I’ll be putting at least 4000 miles on it over the next month.
Both Jennifer and I love to go camping (which is tough sometimes from Chicago, as “nice areas” within 3-5 hours, of Chicago, i.e. Wisconsin and Michigan, are often booked months in advance), so over the years we’ve collected a variety of knickknacks to make “car
Don't have a nickname, positve or negative, for it yet.
camping” more enjoyable. Certainly, the below list of materials will make the trek:
3-person Mountain Hardware tent (Ed Viesturs’ company—at least at one point)
Coleman metal stove
Backpacking stove and gas for both
5-gallon “portable shower,” which provides for quick rinsings/washings around camp)
15 books (including travel writings, guide books, and Kerouac’s On the Road)
Vegetarian food (25 years and counting!)
Dog food, tie-ups, leash, bags for waste, etc.
Wicking shirts, winter clothes, rain jacket, water shoes, hiking boots
Environmentally-friendly bug spray, soap, sunscreen, etc.
Sleeping pads (I do find that it getters harder and harder to be comfortable on the ground!)
Computer (laptop for—hopefully—internet access)
Mp3 player and cassettes (car has a—get this—tape player!)
Cell phone and charger
Stamps for postcards (currently .28 cents)
Backpack (outer framed-pack is large—I really should’ve gotten a medium frame)
Pots (2-3), metal plates, “big-ass” coffee travel mug, Nalgene water bottle
Sleeping bag (rated to 40 degrees)
Jennifer’s stuff (so she doesn’t have to take it on plane)
Guitar (will be used?)
Trader Joes = good source for cheap food.
Manual can opener
2 5-gallon water jugs
Rope, plastic bags (invaluable for recycling, deflecting water, etc.), small trowel,
Reading glasses (eyes failed, right on cue, at age 41!)
Minimal wallet (leave library card, excess keys, etc. behind)
Really small cooler
Composition book, pastels, etc. (for artistic attempts)
2 pairs sunglasses, straps to secure them around neck
Other miscellaneous items Often to me, the great challenge to camping/travel is the “mental component”
; so often, the “physical component,” i.e. hiking, driving long distances, etc. turns out to be the easy part. Dealing with mental issues: organization, covering all the bases, etc, restlessness/timing are the bigger challenges. Just sitting around producing this blog (and having not yet packed, even though it’s my plan to leave today) is tough to do. Even though I have my final western destination, I only know the general route that I will take—interstate 90. I have no specific itinerary, which also adds to the general anxiety of being unprepared/too unstructured. My driving travels will take me from Chicago, north by Madison, Wisconsin to La Crosse, west through Minnesota’s southern region, through southern South Dakota, into/around Yellowstone (I have 2 hippie friends currently staying in a cabin there, as they have for two weeks during the past 25 years!), and down/around Glacier/Grand Tetons National Parks.
My goal is to investigate as many National Forests as possible, where camping is free and the land is open to "unmonitored" public exploration. There will also be fewer people, and I’m interesting in capturing what Warren Zevon calls “splendid isolation.” Traveling with a dog does have great advantages (companionship, mammal to listen to me ramble on, photograph subject, etc.), but there are also disadvantages, such as environmental impact/wildlife disruption, not being able to take her on State/National Park trails (and preventing me from going on long hikes as well, as, unless the weather is extremely cooperative—i.e. cool and rainy—I will not leave her in the hot vehicle), etc.
I will probably, especially once I gain some western distance, find logging roads/back roads into the National Forests, find a suitable place to park, then pack and hike 2-3 miles to a secluded, scenic spot, then camp for 2-3 days before packing up and moving on. After all, I have almost 3 weeks to make the trip to Salt Lake. Having a nice base camp will allow me to enjoy/hike areas during the day. I would love to be able to do some canoeing, which always allows me to feel that I’m really doing something adventurous. We (Sophie and I) plan to camp as much as possible. The (now needed) access to electricity may be an issue, as I’ll need to recharge the laptop’s and Mp3 player’s batteries.
Since it’s already approaching 1 o’clock p.m., and I’ve been writing on this blog for 2.5 hours, it’s probably time to finalize packing and move out (even though, once again, I am developing my itinerary as I go along).
Thanks for reading,
Dave and Sophie