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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Remembering Not to Forget


After 25 years, I'd like to think we've got this packing thing down. The camper has all the basics ready to go at a moment's notice: stove, dishes, canned food, tools. We throw in sleeping bags, clothes, drinks and the perishable food items and we're ready to go. Seems easy, right?

On a memorable trip to Tahoe, I got up the first morning to discover I had forgotten to pack underwear. I had enough socks to cover twice the number of days we planned to be out, but no undies. Facing the prospect of wearing the same pair for 6 days straight, I made Mark drive back to Truckee with me to the outlet mall. I endured "camping panty" jokes for years after that one.

After 10 hours of driving, just as we cruised into Death Valley for a week long camping trip, I asked Mark where he put our black bag. "I don't know, you were the one to pack it." "But I thought you grabbed it." The "black bag" is our catch all bag--the one that has toothpaste & toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, towels, sunscreen, and most importantly, my contact lens case and solution. I could have worn my glasses for the rest of the trip but they were...let's see... oh yeah, in the black bag. It was 5:00 pm at this point, and the only store within 50 miles closed at 6 o'clock. We raced to the gift shop just before closing and searched the shelves for any useful items. They had all the normal stuff: soap, shampoo, deodorant, even contact lens solution (all in travel size of course), but no contact cases. I settled for two shot glasses; one with a colorful map of California on the side, and the other with an old black and white photo of a dog and cowboy with the inscription "Designated Driver." They held my contacts that night, covered with aluminum foil to keep the dry desert air from evaporating the saline solution. I used the California one for the left lens, of course.

An unusually hot Labor Day weekend in the redwoods turned into a sweltering nightmare when, inexplicably, we only brought hiking boots and long pants. We tried cooling our feet off in the river, but it was so hot the rocks blistered our bare feet when we walked across the beach to the water.

We used to make beef jerky before our trips, carefully marinating it in our own concoction of sauces, drying it in the oven and packing it up in air-tight bags. We'd put it in the truck cab to eat during the long driving days. Once, two or three days into a road trip, we realized we didn't have the jerky with us. After comparing notes about the mystery bits of plastic we had found on the living room floor, we realized our dog must have stolen it off the counter and eaten every single bit before we left. I just hope he was so dehydrated after that he got a headache--would have served him right.

On a long trip to Arizona and Utah, we did meticulous research about the parks we planned to visit, but failed to pack any maps for the route to and from our destinations. This was before smart phones and GPS. We stopped at a gas station and had to make due with one of those tourist maps, trying to decipher campgrounds between the cartoon gold miners and their mules.

We've shivered our way through long cold nights in the mountains having forgotten to bring an extra blanket. We've hiked all day in the hot sun with the promise of cold drinks awaiting us just to discover someone forgot to load them in the cooler (that would be me--it's my job to load the food. Oops.) Mark once forgot to pack shirts--he wore the same one for three days. He claimed it was better than the same underwear. I guess...

We're packing for a two week trip now. I've got lists going in every room: one for electronics, one for clothes, one stuck to the fridge detailing what I need to grab right before we leave. I'm pretty confident we won't be forgetting anything this time around. But when you leave at 4 am, it's hard to get your head in the game. I better bring some extra cash just in case. I hope I remember...