When I was a kid I hated road trips, but once I got my driver’s license everything changed. I love to travel.
If the good Lord is willing and the creek riseth not, I should be back on the road this summer to promote the re-issue of my first book, “I Left My Heart in Shanghi, Alabama,” which has long been out of print.
A book tour may be the most fun travel there is, with only two drawbacks: (1) having to smile a lot and convince total strangers to part with some hard-earned greenbacks for a book they never heard of, and (2) rounding up and toting My Stuff.
The latter hasn’t always been a problem. When I was a twenty-something, back around the time that Dirt 2.0 was released, I had no qualms about heading out for far places with just a shaving kit and maybe a couple of sandwiches. In fact, at the point in our culture when baby strollers became half the size of SUVs and parents strapped more gear on them than an Everest expedition requires, I could only roll my eyes. For gosh sake, how much junk does one kid need?
Once, I interviewed a beauty contestant who carried her makeup in a tackle box. A tackle box. A big one. More eye-rolling.
But when the process of aging snared me in its scaly grasp, I had to change my ways. A tackle box would be just the right size for my prescriptions and the host of creams, unguents, potions and clippers required to keep me even halfway pain-free and presentable.
And that’s just for starters.
A couple of crates of books, a poster, an easel, and a box of business cards are bare necessities for the trunk. That leaves the back seat for a couple of nylon carriers with web pockets for the real essentials.
A compass (some of my signings are in pretty remote areas), a hunting knife (ditto), a still camera with some spare lenses and lighting equipment, a video camera with some spare lenses and lighting equipment (it’s no fun seeing neat or weird stuff on the highways if you don’t bring back documentation), and an array of miniature wrenches, screwdrivers, and pliers to keep all the equipment attached to itself.
A sewing kit. Sunglasses, regular glasses, and several spare pairs of reading glasses because they’re so prone to get crunched or disappear. Laptop, video projector, and laser pointer for the places I’m supposed to give talks about stuff.
Sleep mask and ear plugs in case I have to catch a few winks in the daytime, a plastic mouthpiece so I don’t grind my teeth at night, and a pair of winter gloves because I love to crank up (meaning, down) motel air-conditioning in the summertime but then my hands get cold.
Bungee cords and nylon rope, for unexpected baggage. Trail mix and some bottles of water, for when roadside restaurants get few and far between. Salt and pepper packets because drive-ins often forget to put them in and I forget to check. (I’ve thought of carrying salt and pepper grinders, like we have at home, but was afraid it might be considered an affectation.) Spare headache powders, because you can never have too much headache powder.
Books and audiobooks, of course — not my own — for pleasure reading/listening and because I review them for library journals.
In fact, it’s only in the book area that my load has been considerably lightened since the last road trip. Thanks to the miracle of the E-book, I can cram weeks’ worth of books, audiobooks, and even some Allman Brothers and ZZ Top into a gray gadget that’s no bigger than “Selected Essays of Montaigne.”
And because every electronic device listed above has a different type of rechargeable battery, there’s a separate briefcase just for spare batteries and battery chargers, adapters of both the AC and automobile variety, and a number of adapter-adapters.
All of which pretty much negates the possibility of ever riding with somebody else who happens to be going my way.
And if I forget something? I guess I’ll just have to adapt.
Dale Short is a native of Walker County. His columns, photos and radio features are available on his website, carrolldaleshort.com. His weekly radio program “Music from Home” airs each Sunday at 6 pm on Oldies 101.5 FM, streams live online at www.oldies1015fm.com, and is archived afterward on his website.