Friday, July 31, 2009

Sorting your stuff requires small gear in a big state

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — For someone who’s been in staycation mode this year, sticking to travels within New Mexico, it seems like I’ve done an awful lot of packing.
I’ve had several out-of state-visitors and we’ve been making lots of side trips.
Of course, we live in a really big state (if you’ve forgotten, we’re the fifth biggest in territory, after Alaska, Texas, California and Montana). And travels in several elevations during summer monsoon season could involve a 50-degree temperature drop from, say, late afternoon in Las Cruces to nighttime in Cloudcroft, plus weather fronts that could include thunderstorms, blazing sun, blustery winds and maybe even some hail.
All this means it’s necessary, prudent even, to prepare for all contingencies, even though it seems silly to pack a raincoat and sweaters or a coat or jacket when you’re driving an hour or two from a place with cloudless skies where the mercury’s hovering above 100 degrees. Of course, the umbrellas are no problem for my tribe. When you spend a couple of decades in Oregon, you always have at least three umbrellas in the car at all times: one dry, one soggy and drying out, and another that may have a few broken ribs from high wind reversals, but that’s better than nothing in a pinch.
Then there are the shoe decisions: sandals, flip-flops, boots for hiking, comfy sneakers or joggers and maybe a dressy pair for nice dinners.
And there are other issues when you’re traveling with travelers, which always puts me in mind of the late great George Carlin’s “stuff” routine. He noted that when you go on vacation, you have to take a smaller version of your usual stuff, and when you arrive at your destination, you might plan a side trip that requires an even smaller version of that stuff.
Luckily, we’ve had some help on that front, I thought, as I prepared for a working getaway with grandson Alex the Great, who came to my adobe abode with a smaller version of the stuff he’d brought with him from Oregon and left at his Las Cruces cousins’ house.
As I recharged the battery in my tiny Nikon, it occurred to me it would have once required a back-breaking duffle bag full of lenses, cameras, batteries, film, tripods and assorted audio and video equipment ... and all that gear still wouldn’t have been able to do the things my teensy new camera can do.
Of course, there are problems with miniaturization, too. The case for my Nikon is so small, I can’t even squeeze in my business cards, so I need to find a compartment in my purse, already jammed with things like cell phones and chargers. And phones are in a big category that includes all sorts of things we would never have considered vital to take on a vacation, or even a business trip, a decade or so ago: Laptops, Blackberries, iPhones, assorted game systems and MP3 and DVD players.
In fact, I still sometimes prefer to travel light, with nothing but a few pens and an old-fangled reporter’s notebook. (And my access codes, so I can check my e-mail at the resort’s business center, though I confess there are vacation days when I’d just as soon skip that.)
I tried to talk Alex into roughing it, especially since I knew from experience that we would be heading through some rustic “no service” terrain.
He valiantly left PCs and game systems at his cousins’ house. The slightly-larger-but-still-tiny case for my last digital camera turned out to be big enough to hold his videocameraphone, earbuds, chargers and wallet, with room left over for his brand new MP3 player, which he has recently managed to download with 3 million songs or so, enough to hold him for the weekend.
I thought we might leave all that behind for a day or two, but Alex thought we might need it all, and maybe he was right. When we arrived a half hour early at our destination, an isolated ghost town, our host was nowhere to be found and my cell phone was reading “no service.” But somehow, Alex got his phone to work.
So were able to drag our host out of the shower and avoid wandering around aimlessly for a few minutes on a beautiful, sunny day, pondering the great mysteries of life. Like: do we really need all this stuff?
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

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