Guest post, Nick, Some thoughts on preparedness and my recent travels

As most of you who read this are aware, I’ve been on vacation for the last 10 days. First a flight to northern rural NY to stay with relatives, then a day at Niagara Falls, then a car trip across Canada to Michigan, and some more staying with relatives.

Ten days away from home and stacked preps is stressful for me (and I’ll assume for any serious prepper). Add in the car travel cross country, the travel in ANOTHER country, the flights, and the fact my family is along for the trip, and we get a great big pile-o-stress for your humble commentor. On top of all that, add typical family dynamics and a very sick father (thankfully on the way to recovery) and you get a  BIG PILE….

Anyway, here are some observations, some things that went well, and what you might want to consider in a similar situation.


NB- I will travel, I will go places that are targets, and I will subject myself to crowds because I recognize the odds are slim, and my wife and I have a philosophical commitment to giving our kids as much of the sort of life we grew up with as possible within the current circumstances. Sitting home on top of my pile of preps, forted up in my castle, isn’t desirable or practical. YMMV.

So, with that out of the way, what’s a prepper to do? I’m traveling by air, and land, and crossing international borders. Can’t carry my usual defensive tools, either in NY or Canadia. Can (and did previously) in Michigan, but the logistics of shipping tools to MI just for the 4 days outweigh the benefits. Travel by air with defensive tools has its own logistical considerations that I’ve commented on previously. In any case, it wasn’t gonna happen on this trip. This DID free up space and weight in checked baggage…

Other than my normal air travel considerations, what was especially worrisome about this trip? Well, mostly the 8 hrs of driving across Canadia and Michigan. So, I packed the ‘trauma’ bag from my truck to carry with us. We’d have a car (SUV) the whole time from landing in NY to flying out of MI. The one thing I really didn’t want was to come across a wreck and be unable to help. (Given my personal history of coming up on wrecks shortly after they’ve happened, this isn’t at all far-fetched.) No fire extinguisher, but at least I’d have my big first aid kit.

Other considerations were being in places that could be terror targets, and being away from home if a major event happened. Increased vigilance, and carrying my ‘travel bag’ addressed both concerns, as much as I could. Normally we travel very lightly when going to parks or any other activity. This time, I kept my carryon backpack with me. This gave me a few more resources if there were any major issues.

I’ve been carrying the bag, mostly unchanged, on trips with the kids for several years. It’s an old but VERY sturdy targus laptop carrying book bag style backpack. It’s from the era of 14 pound notebooks and has heavy cordura, good padding and suspension on the straps, and lots of pockets and compartments. It isn’t at all “tactical” looking, other than being black.

On this trip, I pulled out some stuff I’ve been carrying unused for some time. Nothing life saving or critical, but it made a difference and kept minor issues minor.

The first real reach into my bag of tricks was when we were getting on a sightseeing boat, and I noticed an older couple with difficulties. He had the very thin skin of the elderly and was bleeding pretty steadily from a tear on his forearm where he’d bumped into something. She was trying to mop up and control the bleeding with a napkin. From my ‘blow out kit’ (small first aid bag, meant to treat one serious injury like a gun shot or serious bleeding injury) I took a couple of extra large bandaids. I gave them to the lady  and turned their issue into a non-issue for the 2 hour tour. I had more serious dressings if that didn’t do it, but when I checked back they were fine.

I pulled out a towel for my shivering wet child after doing the walking tour at Niagara. I’ve had the tightly rolled up micro fiber ‘super towel’ in my bag for a while. It makes a decent kid blanket, or towel. It’s lightweight, and rolls up into a package smaller than a coke can.  If you’ve got little kids, get a good towel.

I used the foot first aid, blister care on my little one. I’ve been carrying the blister aid, and moleskin packages for a while. Tough resealable envelopes, weigh nothing, slip in a pocket, and invaluable when you need them.  Again, not lifesaving, but quickly addressed the little one’s pain and kept us moving with only a short stop.

The food bars, and lightweight rain coat came in handy too, as did the drinks.  My EDC knife and FLASHLIGHT got their normal daily workout.

That covered us on the road, and while sightseeing, but what about getting home in the event of a big event?


The number one prep for that was that we had a rental car.  This gave us tremendous flexibility, and many more resources.   After much consideration and back and forth, I didn’t add any additional items to my normal travel bag, other than the big first aid bag.  I decided I had enough knives and didn’t need to add a Mora.  I was gonna add a water filter, but actually spaced out and didn’t throw it in.  FAIL.

What I did do was make sure there was a case of water in the SUV and enough ‘snack bars’ that we’d be able to move and keep moving if we had to.  For the first part of the trip, we’d be at a campground surrounded and supported by family, many of whom were camping and brought camping stuff.  Several of them are Eagle Scouts, and scout leaders, so I figured that was pretty well covered if we had to stay there.

For the second half of the trip, we’d be with family in Michigan.  This is somewhat far from home, but I’d considered it as a destination if bad things down here forced a move out of the area.  Unfortunately, it’s a ‘weekend’ house and not prepped.  That doesn’t mean it’s without resources… It has all the stuff a house in a wooded area by a lake, in a small town rural area has.  Fire pit and woodpile, axes, chainsaws, other tools (but no defensive tools), gas grill, well, etc.  What it doesn’t have is any real stored FOOD, or a gennie.

I wasn’t able to add a gennie or any gubs, but I did make a start on food.  I made a mad dash thru Home Depot and Walmart before we left, and bought a few things.  Granted it is not a well considered or comprehensive list, I feel much better now that I added this stuff.

From Home Depot, 2 at 12 gallon “Tough Totes” and a food safe 5 gallon bucket and lid.  These are mini versions of the heavy black bin with the waffled yellow lid.  I went with 2 smaller bins as being easier to move.  The bucket is for rice.

From Walmart, I hit the camping aisle, got a single burner butane stove, and 4 cans of butane.  2 packs of “Hot Hands” as there were no O2 absorbers.  Sawyer water filter.  Then off to the food aisles.  I was limited in time, and by what was there.  I got really lucky as this store stocked Keystone Meats.  So I grabbed a bunch of canned meat in various flavors, some canned veg, some canned soup, 3 liters UHT milk and 2 small cans of Nido powdered milk.  One liter peanut oil, one bottle soy sauce, big package of oatmeal, 2 big jars of peanut butter, nutella, and a can of pie filling rounded out the cans.  Added 20 pounds of rice and 5 packages of spaghetti.  The shortest storage life is the UHT milk.  The rest should be good for years stored in the basement.

At the house, the cans and all the rest went into the tubs.  The pasta and rice went into the bucket followed by the hot hands and the sealed lid.  I know O2 absorbers would be better, but the hot hands have to be better than nothing.  The bins went on a shelf, the burner and a couple of leftover 6 packs of soda went on top of the bins.  The bucket sits on the floor.

It’s not comprehensive, but it should provide food for a couple of weeks depending on how many of us are at the house, and what else is in the kitchen cabinets.  I’d like a more well-rounded and PLANNED larder, but it was the best I could do quickly with what was there.  All told, I spent about $250 USD with better than $70 spent on the filter, burner, and fuel.  I put it all together in about an hour, while family was at the beach, and it takes up very little space in the basement.  I feel a LOT better knowing there is some back up food there for any winter storm, tornado, or any other reason.

Maybe on my next trip there, I can find a used gennie at a yard sale and convince my relatives that it’s worth having.  The house is already wired for a gennie with an outdoor connection and transfer panel.  I’d love to get some other stuff stored there too, but family is resistant.  We’ll see, esp. as conditions in Chicongo deteriorate….


Anyway, that’s the report.  Nothing extraordinary, but preps and preparedness kept minor issues minor, quickly provided comfort and aid, and I got a small cache established at a possible bug out location (translating everything into prepper-speak.)




(added- I also downloaded the appropriate maps for the driving part of the trip, as we’d be out of wireless data coverage, and studied the route first, in case the maps didn’t work.  Filled the gas tank long before empty too.  Avoided the cities in MI that are no-go zones after dark.  All the standard things for traveling by car…..)


Wednesday, 9 August 2017

08:06 – It was 57.1F (14C) when I took Colin out at 0635, partly cloudy.

Bad news about the little Malamute, whom I’ve decided to call Bella for short. One of my vendors sent me samples of a couple of learning aids designed for young children. I had no use for them, so I gave them to Barbara and suggested she donate them to the Friends bookstore or something. She decided to give them to Vickie, our next-door neighbor, to give to her grandchildren.

While she was standing out by the road at Vickie’s, a guy pulled up in a pickup and stopped to talk to her. He was a farmer from down the road, and he’d just lost a dozen of his chickens to the little dog. He was very upset, naturally, and told Barbara he’d already reported it to the sheriff and animal control. I suspect if he sees the dog, he’ll shoot her. If animal control or the sheriff’s deputies catch her, it’ll probably be a one-way trip to the dump.

While they were standing there talking, another woman pulled up. She’d seen the little dog around and said she thought it belonged to a Mexican family that lived in a house behind the trailer park down the road from us. She told them that she thought Mr. Mabe’s wife had been giving her food because she felt sorry for her.

It’s not the dog’s fault, obviously. She’s hungry and she’s just doing what comes naturally. But that won’t matter. Just like any rural area, a destructive dog has a dim future. I told Barbara that I’m going to keep my eye out for her. I’ll catch her if I can, and take her over to the veterinarian that runs an animal shelter/rescue operation. I don’t want to see her killed just because she was hungry.

So, about 1700 yesterday, I managed to lure her into the garage and get the door closed. There she stayed for the next several hours, with us checking on her periodically. When Barbara went out to check on her, she called me from the garage. Bella had climbed up the steel-wire shelving unit against the back garage window, knocking over a case of 18/400 caps on her way up. She was standing on the top shelf, three feet off the floor, looking out the back window. We got her down safely and cleaned up the 8 million or so caps from the garage floor.

Barbara decided to assemble our steel-wire dog crate. We did that and got Bella into it. She showed absolutely no aggression at any point, just extreme skittishness. She doesn’t want to be captured. She lay unprotestingly in the crate for the next couple of hours. She knocked over the bowls of food and water we’d put in the crate, but otherwise there was no problem.

It was pretty warm in the garage. We’d left a fan pointed at the crate, but after we’d gone back to bed, she started yipping and barking. Barbara decided we needed to move the crate out onto the front porch to get her some cool air. That was a mistake. We got the crate with her in it moved onto the corner of the front porch near the garage, but the door latch came loose and Bella made a break for it. We spent the next 45 minutes trying to recapture her. No joy. We finally gave up and went back to bed.

This morning, she wasn’t around when I took Colin out, but she showed up at the front door shortly thereafter. We spent half an hour or so luring her into the house with lunch meat, with Colin penned up in the bedroom. Barbara finally got her into the garage, where she allowed Barbara to get a slip leash on her and get her loaded into the car.

Barbara just took off a few minutes ago, headed to the vet’s office, which has a private animal shelter next door. I’ll call them later on today to see what they can tell me. I want to make absolutely sure they don’t put her down. If they can’t find someone to adopt her, I want to take her back. We’ll find someone, up here or maybe down in Winston, who’ll take her. As a last resort, I’m going to tell Barbara we should take her ourselves.

When we were moving stuff from the upstairs vertical freezer to the downstairs refrigerator yesterday, we were bitten by a task that’s been on our to-do list for a long time that we just haven’t gotten around to doing. That’s reorganizing the LTS food room.

Barbara keeps a “downstairs shopping list” on the refrigerator upstairs, so that when we go down we’ll be able to get what we need to bring up. She did fried rice for dinner Monday night, ran out of sesame oil, and put it on the downstairs shopping list. While we were downstairs I walked into the LTS pantry, intending to pick up a bottle of it to take upstairs. Standing there surrounded by stacks of cans, bottles, and boxes, I realized that I had no clue where exactly the sesame oil was. There should be two 12.5-ounce bottles of it, which I ordered May 2nd from Walmart and which arrived two days later. I remember them arriving. I remember seeing the bottles. I just don’t remember where I put them.

It all started when I was stacking #10 cans of Augason powdered eggs in the downstairs freezer. I remembered that I’d ordered four more cans of these from back on March 2nd. They’d foolishly priced them at $12.99/can. Amazon, of course, had matched that price, but at the time everyone else was selling them for $27 to $30/can. I ordered only four, first because we didn’t need any more than that with what we already had, and second because I didn’t want to make a pig of myself. (Amazon and Walmart are both selling them now at $35+/can.)

So, I was actually in the LTS pantry looking for those four cans of eggs so I could stick them in the freezer. Embarrassingly, among all the other stuff stacked in there, I couldn’t find them. A box of four #10 cans, buried somewhere. Oh, well. I’ll find them.

But that just reinforces that we really, really need to spend a day or two getting the food room reorganized and inventoried. I’m doing that with my new downstairs refrigerator/freezer as I load it. I’ll post a dated inventory list on the door (using Scotch tape because magnets won’t stick to stainless steel…). Just looking at the available space, I’m guessing I can fit maybe 150 cans and jars in there: 28-ounce cans of Keystone canned meats and pint jars of Alfredo sauce.

The other night, a series we’re watching had a character who was a writer suffering from “writer’s block”. I think that’s one of those mythical things that everyone has heard about but no one has actually ever seen. Kind of like a unicorn or a compassionate prog.

Writers write. It’s what we do. Someone who suffers from writer’s block wasn’t actually a writer in the first place. When I sit down at a keyboard, words just flow. If I can’t think of anything to write about, that just means I can’t think, period. In other words, I must be dead.

And I do write. Every day. What you see on this site is just a small fraction of what I write. For example, I’ve mentioned that I’m working on a post-apocalyptic novel, but I haven’t said anything about it lately. I’m currently in first-draft mode, and I’m up to 100,000+ words on it. It’s still a complete mess structurally, but the prose flows. How good it is, I don’t know. I can’t evaluate my own writing any more than any other author can evaluate his.

The problem is, I have so much other stuff going on. I’d like to get the novel finished and up on Amazon, but I can spend only an hour here and a couple hours there on it, usually while Barbara is out volunteering or down in Winston. If I were treating fiction writing as a full-time job, I’ve estimated that I could knock out three or four 125,000- to 150,000-word novels per year. Maybe more.

The novel I’m working on now is what some people call “prepper porn”. In other words, it’s very heavy on non-fictional details. Kind of a non-fiction novel, with lists. I will (eventually) post it out for anyone who wants to read it, but I should warn you that so far there are at least a dozen microagressions and three or four triggers.

The main problem I’m having, particularly working on it so sporadically, is not one I foresaw. I have trouble keeping my story straight. What happened when, who’s already there and who hasn’t arrived yet, when events have occurred that impact future events, and so on. Is the neighbor’s first name Tom or Bart? Is the last name of the chairman of the county commissioners Smith or Jones? What day does the electric power and Internet service go down permanently? If it fails on Day 12, it can’t very well still be there for scenes I’ve written that take place after Day 12.

And that’s how I’ve gone about writing what I’ve done so far on this book: writing scenes, which vary in length from a paragraph or even a sentence that I can expand upon later to some scenes that are full chapter length.

For the next novel in the series, if there is one, I’ll know better. I’ll start by sitting down and writing up a detailed timeline, day by day, with a short summary of significant events for that day. That’ll avoid the need for a lot of re-write. I’m embarrassed to admit that I actually had a minor character who was killed one day re-appear several days later, alive and well. Ugh.