Our Arizona Adventure, Part 1: the Bad

IMG_4101 My next big adventure (as I mentioned) was another cross-half-the-country road trip to Arizona.  Only this time, we were going to be going in winter instead of summer, and we were aiming for Phoenix instead of Yuma.  Oh, and instead of just me, my mom, and my kids, we were adding both our husbands to the mix.  In a minivan.  But that is just the beginning of the list of not nice aspects to this trip.

The occasion was not a happy one this time, unfortunately.  The clan on my mother’s side was gathering for a memorial for my grandmother who had passed away this time last year.  It took so long for us to get together because we have become quite far flung these days.  And actually, we are not the family members which traveled the furthest – my cousin who is doing graduate work in Germany gets that badge – but I think we are definitely the ones who drove the furthest (about 2700 miles total, including driving around Mesa/Phoenix for 5 days).  But we had to coordinate schedules for people coming from Germany, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Washington State, ranging through 4 generations.

And my father’s idea of a good time involves eating.  Good eating.  Greasy eating.  Both of my parents are from Arizona, umpteenth generation desert rat, and they were both raised on good Sonoran style Mexican food.  Then they moved here to Texas, and my father has been disappointed ever since.  To put this in context, Taco Bell is a very good representative of Tex-Mex – not too spicy, meats tend to be ground and sautéed rather than stewed and shredded, heavy reliance on flour tortillas, limited assortment of vegetables (lettuce, tomatoes, jalapeños), and a very tomatoey flavor to all the sauces and salsas.  My father would add that it has no flavor.  I’m not sure I would agree with that, but I will say Sonoran style takes way more time, Tex Mex is much faster to cook.

IMG_4127 All that being said, we went to Arizona, not California.  If you are trying to watch your calories, Baja (Southern California) style Mexican food is MUCH better, filled with fresh vegetables, corn tortillas, seafood, and light methods of cooking.  And on top of that, my father had intended on having our dinners dictated by restaurants given the Triple D Seal of Approval.  Luckily for my husband (who is in training for his next marathon) and I, Guy Fieri did the unthinkable and never visited a Mexican restaurant while in Arizona.  I will agree with my dad on this one – that’s like going to Texas and avoiding the BBQ, brisket, or Chicken Fried Steak, the foods that, in a way, define Texas cuisine.

Oh, and did I mention the fry bread?  And the Navajo tacos made by topping that beautiful fry bread with authentic chorizo, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese?  Made by Tohono O’odham natives?  So. Good.  So.  Many. Calories.

IMG_4035This was about to be a test of my (extremely weak) willpower, whether I could avoid eating back all of the 75 pounds I have lost so far.

More good news: My son brought home a cold from somewhere, and my father got one at about the same time – we are pretty sure they were different colds, though.  But it meant that just in time for our 11 hour drive to El Paso (stop one), four out of the six of us were dripping and sniffling and coughing and miserable.

So just how did I end up smiling?  Next up, the planning.

The Next Adventure

The nice thing about looking at everything as an adventure is that the next adventure is right around the corner.  At the end of the year, my family is going to be driving halfway across the country (again) to go to Phoenix for my grandmother’s memorial.  We were going to fly because, frankly, that is one heck of a drive and 6 people in a minivan for 18 hours is gonna suck.

But not for $3000.

The gas, the food, the hotel rooms for 6 people is gonna cost a heck of a lot less than $3000.  So that is what we are gonna do.

Although this particular drive has been featured in my family’s history for generations, this time will be different.  It has been a LONG time since I have been to Arizona in winter.  Or rather, “winter”.  They have winter like we do.  Which is why it becomes so expensive to go there in the wintertime – all the snowbirds.  And we will be squeezing all six of us (my parents, my kids, my husband and I) into one minivan.

I think that I will definitely be taking advantage of hotel laundry facilities, because I will have to pack even lighter than for my flight to Utah.  At least I won’t have to pack real winter clothes and jackets.

So, the plan:

  • Day one: drive from Houston to El Paso.  O.M.G. 11 hours on the road is going to suck, but we will have 4 drivers. Stay at a nicer hotel in El Paso than the last time.  That rathole was awful.  No coffee maker in the room.
  • Day two: drive from El Paso to Phoenix.  Only 7 hours on the road.  The biggest issue is going to be the kids’ electronic devices, and how long they can hold a charge.  Because they will drive me crazy if they get bored.
  • Day three: Memorial.  Hmmm, maybe I will wear my navy blue again.
  • Days four through six: visiting family, especially the cousin who currently is gong to school in Germany and ask him what is up with all the stuff he is tagged with on Facebook.  Also visiting Phoenix, and showing off the local family landmarks to my kids – who haven’t seen them before.
  • Day seven: drive from Phoenix to Las Cruces, NM.  Pretty little town a little north of El Paso.  I like the towns in New Mexico, they have the familiarity of Arizona, with a touch of “different”.  West Texas has some of the same feel, but those towns feel very thrown together in a rush, rather than something that grew organically out of the desert.  I want to go back to New Mexico when I start getting into real hiking shape, and climb down into kivas and up into cavern homes.
  • Day eight: drive from Las Cruces to Kerrville, TX.  Another little 7 hour drive.  We decided to break up the drive home into three segments to make it a little easier on all of us.  I highly recommend this.  Especially if you have kids.  But DON’T stop in Fort Stockton.  Seriously.
  • Day nine: drive from Kerrville to home.  A nice short 4 hour drive and a whole nother day to get ready for work/school after this.

Traveling in a Carryon

One of the rules I have made for myself when planning for this trip to Utah is not to check luggage. Even though I will probably be flying Southwest (since I will be flying out of its hub, Houston, and it is one of the cheapest airlines around) which allows you to check two bags free, I just don’t want to have to deal with the possibility of lost luggage if I can avoid it.

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of resources for traveling light in a carry-on (some of the ones I like best are listed to the side). Here are some of the thoughts I had that weren’t covered by those sites:

  1. As with most conferences/conventions, you are going to get stuff. Some of it will be good stuff (pamphlets helping you plan your troop’s trip to Our Cabana, for instance). Some of it will be edible stuff (samples from Little Brownie and ABC and Ashdon Farms and the other nut company) which will be useful for snacking between sessions or the flight home. And some of it will be things you may decide you don’t need to bring home (another metal water bottle). When I went to the 52nd Convention, I got a free tote bag filled with free goodies, including a windup flashlight and a metal water bottle – not the easiest things to pack home on a flight – along with my visitor day pass (not the Hall of Experiences pass, the volunteers got the good tickets).  I will need to remember to pack in such a way as to be able to bring home the goodies I want, and have the strength to say no to the goodies I don’t really want.
  2. Can I really fit all those clothes in one bag? PLUS SIZE clothes? We’ll see.
  3. Really? No navy based business travel capsules???? (Yep, still stewing about it)
  4. Is Dr. Bronner’s really all that?
  5. What is the best way to pack a suit into a carry-on?
  6. By all that is holy, I am going to the desert.  How the heck do I look professional when I can’t breathe due to altitude and lack of humidity?!?!?

Ahem.

So, with #2 on the list in mind, now that I have my capsule sorted out for the trip, I did a test run to see if I could get all those plus sized clothes in my undersized carry-on.  I made a big old sloppy bundle, and popped it in my suitcase along with some navy flats I found in the back of my closet (which I am NOT wearing, because the soles are floppy-broke and they are scuffed to heck, but they work for simulating the pair of shoes I will need to bring.

20140603-181239-65559100.jpg

Packed in the bundle is my suit jacket, suit pants, a pair of leggings to simulate the khakis I haven’t gotten yet, my white dress shirt, my beautiful overtunic, both tanks, my first aid kit and my hygiene kit to hold the place of my core, and the flats.  There is still plenty of room for all the stuff I might get at the convention (as long as I don’t go overboard and get a giant stuffed animal or a sleeping bag or something crazy like that), my pajamas, and my underthings.  But I need to do something about a core.  I can’t use my hygiene bag, since I will need to get at it in security.  And now I know that an Eagle Creek Quarter Cube will be way too small (that is what my hygiene kit is packed in).  So I am thinking I will get full sized Packing Cube to hold my underthings and pajamas and be my core.  So, I guess that takes care of #5, too, huh?

I’m currently testing #4, review to come later.

I need to do more research for #6, but I think I can safely say that I don’t have to worry about my makeup melting off (unlike here at home).  But I am testing minimal makeup ideas, anyways, because I want to look good, but I don’t want to have to fuss for an hour each morning.  I would much prefer sitting outside with a cup of coffee looking at scenery I don’t have at home.

Hygiene Kits (Packing Lists)

So, now that I’ve talked about why you should consider having 2 or 3 packed hygiene kits (or at least 2 or 3 lists), what should be in them, and what they should be in, how about some downloadable lists? 🙂 Your wish, yada yada . . .

personal

 

Individual Hygiene List – Camping

Individual Hygiene List – Roadtripping

Individual Hygiene List – Flying

Individual Hygiene List – Blank

Individual Hygiene List – All of the above in one .pdf

Take one, two, or all of them, whatever suits YOUR adventure.  And let me know what you think in the comments!

Hygiene Kit (Bags)

For each of these kits, you literally have thousands of options. My mom has one of these, and swears by it for all travel. Me, I think it’s too big for anything but a road trip. But if you have that much non-liquid, non-gel stuff to pack, it’s very well made and well designed.

The bag I am going to use for my camping kit is actually the mesh bag a compression bag was sold in. It’s long enough for a full sized toothbrush, about 3 inches wide, and flat; and that’s really all I need to hold my camping supplies, except my washcloth and towel, but those can easily go in my bag. I like that the bag is mesh so my toothbrush and soap will dry out, and not get all icky and mildewy in there; and that I am using my resources wisely by reusing the packaging. I also like the little loops on each end. I think I will loop one around a carabiner for an easy hanging hook.

I have a soft train case style bag that I currently use as my hygiene, which will continue to serve for my road trip bag. It’s big enough to carry full sized shampoo, conditioner, and hairspray; body spray; makeup kit with mineral makeup, primer, brushes, and lipstick; razor; full sized deodorant; body glide (lovely stuff for preventing chafing); toothbrush; toothpaste (there was room for full-sized but I already had a travel packed in it); and full sized hairbrush. Or carry large refillable bottles (larger than 3oz.), plus a full makeup kit and regular sized other necessities. I like that the top zips open so that I can really see what’s in there, without having to dig through a narrow zip opening like on some pouch style bags.

But for flying, that bag just encourages me to overpack. For my flight ready bag, I am considering getting one of these small packing cubes. They are very small, but if I am packing TSA compliant sized bottles, and I limit myself to basic makeup, then I think it is completely doable. Frankly, the only reason I am considering makeup at all, as it is not part of my normal day to day life, is that I will be representing my Council in Utah, and I want to look my best. And more often than not, we fly when it is my husband and I taking a nice trip together: our honeymoon, his Master’s degree presentation in Vegas.

Next post: the lists!

 

 

 

 

 

Hygiene Kit (Contents)

My travel sized hoard

So what to pack in your hygiene bag depends on you, for the most part, but there are some universals, right?

  1. You want your hair to be clean and nice looking (unless you’re camping and plan on wearing a bandana for the second and third day).
  2. You want your teeth to be clean.
  3. You want your face to be clean.
  4. You want your body to be clean (see #1, only sans bandana. That will not help hide your stinky body unless you are the size of a Barbie doll).

What I use for these 4 things will not necessarily be of any help to you, as you have your own issues and preferences. For instance, you might not have superfine hair that you need to volumize, you might not have a weird aversion to gel toothpastes, and you might have a lot more intense makeup regimen. So we’ll talk in generalities, mmmkay?

Camping supplies

Let’s face it, taking Brownies to one of your local Council’s camps is not “roughing it”. And while I have come to realize recently that our Council’s campsites are on the luxurious side (climate controlled bathroom units with showers, flushies, and OUTLETS), I believe that most Councils have set their camps up at least as well as state parks – with a central bathroom unit with showers in easy walking distance of the campsites. This means that you are going to be dealing with drains that feed into some kind of a septic system, which reduces the headache caused in picking out hygiene supplies.

When you start taking your girls on more primitive style camping trips, you will need to look into biodegradable soaps that won’t pollute the local water system, packing toilet paper in and out, and why a trowel is suddenly part of your “hygiene supply” packing list instead of fire supplies.

But at this point, the main thing to keep in mind is to avoid smelling like fruit or flowers. Fruit and flowers smell really nice for one reason: to attract animals. Which is the last you want to do at camp. Or you want your girls to do at camp. So no perfume, no body spray, unscented everything as much as possible.

Flying

We all know what the major issues with trips taken by airline are these days (as far as packing goes) – baggage fees and TSA restrictions. No one wants to pay for checked baggage or possibly lose a checked bag, so we are trying to use carry-ons only. But that means that our hygiene kit is now subject to the dreaded 3-1-1 rule. There are several ways to go about dealing with this:

  1. Collect samples and hotel supplies. As you can see, I have quite a collection of hotel soaps and shampoos and I can’t quite turn down a free sample. I haven’t had to buy travel toothpaste ever, thanks to my family dentist. And my travel deodorant needs have all been fulfilled by Walmart’s free samples over the last 10 years.
  2. Get a multitasker. Dr. Bronner’s soap has been touted for over a hundred years as the only soap you’ll ever need. From shampoo to body wash to floor cleaner to dog wash to toothpaste, it is said to clean it all! More nice things that make me want to try it: it is organic, biodegradable, and can be purchase in 2 oz. bottles.
  3. Go dry. If it isn’t a liquid, the 3-1-1 rule doesn’t apply. Things that come in solid form: deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, sunscreen, perfume, laundry detergent, and makeup. You might want to test things out before your trip, though. It doesn’t matter how much space you save in your quart sized bag, if you hate the solid shampoo you packed!
  4. Buy when you arrive. Planning on staying a week or more? If you’re traveling in the US, chances are your favorite brand of whatever liquid is available at the local drugstore. Skip the hassle of packing up 3 oz. bottles, and just get a full sized bottle when you arrive. Especially when traveling with your family – get one bottle of shampoo for all instead of a tiny bottle for each.

Roadtripping

Pack what you want! Every lotion and potion that makes you feel clean and pretty at home can be taken with you when you no longer have to be concerned about TSA inspections. I do recommend continuing to pack liquids in plastic baggies, though, in case of leaks.

Next post: what do you pack all of this stuff in???