A hammock, two cameras, a gas can, a water can... Next dispatch
What to bring?
by Peter Kohlsaat

Hwy 12, western MN- If God came down and asked me if I would trade places with the dog, there would be no hesitation. Absolutely. I inefficiently bust my butt trying to earn a living and the dog just rides along in life’s passenger seat.

I pack a rusty 1985 Chevy ¾ ton van full of stuff and the dog brings only her collar, (which she never even wears.) She doesn’t ever even have to drive. But then, she doesn’t get to choose any of the music. I think it’s almost an equal compromise.

So, what have I included for three weeks on the road? Let me give you some idea. Maybe 200 hours of music. My ten-year old stereo: Denon tape deck (velcroed to the dash) and 50 watt Denon amp (stowed under my seat), first-generation Sony car disc player, and two very sweet home-made speakers. The whole thing disconnects in seconds to be stashed in one of two security boxes which are locked and bolted to the floor. The bookshelf is full. The rod holders hold four fishing poles. There are two tackle boxes, a fly case, a pair of hip waders, a landing net, a fishing vest, its pockets bulging with stuff. There is a tool box, (with just the basics including a couple of the ever-versatile vice-grips, a current tester, a socket set, and a BFH). Of course, there is a full roll of duct tape. Pots and pans, (three cast iron pans, a wok, two copper-bottomed sauce pans. Two Coleman unleaded-gas stoves (a combined three burners, which allows me a dinner of: hashbrowns, steamed broccoli, sautéed mushrooms, chicken on the grill, a bottle of chilled sauvignon blanc, fresh-brewed coffee, and for dessert, Reese’s peanut butter cups.)

I’ve got a hammock, two cameras, a gas can, a water can, an electric air pump, a tv tray, a suit case-size collapsible four-seat picnic table, two coolers, a food box, a shovel, jumper cables, (like every good Minnesotan), a Coleman lantern, a folding chair, a collapsible stool, lots of rope, a 10x10 tarp (for protection from the rain as well as the blazing summer prairie sun.) One end of the plastic tarp attaches to the van, the other to three adjustable steel tent poles. I have a single-sized fouton which, along with a mosquito coil burning in the front and all the doors and windows open, allows me to sleep in the van. Depending on the toxicity of the mosquito coils, (to myself as well as the insects) I have included a three-man Eureka tent. Taking a travel tip from Steinbeck, as he puts forth in Travels With Charley, my dirty clothes are put in a sealed pail with soapy water and allowed to jostle all day, then taken out, rinsed, and hung to dry.

As far as equipment allowing me to do business far from the madding crowd, my main arsenal is a monster Gateway laptop computer, along with a scanner, a digital camera, and a voice-activated tape recorder. The van has an installed 140 watt 12 volt converter which boosts the voltage from the car battery to 110 volts, so I can use the scanner, hook up lights, re-charge batteries, grind my coffee, or use my cusinart. I would love to be able to include a satellite communication system, but couldn’t find such a sponsor. As it is, I am forced to beg for a phone outlet and use Compuserve. (Magellan Navigation Systems, are you listening?) And, finally, atop the van is my Mongoose Rockadile mountain bike and my 17 foot Alumicraft canoe.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten a number of things, the feeling always haunts me. But this is America- what you need, (and don’t need) is never far.

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