March 24, 2012

How to wander

Or more accurately… how I wander.   I suppose you could wander any way you please.  But if you’ve never wandered before and would like some hints and tips, read on.

One of my favorite past times is getting behind the wheel and just driving.  In college, when I was having an off day I would get in my car and drive.  At the time I lived in Kalamazoo and I would end up all over the place, as far north as Ludington or Manistee, south to St. Joe, New Buffalo and once even just outside of Chicago.   I took mostly back roads and came across fun, interesting and often beautiful sites.  I always thought of Michigan as a rather dull state, until I started wandering.

Now, on my days off of work I often wander.  I don’t usually go as far as I did when I was in college, but my trips are never planned so I never know where I might end up.   My trips are always day trips. I leave early in the morning and I’m often home before dark or at the very latest, by 10pm.  I sometimes take a friend but I prefer to go alone.  It’s kind of like a therapy for me.  I get lost in my thoughts, and on the roads.

If you’re interested in wandering I’ll throw a few ideas your way to get you started:

First and foremost: have a reliable car!

I used to wander in my little blue Taurus but lately she is tired and uncooperative.  I suppose nearly 200,000 miles, two trips to California & back, a breakdown in the Mojave and aimless wanderings around Michigan has done her in.  She’s still drivable, though barely. It’s a good day if she gets me to work and back.

Now all my wandering is done in the family Jeep.  My dad bought the Jeep about 5 years ago for my siblings and me to beat the crap out of the sand dunes at Silver Lake.  But since they have nowhere to park it, and my car is so unreliable the majority of the time the Jeep makes itself at home in my garage.  As a “rental fee” for parking it in my garage I drive the crap out of it.

Second:  Pack a bag 

Okay, be reasonable here.  If you’re not planning on an overnight trip you don’t need a suitcase or anything.

But a large-ish tote will do.  I love my leather carry-all.  It holds everything I need and then some. It’s comfy to carry, it’s rugged and it’s stylish.   I’ll even let you in on what I pack in it:

- Most important: a phone & it’s charger.
- My wallet: ID, Credit Card, and a little bit of cash
- Sunglasses - Lotion, chapstick, and hand sanitizer.
- My iPod & an FM transmitter for some good driving tunes
- A book in case I find that perfect spot to stop for awhile and read a chapter or two
- iPad (I take this thing everywhere)
- my notebook for jotting thoughts to add to my journal when I get home.

Third: Pack a Lunch 

You don’t necessarily have to do this but I always take a lunch with me. It’s healthier, cheaper and more satisfying than stopping at a fast food joint.
I’m a grazer/snacker anyway so a cooler with a few different things works out much better for me than stopping for different snacks along the way. And I know I’m eating well.  I usually take an “entrée” such as a salad, or a sandwich; something that can be eaten cold.  Then I pack a few fresh veggies and/or fruits, a protein shake and a treat like a couple of cookies and my favorite soda.

Fourth:  Take a camera! 

Or three, or four.  I tend to overkill on the cameras but I’m a photographer so to me they’re more necessary than food or a map (which I’ll get to).   I always take my Digital SLR, and then my Canon AE-1 because I love the old school feel of it and I love film.  I might throw in my Polaroid because I like to have collection of instant prints to switch out on my bulletin board at home.  I take my point & shoot for the video feature. And I also tend to use the camera on my phone A LOT to take quick shots as I drive (I’m a drive-by shooter.)

 Fifth: Take a Map 

This is seemingly an important item but somehow ended up close to last. Okay, I’ll be honest. I never take a map.  I always think about picking up a Michigan Atlas or grabbing a regional map at the gas station, but I never do.  I know North from South and East from West.  I generally know which direction I need to go to get home.  I’m wandering, not looking for a specific place so I don’t have much use for a map. And worst case scenario, I load up the GPS on my phone to give myself and idea of where I’m at.  But if you’re not good with directions, you don’t have GPS on your phone or you’re not comfortable driving without one I would suggest taking one.  To be honest, usually the only time I get lost is when I have someone in the car to distract me or someone giving me directions. Lol.

Sixth:  Just Drive. 

I don’t think about where I’m going to go. I just drive.  My most recent trip took me to the cemetery where my uncle is buried, to my parents property on the lake, to a now abandoned amusement park my dad took me to as a child and then half way across the southern portion of the state in search of more abandoned and decaying things. If I saw something as I was driving I pulled over. If I thought of something that I remembered being in that particular area I was in, I sought it out.  I went out of my way, I back tracked, I ended up in familiar places and then discovered new places I’ve never been to.  

Just have fun and stay safe.

This post is actually a prelude to one of my recent adventures. So stay tuned.

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