What’s in the Bag?

Why is my backpack so heavy and why do I carry so much stuff? Or maybe a better question is why I was silly enough to choose photography as a hobby? Do any of you ask the same questions or is it just me?

So just what is in the bag? First there’s the point and shoot and DSLR cameras complete with chargers and spare batteries. Because of Mr. Murphy and his unpleasant law, I always carry a spare camera. Then Raeski usually sneaks in this compact digital movie camera.

I pack three lenses; a 20mm, 28 – 105 zoom and a 100 – 300 zoom with UV, circular polarizers, enhancing and 812 filters for each lens. There’s more but when I’m flying to a destination I try to cut down the weight and these are the ones I use the most.

But wait! There’s more! Am I sounding like an infomercial? There’s a remote flash for the DSLR, tripod and head, remote cable, lots of memory cards, cleaning supplies, a power cord converter for foreign electrical outlets and DSLR to laptop cable. But you’re delusional if you think cost the same as a Ronco slice and dice.

Last but not least, there is the laptop and AC adapter I have to take because my job pretty much demands it. That’s the real anchor I’d love to lose. Getting all this through airport security is no joy either. Once we get to the hotel room some of this will come out of the bag and stay in the room.

Now it’s your turn. What’s in your bag?


Before a trip are you as busy as these ants?

As fairly seasoned travelers I figured the list of what we do before we go out of the country may be useful to others. I welcome any comments from others who may want to add to the list.

Here’s local stuff we do for the homestead. By now our family and friends are probably sick of hearing about our plans so there is no need to let them know we’re leaving. They’re probably glad to see us go.

– Stop the mail.
– Stop the newspaper.
– Leave a key with a trusted neighbor.
– Notify police of the dates we’ll be gone.
– Notify the alarm company.
– Put household plants in the backyard where they will be watered by the sprinklers.
– Take out the trash. (If you’ve ever forgotten this you’ll understand why)
– Clean the house so it will be less inviting to bugs.
– Turning off the heater is a safe thing to do in Phoenix, so we do it. If you live where it freezes you know this is a bad idea.
– Eat, donate or give to our neighbors anything that will spoil in the refrigerator.

Here’s stuff we do before going out the door that could be important on our trip.

– Get credit cards activated for our destination.
– Get local currency.
– Store electronic copies of our passports in the cloud.
– Make a paper copy of our passports to take with us.
– Keep a printout of our itinerary in a folder that goes in carry-on.
– Make sure my emergency info is up-to-date.
– Check the cameras. (See “Those Darn Spots”)
– Download some of those cool apps that are pertinent for our trip to our iPhones. There is no need for a sim card because everyone is following us on our blog and you don’t need one to connect to the web.

This part is for men only but I know you ladies won’t skip over this. Admit it ladies, that’s just the way you are. Years ago I gave up my wallet. Instead I use one of those credit card holders and in it I have two credit cards, my license and emergency info. That’s it. I leave my debit card at home. You certainly don’t need any of those club membership cards. Then it goes in the front pants pocket. If I know I’m going to a pickpocket area (do your research ahead of time) I put a credit card in one sock and my license in the other. Okay ladies, you can start reading again. See, I caught you.

What we pack is a different subject and one that’s requiring a bit more planning than usual due to weather changes we will experience as we go north. Cheers, Wooly

Those Darn Spots!

Those darn spots!

I really hate those spots. They always appear at the most inconvenient of times. Never mind what it takes to get rid of them. With hopes of no spots, I tested my camera to make sure everything was is good order before our trip. Lenses and filters cleaned? Check. Batteries charged? Check Camera works? Ah man, those darn spots are showing up again!

I switched lenses and they still showed up. Diagnosis? The autofocus motor has spewed oil on the sensor. So I make my what is turning out to be an annual trip to the camera repair store for cleaning. According to the technician, this is a common occurrence with two major brands of cameras. If you have a Canon you’re safe.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love my camera. It takes stunning pictures and it would probably take more with a different person pushing the buttons. But I digress… I just don’t like having to go into Photoshop to remove spots. It makes me grumpy. Just ask Raeski.

So tomorrow I pick up my camera and the wallet will be a little lighter. And unlike the little guy in the photo, my spots will be gone. Cheers, Wooly

Preparing for Europe

How do I pack this?

Preparations for our extended trip to Spain and France have been fairly extensive. It all started when Raeski and I were at a wine club event where a Rhone River cruise was being promoted and the sponsors were two of Arizona’s winemakers. (There actually is drinkable wine produced in Arizona!) A seven day cruise is nice but hey, we’re going to France and there is much more to see.

Thoughts of what else to do cascaded through our minds and new ideas kept surfacing. Paris was a must see. Plus I have a friend who was planning to move to Italy. Thanksgiving in the Piedmont was enticing. Alas, the friend hasn’t moved yet. Going to Paris, to Arles for the cruise and back to Paris wasn’t the perfect plan.

Spain became our leading candidate. Would it be Madrid, Barcelona or both? A night in Cala Monjoi became unnecessary when El Bulli closed its doors. The draw of the Mediterranean was strong and Barcelona became the destination. As our trip kept getting longer the words, “A three hour tour” kept running through my head. Madrid will have to wait.

Reservations have been made and the trip is set. Planning what to see has been fun. Follow us and you will learn what we chose as we see them. Now we have to do the mundane stuff like canceling mail delivery. One of our challenges will be packing for the temperature variations. Barcelona will be wonderfully temperate. We expect Paris in late November to be chilly and hopefully not cold. So the warm stuff goes in the bottom of the suitcases.

Well, our trip starts this Friday and I still have to figure out what’s going to fit in my suitcase. Cheers, Wooly.

The “Century Club” Quest

Luxembourg vineyards

Years ago when I first started drinking wine I did what most people do. I fell into the rut of only drinking a few varietals. My journey started with reds and one look in my wine cooler is proof that I still prefer the reds. Yet every once in a while I would drink something that would catch my attention and make me wonder what other surprises were waiting for me in the vast sea of wines.

As my journey progressed I joined a wine club with monthly shipments. Unbeknownst to me, this membership was the catalyst that transformed how I would think of wine. I kept getting these wines I never heard of, and certainly wouldn’t buy in a store, simply because I didn’t recognize the “brand”. Nope, I wasn’t the most suave guy in the neighborhood. Most would agree I’m still not.

But I liked a lot of these wines and that got me to thinking about what I had been missing. Then I read about a club in the UK called the Wine Century Club. “What a cool idea! Drink 100 different single varietal wines.” Little did I know how long it would take. I’ve been on the quest for 5 years now. Until you’ve tried it, you don’t know how difficult it is to find more than 30 to 40 different types. Plus I have to stick to a budget.

You would think that it would be a simple task to find all these wines. But darn it, there are rules, like it can’t be a blended wine. Or that a Shiraz is the same thing as a Sirah. Hmm, is that you saying, “But Wooly, just go down to the corner wine specialty store and pick up your hundred.” Ahh, if it was only that easy. However retail stores have to make money and I don’t think they would make a fortune selling Elbling, Pedro Ximenex wine or any other with weird names like that. I’m quite sure Pineau d’Annis is hard enough to pronounce let alone sell it. So, no, the local wine store isn’t the answer.

Slowly (remember, I’m not the brightest bulb in the shed) I realized that I would probably have to travel to the great wine regions of the world to finish the quest. You folks in Europe have no idea how much easier it is for you to join this club. My guess is the 100th bottle will come from either Italy or Greece. Now is this really a bad thing?

Combining my love of travel and thirst for unusual wines seems like a pretty cool thing to do and actually has led to another quest. If you guessed traveling to every great grape growing region in the world, you guessed correctly. However that darn budget thing slows down the journey. So hopefully you’re got a few years left in you to follow me on my quest. And heck, maybe this can inspire you on your own quest, whatever it may be. Possibly climbing all the fourteeners if you live in Colorado. Cheers, Wooly.


Beauty is found where you look for it

Have you ever had someone incessantly (nagging) on your case about an idea, concept or something they think you should do? You know, the old, “You should really blog about your adventures.” Well, that’s not really the case because it was me doing the nagging.

I somewhat liken blogging to writing letters to the editor. Nobody really cares all that much about what you think, their minds are already made up and you’re an idiot for having and different point of view! So now we embark on what I hope will be an interesting window into our world and hopefully I won’t make an idiot of myself too often.

So sit back, grab a glass of wine or whatever… and hitch a ride with us. Wooly