I was reading Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck for the third time last weekend. It was published in the early 1960s, but I found it so relevant; in the sense that many of us love the thought of hitting the open road. That wanderlust simmers within us until we give into it.
In the book, Steinbeck gives a recount of traveling across America with his poodle, Charley, and the people, places and things he encounters. He fits his truck with a camper/trailer, names it Rocinante, and embarks on a personal quest to rediscover the country.
Much as we do now, Steinbeck carried his stuff, gadgets and niceties with him. Those long road trips require that we carry the creature comforts of home. We're leaving home and we’re taking a little bit of it with us on the journey. What Steinbeck didn’t have (except for his rudimentary, yet often ingenious substitutions) is the make-it-easy-on us gadgets we have now access to.
Here’s a list of them for your next trek.
First of all, everyone needs to carry jumper cables, right? This is that, but with a 3-in-1 jump starter, 4-mode flashlight (high, medium, S.O.S. and strobe) and a power bank to charge your cell phone and other electronic devices all in one. By Limitless Innovations and priced at $119.99. Learn more at https://limitlessinnovations.com/product/jumpsmart/.
2. Drop Stop Seat Gap Filler
This was introduced on the television show, Shark Tank and it’s now a million dollar company. Policeman use this and with all the fast driving they do, it has to be pretty good. I bet Steinbeck came up with his version, as this is one of those things where you think to yourself: Why didn’t I think of that? It “drops” in the space between your car seat and console (instead of keys, coins and other things). Pick one up at Bed, Bath and Beyond for around $20.
3. TrailNest Roof Top Hammock Stand
Just in case you want to do as Steinbeck did and park under the stars for a night, this hammock stand perches atop your vehicle’s roof and you can do just that. A single stand holds 250 pounds, but you can buy a double stand as well. It’ll cost you to sleep in the wide open spaces unfettered by a tent -- $349 to $799, but think of the star and moon-gazing you’ll be privy to. Check them out at https://www.trailnest.com/.
4. Handpresso Auto Hybrid Coffee Maker and Sunsbell Electric Car Kettle
Who wouldn’t want a coffee maker that plugs into an auto outlet and makes coffee in two minutes? Use ground coffee or pods. It’s costly, but think of all the savings you’ll realize when you don’t stop for your daily brew in expensive coffee shops. Buy it on Amazon for $159.
For you tea lovers, the Sunsbell Electric Car Kettle also plugs into your auto’s lighter and boils piping hot water. It’s way less expensive than the coffee maker, so if that’s more your cup of tea, then pick one up on Amazon for $27.
5. AAA 121 Piece Road Trip First Aid Kit
Why not take along a little peace of mind? This handy first-aid kit is packed with everything you need for any bumps along the road. On Amazon for about $20.
6. AutoXscape Life-Saving Tool
While we’re on the subject of safety, this gadget is literally a life-saver. It’s constructed of military grade aluminum and it serves as a window breaker, seatbelt cutter and a flashlight; all-around good tool to have on hand for long trips or for any time you’re on the road. Buy it on Amazon for $60.
7. Roadtripper App
Most of us have smart phones and if you’re like me (geographically challenged and paper maps are my nemeses), then an app is a good thing for finding your way and finding most anything – attractions, diners and other road-trip worthy stops. Available on IOS and Android.
8. Roav VIVA
If you’re a fan of Alexa, you can take her with you with this Alexa-enabled device. It plugs into your auto outlet and has over 25,000 Alexa skills, so you can tell it to call someone, read you a book, stream music and tell you where to go – in a nice way. Buy it for $60 at https://www.anker.com/store/roav-viva/R5141113.
9. Wagan Cooler
We like to carry grub and drinks on the road with us. This cooler stores 27 cans or four 2-liter bottles and it can also keep foodstuff warm. It plugs into your car outlet and the cord is long enough so you can store it in the back seat. Purchase on Amazon for about $60.
10. Vanmass Wireless Car Charger
It’s a phone mount. It’s a charger. It’s a gravity sensor that locks down your phone and you have a choice of a suction cup or air vent to mount it. It’s only $36 on Amazon.
Aren’t we lucky to live in a world that offers us such conveniences when we wander? Oh, and I’d add a book to that list – for when you make a stop. You only have to pick it up and open it.
Enjoy the journey.