Saturday, October 30, 2010

Packing For A Trial

John, Willow, Maxie in front of our house.
 There is a lot to think about when packing for a 4 day trip away from home with 2 dogs.  When you add going to a trial, and camping, that's considerably more.  It takes me 3-4 days to prepare, actually longer if you consider printing out forms, mailing in entries and payments.  There's food, clothing, toiletries, linens, makeup, medicines, shelter, money, cameras, computer, glasses, and all your dog's needs, including food, crates, x-pens, leashes, treats, toys, bowls, poopie bags, shot records, etc.  For the trial, you must add all the trial paperwork, reservations, and directions to the trial site.  Then there's the car--clean out debris, check air in tires, empty and repack the trunk so everything fits, gas up, and BE SURE TO CLEAN THE WINDSHIELDS, especially if you are heading East in the early morning or West at sunset.  Going to Gulfport, I was totally unable to see.  My windshields were filthy and I had left my sunglasses at home!

If staying in a hotel, reservations should be made weeks in advance and there's possibly a roommate to procure and share expenses with.  Roomates can become difficult if the dogs don't know each other or the personalities clash, and believe me, you don't need any added stress or difficult people at a trial.

If my pop-up camper is to be my shelter, there's linens and pillows, flashlights, fresh batteries, and a drip coffee pot to pack, a propane tank to fill, tires to check, sheets and pillowcases to launder, coolers to wash out, ice blocks to freeze, an extended mirror to fit on the driver's door.  I also need to arrange for someone to be around to help me back up to the hitch on the last day.  I can't do that alone.  Also, I learned from my Hattiesburg experience I had better visit the RV site first to make sure it's fairly level and otherwise suitable. 
Sandwich materials for 3 or 4 lunches (for me Orewheat 7-Grain Bread, ham and turkey combination, sliced aged Kraft Swiss, leaf lettuce, mayo).  Hard boiled eggs, ham and instant grits for breakfast.  Snacks (crackers, fruit, energy bars, chips), 3 dinner meals to figure out--will I eat out or cook, and if so, what to cook that tastes yummy and keeps me healthy but doesn't take much fixing.  Also, if John stays over on Thursday night, something "vacationy" for him to enjoy!  A good standby for me is cole slaw, so I buy a cabbage, carrots and dried cranberries ahead of time, make up a bunch of slaw with my own dressing, and munch on that all weekend.  Tastes delicious, and along with the grapes, lettuce and seeded bread, the roughage keeps me regular!  Without it, I could have "sewerage" problems.

Using a cooler:  I freeze 4 square plastic Ocean Spray quart bottles ahead of time.  I lay them together at the bottom of my wheelable Igloo cooler and this takes 3 days to melt.  As it melts I drink the water.  Takes up half the cooler, which doesn't leave much room for cold food and canned drinks, but it is enough. In the small cooler that I take into the arena, I put 1 of the 4 blocks of ice and some coke bottles filled with water (also frozen ahead of time).  If the arena's kitchen has a freezer, great!  I put one of my quart bottles in there every night a re-freeze, then my ice lasts 4 days.

I bring along a few extra things, like cup-a-soups and instant rice entrees just in case I have company.  Also my favorite chocolate candy (Hershey's Almond Kisses, Mr. Goodbar, Krackel, etc.), and a cookie jar with Iced Oatmeal and Nutter-Butter cookies.
My preference is water, V-8 singles, grape juice, coffee and 1 Sprite a day.  In warm weather, I freeze pint coke bottles half full of water and frozen on its side, then fill the rest with water on the day I need it.  It melts throughout the day and provides ice cold water without needing ice cubes or making a wet mess in the cooler.  I bring a thermos and fill it with hot coffee every morning.

Shoes are most important.  Two pairs of tennis shoes worn on opposite days keep any one pair from hurting my feet, but by the end of each day these are covered with dirt, so I need other shoes for evening wear, and a pair for sloshing around in mud puddles in case of rain. By the time my shoes bag is packed, there's at least 5 pairs of freshly washed shoes in there:  2 pairs tennies, slippers, loafers, flip flops.  Along with the shoes is the socks.  Very important to have dry feet!  I bring at least 6 pairs of socks, and each pair matches my outfits. 

By the way, I have discovered the most comfortable tennies in the world for my feet.  They are by Athletic Works, at Wal-Mart for $12.  I wear Men's 8.5 Wide.  Being velcro strapped, they never come untied, adjust to my foot width, have good arch support, and never touch my toes.  All other tennies manage to press on my trick toe which have caused me to wear open toed sandals all my life and never before find a pair of tennies I could wear more than a few hours.  I love them so much and the price is so right, and I'm so afraid they will be discontinued, I bought 4 pairs.  They only come in black and gray.

One matched outfit for each day of trialing.  You never know when a professional photographer might take the most awesome photo of your dog and there you are in your sloppy, baggy pants, hair all askew, boobs flopping up to your chin, looking like an old goat.  I haven't quite got the outfits down, but I'm working on it.  They have to have lots of pockets.  Also still working on the right bras to "keep me down" while running. There are a lot of boobs bouncing around in the trialing ring.  I don't notice the other peoples' very much, actually, but since I video all my runs -- Oh lordie, so painful to watch!  I've learned to buy a few sturdy bras that are 1 cup size and 1 girth size smaller than I normally wear.

Electronics (camera, phone, computer):
All batteries need to be charged before leaving home, and the chargers brought with me and charged up again every night.  I have to download all the videos I take each day onto my computer at night, else I won't have room for more videos the next day.  Digital is great, but it isn't as instantaneous as one might think.  Downloading to my computer and erasing the disk takes about 20 minutes.  Setting it up and taking it down takes another 20 minutes.  So, about 40 minutes each evening dedicated to video processing.

I keep a toiletries bag made up, but I still need to check it, add my electric tooth brush and Water Pic, plus vitamins and a first aid kit which I also check each time.  I make sure I keep Swedish Bitters for insect bites (I'm very allergic to bee and wasp stings), Echinacea in case I feel a cold coming on, Preparation H in case the old hemeroid flairs up, Stress Tabs which I take every day, 5 Hour Energy Drink (in case I get sleepy when I should be alert), pain killers (in case anyone gets injured), knee brace, etc.

Doggie Treats:
I bring hot dogs and string cheese to trials, special treats just for the dog who is running.  The rest of the time they get kibble, bread crusts, or log dog food.  Whatever is handy.

Dog Food:
I measure out every meal for every dog, add an extra day's worth, and store it in a gallon zip lock bag.

Doggie Paraphranalia:
Maxie is easy.  Two touch targets.  2 collars, one with tags.  One slip-on leash.  Hair brush. X-pen.  Crate and crate rug.  Folding chair. Bowl for water and food.

Lucky, same as above, except no chair.  She like balls and tug toys, so I have to bring those.  Also a retractable leash for our walks.  She needs to roam, I don't have an x-pen that can hold her in so I need to tie her off.

I also keep an extra leash or 2 tucked in my trunk or glove box, just in case I lose one.  A lose dog is illegal, not to mention dangerous for the dog.

Arena Setup:
Patio rug (and depending on conditions, a tarp to spread under it), wire dog crates, bleachers chair, my and John's folding chairs, Maxie's chair, small cooler with a day's worth of ice, drinks and treats, snack bag, tripod, video camera, portable fan, dolly for carrying heavy stuff into the arena, umbrella, raincoat, dog's suitcase, paper, pens, Competition Recordbook, Jump Height card.

Anything that can go on wheels -- crates, coolers, a dolly, etc., makes it a lot less tiring to set up and take down your trial space.  As it is, you will be making several trips.

Weather - Check the weather before you go, but prepare for the report to be wrong.  Sweating all day because you didn't bring shorts is no fun.  Freezing all day because you forgot a jacket and long pants, also no fun.  Pottying your dogs or packing in the rain without a raincoat or umbrella, no fun at all.

Back Home:
Unpacking: If I did trials every weekend like some people, I could leave a lot of stuff packed, but since I don't trial that often, everything needs putting away.

If it has rained while my camper is up, I have to open it back up when I get home and dry it out.  That's another 3 hours of work.

If it doesn't need re-opening, I still need to make sure I haven't left something in it that I will need in the house, like my makeup bag!

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