Get Home Bag Lessons Learned, by Traveling Salesman David

Tuesday, Jan 10, 2012

I’ve been seriously prepping for a decade and consider myself a prepared and competent guy.   Y2K got me started, but the events of the past few years have kicked my preps into higher gear.   I’m confidant with my guns and food storage.  I have alternate power and heat sources established at both our home and retreat location.  I have a co-worker who includes me in his prepper group’s  meetings.  My family (immediate and some extended) is on board with our plans for TEOTWAWKI.   Although I’m not where I want to be, I’m know I’m better off than 98% of the sheeple out there.
After my travel experience today, I’m not so sure I’m as “practically” prepared as I should be.
Today was a beautiful day.  52 degrees in Nebraska… January!?!?    What a great day for a road trip.  My daily driver is a late 1990s Subaru.  It still gets great mileage and is all wheel drive which is nice in this climate.  My wife drives a newer minivan and we have a low mileage 2001 Dodge Durango for our spare/bug out vehicle.   My car’s odometer read 168,508 when I filled the tank this morning.  It was getting close to ½ empty so of course, as a prepared guy, it was time to fill up. 
I finished a sales call just after noon in a small town about 30 miles North of the City where we live. I decided to take the scenic route on the way back to the office.     I chose to travel a paved road that ran west from the main highway.  From this road I took a number of  gravel roads headed mostly southbound .   Besides the fact that I enjoy the windshield time, I’d like to buy a piece of rural property and these road trips are an easy way to look for them.  It was on one of these roads that my car’s timing belt failed.  In a disabled car on a quiet country road is not a place you want to be on most January days in the Midwest.  I was very thankful for the mild weather today.   I had no clue how much I would learn from this slight diversion from the highway.  
My first thought was…”Where am I?” Situational Awareness is something I’ve read about on Survival Blog dozens of times.  But, I didn’t have a clue what road I was on.  What was the intersecting road had I crossed a mile or so back? How far off the highway was I?  I could see a small town about 2 miles to my south west.  What town is that?  It was too far to read the writing on the water tower.                     

Lesson #1:  Pay attention!  Know where I am all the time. 

Lesson #1.5: Get a GPS for this car.
There were two houses in view, one was about a mile behind me and one was about three quarters of mile ahead.   It was time for a hike.  Note:  Rockport semi-casual dress shoes are fine for sales calls. They are not however, intended for walking on gravel.  Same goes for dress socks or dress pants.  Good news:  I keep wool socks and my Vibram boots in my “Get Home” bag.   I love those boots!  I picked them up at a local Army Surplus store for about $25.   Too bad that my “Get Home” bag wasn’t in the trunk.   I took it in the house to update it last night!  I did not put it back in the car this morning.                                       

Lesson #2: It’s called a “Get Home” bag…not a “leave it at home” bag for a reason.
Not knowing If I’d be coming back to the car or not, I grabbed my laptop in its backpack, my cell phone and my keys (I double checked that I had the keys) and locked the car.  As I walked down the road I was pleased to see I had great cell reception.   I called my wife to tell her what was going on.   She offered to come get me, but she is directionally challenged and doesn’t  trust the GPS . Besides, I couldn’t tell her where I was anyway.   I was in the process of telling her that I would figure out where I was and then call her back when my cell phone battery died.  This just gets better all the time. 

My plan was to walk down the road to the next house or intersection to determine where I was.  I could see the cross road about two miles ahead was a paved road with quite a bit of traffic.  I guessed at what highway it was, but still couldn’t think of the name of that little town.   The farmhouse ahead was set back from the road with a long driveway. I did not want to approach the house.  It seemed a little to ‘cliché: traveling salesman with a broke down car down the road….  No, there had to be another way to figure out where I was.   Their mailbox was on a post along the road but there were no numbers on it. The mailbox door was ajar and I could see that there was mail inside.   I hope I didn’t break and postal laws, but I pulled out a piece of mail and wrote down the address then returned the mail to the box.  At least I had pen and paper with me. 
As I walked back to my car, I plugged my Goal Zero Guide 10 into my cell phone. This is a great little AA (4) battery charger/power supply. It has three different power input ports, a USB output port and a built in LED light.  I keep this and necessary cords in my computer backpack.   I plug it once a week to insure it is charged.  I have set up a reminder on my outlook calendar to remind me to do this.  See, I wasn’t as unprepared as I had thought.    After my phone re-booted, which seemed to take forever, I called my anxious wife and told her not to worry and that I’d just call AAA roadside assistance.   The walk back to the car was colder due to the wind in my face.  52 with wind chill is still nippy.  I had no gloves, no hat, and was only wearing a light jacket.  My “Get Home Bag” has gloves and stocking cap…. oh yeah, I left it at home.                                                                                                                                                             

Lesson #3: It’s fine to wear the light jacket on a nice day, but bring the warmer one, too.  This is Nebraska in January for crying out loud.
Once I reached the car again I called AAA.   This AAA membership is one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.   I understand that my auto insurance company offers roadside assistance at no cost too, but I’ve neglected to sign up for it.  I’ll do that tomorrow….really, I will.   The agent on the phone was very nice but had a hard time finding the address I’d pulled from the nearby mailbox.  It took about 10 minutes to get the tow order set up.  She said the tow truck driver would arrive in about 30 minutes and that He would call in route.  The agent also said they would call again to check on me.
I powered up my laptop (plugged onto the car 12 v), I plugged the cell phone into the laptop USB and used my Air card to get on the Internet. I pulled up MapQuest and determined exactly where I was, the name of the nearby town and settled in for the wait. The net is great but, what if I had not been able to get on it?                                                                                                                                                           

Lesson #4:  I own a good State Road/ Topographical map.  Put it in the car.  
AAA called back and told me that the tow truck driver was going to be more like an hour away.  Good grief!  I gave them a much better description of my location and told her I was content to wait.  The driver called me about 15 minutes later and I also gave him better directions as he had not received the updated information. 
I’d only seen one car go by on the road and that had been right after the mine had died.  That driver didn’t even slow down.  Two utility trucks drove by without stopping before a farmer finally stopped.  I told him I was fine and waiting for a tow.  The next vehicle made me very nervous.  This beater pickup approached from the highway,  slowed as he went by then turned around and came back. There were two guys in this truck and they pulled over dangerously close to my window. The “less than professional looking” passenger leaned out and asked if I needed help. I replied that I was fine and waiting on a tow.  He asked how long I’d been waiting.  I (lied and) answered that the tow truck would be there in just a few minutes.  He asked what I thought was wrong and if I was a salesman.  I remained friendly and answered.    He said “Well I didn’t think you were a farmer, you got them ‘out of county” plates.”  I thanked them for stopping then thanked the Lord when they drove away.     I’m happy to say that I have a concealed carry permit.  I even had it with me… the permit that is.  I did not have my handgun.   I did not have my knife.  I did not have my “truck tire thumper.”  I had nothing for personal protection – on me or in the car. I’ve not felt that vulnerable (or stupid) in a really long time.                                     

Lesson #5: A Concealed Carry Permit does you no good if you don’t carry. 
I now know that I was 24 miles from home.  If I had walked, I estimate the walk on this nice day would have taken me close to six hours (at four miles per hour).  That pace would have gotten me home about 9 p.m. when the temperature would have been in the low 30s and it would have been dark for four hours.  The only thing of any use in the car was a wool blanket which I probably would have improvised into a poncho for the walk.  Obviously, I had communication capability so I would not have walked the entire distance.  But, that was this time.  What if this had been an EMP?  What if the weather today had not been so nice?
The tow truck arrived when expected. Technically, I got myself home ‘all by myself’ and it all turned out fine, except for the upcoming car repair bill.     My “Get Home” bag is restocked, updated and at the front door ready to put in the Durango in the morning.    Lessons learned!

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