Spring is here. Nope, it’s brisk again, welcome back rain. And then surprise, now it’s Summer. I haven’t seen weather inconsistencies like this since I moved from Chicago. As the saying goes: four seasons in one day. Needless to say, there are more dry warm days than not right now, and even more on the way. And nice weather makes for a prime opportunity to travel and explore. Don’t settle for Snapchat just because you have it at your fingertips. I mean, that OLED screen can show you the cool and amazing things other people are doing, but you could feast your eyes on another organic light that never says ‘low battery’.
I’m talking about stars. Even our own sun. When was the last time you laid under the stars, or even sat at the edge of a beach with your toes in the water? When was the last time you went for a hike in the hills or a walk in the woods? When was the last time you went on a road-trip to just take in the scenery?
Let’s say you have a destination, transportation, funds, and the time. Can you really say you’re equipped for your endeavor? Cooler, blankets, entertainment, or even something to capture memories? Your phone doesn’t always count as a camera. Coolers are not easy storage, so I understand the need to make a run for supplies.
I was in need of some basics to make my Griswold-esque adventure soothing, so I made a run to my favorite wallet watering hole, Goodwill. I had a simple list of things that I was looking for, things for a day out: a portable cooler, a good blanket, a decent camera, and something for musical entertainment. Small and simple things that I hadn’t gathered yet–nothing to really get excited about. As of late, Goodwill has been a bit of a dry well after I’d hit good fortune around the winter months when people were feeling charitable and purging themselves of things they had bought at the beginning of the year but didn’t want or need anymore. Cha-ching for me, boo-hoo for them. I still had some luck finding some unique and useful things, just not all at once.
I had been eyeing a small cooler that had been sitting on the shelf for weeks, something that should have been snatched up fast, if it wasn’t for the fact that it was thermoelectric. Thermoelectric means producing electricity by a difference of temperatures, so you need to plug it into a DC outlet in your car or other adapter. But who owns a car in Seattle? Fortunately, I do, so I decided to pick it up. It’s small, holds up to 6 cans of soda or about 4 bottles of water. In my case, it holds 2 Nalgene bottles. It cost me $19.99 and was definitely worth it. Thermoelectric coolers this size are still selling for an average of $50.00, so I got a good buy. This is actually my second thermoelectric cooler, third cooler all together, but the others are rather large and not very portable.
I have many blankets–2 emergency fleece blankets I keep in my cars emergency kit, a plethora in my apartment–but none that I’d really be comfortable using both inside and outside, I don’t want to stain a good blanket or be picking dead grass out of it forever. I needed a dedicated ‘picnic blanket’. I came across a nice gray wool blanket–something that I pretty much never see at Goodwill as they’re pretty much indestructible and super cozy. It was a great price of $14.99, considering similar blankets retail for an average of $100.00. I had to have it.
I also needed entertainment next for my trip. I have a working CD Stereo in my car, but my car is not new enough to have Bluetooth connectivity, AUX IN or USB IN in the head unit, despite being aftermarket. I rigged up a rather ingenious docking station for my phone. I can use it as navigation and music control while playing though an FM transmitter to the radio. It also uses a USB wall charger that makes use of the in-dash power inverter–an awesome factory feature in my car. Since I don’t need to Snapchat and text while driving, I’m comfortable with having my phone in a pocket out of reach or in a convenient hands free situation.
In the past, I picked up a nifty device that I didn’t think I would find at Goodwill, let alone a second one months later–Bluetooth ‘hands-free’ car speaker kit, with auxiliary music controls on it. It was something the distracted driver who backed into the front of my car at the Broadway Shell station could’ve probably used.
But I digress. I actually really like this Bluetooth car speaker. I picked it up for an earth shattering $7.99. The second one, from my most recent visit, cost a whopping $12.99 but was actually still in package, with all of its wire goodies, power adapters, charging cords and whatnot. Both of these are still retailing on various sites for an average of $50.00, which meant I’d gotten a great deal on both.
While the first Bluetooth car speaker I had found a few months back didn’t have its packaging, it did have one more feature on it which makes it even better: music controls in the form of 3 buttons: pause/play, previous, and next, along with the simple send/end call button which doubles as the Bluetooth pairing button. It has an adequate speaker, built-in rechargeable battery, and dual microphones for active noise cancellation.
Both speakers also have FM Transmitters. So let’s say you do have a car, but it’s not a cream of the crop or doesn’t have all the fancy bells and whistles like most cars from the past decade (like my car). It still has a simple stereo, no AUX in, no Bluetooth, just AM/FM CD. That’s where this little beauty shines. Pair the car speaker kit via Bluetooth to your Smartphone, switch on the FM button on the speaker, and pair up to an empty radio station on your car stereo and voila! You now have integrated audio in your car for calls, music and navigation! What’s even better is, let’s say you were borrowing a car–just do the same thing. A quick tune of the radio and you’re synced up, no wiring or installation required. It clips to your visor and is super easy to use without being a distraction. Quite literally a life saver.
One thing you can’t leave without of course is a better than adequate digital camera. Yes, we all have digital cameras on our phones now, and while they are pretty decent, they really can’t compare to manual or semi-manual cameras. Nothing compares to real camera control. Sitting in the collectables case at Goodwill was a Fujifilm Finepix S S4200. I picked it up for $24.99. That’s not too bad since its original MSRP was $230.00 and it’s currently selling for $90.00.
Nothing says amateur photographer like less than stellar blurry photos. Nonetheless a decent camera is still needed when you need to document your last will and testament just before being mauled by a bear, falling down a cliff face only to be found by a cannibalistic fugitive of the law. Oh the memories.
These scenic pics were actually taken with that camera, and they turned out pretty good.
But suppose you decide to stick to the hiking path traveled more often, for obvious reasons like surviving. You come to a nice clearing amongst the mountain crests and lush valleys (or steps from the park parking lot). You decide you’d like to take a load off, relax, have a snack, and enjoy your solitude. You can lay back and sample lyrical bliss of your secret musical indulgence. You could whip out some portable speakers.
A bright red and oddly shaped Bluetooth speaker jumped out at me while I was at Goodwill. I picked it up, grabbed a charging cable to test it, and found to my surprise it had really decent sound. It’s an Auvio PTB500 with two 2-Watt drivers in the front and a base port in the back for rich sound that I picked up for $12.99, retailing exclusively at RadioShack for $50.00. I have a few other Bluetooth speakers (I’ll do a comparison in another article) and this stacks up really well against the competition. It’s a very decent speaker to run around with, great for sitting at Cal Anderson and forcing others listen to Aqua with me.
All in total, these items cost me roughly $86.00. It may seem a little high for a few supplies but, considering they could have cost $340.00 at current prices, I would say I did very well. You may have to hunt around for some deals, but when you find them, they’re definitely worth it.