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Gear to Go

By Jules Older

In cities from New Zealand to New England, what are the latest hand-wringing concerns? Drugs? So 1980s. Parking? Nothing new here. Panhandlers? Been there, seen that.

No, aside from coyotes (though not in New Zealand), the latest threats to civilization are electric scooters and electric bikes. Naturally, I tried one of each.

The scooters cannot hack the hills of San Francisco, at least with a 190-pound me onboard. The bike worked much better. I think it’s a good way to get around town, and if you’re traveling with a trailer or RV, sticking a couple of e-bikes inside makes much more sense than towing a get-around car.

I tested Swagtron EB1. It folds when not in use and takes about ten minutes to figure out when you’re in the saddle. To climb the steepest hills requires some pedal power, but that might be a bonus, not a problem. Cost? $480.

And just for the record, even though I saw a rental scooter left in the canned-foods aisle of my local Safeway, I don’t think they’re the end of life as we know it. I kinda’ like the whole idea of brief-rental bikes and scooters. Way better for the air and at least a bit better for human bodies than SUVs. Just wear your helmet.

Scooters and bikes are optional for land travel. EarPlanes are essential for air. Though I rarely actually use them, I never fly without EarPlanes in my backpack.

What are they? EarPlanes are earplugs that slowly regulate pressure on takeoff and landing. Here’s why I never fly without them. On the last day of a ski trip to Utah, I came down with a fever-filled, nose-filled flu. Aspirin relieved the fever, but when I boarded the plane back to San Francisco, I discovered that my EarPlanes were still in the medicine cabinet back home. And, despite my frantic search, there were none for sale in the Salt Lake City airport.

It was an excruciating flight. Earache pounded me from takeoff to landing. I nearly cried with pain. I vowed never to fly without EarPlanes again. And since they cost under $10, keeping that promise has been easy-peasy.

From ears to eyes. Oh, how I looked forward to using peeps. Not only would they clean my glasses in 21st century style, they’d end forever a constant niggle in my marriage. No longer would my loving wife complain, “Your glasses are filthy! How can you even see through them?”

Alas, it was not to be. The $15, carbon-based, hi-tech lens cleaner didn’t remove the filth; it merely smeared the grime around. An old hanky worked better. And the marriage niggle persists.

These days, portable chargers are nearly ubiquitous. What I like about the myCharge AdventureMax is that it’s sturdy, splash-resistant, and charges from two built-in USB ports. Note though, if you’re charging an iPhone or iPad, you’ll need a cord that fits their ports. $45.

If you’re looking for an elegant gift for the aspirational traveler, consider a book. Dream of Venice in Black and White edited by JoAnn Locktov is sumptuous enough to make readers book their next flight.The Israeli-based spy novels by Daniel Silva bounce all over Europe. His stolen-art caper, The Heist, visits London, Austria, Israel, Syria, Paris, Amsterdam, Germany and more; Silva seems to know each region like a native. One of my all-time favorite books, Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things, makes prolonged stops in London, Philadelphia, Peru, Tahiti and Holland. It dives deep into flowers, mosses, Polynesia, science, evolution, printing, lithography, love and human desire.

Finally, give the gift that keeps on giving. Instead of treating yourself to that expensive watch — which keeps time not quite as well as a cheap one — send the cash you saved to a good cause.

Our good cause brings clean water and much more to the people of the desert in northern Kenya. The Samburu Project does good for folks who need it most. And that warm glow you’ll get when you give will, I promise, last a lot longer than the one you’d get paying for that Rolex.


Jules Older’s travel ebook is DEATH BY TARTAR SAUCE. His find-a-home ebook is TAKE ME HOME: How to Rent or Buy in a Hot Home Market.







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