A Handy Tool for Gun Nuts on the Go

June 14, 2010

Screenshot from StateLines iPhone app

Just wanted to pop in to share a tip for those of you who travel frequently–over the road, in particular–and worry about concealed carry laws as you venture from one state to another.

Technomads Chris Dunphy & Cherie Ve Ard live full-time on the road in a high-tech, self-contained, propane-and-solar-powered fiberglass travel trailer. They realized the need for a reference that would inform them of various laws as they traveled throughout North America, including:

  • Leash Laws
  • Concealed Carry Laws
  • Traffic Laws
  • Cell Phone Laws
  • Trailer & Load Laws
  • And More!!!

StateLines was born in the form of an iPhone application, and hopefully they’ll expand their app to the Android platform.

By the way, I’d like to thank the lady behind THIS BLOG for making the connection between many of the issues in this blog and the independence of  modern nomadic living.

I’ve been geeking out on nomadic bloggers for a while, in part because I’m striving for a simpler life. Having many loved ones scattered hither and thither, I’d love to be able to spend time as “temporary neighbors”, as the Technomads put it, as I work on writing projects.

There’s a lot to be learned about self-reliance from the growing community of younger full-time RVers. Techniques that might otherwise not make it past our own fashionable tinfoil chapeaus and into our inquiring minds. I hope not to be away so long, and upon my return, I’ll likely revisit this topic and share some of the links and resources I’ve hoarded…in the meantime, thanks for reading! Keep yer powder dry, be it Max Factor or Hodgdon!


Upcoming Topics

December 2, 2008

I haven’t been as prolific in posting the past few weeks, mostly because I’ve got a lot going on at work as well as here at home. Doing a bit of home improvements, spending some time outside to stave off the winter fat, the usual.

But I figured I’d give my readers (both of you!) a preview of what’s to come. Some of the following topics are already simmering in my “Drafts” folder, and others are still swimming around in my holiday-addled brain.

I’ll be discussing food storage tips for small families, individials and couples, as well as pantry planning for those with less-than-stellar culinary skills (or inclinations).

What about bushcraft, you ask? I’m planning a winter backpacking weekend with a few bushcrafty friends, and I’ll be sure to report back in detail. I’ll be testing some equipment, recipes and skills, and if I make it back alive, there’s sure to be a bit of humor involved.

Of course, many of my readers want to know more about firearms, specifically personal defense handguns and concealed carry topics. I’ve got a bit to say about the importance of tactical training, and that will be towards the top of the list of future posts.

I’m really hoping to get some input from readers, including suggestions, comments, corrections and brilliant ideas beyond my personal experience. Maybe even a good joke or two.

So stay tuned!

Emergency Planning for the Divorced Family

November 30, 2008

How do you put together an emergency plan when your kids spend half their time–or more–at the home of your former spouse?

Yeah, that’s a tough one. Unfortunately, it’s an all-too-common complication in family preps. Talking with your former spouse about day-to-day childrearing issues is often strained enough without bringing up the subject of food storage, emergency kits and contingency plans.

I have no children of my own, but am the stepmom to a wonderful kid whose father–fortunately–has legal custody but equally shared parenting time. The mother lives in the same neighborhood, which is convenient on many levels even if it is uncomfortable–to say the least–to run in to her at every turn. To put it delicately, the woman is unreasonable. This is the major reason she has been denied custody in multiple rounds in family court, and the reason my partner has had no success discussing an emergency plan.

I imagine our situation is probably among the least favorable in terms of cooperation, but at least my stepson’s visits at his mom’s keep him blocks–not counties or states–away from us. And he’s at an age when we can teach him valuable skills so that wherever he is, he won’t be helpless.

The stepparent’s role in legal custodial issues is a tenuous one, and for those of you reading this who are in a similar situation, you understand how difficult it can be to not have much input into issues that have enormous impact on the direction of our lives. But being the primary prepper in this household (I do wear the tin foil crown, indeed) I’ve finally convinced my partner to forge, with his attorney, the ground rules for emergency situations that involve sheltering-in-place, evacuation, basic emergency supplies and other fundamentals. We can’t force The Ex to learn how to shut off her utilities or how to pack a 72-hour emergency kit, but we can impart those skills to The Kid, and send him to her place with the essentials.

The last thing we’d want him to do is choose between disobeying his mother and disobeying us in a time of crisis, but we have determined a neighborhood park within two blocks of her home and told him that that is where we’d rally should the house be destroyed by fire or earthquake. (It happens to be where the local neighborhood emergency response team will rendezvous, and we have friends on that team). Should The Kid find himself at home alone, or should his mother be injured, he knows where to find skilled and familiar help.

If your own kids live farther away, get an idea of that communities emergency response plan. Talk to his or her school and find out what their official policy is on emergencies of varying nature, and do your best to work out a plan with YOUR Ex.

Be prepared for resistance, especially because preparedness is still viewed as paranoid and fringe by many and your ex may attempt to use this fact against you. Don’t worry about that–point out that in the last decade, enormous incidents like Ike, Katrina and 9/11 have made you concerned for your extended family’s safety and well-being. You’re only being responsible and cooperative.

I used the term “extended family“, because that’s exactly what The Ex remains. As much as The Kid’s mother is hostile, vicious and downright Evil Incarnate to us grownups, she is still his mother and we are fully aware that her well-being is important to his own. Our household rules prohibit us from saying anything negative about her in his presence, and our emergency protocol acknowledges that we can’t simply go grab him from her and run.

Not to say that that isn’t a viable, last-ditch effort for some. Just be aware that in all but the worst scenarios, when the dust settles the letter of the law won’t look kindly to disobeying legal custody rules. Best to have laid down the ground rules in advance, or at least have the ability to show that you’ve done your damnedest to do so.

By the way, how many cheesy SHTF type movies show estranged couples getting back together during shared traumatic experiences? Sort of like Parent Trap on steroids? What a load. Stress and crisis can bring people together, but more than likely it amplifies bad relationships. Good communication and mutual trust is crucial to group survival.

For that reason alone, if not for the sanity of your kids and self, see what you can do to make inroads with your ex now, before the SHTF.


  • Pick a rendezvous point halfway between your home and that of your ex should your two households wish to meet up post-emergency.
  • Speak to your kids’ homeroom teachers, principals and district representative so you can learn how they will handle various emergencies. Volunteer to help out, if possible, in either the planning or as part of a crisis team during an actual event.
  • Arrange a meeting with your ex and attorneys (or do this in mediation) to draft emergency protocol in case of emergency. Even if you and your child’s other parent have a good relationship, having certain things on paper can make decisions easier when outside stresses and emotions may distort your sense of reason. (Which is why I’m a fan of prenups, by the way).
  • Take basic first aid classes with the Red Cross as soon as he or she is old enough to participate.
  • Teach your child to turn off the water and gas at your home, and encourage him to demonstrate (without actually turning it off) at his mom/dad’s, or to ask his other parent(s) to show him how it’s done at that home.
  • Be sure your ex’s contact information is in your wallet, cell phone, etc. at all times should you be injured. Also make sure your child has all necessary cell phone numbers and addresses memorized.
  • Make sure you have an out-of-area phone contact to call and give your status in an emergency, and establish one for you, your child and your ex to use as well. It’s usually easier to call out-of-state than locally after an emergency. Something to do with phone circuits.
  • Make sure your child, if old enough, knows his or her way home from school, and knows which neighbors to go to if nobody’s home.
  • If your child is on special medications, be sure his school has an emergency supply to last a min. 72 hours.
  • If your child’s school allows, have them store an emergency bag for your child.

I’d really, really, really like to hear feedback on this topic in the comments section. Please let us know your own tips and plans, because every situation is different!

Random Concealed Carry Stuff

November 13, 2008

Today I stopped by the sheriff’s department to renew my concealed handgun permit. Took a total of fifteen minutes, including filling out the renewal application, and fifty bucks. I don’t carry as much as some people think I should, but having my permit in force makes me feel better.

When I first got my permit, the process took about 6 weeks start to finish. First, I had to take a course in handgun safety–I opted for the classroom course offered by the Sheriff’s department, since if anything ever “went down,” I wanted to be able to have that particular certificate on my side, though I’ve taken quite a few different classes before and since. Then, I had to set an appointment date to show my certificate, get fingerprinted, turn in my application and get my mugshot taken. From that date, it took about another 5 weeks for the permit card to arrive. Of course, this is just in my county, in my state; you can find out what hoops through which you need to hop in your own hometown here.

As I’ve mentioned, renewal was a breeze. Of course, my photo is going to be horrific, because I overslept this morning and last night, I got drenched adjusting the downspouts on my gutters in the middle of the first big deluge of the season. I’d have worn a hat all day at work to hide the horrible do, but knowing they’d make me take it off for the photo, I figured I’d avoid having a hat-head on my license for the next four years. Well, my driver’s license more than makes up for it. In that mugshot, I look totally hot.

Back on topic! While waiting the few minutes for my number to be called, I was pleased to see that several of the applicants were females my age or a bit younger, and two of them were accompanied by their beaus…one was renewing his license, and the other, like his lady, was a first-timer. Do I feel an “Ideas for the Perfect Date” article coming on? Maybe not, but the scene warmed my heart like a Hallmark ad, and without the nausea.

The cheerful, matronly lady behind the counter told me that since Monday, she’d processed 83 new concealed handgun permit applications. “Lots of folks whose permits expired decades ago are coming in to renew, too,” she said. “People are a little uneasy.”

She had her hands full indeed, so I saved my next question for the woman in the front office. Recently, newspaper publishers around the country have found it fashionable to request and print the identities of concealed weapons permittees under the Freedom of Information Act. (Permit applications, both approved and rejected, are usually considered public record). As applications are made at each citizen’s county sheriff’s office, it is the local sheriff who must fight (or invite) the release of this information.

So I politely asked the attitude of our sheriff toward releasing information to the media. The clerk smiled at me, and said, “He’ll fight it all the way.”

“Good,” I said. “Thank him for me.”

If you’re considering a concealed handgun/weapon permit, or if you already have one, consider contacting the sheriff’s department for your counties of work and residence. Let them know your feelings about this matter, and while you’re at it, ask him what his policy is on concealed handgun permits in general. Send an e-mail or write a letter expressing the importance of your right to carry, because he or she is an elected official, and it’s your responsibility to speak up for yourself as a constituent.

Are you on the fence about getting your permit? Here are a few things to consider.

Some folks say, “I don’t want to be on some list.” Well, chances are, you’re already on some list. If you had to go through the background check to purchase a gun, you’re on a list. If you frequent firearms or self-reliance forums, I’d bet my tinfoil hat you’re on a list. Heck, the Men in Black are probably monitoring you right now, this very second, dying to find out if Prada does indeed make a Bug Out Bag, and if so, can they legislate a tax stamp for it?

You don’t think you’ll ever really carry a weapon with you, so..what’s the point? Well, let’s see. Say you have a situation (stalker, disgruntled and violent ex beau/employee/etc.), and you have a good reason to feel the need for immediate protection. Regardless of expedited permits, which are rare by the way, it will take days if not weeks (or months, in some counties) to legally carry a concealed firearm. Having laid the groundwork, taken the required classes, and received your permit well in advance of any urgent need is a pretty good idea. If you’re like me, and you had somebody threatening you with bodily harm, you’d probably opt to carry illegally if you had no other choice, but if you’re caught, or if (gawd forbid) you have to use that firearm against your aggressor, you’re faaaaaaaar better off to be on the side of the law (even if you’re already on the side of the constitution, but let’s leave that one alone for now, shall we?)

Another good reason to have your permit is to show that you value your rights. You’re not supporting RKBA because you like to duck hunt every year with your Uncle Bob. You’re supporting RKBA because you know you’re responsible for yourself and your own when some creep comes barging in the front door at 2am. Other good people will go further, and tell you that your AR-15 is for protecting you from authority gone amok, and I tend to agree.

Even I’m stunned when I learn how many permit holders are in this or that county. When I looked around the waiting room this afternoon, I realized that even I stereotype the typical gun owner. We’re not toothless rednecks (not that there’s anything wrong with being toothless OR a redneck) we’re not gullible to so-called “fear-mongering”, and we’re not police-academy-reject-cop-wannabes.

But I’ll bet my satin panties that most folks who do have a permit, or who simply own a rifle for sporting purposes, have never put forth any effort toward the preservation of RKBA. Dianne Feinstein, for one, has a concealed handgun permit (AND armed bodyguards) but she’s doing her best to make sure us peasants can’t have the same rights to self-preservation. OK, that’s extreme–but what about you? Come on, write a letter to your Sheriff, your Senator, your Congressman, your mayor, your governor, whatever. Choose a viable RKBA organization to support, and send in your dues. Your firearm might be concealed, but you should let your government know exactly what’s on your mind.

Learn Skills for Cheap Thrills

November 9, 2008
Learn to use a real field compass, and to read a topo map.

Learn to use a real field compass, and to read a topo map.

Bored, but too broke to hit up the latest chick flick? Challenge yourself to learn a new skill each week. Pick something that will save you money, augment your fitness goals, aid in survival or preparedness, or all of the above. Bring a friend on board, or even plan an outing with friends to attend a workshop or simply learn together.

Skills I’ve really enjoyed, especially in the company of friends, include knot tying (get your mind out of the gutter), survival fishing, making snares, identifying and preparing wild edibles, survival signaling and old-school orienteering.

Geocaching with a GPS unit is another great way to get friends and family out of the house and on the trail.

Household frugality skills that have become rusty for many of us include bread baking, intensive gardening, soapmaking, candlemaking, knitting, basic home improvement & maintenance, and medicinal herbs.

Many community colleges or county recreation departments offer inexpensive classes on the above topics. Online resources and printed guidebooks can allow you to learn a new skill in the time it takes to drink your morning coffee.

Learning with friends is the way to go. In my old home city, my girlfriends and I took turns planning outings in which we’d either learn something new, or attend a lecture or reading that broadened our own horizons. In addition to learning something new, you learn more about the people in your immediate lives. A favorite activity was an outing to a rock climbing gym, when one buddy earned my respect for the hard-earned skills she’d built in a few short months of training.

Another was a CPR class I took with my family before we embarked on a three-month boating trip through Alaska’s inland passage, by way of Canada’s San Juan Islands. (After that, I learned to suture pickled pigs’ feet and administer insulin injections into oranges, woo hoo).

My general philosophy is to make preparedness and self-reliance a natural part of my life. Never be ashamed to admit you know how to field dress a rabbit, make glue from pine pitch or change the oil on your Subaru.

Building good skillsets benefits your self-confidence as well as your self-reliance, and makes you more interesting at social gatherings. You may be tempted to demonstrate bushcraft firestarting at your cousin’s wedding reception next summer, and I’m here to let you know that that’s a bad idea. Knowing how to use your emergency suture/fishing kit to fix the bride’s bussle, on the other hand, will make you the belle of the ball.

Hey girls, be road savvy!

November 9, 2008
Don't just stand there, girlfriend!

There's more to a good roadside emergency kit than outstanding cleavage.

One of my favorite memories of my Dad was his endearing ritual whenever I left for a considerable road trip. Returns to college after visits, or weekend expeditions to the Sierras, for example. I’d be raiding the fridge for last-minute snacks, and he’d be circling my Blazer with a  bottle of Windex and tire gauge, making sure The Beast was ready to go. He’d check my oil and antifreeze, wash my headlights and scrape the dead bugs off my windshield, and more often than not he’d tuck a $20 where I’d find it, just in case.

I miss him a ton, and think of him every time I call AAA…even though he made sure I knew how to change a tire before I got my license, and insisted I carry a good emergency kit that includes the following essentials:

  • flares
  • first aid kit
  • flashlight
  • folding shovel
  • Thomas guide
  • Matches/Fire starting Supplies (note, if you have fresh flares, you’ve got a backup)
  • snow scraper (in winter)
  • tire chains (in winter)
  • Rain-X Wipes (in case you lose your windshield wipers)
  • Duct Tape
  • 2 quarts motor oil
  • $20+ cash
  • water
  • blanket
  • raincoat or poncho
  • Wool cap
  • Work Gloves
  • paper towels
  • tarp
  • jumper cable
  • Red Bandanna (tie to antennae as a signal, also handy for carting around lumber or oversized stuff in everyday situations)
  • Tow Strap and/or Come-Along

No wonder I had to drive a full-sized truck! Nowadays I keep most of this stuff in waterproof river bags in my car-top carrier, along with a couple old sleeping bags and a few extras I’ll mention below.

I always made sure I had something to eat; crappy snack food is the highlight of any road trip. When portable cellular phones became somewhat affordable later in my college career, he was thrilled when I added a clunky bag phone to my car kit, and even offered to foot the bill.

Today, I’ve modified my kit a bit to include a Garmin GPS system with tons of road maps, Rain-X wipes, cell phone car charger and in addition to old-fashioned jumper cables, a combo power source/jump starter/compressor. I use it all the time, and in fact used it last week when I discovered a flat tire while on break from work.

Good thing, too. It occurs to me that, in spite of years of off-roading, I personally haven’t changed a tire since I was 16 and my dad was there to coach me. I’ve been lucky; my flats–infrequent as they were–occurred on well-traveled public road, either in the company of a strapping beau or within range of AAA.

Looks like it’s time for me to get familiar with the flimsy portable jack in the back of my sports wagon. I still spend a lot of time on rural or unpaved roads (with or without my dear and capable beau) but no self-respecting, self reliant woman’s gonna sit and cry if her tire blows out 20 miles from civilization because she can’t remember how to do this simple deed.

I’m not going to give you a tutorial, since this page will do it better than I can, with video, and anyway I have to go let my dog out. She’s had cataclysmic diarrhea and I’m afraid she’s in for another round. Note to tin-foil hat-wearing, emergency-prep-minded self: This is a reminder that switching a dog’s food too suddenly is NOTHING you want to mess with when there’s no good supply of water, and your patience/paper towel supply is limited.

But before I (and my dog) go, I want to remind you to make sure you have the above basic necessities in your vehicle at all times. Before heading out for a major road trip, you might want to augment your kit with an indoor-safe portable car heater (or make your own, as per Ron Fontaine of SurvivalTopics) additional food for you and your passengers, plastic baggies and toilet paper and–this is important–stuff to keep you or your kids entertained in case of breakdowns or long

(we interrupt this program to let the dog out. We now return to our regular programming.)

road-closures, such as one I encountered over the Christmas holiday one year when, for four hours, my dog (thankfully, her intestinal fortitude was in its prime) and I sat on the side of the highway several miles outside Weed, California among hundreds of truckers and other holiday travelers because there were three inches of new snow on the Siskyou Pass, and everyone knows that Californians don’t know how to drive in snow. That was an experience. Out of the blue, a buddy of mine loaned me a hand-held CB radio he’d found at The Bins, and I was able to monitor the chatter of the truckers down the line–fine entertainment, especially since I got few stations on the car stereo, and I was bored to tears by my own CD collection.

This non-survival situation DID challenge my supplies, and since there were no roadside amenities–not even concealment on this flat, barren plateu–I was forced to contemplate means of relieving myself away from the view of all the other roadsters who were just as devoid of entertainment as I. Perhaps carrying all these supplies in a gamma-seal bucket might be an option for shy travellers? (Don’t forget the baby wipes and trash bags!)

A bright bandanna or reflective tape, with a note, is better.

A bright bandanna or reflective tape, with a note, is better.

Here are a few more tips that might help you get out of a tricky traveling situation:

  • Stuck in mud or snow? Use a floor mat under your tire to provide traction. Might not work on the first try, but in most cases, you’ll succeed!
  • If you’re stranded in deep snow, make sure your tailpipe is clear so you don’t get a backup of carbon monoxide. Check it frequently if you’re staying put. Otherwise, snow on your car will provide added insulation. A tarp and shovel/spade will improve any wet weather dig-out or chain-up situation, trust me.
  • In really harsh winter emergencies, the foam in your car seats can provide excellent insulation for your clothing. You can use a tire, worst-case-scenario, or siphoned gasoline to light an effective and very toxic signal fire. (Stay away from the smoke, and don’t start a grass or forest fire!). Bring all your emergency essentials from the trunk or car topper into the main compartment to reduce trips outside.
  • If you leave your vehicle for any reason, be sure to leave a note where rescuers will see it. Tell them when you left, when you were stranded, where you went and when you expect to be back. I suggest writing a short note on reflective tape with permanent ink affixed to your antennae, with another on your dash.
  • Inform a friend of your intended travel route before you leave, and plan to check in with this person upon arrival. Which leads to…
  • If you tend to take unexpected or scenic routes on a whim, take the time to text or call a reliable friend with as much information as you can. Include mile markers, road numbers or names, even GPS or map coordinates.
  • If you use any type of portable indoor-safe heater, you’ll still want to crack your windows for cross-ventilation. NEVER burn anything inside your car unless you’re sure the fumes won’t hurt you; you may be better off making shelter and a warming fire outside of your car.
  • Always carry water in your car, and rotate your supplies regularly.
  • Consider carrying easy-to-prepare meals and snacks in your car, such as Mountain House, Mainstay, candy bars or trail mix bars.
  • Bring along a food-safe metal container in which to boil water or melt snow.
  • Bring along extra prescription meds if you require them, and keep an extra pair of prescription glasses on hand and/or a spare set of contact lenses. Bring along saline fluid if you wear lenses!
  • Got kids? Bring spare formula, bottles, diapers, wipes and maybe some extra disposable gloves.
  • Oh yeah. Hand sanitizer!

Another important tip. If you are stuck on the side of the road, trust your instincts. Unless you’re completely convinced otherwise, only allow the assistance of a stranger if you cannot raise help on your cell phone, and even then, simply ask the stranger to put in a call for you when THEY can get phone service.

Here’s a story that explains the exception: Once, my engine blew out along a major highway, and a family of three pulling a tow dolly were right behind me. As it happens, they had just delivered a vehicle to their son, and were heading home. They offered to tow me 300 miles back to my home, since it was on their way, and after careful assessment of the situation, and after calling a friend of mine to give him their plate numbers, truck model and the given names of the family, I agreed. I bought them dinner after they cheerfully unhitched my car in front of my house, and promised them I’d do something soon to “pay it forward,” the theme of a movie that we’d discussed on part of our shared journey.

I regret losing the contact info for this family, but they’re up in Seattle, and I think of them often.

Now, for more tips:

  • Keep your vehicles in the best condition possible, and be prepared for the worst.
  • Never let your fuel tank get below a quarter tank, and fill up more frequently if possible. This will also let you stretch your legs and prevent road-weariness. It’s also a good time to give your car a quick once-over, too; tires properly inflated? Chains on right? Oil, antifreeze and caffeine levels up? CHECK!
  • Practice changing your tires on an annual basis, and consider carrying a full-size spare in your vehicle. Regular spare tires tend to be rated only for a few miles.
  • Always budget for an extra night’s stay in a motel room when traveling. If you’re stuck with a really shady motel, insist on viewing the room before you pay for it. BELIEVE ME. I’ve rejected motel rooms with broken door locks, broken windows and horrible sanitary situations. I’ve often opted for car-camping in public forests or maintained campgrounds because I honestly felt more secure.
  • Be VERY wary of highway rest stops, especially at night. Opt for a well-illuminated service station for pit-stops or quick naps.
  • Keep a basic survival kit, similar to any you’d take with you in the woods, in your car. This should include a FireSteel, signal mirror, emergency blanket, basic first aid, hand saw and multi-tool. These items are available at my Amazon store in the BOB categories! Shopping through my Amazon portal helps support this site, as well as my own preparedness budget, so thanks in advance if you choose to stock up with me!

Happy Traveling!