My second train trip to Portland had a shakedown element to it as well. I’d purchased one of those eVests to carry all my valuables on my person while traveling. This would increase the security of those valuables, as well as making access to things like passport, money, tickets and tablet a matter of unzipping the right pocket on the vest, rather than packing and repacking Claude to get at those things. Smart travel move on my part.
I did not get the Cadillac, which is the SCOTTeVEST. At $125 that was more pocket than I needed to reach for. I got the “Willard” version for $30, made by a Beijing company, guaranteeing the best price only a Chinese sweatshop can produce. The online site boasts the vest has sixteen pockets, of which I’ve located fourteen and used about seven on my trip to Portland. I zipped away my tablet, phone, charger cable, external charger, credit cards and cash and house keys. I also slid in a paperback book on the opposite side of the vest from the tablet to provide a weight balance. The first time I donned it fully loaded, I felt more like a magician on my way to a carnival with pockets full of scarves, doves, rabbits and floral bouquets. It also wore, when fully loaded, like a bulletproof vest.
I discovered I couldn’t find anything I’d zipped away in those seven or so pockets. None of the small items were where I thought I had zipped them, and finding them was akin to opening and closing pocket after pocket in the manner of an Advent calendar. Initially, I spent as much time looking for things as I would have packing and unpacking my daypack to find them. With passport, Euros, rail pass, maps and brochures, notebook, pens and snacks perhaps populating most if not all of the available sixteen pockets, I realized finding things when I need or want them could become a pocket vest version of a scavenger hunt.
So my big idea following the Portlandia trip was to create a locator checklist. A diagram of the vest inside and out, with each pocket labeled as to its contents. Then I pack it accordingly, remembering to keep the diagram in its own home pocket, so I can find that first before looking for anything else. This way, I’ll be able to avoid, say, standing at a tram stop in Barcelona slapping at my vest and frantically unzipping pockets as if a live mouse had somehow climbed in.
But to be able to go to my first class seat, having put Claude in the luggage rack at the end of the carriage, knowing all my valuables are with me and not in the backpack waiting to be stolen away, will bring a great measure of comfort and peace. The only thing the gypsies will get is a pack full of clean and dirty clothes, most of which has come from a second-hand store in the first place, and so won’t be an upgrade for the gypsies. Which makes me think sliding a clean pair of undies into the vest might not be a bad idea if that worst case scenario happens.
Sometimes it does pay to have a little obsessive compulsive behavior in travel planning.