I know you can hear it. Da dum da da daa da dum dum, da dum da da daa da dum dum. The familiar rift that put Vanilla Ice on the map. In this case, not the ice I want to talk about. Today I want to talk about coolers and ice. Good, quality food storage. Store bought bags of ice cubes. Ice, ice, baby.
In my previous life, when I camped or traveled by car I rarely took a cooler. The only time a cooler was present is when we camped as a family, camped with others in a group and stayed in one location or just went to the lake for the day. Otherwise, there was neither the room or use for a cooler. Through the years, we collected a variety of coolers. I think I gave away one and sold three before I left. We also had those reusable blue plastic ice things. You know, the ones you keep frozen, put in the cooler for your day away, then refreeze them for next time.
Fast forward to my pilgrimage. Surely I will need a cooler for the road. Surely these fancy and expensive coolers will help me with my food. These coolers that cost hundreds of dollars will help me eat healthier and adequately maintain my food. I prepared to invest in a great product that would help make my pilgrimage a more enjoyable experience. Ha! Right! WTF was I thinking.
I spent my money on a 20 quart hard side Pelican. I chose the size due to my space limitations and where the cooler would ride in the Jeep. I chose the brand due to the two-step latch to keep my items animal and spill proof. I watched the YouTube videos and read the articles. This brand stood up well, right alongside the Yeti and Grizzly (or something like that). It seems that when you get into the more expensive genre, they perform similarly, so the differences will be in style and accessories, like a built in bottle opener or soft sides. I do not recall what I paid, but it was over $100 and less than $200. I had high hopes and was optimistic that my pilgrimage eating would be efficient and worry-free. Again, WTF was I thinking.
Let’s review how exactly I use my cooler. I use my cooler for fresh fruit, lunch meats and cheeses, greens of some sort, leftover milk and wraps. I learned the hard way to pack beverages on the bottom. Does not matter if I ever drink them, just have them on the bottom to keep the other food out of the water. I use those silicone locking bags because your shit will eventually end up floating. Silicone bags are water tight. Remember, you can only put things in the cooler that are water and spill proof. Unless you do not move the cooler at all. Then you can precariously balance your more delicate items on top of the ice or beverage layer. Again, do not move that cooler or you will have a shift in the contents and items will both spill and become water logged. I started out a little too optimistic about the performance of my cooler. My lunch items were correctly stored on ice that later becomes cold water. Water does not keep food at the correct temperature. If those items were not consumed by day three, they got too warm. This was during a time of 70-80 degree weather, with adequate cool-down at night.
At present, the days are around 90 F, with 50’s or 60’s at night. Fresh ice in the cooler lasts about 30 hours. If I have a travel day and the cooler is in the car, or if I am doing something that would leave the cooler in a parked car, we are talking about a mere few hours of ice. Oh, if you were not aware, the cooler will become as warm as the outside if you do not keep it cold. In fact, it may get even warmer as it is insulated. Yeah, good to know.
To review: my lunch food costs me about $20 each week. The small bag of ice costs me anywhere from $2 to $5 depending on where I am. Less we forget the gas to get the ice and the need to immediately travel back to camp to put the ice in the cooler. Gas averages $3 per gallon and I get 20 MPG, so let’s just say one gallon every ice run. Oh, and the entire bag of ice will NOT fit in the cooler if there is food. Nope, not even the small bag. At least 1/3 of the bag gets throw away. I suck at math but even I can see that is not cost effective or efficient or worth the time and energy to manage. I am wasting food, money and time. Shit.
Present Day: here I sit at my camp. I have thrown away and/or given away food that I was unable to keep. I cannot get more than two days out of the ice, and then the temperature becomes precarious. That means I would need to hit town every two days, buy the ice, and get it back. Let’s say that is $3 for the ice, $3 for the gas. Well, that is a sandwich from Subway right there, or a slice of pizza with a beverage in nearly every small town. Let alone the $20 in food, of which half may be thrown away. That is another $10 down the shitter. Right now I have seltzer water and one beer in the cooler. The water may be cold, but it is not cold enough to keep real food. Cold water works for my drinks. Cold water does not work for my food.
Today, I will rethink my food situation. Again. This time adjusting for the heat of summer, my location, prices, and the constant price fluctuation of groceries, gas and camping. Today I will figure out if it is more or less cost effective to buy the ice or just buy some prepared food and eat it. Summer has brought me to a time of readjustment. I had it all down for Spring, but now the seasons have changed and so has how and what I eat. Again. The mere act of keeping and storing my food is a constant challenge. The rising temperatures bring more challenges, as do the various locations, wildlife, amenities, distances, and environment.
My Dad used to love those cans of Vienna sausages. I can see him clearly sitting in his recliner reading the paper eating them right out of the can. I always thought they looked gross with that layer of meat jelly on top. I now drink my milk from a can. Perhaps I should revisit those sausages. Maybe Dad was on to something.
Dear Lord, I thank you for whatever food I have in front of me, for the means to buy it, the capacity to transport it, and the ability to eat it. Blessings will be had at my table. Da dum da da daa da dum dum, da dum da da daa da dum dum. Ice, or no ice, baby.