My bags are packed again for the next road trip. First thing tomorrow I'm off to photograph Specialized's 650-mile Ride to Vegas and interbike. The route is a little different this time around, taking us North of Yosemite to avoid the ranger problems we encountered last year riding through the park. One of the things I loved about France and the Tour this summer was the absolute positivity and helpfulness of the gendarmes. All men and women with a badge should be so courteous to cyclists.
I spent the whole day struggling to optimize what I'd carry with me. There's no problem with the Specialized portion of the trip since we're in a minivan; plenty of room to bring anything I like, but once we get to Vegas and two days of interbike, I fly directly to Wisconsin to shoot a wedding. The air travel naturally imposes some real restrictions on the amount of gear you can get onboard (and it has to get onboard). Other bits and pieces can be checked.
Here again I rely heavily on ThinkTank Photo's amazing photo bags. The aptly named Airport Security V2 Roller bag is my regular working bag. I even managed to get it to Europe and back flying on Delta, though I'd probably have had to do less fast talking with the ticket agent in Paris if I'd had the slightly smaller Airport International V2 Roller. Next Purchase.
And then there's ThinkTank's Logistic Manager. This huge case, in typical TT stealth black, is like Thunderbird Number 2. You know the one that takes all the different pods depending on the disaster. Well, normally this bag is filled with 80lbs of lighting kit; Quadras, cords, tripod, umbrellas, magic arms, clamps etc. but for these kinds of trips it makes a wonderful, spacious hybrid suitcase.
I reconfigure the insides with different dividers from the huge selection it ships with. It still takes my Gitzo carbon tripod and ballhead and RRS pano clamp but the rest is divided to accommodate clothes, shaving kit and this time, ten copies of a new VeloDramatic sampler I'm taking to interbike. Minus the books the bag should weigh about 40lbs by the time I check it for the flight to Wisconsin. As Thunderbird 2 it really should fly there by itself. FAB.
Two things I'd love to see from ThinkTank. A series of armored and padded duffles. Juli lined a large duffel for me with a blue moving blanket. It's terrific and with the blanket folded to triple thickness it's got real stopping power... nothing sharp is ever going to penetrate the bag, it might even stop a bullet. ThinkTank could improve greatly on this basic design by armoring the ends, providing a central "waist" strap to support the zipper and possibly include an expansion zone the length of the bag parallel to the zipper for when we bring back more than we packed when we left.
Second wish is for a modular roller bag, one that could collapse in height (when standing on its wheels) via a kind of drawer feature. In the event I have no recourse and can't get my bag on a flight as configured, I'd like to be able remove a modular lens compartment at the top of the bag, which I'd sling over my shoulder (and wear)... allowing me to collapse the bag and save about 6" on the one dimension (fitting in whatever crazy measurement frame they have in front of me). ThinkTank if you're following along, that may be a little cryptic, would love to discuss both ideas with you when I get back.
OK, that's it time for a few hours of sleep before launch. Will try to post from the road when/if we get an internet signal.